Photoshop Actions are one of the best ways to improve your workflow, but can be tricky when it comes to using them on multiple computers or by friends and family. Actions record steps in photoshop, your steps. So when you click File> Open, and select your file, it records what file you opened. After you save your action to use it on another computer, or send it to someone you know, it will assume that when the step of File> Open comes about, that it is you, on your computer performing this steep. So not only will the same file not be there, on that users computer, but their hard drive structure will most likely not be the same either. Hence, another broken action.
Most Photoshop Actions are relatively simplistic, but with the use of “Insert Menu Item…” you can create complex actions that rely on outside resources, such as pdf’s, textures and patterns. Creating a whole new world of possibilities.
“Insert Menu Item…” records the task as if the current user of the action has clicked on a menu item. So irrelevant of who is using it, on what machine, it will point to the same menu item. Granted, if you have specific plugins that add menu items unique to your computer, this needs to be addressed and explained to the user so that they may acquire said plugins.
Here is a simple tutorial on how to use “Insert Menu Item…” in a Photoshop Action.
It’s up to you on how you organize your actions, but unless two actions are extremely similar, I always place actions in their own folder. Create a new folder by clicking the folder icon at the bottom of the actions pane.
Create your new action by clicking the paper icon at the bottom of the actions pane. Name it whatever you like, and assign a function key if necessary. Click Record and your action will start recording your moves.
Create your action as you normally would, but now we need to use an outside resource, or open a new file in our action. For this we will use “Insert Menu Item…”. In your actions pane, click on the menu icon, the down arrow next to three horizontal lines, and click Insert Menu Item…
You will be greeted with the Insert Menu Item prompt. Leave this window and simply navigate to your menu item and click, such as File> Open… or File> Browse… or File> Place…
The prompt will now inform you of the menu item you have selected, so click OK, but the menu won’t actually appear for you as the actions creator. (So you may need to stop your action, repeat the step of opening or placing a file, and then continue recording steps on the item you opened or placed.)
As you can see, our menu item appears in our action as it should.
Things to Remember
When using “Insert Menu Item…”, well thought out actions are critical. Although this is a great way of making user friendly actions, this step can still cause a lot of headache. Be aware of at what point in your action the “Insert Menu Item…” should be used. Sometimes it is better to nearly complete the action and then at the end include this step at a specific layer previous to your most current. It all depends on your users, the goal of the action, and the options within it. The key to any good action is using it over and over again on a multitude of files to make sure you don’t run in to any bugs. And even then, have a friend or two use it a few times to be sure.
Know of any clever tips for Photoshop Actions? Speak up in the comments!