OK, now you know what to do. How about why to do it? In what ways can you use these Actions to make your life easier? The following sections explain.
Let's say you have a folder full of files that you want to turn into old-looking photos. A great way to do this is to use the Hue and Saturation command to colorize them with a sepia hue. Even better is to use an Adjustment layer and a little grain from the Grain filter to give them that really old look. You could open each one and run the Action, but then the people at the coffee machine will start gossiping about you. This will not do.
Wouldn't it be better to let the computer and Photoshop do the work?
First, create the action. Better yet, download the Action file and install it.
Put the files you want to process in a single folder.
Select File, Automate, Batch.
Choose the set that contains your Action and then the Action itself from the Play option.
Determine your source. We are working on a folder full-o files, but you can also play the Action on all open files, imported data (from a PDF or a scanner), or the file Browser. After selecting Folder, you have to actually CHOOSE it with the Choose button.
Help keep the Action running. Because Actions can have open commands in them, you probably want to ignore them with the Override Action "Open" commands. Include All Subfolders, in case there are any in your folder. Suppress Color Profile warnings so that the Action will play without stopping.
Select your destination. For a Batch Action, I prefer to set this to None and write the Save or Save As into the Action. You should, too.
Occasionally, the Action will flub up and fail to do its job. To know why, you can ask the Batch to create a log file and save it. Not a bad idea because while the Action is playing, you'll be off to the coffee room.
Now then, let's take this a step further and create a droplet. What's a droplet, you say? It's a little application that sits outside of Photoshop and acts like the Batch command.
Creating a droplet starts out a little differently from the Batch, but quickly falls into the Batch groove. Man.
Create a droplet by choosing File, Automate, Droplet.
Notice how familiar the dialog box looks? The only real difference here is that you first choose to name the droplet and you needn't determine a source. The source will be whatever you drop onto the droplet. Hence, the name droplet. Name your droplet.
The rest is the same as batching, so make your decisions and be done with it.
When it comes to time to toddle off to the coffeemaker, just grab the files, the folder full of files, the folder full of folders full of files, or whatever and drop it onto the droplet. If Photoshop isn't running, it's no big whoop. It will launch and do its business.
Droplets are platform-specific. If you create one and you want to share it, you need to just share the Action itself and let your friend with the "other" kind of computer create the droplet.
Swap Them with Friends
You are the bomb! You have created the best Action ever! It's time to share it with the world. It's as simple as doing the following:
Select the Set in the Actions palette. You have to save a whole set, but remember that a set can have only one Action in it.
Select Save Actions from the Action palette side menu.
Send a postcard to all of those less-talented hangers-on wanting to be as good as you are in Photoshop.
For those times when you want to use someone else's Actions do the following. (Remember, when you do this, it's paying homage to someone else's work. It's not stealing.)
Locate the Action file. Keep in mind that Actions are stored in sets, so it may have more than one Action in it.
Select Load Actions from the Actions palette side menu, and navigate your way to the place in which you stored the Action file.
Select it in the Open dialog box and click Open.
A new set will appear in your Actions palette that contains the Actions you are stealing. (I mean paying homage to.)
Some other options for loading Actions are to replace them, which removes any Actions you may have and loads the ones you pick. Clear wipes out the ones in your palette, for those times when you just need to start fresh. Reset loads the Actions that ship with Photoshop and removes any that you created along the way.
There are actually a number pf places around the Internet where you can get Actions that people intend to share. The best place to start is Adobe's web site:
Use Insert Stop as a Training Tool
Actions aren't just about automation; they are also a good teaching/learning tool. By using stops, you can walk a person through a series of steps to get them to a place they couldn't go on their own. Here's how to do it.
We will create a tutorial for adjusting an image that teaches as it has you complete the steps. The Action assumes that you have scanned the image into Photoshop and you are looking at it in its raw state.
Start by creating a new action. Click the Create a New Action button and name the Action Adjust an image.
Use the Insert Stop Command to start with a stop. Sounds Zen, no? It isn't. We will use the Stop command to tell the user to do something. In this case, we will have the user crop the image. To insert one, select Insert Stop from the Actions palette's side menu.
In the message dialog box, add the following text (you can copy and paste this or paraphrase):
Add a Levels command to the mix. Select Image, Adjust, Levels. This time, we'll add a stop to the command so the end user can adjust the levels as needed for the specific image. Click the Stop Recording button on the Actions palette and then click the Toggle Dialog on/off square to the left of the Levels command. Start the recording again with the Begin recording button.
Finish up with the Save As command. And stop the recording.
Use the Crop tool to crop the image. Be sure to eliminate any areas that are not relevant to the image.
This stops and adds a dialog box to the Action (see Figure 5)
Figure 5 The stop's message will be shown when the action gets to this Command.
Click the Play button to resume after you have cropped the image.
Now, let's add one more Insert Stop. Before we assume (you know what that makes out of you and me) that the person using the command knows what to do with the Levels command, we'll add a message to the stop and allow it to continue after delivering the message.
Select the first stop you inserted, and choose Insert Stop from the Actions palette side menu. This time add a message like the following:
This time, check the Allow Continue checkbox in the Record Stop dialog box, which lets the user read the message and forge ahead without having to click Play from the Actions palette.
Set the endpoint triangles to match the width of the graph at the top of the Levels Dialog box. Leave the bottom triangles as they are.
Figure 6 The Stop dialog box. This time, the stop dialog allows continuing because we are just giving an instruction.
There are numbers of ways to use the stops to either remind yourself about an Action's commands or walk someone else through it. The message option makes it easier to make note of the purpose and intention of an Action.