Actions in Illustrator Are Actually Very Useful Feature

Actions in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator have Actions which are overlooked feature but can be extremely useful. Recently I read how keyboard shortcuts can save 1 of 9 working hours. Well, actions can save you at least double time and I am not talking about complex actions and there is nothing new to learn, it is almost Just Do It.

What is so useful with actions?
As you already realize Illustrator is very powerful software with tons of features, menus and sub-menus. Many of commands and tools have shortcuts but who can remember all of them? Beside tool icon or menu name there is nothing to remind you shortcut or in which menu is particular command. But you can record action (what is death simple) and give it a meaningful name which have more sense for you.

Another true is that most of our work have repetitive elements like always the same size, frame, grid, logo… You can save lot of time and record action which can create grid, frame, place desired elements (like company logo) in second and you do not need to keep in mind sizes, locations on hard drive or to spend time searching for information's and elements.

Another thing I realize is that I am using over and over again same libraries and some panels are displayed on my screen just because one single feature on it.

Best of all you can have all commands and frequently used features on one panel in front of you ready to accomplish task in second.

Everything mentioned can be very easy recorded and that’s only one part for what actions can be used, everyone have its own habits and workflow so I am pretty sure you will discover other uses of actions. In order to make your life easier and celebrate actions you must start using them.

How to record action
First you need to display Actions panel from Window > Actions. There are some default actions which you can explore or just drag folder to trash icon. Deleting folder with actions from Actions panel just mean that set wont be displayed, actions are still on your hard drive and you can always load them from panel menu which is in upper right corner.

Create New Set by clicking on folder icon at bottom of Actions panel. Give meaningful name to the set and click OK button.
Create new set of actions

Click Create New Action button, give a action name and choose actions set to be stored from the Set drop-down list.
Create new action
Create new action

With action name selected click on Actions panel menu and choose Insert Menu Item. Insert Menu Item dialog will appear. You have text field to search for command so you do not need even to know in which menu is that particular command. Start typing command name and press tab or Find. If displayed command is  one you are looking for click OK,  try again or skip searching and find that command by expanding menu (Object, Effects...) then click on it to see its name in text field in Insert Menu Item dialog. Click OK to confirm and you will see command name below action name in Actions panel. For this tutorial I choose to record Round Corners effect. Click Stop Recording button and you are done.
Insert menu Item
Insert Menu Item
Stop Recording action
Stop Recording action

Play action
To test action first draw your shape and select it. Click on action name then hit Play button in Actions panel. Round Corners dialog (in this case) will appear.
Play action in Illustrator
Play action in Illustrator

Record more actions
You can also record very easy other operations like to draw shape with specific dimensions, to create new layer, select or apply specific brush, change blend mode, apply specific pattern to selected object, place company logo, signature and so on.

Note that you do not need always to use Insert Menu Item from Actions panel menu (use it for non-recordable tasks), instead create New Action, ensure Record button at bottom of Actions panel is red and perform operation you want to record. Some operations can not be recorded and in that case you wont see any change in Actions panel below action name. When recording Place command and some other you will have ability to turn on/off dialog visibility so you can record and use always same object to be placed (Off) or to have Place dialog always displayed (On) so you can navigate to some other object.
Toggle On/Off dialog visibility
Toggle On/Off dialog visibility

Save actions set
Last operation is to save action set to not lose it accidentally. Click on folder (action set) name then expand Actions panel menu and select Save Actions... Save anywhere on your hard drive just remember location to be able to load actions when you need them.
Save actions
Save actions

This tutorial does not tend to teach you everything you can do with actions and how to record them in details but rather to give you idea how to use this extremely powerful , time saving but overlooked feature. For more details please visit link below in Reference section.

Illustrator / Automation with actions

Product used in this tutorial: Adobe Illustrator CS6


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