February 05, 2009

Feedback, please: Managing complex PSDs

Designers–and Web designers in particular–create some of the most complex, intricately layered Photoshop compositions possible.  How could we make the management & navigation of these files more efficient? I’d love to get your take on the following ideas:


  • Layer panel search/filtering:
    • Photoshop could offer a small search field at the top of the Layers panel.  As you’d type in text, PS would narrow down the display of layers (e.g. typing "b-u-r-r.." would hide everything but the layer called "burrito").  Searching would also find custom tags applied to layers.  Hiding layers in the list would have no effect on the appearance of the document.
    • Separately, PS could offer buttons on Layers that would let you filter the view so that you could, say, show only type layers, or only type layers and bitmap layers, etc.
  • Layer sorting: Photoshop would offer the ability to sort the Layers panel by layer type, layer name, etc.
  • Symbols (i.e. reusable objects that enable "edit one, update many"): Photoshop already supports this concept to some degree via Smart Objects.  You can convert a layer to be an SO, then duplicate the object, edit one copy, and have both copies update.  The interface could be made clearer, however (e.g. through adding a Symbols panel for managing objects).
  • Linked files (place a file, update it externally, and have all placed copies updated in PSDs): Again, Photoshop already supports linked files in a couple of ways.  If you double-click a Smart Object placed from Illustrator, PS will open a copy in AI.  You can also choose Layer->Smart Objects->Replace Contents… to have an SO replace with a file on disk.  Oh, and video layers are always linked to external files.  The raw materials for a traditional linking implementation are there, but PS would need to add things like a Links panel.
  • Type styles:  As you can in Illustrator and InDesign, you could assign a style to type layers in Photoshop, and when you changed the style definition, PS would update all layers that have the style attached.
  • Other?  Anything I haven’t mentioned?  Anything you like in other apps?


To gather feedback I’ve created a very quick survey, and of course your comments (below) would be most welcome. (And in the interests of sharing ideas freely, you can browse others’ responses, too. Note that I can’t edit/reply inline to suggestions posted via the survey.)




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