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Upgrading Photoshop Actions, Plug-Ins, and other Odds and Ends

When you install a new version of Adobe Photoshop, you get an entire new folder on your hard drive to hold it. In this way, your old version won't get overlaid, letting it continue working as always until you are used to the new version and ready to leave the old one behind for good. But what about any additional actions, plug-ins, brushes and other files you had added to the old version? Whether they're from third-party companies or created by your own efforts, they will all get deleted when you delete your old Photoshop installation unless you take steps to save them.

On Windows, Photoshop CS gets installed inside the "Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS" folder while CS2 ends up in "Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2." On Mac OS, the folder names are similar, but live under "Applications" instead of "Program Files." Regardless, each version has its own folder. And inside each of them will be a Plug-Ins folder that Photoshop will scan as it starts up. Most of the things inside this folder will appear on the Filters menu, but a few files install themselves on other menus. If you have more than one version of Photoshop installed at the same time, you will have a Plug-Ins subfolder under the installation folder for each. The differences in what is installed in each will be reflected on the Filter menu when you run the old and new programs.

Adobe does provide a good short term measure as part of the program Preferences. If you go to Edit >> Preferences >> Plug-Ins and Scratch Disks, you can enter the path to an Additional Plug-Ins Folder that Photoshop will scan as part of starting up in addition to its own folder. You may find some plug-ins that don't like running in this configuration or are otherwise incompatible with the new version, but many things will work just fine. But this just lets you point to your old folder. The folder will still go away when you delete your old version unless you do something about it.

Many plug-ins can simply be copied from their old home to the corresponding location under your new Plug-Ins folder, but some are more stubborn and will fail to work properly unless you re-install them. This can be a bit of a pain, but should be considered a necessary evil to get your new version set up with everything you have grown accustomed to with your old version. Copy the old stuff over first and only resort to re-installing those plug-ins that don't work right this way. Be careful not to overlay any plug-ins that Adobe provides as part of the new version.

Another folder that is part of every installation of Photoshop that needs accounted for at upgrade time is called "Presets." Under it, you will find subfolders for Actions, Brushes, Scripts, Textures, Gradients and other files you may have changed or added. Casual Photoshop users may have created an Action saved a saved a Brush Preset, but as they gain experience, sooner or later they just may. And they likely won't want to lose them when they upgrade to a new version. Fortunately, the solution for all these and other similar files located under Presets is to simply copy them to the matching folder of your new version.

Each version of Photoshop also maintains its own preferences files for Color Settings, Tool Presets and the like. While some of these may be able to be copied from one version to the next, you are generally better off simply re-entering them while running the new version since Adobe does change the format of these from time to time. If you do want to try copying any over, you can find them at "Documents and Settings\[user name]\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop" on Windows and at "Users\[user name]\Library\Preferences" on Mac OS. If you try copying something over and it doesn't work, simply delete that file from your new version and Photoshop will recreate it when you restart the application.

If you're an old pro at Photoshop, all this may seem like common sense, but new users could easily be caught off guard by having to deal with all this. With digital photography becoming ever more popular, the transition from CS to CS2 may be the first upgrade experience for some. Hopefully, this will make the experience at least a little less harrowing.

Date posted: June 26, 2005


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