After you've mastered the basics, try these ideas to power up your actions:
Run an action on many documents in a single run (batch processing), or save an action as a droplet that you can leave on your desktop so you can process documents by dragging them to the droplet. For the details, see Chapter 18.
Build complex actions out of several simpler ones, by running one action from inside another (Figure 17.11). While recording an action, record a step where you run another action. In other words, you use one action as a step in another action. This can simplify maintenance of many actions that use the same step. If you update the action that's used as a step, any actions referring to the updated action benefit from the update the next time you run them.
Figure 17.11. One of my actions simply plays back two other existing actions in a specific order.
Trigger an action with a Photoshop event. Choose File > Scripts > Script Events Manager to run an action when specific events occur, such as saving or printing. Although the Script Events Manager is primarily intended to run scripts, it provides an option to use an action instead. For more information on the Script Events Manager, see Chapter 19.
Build tutorials with actions. You can use the Stop feature to guide students through a sequence by inserting a dialog box message after any step. To do this, select a step and choose Insert Stop from the Actions palette menu. Enter a message, be sure to enable the Allow Continue checkbox, and click OK. You can combine tutorial actions with how-to tutorials that you add to the Help menu (see Chapter 5).
Document your actions. The Insert Stop command is useful for instructing users of your actions when you want to explain what a step does, or when users need to perform a manual task in the middle of an action, such as making a selection.
Organize your action sets. It's a good idea to keep your actions in a set separate from the action sets that come with Photoshop. Use the Save Actions command on the Actions palette menu to save action sets to disk in order to archive them and make them available for reinstallation if you upgrade, migrate, or re-install Photoshop. If I create actions for a specific project, I make a separate action set for that project which can be backed up along with the rest of the project files and fonts.