Why and How to Use Insert Menu Item When Recording Photoshop Action

Why and How to Use Insert Menu Item When Recording Photoshop Actions

One of the lesser-known features when recording Photoshop actions is hidden inside the Actions panel menu. This feature is Insert Menu Item command which is allowing you to choose a menu item to record as a step in action. It is time and frustration saving feature because some commands can be only recorded as action steps using this feature while other times you can force Photoshop to display dialogue and to wait for input.

In this post, I will explain to you why, when and how to use Insert Menu Item command from the Actions panel menu to record steps in Photoshop action.

Why use Insert Menu Item when recording action

Photoshop actions are an excellent and easy way to automate boring and repeating tasks in Photoshop. You can record most but not all actions which you can perform in Photoshop. Some examples of actions which can not be recorded:

  • Zoom level can not be recorded. Some zoom levels and operations can be recorded only using Insert Menu Item.
  • Panning can not be recorded.
  • Tool activation like the Lasso tool can not be recorded.
  • Movement and rearrangement of panels will not be recorded in Photoshop action.
  • Tasks related to Photoshop variables can not be recorded.
  • You can not assign a keyboard shortcut in Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts dialogue using Photoshop action.

This is not a definitive list it serves to give you an idea and information that what are you trying to record perhaps can not be recorded in Photoshop action.

Examples of actions which are tricky to record

While some actions can not be recorded at all, other actions are a little bit trickier to record. Even if it appears that Photoshop is refusing to record actions like Window > Arrange > New Window for [document name], you can record mentioned and some other menu items in Photoshop action using Insert Menu Item command.

Here is a list with examples of other actions which are tricky to record:

  • Window > Arrange > choose an option.
  • Window > Brushes or any other panel.
  • View > Fit on Screen.

The list is not definitive, it serves to give you an idea that some actions can be recorded despite default Photoshop behavior to ignore click on a menu item in action recording mode.

One more reason: dialogue open waiting for input

One more reason to use Insert Menu Item command is to see dialogue open and waiting for input while playing action. It is not the same to use File > Open then to navigate to file versus File > Open using Insert Menu Item. here is the difference:

  • If you click File > Open in recording mode, Photoshop will record the file path and name into an action step.
  • When using Insert Menu Item > File > Open command Photoshop will record steps to open Open dialogue without any file path and file name hardcoded.

There is a workaround for previously described situation to turn modal control for action step but that is a less flexible and less professional way of doing, basically, the same thing.

How to use the Insert Menu Item command to record the action step

So far so good, I hope you have a good understanding when and why use Insert Menu Item to record action step. If you are not sure please read the explanation above or do not hesitate to leave comments and ask a question. By the way, you can use this technique when recording brand new actions but also and add a step into existing action because you have learned a neat trick.

Here are the steps to record a menu item into Photoshop action:

  • Start recording or select an action step in the Actions panel. It is not required to be in recording mode when adding step using Insert Menu Item but beware of consequences listed in further description. An additional step will be added after the selected action step. If none of the steps is selected, an additional step will be added at the end or as the last step of the currently selected action. If none of the action steps nor any existing action/action set is selected, Photoshop will add a step at the end of the last action in the Actions panel. 
  • Go to Actions panel menu > Insert Menu Item.
  • With Insert Menu Item Visible on your screen navigate to the command which you want to use from menus and click on it.
  • You should see previously selected command next to Menu Item in the Insert Menu Item dialogue.
  • Click OK to confirm and exit.
  • Check your Actions panel. Expand action as needed and look for Select [ menu item of your choice] menu item action step.

Record step using Insert Menu Item from Actions pane
Animation showcasing how to record step in Photoshop action using Insert Menu Item from the Actions panel menu.

If you have done everything properly your action should have a step which is tricky to record. Enjoy your action and your new skill.

Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop 2020 (version 21.0.2)


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