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Conditional Actions (At Last!)

Actions are basically tape recordings that live inside of Photoshop and you can use them to automate boring, repetitive tasks. Actions have been in Photoshop for many years now and ever since they were added, users have been asking for the ability to have conditional actions (meaning, a step in the recording where you can insert a condition, like “if this particular thing exists, then do this instead”). For example, if you wanted to have one action that properly resizes both your wide and your tall images for your online portfolio, you’d want your action to be “conditional” (if it’s wide, run this action; if it’s tall, run this one instead).

Step One:

Start by opening a wide image, and then go under the Window menu and choose Actions to bring up the Actions panel. Click on the Create New Action icon at the bottom of the panel (it looks like the Create a New Layer icon in the Layers panel and is circled in red here) and, when the New Action dialog appears, name your new action “Wide Portfolio,” then click the Record button.

Step Two:

Now it’s recording what you’re doing, so go under the Image menu, choose Image Size, and resize your image, so it’s about 1200 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall, and then click OK. Next, press the square Stop Recording icon at the bottom of the Actions panel to stop recording (as shown here). Okay, that’s one action done.

Step Three:

Next, open a tall image and do the same thing, but name this action “Tall Portfolio” and, in the Image Size dialog, make this one 532 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall. Click OK, then click the Stop Recording icon. Now we have our two actions, so we can use those to make our conditional action in the next step.

Step Four:

Click on the Create New Action icon, once again, name this one “Resize for Portfolio,” and click the Record button. Now, go right to the Actions panel’s flyout menu and choose Insert Conditional (as shown here). This is where we tell Photoshop which action to run if it opens a wide image and which one to run if it opens a tall image. So, no matter what their orientation, they’ll wind up being 800 pixels tall, so they look uniform side-by-side in our portfolio. You’ll see that you have a bunch of different conditions to choose from in the Conditional Action dialog (also shown here).

Step Five:

For our project, here, from the If Current (meaning, the currently open document) pop-up menu, we’re going to chose Document Is Landscape, and if that’s the case, from the Then Play Action pop-up menu, choose the Wide Portfolio action you made earlier. Finally, from the Else Play Action pop-up menu, choose Tall Portfolio. Click OK, and then click the Stop Recording icon at the bottom of the Actions panel.

Step Six:

Now, to apply this conditional action to a folder full of images, go under the File menu, under Automate, and choose Batch (we use Batch to process an entire folder of images at one time automatically). When the dialog appears, in the Play section at the top left, choose the Resize for Portfolio conditional action you just created in the previous step from the Action pop-up menu. Then, choose the folder you want to run this action on (click the Choose button in the Source section), choose Save and Close from the Destination pop-up menu (or if you want them to be resized and saved in a different folder, choose Folder and then pick the folder you want them to be moved into after you’ve resized them), and then click the OK button at the top right.

Step Seven:

Once the batch runs, even though the folder had both wide and tall images, you’ll see that the height of all the images is exactly the same. Again, this is just one use for conditional actions, but now you know how to create them (they’re pretty easy, right?), and now that you know, you can start creating smarter actions.

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