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

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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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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Official Response
Hi David,

Check out this Links Panel that let's you create Linked Smart Objects to external files.

Here's an article with tutorials from Viget Inspire: Linked Smart Objects in Photoshop
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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I know it's not perfect, but hopefully it's a worthwhile tool short of a built-in solution.
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David v.B.

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i will give it a try when i return from vacation! i see there are some stability issues on cs5 so ill mess around with it at home first.. :) Any chance of something like this ever making it into Photoshop by default?
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Yup. It's a possibility. We have a lot of requests on our plate so we'll see.

I recommend using this panel with tabbed documents turned off.
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David v.B.

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I bet! A live search(filter) in the layers panel (like in the AFX plugin panel) would be easier i suppose. i would pay extra for just having that feature! haha
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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DvB, you should make a separate suggestion for each idea. They will have more visibility than if they are buried in a different thread.
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Zeeto VGS

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Ok, I don't know if this one is technically possible, but it worth a shot I guess...

To pass it on as good as possible I'll have to describe it on the example.

Let's say we have the image of the product - the image itself is huge, has a lot of layers. We have to create some labels on top of the product image - let's say a few versions.

Now, it would be great if we could work on that labels on separate files, but having a preview of the product (as a 'preview' layer?).
Instead of having all the layers of the product image in each of the label image file we could have just one layer (flatten product image).

So the file would weight less, Photoshops performance would be better... and if we have to change anything in the product image it would reflect in all of the label files.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Photoshop: Preview or Reference Layers (Linked Smart Objects).
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Charlie McCulloch

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I'd love to see changes to Smart Objects propagate across different files where the same smart object is used. If you're working on designs for high-resolution tablets it's not really feasible to store all screen designs in one document, which means you can't use Smart Objects for common interface elements.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Photoshop: Smart Objects propagating across multiple files.
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David v.B.

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Exactly! This is one of the biggest things structurally wrong with photoshop's file handling in a "new" media world. This and the neglect of web design specific UI sollutions..
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Dear Adobe Gripe #13919:

"Please allow a Photoshop file to link to several psd components, making components within your psd easily updatable, much like Indesign. Componatize man!!!"
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Photoshop FAQ, Official Rep

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Dear Adobe Gripes #12402 & #4540

"Please give smart objects the power they deserve by linking them to real files, and then auto-updating the files with the smart objects."

"Please make 'Place' in Photoshop work like in InDesign. Updates to external file = Updates in Photoshop."
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Aaron Powers

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I'm also a UI designer, and I've been frustrated by the same. So I've been working to build on and improve beyond the links panel plugin mentioned above. Take a look and let me know what you think -- I'm interested in adding more features to it to support UI designers like you and me.
You can get it at: http://CanLinkIt.com

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David v.B.

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owww that is sweet! Will try it soon!
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Aaron Powers

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Thanks, David! Please let me know what you think after you try it.
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David v.B.

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I'm very impressed! Even more so after disabling the extension and seeing that the created reference layers are still functioning! Very nice work sir!

Are there any serious issues I should be aware of (like crashing PS for example) or is this ready to use in production?

Is it already CS6 compatible? :)
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David v.B.

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i've tweeted about it here: https://twitter.com/#!/davidvb/status... Didn't find your twitter handle though.
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David v.B.

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Actually it just crashed on me just now when I pressed "Update All." My test file had just 1 reference layer containing a PNG that I had color inverted.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Hi David, Do you have Tabbed Documents turned on in Photoshop? (Photoshop>Preferences>Interface...) Try turning off Tabbed Documents and let me know if still does this.
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Aaron Powers

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Hi David and Jeff,
Thanks for telling me! If it crashes again, if you can do a few things for me I'll very likely be able to debug the problem.

First, if you tell me what version of Photoshop and OS you're working on, I'll try to repeat the problem myself.

And if next time it crashes, it would really help me if you could
(a) send me a screenshot of the crash
(b) the PSDs you were working on, and
(c) follow the directions here to get and send me a log file: https://sites.google.com/a/canlinkit....

You can mail those to me if you'd rather do that than posting here: support@CanLinkIt.com

I do remember there being a problem with tabbed documents, though I spent some time trying to fix one of those bugs. It might not be completely fixed. I'll look into it if I can get more details.

- Aaron
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Aaron Powers

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Oh, and as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of Photoshop CS6, I'll test it out there, but I think it'll probably work as I've tested it on all of CS4, CS5, and CS5.1 for Mac and Windows without any changes for those versions.
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David v.B.

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i'm on OSX 10.7.2, Pshop 12.0.4 64bit - PSD is in your mailbox.
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Aaron Powers

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Jeff was right -- the problem was indeed related to having tabs on in Photoshop on a mac. I've implemented a workaround which has now been uploaded to CanLinkIt.com
If it's still crashing, send me any debugging logs and I may be able to fix it. The way to get a log is here:
https://sites.google.com/a/canlinkit....
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Hi Aaron, thanks for sharing. FYI - Looks like you YouTube video isn't showing. You probably need to use the legacy embed code option from YouTube for it to work on this site.
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Aaron Powers

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Thanks for the tip! I fixed it.
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Alex Hudson

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I am a design professional using Photoshop and other Adobe products on a regular, daily basis. I'd like to suggest a feature/modification that would greatly improve usability for professionals creating deep/rich PSDs for large-scale projects:

While it is currently possible to embed PSDs into each other - once embedded, there is no live connection between the original and the nested copy. You are essentially creating a parallel file. Changes made to the nested or the original PSD do no affect each other. This can be problematic when versioning (and accidentally pulling out-dated assets).

Why can't the nested PSD be a portal to the true original? Changing the nested version saves your work in both files (treating them as one). If you want to access only the original file (perhaps its smaller/lighter for quick revisions than opening a heavy master document) you can do that easily without worrying about re-importing/replacing the nested version.

EX: I'm working on a website that contains a rotating banner. The banners are becoming more and more rich/complex. Makes sense for exporting to create the banners in their own PSD. I'd like to place the banners PSD into the website comp so that my client can see a screenshot of the whole at any given time. Now that its nested, I essentially have two parallel files. I'll edit work daily and will quickly lose track of what file I made the change on. WHAT IF THEY WERE THE SAME FILE!?

Does this feature/modification resonate with any other serious Photoshop users? I wonder if this concept has been addressed and if there is a legitimate reason for why we don't have it as a feature.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Nested PSDs for large-scale design projects.
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Aaron Powers

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Hi Alex,
Did you take a look at the CanLinkIt plugin yet? The video and link are in the comment right above this. I think it does what you're describing. If it doesn't, can you describe the feature you're looking for that would improve CanLinkIt? I might be able to implement it.

- Aaron
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Alex Hudson

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Thanks Aaron,

I just checked it out and I don't seem to be getting the desired results. When I try to New Link to a PSD, nothing happens. I'm able to link other files (jpgs, pngs) but not existing multilayered PSDs. That is really what I'm trying to accomplish.

Am I experiencing an error? Or is CanLinkIt meant to handle only non-PSD file types?
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Aaron Powers

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Hi Alex,
Yes, it sounds like there's a problem. It's probably a bug in CanLinkIt.

I'm uploading a new version that will have some fixes very soon -- I'll post when it's up and it would be great if you could try it out (and if it doesn't work, I'll post how to send me the logfile that will let me fix the problem).
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Aaron Powers

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Hi Alex,
I've uploaded a new version that fixes some problems that were on macs. You can download it at http://CanLinkIt.com.

If it still doesn't work, I'd be happy to look into and try to fix it, I would just need you to send me some more information. The info I need, including steps on to find and send me your log file, is posted here:
http://www.canlinkit.com/contact/su
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Alex Hudson

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Hey Aaron,

Thanks for the support. Link to PSD is functioning now!

I'm having a new issue though. PSD's brought into my file come in scaled up about 1/3 (ex: my 100px X 100px file comes in to the master file and shows its at 100% but its at 133px and pixilates). I'm able to scale down to about 75% and work with it but I'm pretty sure that's not how you want it to function.

I'm on PS CS5.1 on Mac running Lion OS. If you need me to screencap anything or more info let me know.

Thanks again.
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Aaron Powers

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Thanks, Alex! I'm going to take a look at this and get back to you. I'll probably come back to ask you for more details in a day or so.
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Aaron Powers

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Hi Alex,
Can you try the same thing using Photoshop's "File" -> "Place" and see if it does the same rescaling? If it does, I think it may be a Photoshop standard.

This may be happening due to the resolution in the image, e.g. if you go into "Image" -> "Image Size" and look at the "Resolution", if the destination file is other than 72 pixels/inch, Photoshop may be automatically rescaling the image in a poor attempt to keep each image at the same number of inches.

However, if neither of those things explains it, I'll need some more details, like the two files you're using so I can try it myself and figure out what's happening. If you prefer, you can email me at Support@CanLinkIt.com

Thanks, and let me know.
- Aaron
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Alex Hudson

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Hey, you know what? It appears to be working just fine now. Can't really say what was going on but now when I bring in PSDs I'm seeing everything at the appropriate size and linking is working great.

I can't wait to put this into use. Thanks a ton for trouble shooting with me. Great tool you've got here.
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Aaron Powers

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No problem! Please drop me a line when you've been using it a while and let me know how it's going.
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David v.B.

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A related issues that i had hoped would be addressed in CS6 but hasn't in the beta is inline editing of smart objects...

Currently it's pretty tedious to adjust an element, let's say the color of a button inside a smart object, so that it matches it's background better. Because it opens in a different window without the actual background its positioned on.

My wish is that it would behave like any layer group (after double clicking), (or like code folding if you wish, for you coders out there) so that you can actually see what you are doing without having to saving and undo a 100 times in this trial & error process.
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Chris Cox

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Smart objects generally cannot be edited "inline". They have different document sizes, depths, color modes, and can be vector files that Photoshop can't even edit. Only rarely would it be even remotely possible to edit "inline" (and then you'd lose most of the benefits of having smart objects)
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James Ayres

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This relates specifically to web design and projects with multiple pages. Is it possible to create a way to easily link common elements across several PSDs (e.g. having a global navigation PSD that, when edited, would automatically update across all the comps within your project?

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Photoshop: Linking files and common elements.
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John Holland

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I would love to see global smart objects that can be used across multiple files. For example when designing a website I can have 1 global smart object file called header embedded into all the files and then only need to change it once to update all the psd's.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Global smart objects.
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Xavier Roux

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Hello,
Like everyone else, I'm interested in such a feature. One good idea could be to use Bridge or mini bridge to do that.
Great job, keep going.

Thanks
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Aaron Powers

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Hi Xavier,
Did you see the link above for the plugin at http://CanLinkIt.com ? I think it may do what you're looking for.
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Xavier Roux

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Hi Aaron,

Yes, in fact I had already installed it on my CS6 beta, before to post there. And it truely does the job most of the time. But there are still some issues, UI diffrencies, problems in links stability.
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Aaron Powers

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Hi Xavier,
I'm curious -- what kinds of problems are you running into? If you're finding bugs or problems, you can post about them here or at http://www.canlinkit.com/contact/su
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Martin Perhiniak

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It would very useful to have an option to save Smart Objects as external documents and have them linked to Photoshop documents instead of always being embedded into them.

It could work similar to InDesign's links and the main advantage would be to be able to reuse the same Smart Object in several Photoshop documents.

Let's imagine a scenario when an unapproved logo is used on several designs (separate PSD documents) to show how it works, and it has been resized and edited with layer styles differently in every case. When the client asks for changes on the logo, the designer has to replace all instances of the same logo in each document. It would be much easier to be able to save the logo as an External Smart Object, or Linked Smart Object and use that in all the designs so when that external file is edited, upon opening the Photoshop documents it will automatically update to its latest state.

The disadvantage of this is that it will lead to missing links once the linked Smart Objects are not available or renamed. It could be handled the same way again as in InDesign. The user should be able to reembed the Smart Object or update it, replace it and so forth.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Shared Smart Objects between Photoshop documents.
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Nino Höglund

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What if smart layers could point to other actual Photoshop Documents.
You could have shared design-elements between different documents. For us working with web and app design, this would be a killer feature, especially if you could share those Smart Layer documents in a team.

Edit: Just realized, there is a similar topic here: http://feedback.photoshop.com/photosh...

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Smart Layers with external files..
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Billy Stagg

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Keep the link between smart object documents and the Photoshop documents they are used in.

With that feature you could have a project with a folder containing all your smart objects main design documents could use. If you update a smart object, when opening a main design document that uses that smart object, you have the ability to update it. An example would be a global header smart object that's used in 10 separate documents.

I use smart objects with layer comps and for smaller projects this works fine (like a small 10 page site where you have a layer comp for each page) but with larger projects where sometimes you have 20+ layer comps showing interactions and a user journey through a feature, you need more than a single document for multiple features. This is where a folder containing reusable assets you can update separately would be extremely useful.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Photoshop: Dynamic Linking Smart Objects.
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Geraldine Chollet

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I use photoshop to prepare web screens. I would really like the ability to group certain layers into an include file (with all layers) that I can reuse independently. Just like you do when you program websites.The smart object are not it because you can't change the size or anything and it merges all the layers...

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Include Files for Photoshop.
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Aaron Powers

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What do you expect from layers as far as merging? I imagine most includes would "include" all layers (as CanLinkIt does) but it sounds like that's not helpful. Can you describe what how you'd use those layers a bit more?
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Geraldine Chollet

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Sure. I would like to "link" a photoshop file within another photoshop file, just like when you use include files when programming a website. So for example, if I am designing 10 screens for a particular website, and they share the same banner, if something changes down the line, I would only have to open the "banner" file and change that thing instead of having to open each 10 files individually and make that change. This would save a lot of time. Hope this makes more sense.
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mooncaine

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Idea: support linked images in PS. Would be great to be able to "place" an external file as a linked image; to find instances of that linked image in my PS document; to relink; and most important, the properties of linked image should show the entire path and file name of the linked file, with a clickable widget to reveal the file in the computer's file system. That widget should be in the Linked Images Palette so we won't have to dig deep in order to locate that file on the computer or replace it.

Photoshop's Variables feature looks interesting and powerful, but it's more than we need most of the time. Mostly, we just need the things I listed here.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Linked Images Palette and useful features for linked files..
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Chris Besett

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So often we have things like headers and footers in designs that if you change one file you have to change all of them. How great would it be if you could do them as external PSD objects that you could access as a file and then update there and it ripples through all your docs?

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Embed external PSDs that will update if they change.
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POWALOWSKI

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How is things going on here?

Photoshop regularly brings my computer into trouble due to extremely big temporary data (SO .psb) collections on system drive.
Working file-linking would be a real dealmaker.
I absolutely support this great idea. (besides: never thought of it like that, great perspective)

@Adobe, how's the plans concerning this stuff?
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Chris Cox

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Adobe is a publicly traded company - we can't really discuss too many future plans.
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POWALOWSKI

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Thumbs up for this one ;-)
I thought about the topic state "under consideration"
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Scott Ruth

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I would LOVE LOVE LOVE this feature.

I am a UI Designer and it would be great if I could have external links for things like headers, navigation, lightboxes, etc.

It's very difficult to design several different pages of content that are all in flux at the same time. When one element changes, I need to go back and change that element in several other files, otherwise other people on the team start to get confused by the discrepancies. This is the last big feature on my Photoshop wish list. Don't let us down Adobe! Thanks.
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James Monaco

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Photoshop should link to Photoshop.


Shortest way I can say what I need is this:

When I "Place" a Photoshop file into a layer in Photoshop, I would like there to be a link between files.

And the longer version:

At the present time, when I "Place" a Photoshop file, I essentially import all of the contents of the PSD into my new project, and no linking is established.

I do understand the usefulness of the existing mechanism--when layers are converted, for example, to a smart object, it's very helpful. But when I use the "Place" command to explicitly point to an already existing file, there is a 100% chance that I wish to link to the file rather than duplicate its contents. (You could add a checkbox to the Place dialogue to confirm, if you wanted).

Consider the following use case, which occurred today:
An individual is creating background graphic art for a card game. Several other artists are creating foreground artwork, and a designer is creating text. Each card is designed uniquely, but uses one of only a few backgrounds, which are going through various revisions. In an ideal world, updates to the network-accessible background PSD would automatically be reflected in other artists' files, since the background artwork file was selected and "Placed" into their work. This does not occur, and we must instead check frequently and "replace" our smart objects regularly.

Even worse, no card is ever "done" as long as a background may get tweaked again--they must all be re-opened and re-updated. I do understand that we could have InDesign combine the several files and that program is more than happy to update links--in fact, we use InDesign to maintain a dynamically updated layout of all the cards--but realistically, the "card art" process as a whole is going on in Photoshop, and it feels like an oversight to have to re-point smart objects to their files every time we sit down to work.

Now, perhaps our workflow is going to be considered "wrong," or unrealistic, but I'd like to offer that the issue is more along the lines of a design consistency within the software. The ability to generate embedded smart objects is very useful but so is the ability to link to a file. The "Place" command already *seems* to perform this linking behaviour for many file types by requesting which existing file to place into the document, but ultimately, the file I choose is *not* the file I work with. This is somewhat misleading, inconsistent with the "Place" feature in other Adobe software, and offers essentially no added functionality over "Open as Smart Object."

Won't you consider it?
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James Monaco

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Ah, I see this sort of thing has been wanted in the past! (I didn't search far back enough I guess)

It looks like we're discussing, on the whole:
1) An option/checkbox to cause the "Place" command to establish a link to a file, rather than embedding a copy

2) A links panel like InDesign's to notify us of changes to a linked file and to allow us to refresh from disk

3) "Link sets" saved as presets in order to drop commonly used design elements into place

4) Methods by which Adobe staff may be bribed with moneys or coffees
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Dave Jennings

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+1 to all the above - would love to see this feature
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SG..., Employee

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Official Response
Hi,

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
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James Monaco

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I love you guys!~ <3