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Coloring and Customizing Menus in Photoshop CS2

Always looking for new ways to improve usability, Adobe has been busy tweaking things again with the release of Photoshop CS2. Not content to only let you set your own keyboard shortcuts, they have upped the ante even further by tackling the menus themselves. Now, you can customize things by temporarily hiding menu commands you don't use and color coding the ones you do.

Perhaps Adobe was somewhat ambivalent when adding this new feature though since they put it in two places. You can get there via either Edit >> Menus or by way of Window >> Workspace >> Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus. After learning how, perhaps the first thing on the menus you may want to hide is whichever one of these makes the least sense to you. Either way, you will be presented with a dialog that lets you choose from a number of preset menu configurations or create your own. The window has two tabs, one for Keyboard Shortcuts and the other for Menus. The new Menu editor dialog in Photoshop CS2It is the latter that is new and that we will be looking at this week.

Menus come in two types: Application menus are the ones you generally think of and have their first level choices stretching from File through Window and Help along the top of the area that Photoshop occupies on your screen. Palette menus are the context-specific ones that fly out when you click on the small triangle in the upper right of each palette area.

The preset menu configurations consist of the following:

  • Automation — Highlights in red all menu choices dealing with actions, scripting and automation.
  • Basic — Doesn't color any menu commands but hides many of the more advanced features.
  • Color and Tonal Correction — Highlights in orange those commands that deal with editing or correcting tone or color. There are a lot of them.
  • Image Analysis — Uses Yellow to highlight all the commands Adobe thinks you might use when analyzing your image. Not all of their choices seem to make sense to me, but remember, you can customize their choices as you see fit.
  • Painting and Retouching — Green is the color of the day here. I don't paint, so I'll reserve judgment as to whether this one is of value.
  • Printing and Proofing — Uses gray for all menu commands related to printing and proofing. This seems a poor choice given that the default color of the menu itself is gray.
  • Web Design — Purple graces those menu commands related in some way to web design. As with some of the others, you'll be glad you can customize their default if you use this as a starter set of menus.
  • What's New - CS2 — The best of the lot. Uses blue to highlight all the new features of Photoshop CS2. If the feature was only moved and not changed, it doesn't earn being blue apparently.
  • Working with Type — Shows off type-related menu choices in red.

To make your own menu set, simply expand the list of commands in the main portion of the dialog and use the eyeball icon in the Visibility column to show or hide individual commands. Under Color, you can use the dropdown list to select an available color to highlight each command. Unlike with the presets, you can use more than one color in your menu set. They currently don't support moving commands between menus.

The 'What's New - CS2' blue menusWhen you are done, you can use the small icons next to the "Set" dropdown to save your menus. You can also create a new set based on an existing one or delete any set you decide you don't want to keep. If you have changed your current menu setup and not saved the changes, the word "Modified" will appear in parenthesis after the name of that preset in the Menu editor dropdown list.

If a menu has hidden items in it, there will be a "Show All Menu Items" choice added to the bottom. Selecting it will show any commands previously hidden on that menu only. Items thus revealed will remain visible for a short while and then re-hide themselves.

If you get tired of having colored menus or if for some reason they aren't showing up when they are supposed to, you can toggle them on or off globally by going to Edit >> Preferences >> General. The checkbox labeled "Show Menu Colors" controls whether or not menu color highlighting will show. To put everything back the way it started when you first installed Photoshop CS2, use Window >> Workspace >> Reset Menus. This is equivalent to choosing "Photoshop Defaults" from the Menu editor dropdown list.

Changing menu sets can be recorded in Actions so the possibilities for customizing your workflow are almost limitless. As just one example, you could automatically switch to the Printing and Proofing menu set as part of the steps you go through when getting ready to print.

If you're someone who thinks that all those menu options in Photoshop are too confusing and you never really use most of them anyway, Adobe may have just answered your prayers. Even if this doesn't describe you, you may well find that this new feature can simplify your life by simplifying your menus.

Date posted: June 5, 2005


Copyright © 2005 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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