Installing actions in Photoshop Elements can sometimes be confusing. The method and location of installation is different with each version of Elements and computer operating system. Because of all these variations, it’s important that you use the correct instructions for your computer’s operating system and Elements version.
And, if you’d rather have it all done automatically for you, don’t forget that Graffi’s Add-O-Matic is a great, low-cost ($11!) program for installing action files (and other Elements extras).
Table of contents
Show hidden files
If your computer is running under Windows XP or Vista, before you install an action, you must make sure Windows’ hidden files and folders are visible so you can find the destination folder for actions, and see the file formats, or extensions (the last 3 characters of the filename, after the dot). To change Windows’ files and folders settings, follow these steps:
- Open any folder
- Click Tools from the menu and choose Folder Options
- In the Folder Options dialog, click the View tab
- Scroll down until you see Hidden Files and Folders
- Click the button beside “Show hidden files and folders”
- If there is a checkmark in the box beside “Hide Extensions for Known File Types,” click the box to remove the checkmark
- Click OK
When downloading an action, it is usually easiest to select your desktop as the download destination. In most cases, you may find that the downloaded file has a .ZIP extension, which means that it is zipped, or compressed, indicated by a folder icon with a zipper. In that case, you will need to extract, or uncompress, the file before placing the action in the proper location. The easiest way to open and extract a zipped file in Windows XP or Vista is to double-click on the zipped folder to open it, and then drag the inside folder out to your desktop. Or, you may right-click on the zipped folder and select Extract All from the pop-up menu, then follow the steps provided below.
Once you have downloaded and extracted your action file, there may be one or more types of files included in the folder:
- ATN–This is the action file and is always required. A set of actions may include several ATN files in the folder.
- PNG (or in some older actions PSD or JPG)–This is a thumbnail graphically representing an action, usually included in the action folder, but not always. For a set of actions, there should be a PNG file matching each ATN file.
- XML–This type of file contains programming language that will organize a set of actions together into one category in the Photo Effects menu. Many actions you download may not have XML files included. If a set of actions does include XML files to categorize the set, there would normally be a matching XML file for each ATN file and PNG file.
What if you don’t have the thumbnail or the XML file?
No Thumbnail File
If you have no PNG file associated with the ATN file, after installation, when you look for the action in the Photo Effects display, you’ll see a black square where the thumbnail would normally be. If you have the Effects palette set to Show Names, that shouldn’t be a problem. To view names, in the Effects Palette, click on the double-headed arrow to the right of Effects and click Show Names.
To Create a Thumbnail
If you prefer to have a thumbnail rather than a black square, you may easily create a PNG file if one is missing. From the Elements menu, select File>New>Blank File. Enter 64 pixels for both width and height, 72 for resolution, and White for background contents. Select the Type tool and type the name of the action on the white square. Of course, you can design a fancier thumbnail, if you desire. Save the file in PNG format; and the filename you enter must be exactly the same as the ATN filename (preceding the dot). Place this file in the proper folder, along with the ATN file.
Although Photoshop Elements 7 requires a JPG file for the action’s thumbnail, go ahead and use the PNG file if one is included. Upon restarting after installing an action that includes a PNG file, as part of the effects update, Elements automatically creates a JPG thumbnail file from the PNG file.
No XML File
Should you install an action with no XML file, you will not find the action listed by name in the drop-down menu under Photo Effects in the Effects palette. To find the newly installed action, choose “Show All” from the Photo Effects drop-down menu, where you should see the new action mixed in among the other actions.
It is possible to create your own XML files to categorize your action or set of actions. We have prepared an XML template file, with instructions on how to set it up; you can download it by clicking on this link.
Where to install action files
It is best to close Elements before installation. Installing an action consists of opening the appropriate folder within the Elements program and copying the downloaded files where they need to go. To find the destination folder, you click through a series of folders and subfolders, called a “path,” until you reach the target folder. This path, and the final destination folder where you place the action files, depends on your operating system and your version of Elements.
Not sure how to navigate the path to destination folders? Click here.
Copy all the files included with your action, whether ATN, PNG, or XML, to the following location, along with the other actions already in the folder; do not place them in a subfolder by themselves:
For Windows XP
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Photo Creations\photo effects
C:\ProgramData\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Photo Creations\photo effects
Restart Elements, and in the Effects palette, first click on the Layer Styles icon (2nd icon), then click on the Photo Effects icon (3rd icon). You should see your new action in Photo Effects under its own category (if you used an XML file), or under Show All (if you did not install an XML file). If your action thumbnail is visible in Photo Effects, stop at this step – your installation is complete.
If you don’t find your new action in its own category or under Show All, you’ll need to force Elements to rebuild its content and effects. Navigate to the following location and rename or delete this file: MediaDatabase.db3
(Note: When a path refers to Locale\en_US, if you’re not in the US, use the appropriate Locale.)
For Windows XP
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Locale\en_US
C:\Program Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Locale\en_US
Restart Elements, and while it’s loading, it will create a new MediaDatabase.db3 file, which will include the new actions you added. A status box will pop up indicating Elements is “Building Content and Effects,” which may take quite a while to complete, so please be patient.
Once the update is complete, your newly installed actions should appear in the Effects palette; click on the third icon, Photo Effects. If you don’t find your new actions in the drop-down menu by category, select Show All–they should be mixed in with the other actions.
Running an Action
To run an action, go to the Effects Palette and click the third icon, Photo Effects, then click the drop-down arrow and select an action category name or Show All. Choose the action you wish to run from the action thumbnails displayed, and then click the Apply button at the bottom of the palette. Double-clicking on the action thumbnail will also execute the action.
Uninstalling an action
To delete actions, right-click on the action’s thumbnail in the Photos Effects palette and select Delete Content from the pop-up menu, then restart Elements.
Using the Action Player
In Photoshop Elements 7, a new option for running actions was introduced by Adobe. It’s called the Action Player, and it is accessed in the Guided Edit view.
Installation of Actions for Action Player
It’s quite easy to install actions into the Action Player. The only action file you’ll need to install is the ATN file; no PNG or XML files are needed. After you copy the ATN file into the destination folder, restart Elements and your new action should show up, ready to be played, in Action Player.
In Windows XP, copy the ATN file to this location:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Locale\en_US\Workflow Panels\actions
In Vista, the ATN file goes in this location:
C:\Program Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Locale\en-US\Workflow Panels\actions
Restart Photoshop Elements, and the action will appear in the Automated Actions guided edit menu.
Running an Action in Action Player
Click on the Edit tab, then the Guided tab, and under Automated Actions, click Action Player. Using the drop-down menus, select the action set, then the action you wish to run. Click Play Action, and you’re finished! You won’t see any thumbnails for the actions, like you’re used to, but the action names should be sufficient to find the action you want.
Action Sets for Action Player
The Action Player is able to run action sets, but because Action Player is so new with Photoshop Elements 7, not many action developers have yet started combining Elements-friendly actions into sets for the Action Player, which must be done using Photoshop. There are a few action sets available, such as Graffi’s actions at www.graficalicus.com.