Photoshop: Externally Linked Smart Objects: Please consider a "References" tool to create links to layers or folder groups

  • 37
  • Idea
  • Updated 5 years ago
  • Implemented
  • (Edited)
I'm a UI designer and some of my PSD's become very complex over time which makes it extremely hard for our developers to find what they are looking for.
A search-tool in the layers palette would be helpful as well but what would be at least as welcome is a "reference" tool where i can add URLs (to Jira tickets for example) but more importantly add reference links to actual layer groups or layers. (After effects' way of linking layers would be perfect for that)

An example: if a developer is looking for a certain design they just need to click a link I provided for let's say "Login UI - final step - updated" and they simply go there in the layers panel by clicking a reference link.

This way others can use my complex ui psd's without problems.
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David v.B.

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Posted 8 years ago

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POWALOWSKI

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Yessir. Thank you.
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Nino Höglund

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Fantastic news! Thank you!
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David v.B.

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Thanks so much for this! This will have a huge impact on peoples workflow and collaboration!
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Chris Besett

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Haven't got the update installed yet -- but from the video it seems like it only works on illustrator files and pdfs (meaning not PhotoShop smart objects.)

Is that true? Or is there a way to save a PSD smart object out into a file I'm not aware of?

I'll hold off on the applause until knowing that -- love that this has been done but unless it includes objects created in photoshop it's pretty limited.
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SG..., Employee

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Hi Chris – The feature includes support for PSD, PSB, TIFF, PNG, camera raw proprietary, DNG, etc. It basically includes formats that Ps can read, vector or raster images.
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David v.B.

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It works with anything! I just tested it by moving a "liked" icon (a heart) into it's own PSD, and then placed it back as the "linked" version, replacing the old "inline" layers.

Animated screenshot: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5...

This will make updating a breeze from now on! =D
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Chris Besett

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that is great news -- thanks for the info David.
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Reimund Trost

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Thanks for finally working on this. It's something After Effects had for +10 years and it's been my number one want for just as long. Its good that we're *almost* there in Photoshop as well. But why not go all the way?

I say we're almost there because unless the user can disable the *feature* of automatically embedding a copy of the linked object this implementation is actually broken.

In other words, there must be a way to do a proper link, without embedding anything.

That would give us smaller files and much faster saves (and faster file transfers). It would also mean that you could actually version control psds which otherwise would be very large. Currently that's unfeasable.

Please fix! (or inform me if I'm missing something)
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Dave Jennings

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I'm confused. As far as I can tell, its doing what you've asked for.

Please explain what your doing in steps for us to re-create it and what you're expecting to be able to do that its not currently doing.

What is a "proper link"?

From what I can tell, PS CC doesn't embed the file, it creates a flattened preview (not copy) which stays with the file, keeping the original file linked. Break the link by re-naming/ moving etc, it reverts & shows the flattened preview & locks you out of re-scaling until the link is re-established. It still shows and can be worked on though.

As far as I know, that how a "proper" link works, or were you expecting something else?
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Reimund Trost

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Yes, exactly. Photoshop creates a flattened copy of the linked document, which often is bigger than the linked file itself. We need a way to disable that.

For example if I link a 35 megapixel jpeg (15MB) into a document the saved file will be over 120 MB! I would expect the link to work as it does in After Effects. No embedded (flattened) copy of the object and that the link is automatically resolved.
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Dave Jennings

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The file size of the PSD is directly proportional to the preview size in the document, so a 35mb jpeg file previewing at actual size would be pretty massive in file size as you said. Scale it down to something smaller/ more manageable and the file size shrinks though, so unless you work on a huge hi -re screen capable of resolutions around the 7000/8000k width (that's 8k TV resolution!!) then it would be normal to be working on a much smaller image / resolution.

I do see your point about you wanting it to act more like a placeholder than a linked file though, but the only problem would be as to what happens when the link is broken. What would appear, an empty transparent box border with an x in like a DTP package? Personally I'd sooner see a flattened preview than that and accept the larger file size.

Not familiar enough to AE to know how it handles linked files that are broken from the link. Can you clarify what it does or is it something like the above?
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Reimund Trost

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In After Effects you get a placeholder picture if the footage link cannot be resolved. If I recall correctly a rectangular area is shown with the same bounds as the object, including a questionmark or some text indicating a broken link.

For the record, digital cameras nowadays easily produces 35 megapixel pictures (ie 10-30 MB jpegs) so that's a rather usual scenario. Saving files this size is very slow and if one could omit the preview/flattened copy you'd save tons of time.

And more importantly, fixing the implementation would also make it much more feasible to version control Photoshop documents. with, say Git or Mercurial.
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Dave Jennings

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Thanks for the info about AE, Reimund. Sounds like it works in a similar way to what I imagined.

I appreciate that recent digital cameras are more megapixel gifted, I suppose to clarify my earlier comments, it isn't so much the pixel size of the original image you're linking to but it's the actual size its re-sized to when in the document that effects the psd file size.

Appreciate your point about being able to switch between seeing it or not though, maybe they'll introduce that as an option. I personally wouldn't benefit from seeing a place holder outline in my work so would keep the flattened image option. Not sure how Photoshop would be able to handle effects or masking applied to it either if it was just a placeholder box, so maybe that's the reason it works the way it does.

Try suggesting that as a new idea topic of its own as this might get lost and overlooked in this post.

Alternatively, work at far lower psd document resolutions using linked smart objects or other scalable objects and re-size your canvas back up later.
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Bradee Evans, Product Designer

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It sounds like what you're asking for is an "auto-relink" feature... in the case where the file type changes? (when photoshop sees you need to preform a save as due to changes of the linked file that require it be saved as more robust file type i.e.; jpg -> (add layers) -> save as .psd or .tiff).
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Chris Cox

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The flattened copy is the transformed version - not the same as the original child document. The flattened copy is necessary for many reasons and won't be removed anytime soon.
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Reimund Trost

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Would you care to elaborate why it is necessary?

I would very much prefer a placeholder image in cases where the linked image is missing for the reasons explained above.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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It's for file compatibility. Photoshop is a different animal from After Effects as it has always stored the complete sum of its parts to accurately represent the contents of the file for backwards compatibility. What you're asking for would go against that philosophy. It's not to say what you want is impossible, but it could be painful for other reasons.
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Chris Cox

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There's 20+ reasons that we really need the flattened preview -- compatibility, filter effects, document load times, making document loading deterministic (as opposed to open ended for recursive descent of the child documents), etc. The cost of storing the flattened preview is not as great as you claimed, and usually no greater than storing another pixel layer in the parent document.
Yes, we've spent quite a bit of time thinking this through -- and the previews really need to be there.
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Reimund Trost

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Thank you for responding Jeffrey.

For compatibility with older Photoshop versions, wouldn't it be possible to insert a vector based placeholder image that explains that the linked object couldn't be resolved?

Though, there has long been an option in the prefs to never maximize psd file compatibility so in a way it's already been possible to go against that philosophy.

What other problems can you think of?
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Reimund Trost

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Chris, thanks for clearing things up.

My comments:

For compatibility you would just embed a low-res placeholder in place of the current flattened copy. Don't see any issue here.

I see the point about filters though. But that can be solved by just omitting to apply them on load, and let the user decide when to apply them.

I see the points about recursion too. But think about it this way: If the user has explicitly changed the setting to not keep any previews, I'm sure he can live with the cost in these cases too?

I understand that if there is depth to the tree of linked objects loading would be slower, but why not let the user decide when it wants previews and when it doesn't?

It could be a checkbox in the Properties panel, and to avoid these issues for users who don't grasp the consequences, let previews be the default. Upon the first time the box is unticked, pop up an alert explaining why things may load slower with previews disabled.

And for what it's worth, the numbers I mentioned above are not made up (in response to "The cost of storing the flattened preview is not as great as you claimed"). In fact, in cases where users version control their psds disk savings could be even greater.

Example: Create an empty document. Link a Nikon D800 picture. Psd would be about 70-200 MB depending on how detailed it is. Now add a text layer. Then commit to your repository. Now change the text layer. Do another commit. And there you go, that's an extra 70-200MB to your repository by just changing the text (since psds are treated as binaries). Now, this is for every commit! Without previews, however, you'd get about 50-150 times smaller a file (according to my tests).
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Chris Cox

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Again, there are many reasons to keep the preview just like it is. The complications and hassles added by not having the preview make it ever more necessary to keep the preview. The small benefit of _sometimes_ having smaller files really does not outweigh all the other factors that say we really need the flattened preview.
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Reimund Trost

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In cases where you scale down the linked object (and when the object is a tree) sure, the preview might be smaller. But I don't think photographers agree (who would keep the linked object at full size). In those cases the preview of linked pictures (raw & jpegs) will typically always be larger than the linked file itself, rendering the link feature rather useless (for photographers that is, since for the most part orignals won't be edited once developed).

So I'd say it would be a huge benefit

I really hope you go through the hassle of adding it. It will so be worth it.
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POWALOWSKI

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Hi Chris,

I totally agree on keeping any preview! I'd even go for adding a full sized preview for later resize in case the link is not availiable. Does anybody really care about file size these days?
What is important is the fact that photoshop is able to recognize changes in the linked file. This finally brings non-destructive workflow closer to perfection.

I would go for any size if it enhances non-destructive workflow functionality (keeping performance in mind, specifically memory on this one).

What would be great would be a Lighroom option for "Open as linked Smart-Object in Photoshop"
This would make jfriedels "Layers in Lightroom" Approach obsolete I think.
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POWALOWSKI

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@Reimund I think you're missing out the big displeasure of opening (maybe older) files containing lots of links while file structure has changed or while cooperating with others not wanting to exchange all the missing links.

This inconvenience would weight much more than several megabytes lost due to inclusion of previews. Imagine some old complex PSD you only want to add some little detail after months but keep the links at the state of original export. Relinking and reconstructions can quickly overweight the diskspace. Please Adobe don't drop previews.

Look over to Lightroom where with Smart Previews users actually are seeking for inclusion of previews sacrificing disk space.
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Reimund Trost

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@Powalowski, it's not about removing the preview feature, but empowering the user to get rid of it when it's more advantageous to do so.

In addition, disabling the preview not only frees space, it improves performance as well in the situations I'm advocating. I'm sure you understand that writing a +100MB preview to disk is slower than not writing anything at all. Without the need to write preview saves could be many times faster.

If the user loses linked files it might as well lose the psds themselves so that's a rather weak argument in my opinion.
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POWALOWSKI

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I'd still be cautious regarding newer rendering engines on future Camera Raw version, different file interpretation, resizing etc. I think there could be a lot complex things to consider for a feature which (used incautiously) can cause destruction. Better choosing the save way.

prices for SSD storage has dropped enormously. 100gb+ lightening fast SSD for -
:-)
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POWALOWSKI

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@Adobe,

Thank you sooo much for your hard work listening to us and implementing great and useful features.

My Feedback on this:

have you considered adding a Links panel for better managing linked files inside Photoshop? This would fit into illustrators and indesign workflow and for me pretty much be a great consecutive addition.

Like so:


Also creating a dialog while dropping in resources into photoshop asking if resource should be placed rasterized, as Smart Object or as Link. (actually you can leave out rasterized :-D)

Setting default placing to Link instead Smart Object could also be a great option. I consider switching mainly over to Links instead of fully integrated SO.

Also better integration of Links in the layers context menu would be apperciated. I thing about options like (on Smart Objects) "replace contents with Link", "export contents as link (for converting SO to link)".

Defrickeling one big Photoshop file containing a lot of Smart Objects seems quite manual and memory expensive at the moment.

Thanks for your effort and big cheers!
Peace
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Bradee Evans, Product Designer

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Regarding the links panel... are you familiar with the layer search feature? It's nearly the same functionality without adding new panels to further clutter the workspace. At least that was our hope!
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POWALOWSKI

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Thank you Bradee,
I don't use the filtering mechanism very often. I wouldn't mind cluttering my workspace, especially with elements I'm familiar with from other software.
The filtering mechanism somehow still feels like an obstacle.
The desire would be to see all the Links and references in one view without further action - this could be useful considering big projects containing (and depending on) a lot of links. I can imagine this is no feature for everyone, so this tool could be hidden by default. What do you think?
What do the others think?
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POWALOWSKI

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@ Bradee,

what about the other Things? Should we make up a new topic from this? I mean we miss the main topic here which was the overall implementation which is implemented =)
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Stuart Flood

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Smart Objects.


Dear Photoshop,

Please can we have TWO types of "Smart Object"

Type ONE. A "Local / Imbedded" Smart object ( exactly as we have now ).

and..

Type TWO. A "Linked / Placed / Universal / Imported" Smart Object, i.e. an importable Smart Object that exists outside of the destination PSD and that can be shared by multiple PSDs
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SG..., Employee

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Hi Stuart,

Since your reply was just merged over from another post:

Please check out the new 14.2 update for Photoshop CC:
http://blogs.adobe.com/photoshopdotco...

Julieanne Kost gives a really nice walk thru of the Linked Smart Object feature here:
http://youtu.be/PVvhR5Yj_ag

regards,
steve