Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Creative Suite

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Dialog Boxes

Dialog boxes seem like simple things, but since you probably spend a good chunk of your time in Photoshop looking at them, wouldn't it be great to be more efficient while you're there? Here are a bunch of tips that will let you fly through those pesky beasts.


Scroll 'n' Zoom. The most important lesson to learn about dialog boxes in Photoshop is that just because one is open doesn't mean that you can't do anything else. For instance, in many dialog boxes—such as the Levels and Curves dialog boxes—you can still scroll around any open documents (not just the active one) by holding down the spacebar and dragging. You can even zoom in and out of the active window using the Command-spacebar and Command-Option-spacebar techniques. Note that some dialog boxes, most notoriously the Distort filters, don't let you scroll or zoom at all. Pity.


Save your Settings. Many dialog boxes in Photoshop have Save and Load buttons that let you save to disk all the settings that you've made in a dialog box. They're particularly useful when you're going through the iterative process of editing an image.

For instance, let's say you're adjusting the tone of an image with Curves. You increase this and decrease that, and add some points here and there.... Finally, when you're finished, you press OK and find—much to your dismay—that you need to make one more change. If you jump right back into Curves, you degrade your image a second time—not good (see Chapter 6, Tonal Correction). If you undo, you lose the changes you made the first time. But if you've saved the curve to disk before leaving the dialog box, you can undo, go back to the dialog box, and load in the settings you had saved. Then you can add that one last move to the curve, without introducing a second round of image-degrading corrections.


Instant Replay. There's one other way to undo and still save any tonal-adjustment settings you've made. If you hold down the Option key while selecting any feature from the Adjust submenu (under the Image menu), Photoshop opens the dialog box with the last-used settings. Similarly, you can add the Option key to the adjustment's keyboard shortcut. For instance, Command-Option-L opens the Levels dialog box with the same settings you last used. This is a great way to specify the same Levels or Curves (or Hue/Saturation, or any other adjustment) to several different images. But as soon as you quit Photoshop, it loses its memory.


Opening Palettes from Dialog Boxes. We almost always work with the Info palette open. However, every now and again it gets closed or covered up with some other palette. Unfortunately, while you're in a dialog box (like the Curves or Levels dialog boxes), you cannot click on any palette without leaving the dialog box by pressing OK or Cancel. Fortunately for efficiency, you can select a palette from theWindows menu. To display the Info palette, select Show Info from this menu. (Unfortunately, this doesn't work for palettes that are docked in the palette well.)


We love keystrokes. They make everything go much faster, or at least they make it feel like we're working faster. Here are a few keystrokes that we use all the time while in dialog boxes.

Option. Holding down the Option key while in a dialog box almost always changes the Cancel button into a Reset button, letting you reset the dialog box to its original state (the way it was when you first opened it). If you want to go keystrokes the whole way, type Command-Option-period to do the same thing.

Command-Z. You already know Command-Z (what Seattle's Mac user group calls "Just Undo It"), because it's gotten you out of more jams than you care to think about. Well, Command-Z performs an undo within dialog boxes, too. It undoes the last change you made. We use this all the time when we mistype.

Arrow keys. Many dialog boxes in Photoshop have text fields where you enter or change numbers (see Figure 2-8). You can change those numbers by pressing the Up or Down arrow keys. Press once, and the number increases or decreases by one. If you hold down the Shift key while pressing the arrow key, it changes by 10. (Note that some dialog boxes change by a tenth or even a hundredth; when you hold down Shift, they change by 10 times as much.) A few dialog boxes use the arrow keys in a different way, or don't use them at all. In the Lens Flare filter, for instance, the arrow keys move the position of the effect, and arrow keys just don't do anything in most of the Distort filters.

Figure 2-8Figure 2-8 Numerical fields in dialog boxes

Tab key. As in most Macintosh and Windows applications, the Tab key selects the next text field in dialog boxes with multiple text fields. You can use this in conjunction with the previous tip in dialog boxes such as the Unsharp Mask filter, or you can simply tab to the next field and type in a number if you already know the value you want.


Most of Photoshop's tonal- and color-correction features and many of its filters offer a Preview checkbox in their dialog boxes. Plus, all the filters that have a dialog box have a proxy window that shows the effect applied to a small section of the image (some dialog boxes have both). If you're working on a very large file on a relatively slow machine, and the filter you're using has a proxy window, you might want to turn off the Preview checkbox so that Photoshop doesn't slow down redrawing the screen. However, most of the time we just leave the Preview feature on.

Before version 6 of Photoshop, the Preview checkbox in all the Image Adjust dialog boxes (Levels, Curves, Hue/Saturation, and so on) acted as a switch to turn on and off the Video LUT Animation feature. When the Preview option was off, the video LUT ("look up table") kicked in, altering the entire screen instead of just the image or portion of an image. This was much faster on slow machines, but wasn't always accurate (and didn't work in Windows anyway). In Photoshop 6, Adobe removed Video LUT Animation entirely. Fortunately, they left in our favorite video LUT trick: finding white and black clipping points in the Levels dialog box (see "Levels Command Goodies" in Chapter 6, Tonal Correction).

Today, we primarily use the Preview checkbox to view "before" and "after" versions of our images, toggling it on and off to see the effect of the changes without leaving the dialog box.

Proxies. The proxy in dialog boxes shows only a small part of the image, but it updates almost instantly. Previewing time-consuming filters such as Unsharp Mask or Motion Blur on a large file can take a long time, and some very time-consuming filters such as the Distort filters don't offer a preview at all, so we rely on the proxy a lot.


Before and After in Proxies. You can always see a before-and-after comparison by clicking in the proxy. Hold down the mouse button to see the image before the filter is applied, release it to see the image after the filter is applied.


Changing the Proxy View. To see a different part of the image, click and drag in the proxy (no modifier keys are necessary). Alternatively, you can click in the document itself. The cursor changes to a small rectangle—wherever you click shows up in the Preview window.

Similarly, you can zoom the proxy in and out. The slow way is to click on the little (+) and (-) buttons. Much faster is to click the proxy with either the Command or Option keys held down—the former zooms in, the latter zooms out. However, we rarely zoom in and out because you can't see the true effect of a filter unless you're at 100% view.

Note that proxies only show the layer you're working on at any one time. This makes sense, really; only that layer is going to be affected.

New Dialog Box

Before we move on to essential tips about tools, we need to take a quick look at the New dialog box, which has a few very helpful (and in some cases hidden) features.


Editing Preset Sizes. New in version 7 is the Preset Sizes popup menu, which lets you pick from among 24 common document sizes, such as A4, 640 x 480, and 4 x 6 inches. Don't like the default presets that Adobe offers? You can add your own by using a text editor (like Windows Notepad or BBedit) to edit the text file called New Doc Sizes.txt, which is inside the Presets folder (in the Photoshop folder).

You can also remove one or more of the presets that are there by default. For instance, if you never create images in the "1280 x 720 HDTV" format, you can get rid of it by editing the Default New Doc Sizes.txt file. This file is hiding inside the Required folder, which is inside the Photoshop directory in Windows, and inside the folder on the Macintosh. (If you're running Mac OS X, you'll need to Control-click on the Photoshop application, select Show Package Contents, then open the Contents folder in order to see the Required folder.) It's important to save these files as text-only files, or else they may cause trouble. In fact, it's a good idea to keep a copy of the original files someplace, just in case. When you're done editing, relaunch Photoshop and open the New dialog box to see the change.


Clairvoyant Image Size. The New dialog box tries to read your mind. If you have something copied to the Clipboard when you create a new document, Photoshop automatically plugs the pixel dimensions, resolution, and color model of that copied piece into the proper places of the dialog box for you.

If you'd rather use the values from the last new image you created, hold down the Option key while selecting New from the File menu (or press Command-Option-N).


Copying Sizes from Other Documents. Russell Brown, that king of Photoshop tips and tricks, reminded us to keep our eyes open. Why, for instance, is the Window menu not grayed out when you have the New dialog box open? Because you can select items from it!

If you want your new document to have the same pixel dimensions, resolution, and color mode as a document you already have open, you can select that document from the Documents submenu (in the Window menu). Voilà! The statistics are copied.

This trick also works in the Image Size and Canvas Size dialog boxes.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020