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How to Use the Actions Panel in Photoshop CS6

Not surprisingly, Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6 has a panel dedicated to the automation of various chores. To view the Actions panel, choose Window→Actions or click the Actions icon in the panel dock. You can view the Actions panel in two modes, Button and List. Each mode is useful in its own way. You can access the mode you’re not currently using via the Actions panel pop-up menu:

  • Button mode: A convenient, compact mode that hides all the inner workings of the actions, presenting only a list of buttons that you can click to trigger a particular macro. Button mode is fast and easy; just click and go.

  • List mode: In the default display, each action appears as a folder-like heading. You can open a heading to reveal all the steps within that action or collapse the heading to hide those steps. You need to be in List mode when you record an action and when you edit individual steps. List mode also lets you perform only a select number of the steps in an action.


When you’re working in List mode, the Actions panel has these three columns:

  • The left column: Contains check boxes that you can select or deselect to include or exclude actions (or steps within an action).

  • The middle column: Toggles on or off whether actions display dialog boxes. Some actions include options that you can select while running the macro.

  • For example, the Vignette (Selection) action, which creates a faded frame around a selection, includes a dialog box that lets you specify the width of the fading. This dialog box appears only after you select this middle column; if you deselect the column, the action uses a default value. Adobe refers to this setting as Modal control.

  • The right column: This widest column shows the name of the set of actions (folder icon) or the individual action. Click the right-pointing arrow to the left of the action’s name to reveal the individual steps of the action. If you’ve assigned any keyboard shortcuts to your action, they also appear in this column.

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