Automation with actions
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- Automate tasks
Learn how to create and work with actions to automate common tasks in Illustrator to work faster and more efficiently.
An action is a series of tasks that you play back on a single file or a batch of files—menu commands, panel options, tool actions, and so on. For example, you can create an action that changes the size of an image, applies an effect to the image, and then saves the file in the desired format.
Actions can include steps that let you perform tasks that cannot be recorded (for example, using a painting tool). Actions can also include modal controls that let you enter values in a dialog box while playing an action.
Illustrator comes with predefined actions installed that help you perform common tasks. You can use these actions as it is, customize them to meet your needs, or create new actions.
Actions panel overview
You can use the Actions panel (Window > Actions) to record, play, edit, and delete individual actions. This panel also lets you save and load action files.
A. Action set B. Action C. Recorded command D. Delete E. Create new actions F. Create new set G. Play current selection H. Begin recording I. Stop playing/recording J. Modal control (toggles on or off) K. Included command
UseButton Mode to view actions by name only.to expand or collapse all actions in a set or all commands in an action. Playing an action executes the action’s recorded commands in the active document. You can exclude specific commands from an action or play only a single command. To play an action on a file, select the file and select . Select
- You can’t view individual commands or sets in Button mode.
- In Button Mode, clicking a button executes the entire action—although commands previously excluded are not executed.
Record an action
When you create a new action, the commands, and tools you use are added to the action until you stop recording.
Open a file.
Select Create New Action in the Actions panel.
Enter an action name, select an action set, and set additional options:
Function Key : Assigns a keyboard shortcut to the action. You can choose any combination of a function key, the Ctrl key (Windows) or Cmd (macOS), and the Shift key (for example, Ctrl+Shift+F3), with these exceptions: In Windows, you cannot use the F1 key, nor can you use F4 or F6 with the Ctrl key.
Color: Assigns a color for display in Button mode.Note:
If you assign an action the same shortcut that is used for a command, the shortcut will apply the action rather than the command.
Select Begin Recording. The Begin Recording button in the Actions panel turns red .Note:
When recording the Save As command, do not change the filename. If you enter a new filename, that new name is recorded and used each time you run the action. Before saving, if you navigate to a different folder, you can specify a different location without having to specify a filename.
Perform the operations and commands you want to record.
Not all tasks in actions can be recorded directly; however, you can insert most nonrecordable tasks using commands in the Actions panel menu.
To stop recording, select Stop Playing/Recording.
To resume recording in the same action, choose Start Recording from the Actions panel menu.
Insert nonrecordable tasks into actions
Not all tasks in actions can be recorded directly. For example, you can’t record commands in the Effects and View menus, commands that display or hide panels, and use of the Selection, Pen, Paintbrush, Pencil, Gradient, Mesh, Eyedropper, Live Paint Bucket, and Scissors tools.
Use the Actions panel to check which tasks cannot be recorded. If the name of the command or tool doesn’t appear after you perform the task, you may still be able to add the task using commands in the Actions panel menu .
To insert a nonrecordable task after you create an action, select an item within the action after which you want to insert the task. Then choose the appropriate command from the Actions panel menu.
Insert a nonrecordable menu command
Select Insert Menu Item from the Actions panel menu .
Select the command from its menu, or type the command name in the text box and select Find.
Insert a path
Select the path, and choose Insert Select Path from the Actions panel menu .
Insert selection of an object
Enter a name for the object in the Note box of the Attributes panel before you start recording. (Select Show Note from the Attributes panel menu to display the Note box.)
When you record the action, choose Select Object from the Actions panel menu .
Enter the name of the object, and select OK.
Insert a stop
You can include stops in an action that let you perform a task that cannot be recorded (for example, using a painting tool). After you complete the task, select the Play button in the Actions panel to complete the action.
You can also show a short message when the action reaches the stop as a reminder of what needs to be done before continuing with the action. You can include a Continue button in the message box if you don't need to do anything else.
Choose where to insert the stop by doing one of the following:
Select an action’s name to insert a stop at the end of the action.
Select a command to insert a stop after the command.
Choose Insert Stop from the Actions panel menu .
Type the message you want to appear.
If you want the option to continue the action without stopping, select Allow Continue.
You can insert a stop when recording an action or after it has been recorded.
Change settings when playing an action
By default, actions are completed using the values specified when they were originally recorded. If you want to change the settings for a command within an action, you can insert a modal control. A modal control pauses an action so that you can specify values in a dialog box or use a modal tool. (A modal tool requires pressing Enter or Return to apply its effect—once you press Enter or Return, the action resumes its tasks.)
A modal control is indicated by a dialog box icon to the left of a command, action, or set in the Actions panel. indicates an action or set in which some, but not all, commands are modal. You can’t set a modal control in Button Mode.
To enable a modal control for a command within an action, select the box to the left of the command name. Select again to disable the modal control.
To enable or disable modal controls for all commands in an action, select the box to the left of the action name.
To enable or disable modal controls for all actions in a set, select the box to the left of the set name.
Exclude commands from an action
You can exclude commands that you don’t want to play as part of a recorded action. You can’t exclude commands in Button Mode.
If necessary, expand the listing of commands in the action by clicking Actions panel.to the left of the action name in the
Do one of the following:
To exclude a single command, click to clear the check markto the left of the command name. Click again to include the command.
To exclude or include all commands or actions in an action or set, click the check markto the left of the action or set name.
- To exclude or include all commands except the selected command, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (macOS), its check mark .
To indicate that some of the commands within the action are excluded, the check mark of the parent action becomes dimmed.
Specify playback speed
You can adjust an action’s playback speed or pause it to help you debug an action.
Choose Playback Options from the Actions panel menu .
Specify a speed, and select OK.
Plays the action at normal speed (the default).
Step By Step
Completes each command and redraws the image before going on to the next command in the action.
Pause For __seconds
Specifies the amount of time the application should pause between carrying out each command in the action.Note:
When you play an action at an accelerated speed, the screen may not update as the action executes, files may be opened, modified, saved, and closed without ever appearing on‑screen, enabling the action to execute more quickly. If you want to see the files on‑screen as the action executes, specify the Step By Step speed instead.
Edit and rerecord actions
It is easy to edit and customize actions. You can tweak the settings of any specific command within an action, add commands to an existing action, or step through an entire action and change any or all settings.
Add commands to an action
Do one of the following:
Select the action name to insert a new command at the end of the action.
Select a command in the action to insert a command after it.
Select the Begin Recording button.
Record the additional commands.
When finished, select the Stop Playing/Recording button in the Actions panel.
To rearrange commands within an action, drag a command to its new location within the same or another action in the Action panel. Release the mouse button when the highlighted line appears in the desired position.
Record an action again
Select an action, and choose Record Again from the Actions panel menu .
If a modal tool appears, use the tool to create a different result, and press Enter or Return, or just press Enter or Return to retain the same settings.
If a dialog box appears, change the settings, select OK to record them, or select Cancel to retain the same values.
Record a single task again
Select an object of the same type for which you want to rerecord the action. For example, if a task is only available for vector objects, you must have a vector object selected when you rerecord.
In the Actions panel, double-click the command.
Enter the new values and select OK.
Manage action sets
You can create and organize sets of task-related actions that can be saved to disk and transferred to other computers.
Any actions that you create are automatically listed in the Actions panel, but to truly save an action and not risk losing it if you delete your preferences file (Illustrator) or Actions panel file (Photoshop), you have to save it as part of an action set.
Save a set of actions
Select a set.Note:
If you want to save a single action, first create an action set and move the action to the new set.
Choose Save Actions from the Actions panel menu .
Type a name for the set, choose a location, and select Save.
You can save the file anywhere. You can save only the entire contents of a set in the Actions panel, not individual actions.
Load a set of actions
Choose Load Actions from the Actions panel menu .
Locate and select the action set file, and then select Open.
Restore actions to the default set
Choose Reset Actions from the Actions panel menu .
Select OK to replace the current actions in the Actions panel with the default set, or select Append to add the set of default actions to the current actions in the Actions panel.
Organize action sets
To help you organize your actions, you can create sets of actions and save the sets to disk. You can organize sets of actions for different types of work, such as print publishing and online publishing, and transfer sets to other computers.
- To create a new set of actions, select the Create New Set button in the Actions panel and enter the name of the set, and select OK.
- To move an action to a different set, drag the action to that set. When the highlighted line appears in the desired position, release the mouse button.
- To rename a set of actions, choose Set Options from the Actions panel menu and enter the new name of the set, and select OK.
- To replace all actions in the Actions panel with a new set, choose Replace Actions from the Actions panel menu . Select an actions file, and select Open.
- If you plan to create a new action and group it in a new set, make sure you create the set first. Then, the new set will appear in the set popup menu when you create your new action.
- The Replace Actions command replaces all sets of actions in the current document. Before using the command, make sure that you've already saved a copy of your current set of actions using the Save Actions command.
Play an action on a batch of files
The Batch command lets you play an action on a folder of files and subfolders. You can also use the Batch command to populate a template for data-driven graphics with different sets of data.
Choose Batch from the Actions panel menu.
For Play, select the action you want to play.
For Source, choose the Folder on which to play the action or select Data Sets to play the action on each data set in the current file.
If you select a Folder, you can set additional options for playing the action.
For Destination, specify what you want to do with the processed files. You can leave the files open without saving the changes (None), save and close the file in their current location (Save and Close), or save the files to a different location (Folder).
Depending on the Destination option you select, you can set additional options for saving the files.
Specify how you want Illustrator to handle errors during the batch process. If you select Log Errors to File, select Save As, and name the error file.
To batch-process using multiple actions, create a new action, and record the Batch command for each action you want to use. This technique also lets you process multiple folders in a single batch. To batch-process multiple folders, create aliases within a folder to the other folders you want to process.
If you select Folder for Source, you can set the following options:
Override Action “Open” Commands
Opens the files from the specified folder and ignores any Open commands recorded as part of the original action.
Include All Subdirectories
Processes all files and folders within the specified folder.
If the action contains any save or export commands, you can set the following options:
Override Action “Save” Commands
Saves the processed files in the specified destination folder and not to a location recorded in the action. Select Choose to specify the destination folder.
Override Action “Export” Commands
Exports the processed files to the specified destination folder and not to a location recorded in the action. Select Choose to specify the destination folder.
If you select Data Sets for Source, you can set an option for generating filenames when overriding Save and Export commands:
File + Number
Generates the filename by taking the original document’s filename, removing any extension, and then appending a three‑digit number corresponding to the data set.
File + Data Set Name
Generates the filename by taking the original document’s filename, removing any extension, and then appending an underscore and the name of the data set.
Data Set Name
Generates the filename by taking the name of the data set.
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