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Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Organize Your Actions with this Free Download

by Erin Peloquin on March 2, 2012 · 38 comments

Photoshop Elements and actions.  It takes forever for us to install them, and once they’re installed, we have to scroll through a long list of stuff in Photo Effects in order to find them.

You have to scroll forever unless you know the magic trick for organizing your actions into menu categories, that is.  These menu items allow you to filter out the actions you’re looking for quickly.  To assign a menu category to an action, you just need an XML file for each action.  Your menu will look something like this after you customize it:

If you purchase actions, you’ll find that the better action makers, like MCP Actions (of course!) provide these XML files for you.  You can also make them yourself.

You can organize the actions however you’d like.  You can have one menu group for your Favorites, another for all the actions from a specific maker, and another for all your portrait actions, for instance.

Your XML file will look something like this (click for a larger view):

Please note:  the image above is just a screenshot.  See below for instructions on downloading the usable file.

  • To use this template, you will need to open it in some sort of a text editor.  On my Mac, I use TextEdit.  On my PC, I use Notepad.  Your computer probably has one of these installed, even if you’ve never used it.  (For best results, don’t use Word, Wordpad or anything similar.)
  •  Inside the XML, you will need to replace some of my text with two pieces of information – the action name, and the menu item (or action set) name.
    • The action name in the XML needs to be EXACTLY the same as the name of the action that you installed.  That is, it needs to be exactly the same as the name of the action file you pasted into the photo effects folder when you installed your action – this file ends in “.ATN”.  If the file name is “Turn My Photo Blue.ATN”, your action name is “Turn My Photo Blue”.
  • You will need to type the action name twice.  Replace my text that says “ACTIONNAMENOSPACES” with your action name.  You guessed it – don’t type any spaces.  Your action capitalization and punctuation should be exactly the same as the name of the action file.
  • Next, replace my “Action Name With Spaces” with your action name, spaced as it is in the name of the ATN file.
  • The next piece of information you will need to enter into this XML file is the action set name.  This can be “Favorites,” “Actions from Joe Blow the Action Maker” or “Actions for Portrait Retouching.”  Or anything else you’d like.  This is the text that will appear in your drop down menu in the Photo Effects Panel inside of Elements.
  • Again, you’ll need to enter this action set name twice – once with spaces, once without.
  • When you save the XML file, save it like this:  Name.metadata.xml.  Again, the name must be the same exact name as the name of the action file (with spaces).  And, you’ll probably need to type in the entire name – the .xml extension doesn’t usually appear for you, like it would if saving a more common type of file.
  • When saving, also make sure that the file format is set to All Files.

Now, these XML files can be persnickety.  If you have any typos, the menu items won’t work.  Don’t add or subtract anything from the template I provided – just replace the text that needs to be replaced.

To install them, copy and paste them into that same Photo Effects folder where you installed the actions.  You can use the installation instructions here, if you need a refresher.  You can paste all your new XMLs at one time (and you will need one for each action you wish to categorize.)

And yes, unfortunately you will have to reset the cursed mediadatabase.  The easiest way?  Close Elements and navigate to mediadatabase using the installation instructions.  When you find it, just delete it (and any old versions of it).  Don’t worry about renaming it.  Reopen Elements.  And let it process.  Remember that this part can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes.  Don’t touch PSE until your cursor returns to normal.

Once installed, go to the Photo Effects palette inside PSE and pull down the drop down menu that usually says “Show All.”  If you did everything right, you can select your new action categories and get to editing!

How to Download This Free XML File:

Newsletter subscribers, return to your email newsletter from March 2, 2012,  and look at the bottom left corner under this blue and orange watermark.  Your download link will be there.

If you don’t subscribe to the newsletter, subscribe here.  After confirming your subscription, you will receive an email with links to my free actions as well as this download.

If you subscribe to the newsletter but missed the link, unsubscribe and then resubscribe.

One more thing.  I know some of you are going to try this and post back here saying it won’t work.  Go back to that persnickety part above.  This is something I just can’t help you with – you’ll have to proofread very carefully. Have fun organizing those actions!


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