Sun, 25 Sep 2011

Photoshop scripting with Javascript

— SjG @ 6:41 pm

I’ve played with the Javascript interface to Photoshop for a couple of years. Conceptually, it’s great — a simple, powerful, interpreted language like Javascript, with an API to interface to one of the best image-processing packages available. In practice, it’s not as good as it is in concept, but it’s still pretty good. The API doesn’t include all of Photoshop’s functionality directly, and there are a lot of things you need to execute as fairly obscure event actions. These event actions aren’t documented, but can be determined by activating a plug-in which logs everything that you do using the Photoshop GUI — you can then read through these logs, and copy the actions you need.

Still, there are some real advantages to using this Javascript interface, as opposed to something designed for the purpose like, say, Processing. You can use the Photoshop UI for controlling inputs to your script (set foreground colors, select portions of the image, select specific layers, etc.), and output your manipulations directly into Photoshop layers.

I’ll be posting here shortly a library I’ve created for easily building dialog panels for setting script options. I find that most manipulations I want to do have a set of variables, and I’d rather not tweak the code each time I want to change them.

This library was originally written under Photoshop 10 (aka CS3). Under version 11 (aka CS4), it was less stable. Sometimes it would crash out at odd places complaining that I was referencing properties of undefined objects. Because there have been memory leaks and other issues with the Javascript interpreter, these seemingly random failures were annoying but not too surprising. When it came to version 12 (aka CS5), I was rarely able to run my scripts at all. What made it frustrating was the apparent randomness of the crashes. I could print a variable to the console, and the very next line would crash out with an “undefined object” error when referencing that variable.
To make a long story short, I was able to track down the issue. It turns out that in iterations, declaring variables matters. That is to say:
for (i in someCollection)

will cause random crashes, but
for (var i in someCollection)

runs beautifully. Now, I “knew” that the var keyword is optional and used for specifying scope, but I never had any idea that there could be an issue within the scope of a simple loop. Obviously, Javascript didn’t know that I intended i to be a variable on each iteration — perhaps it thinks I meant for i to be a 1957 Chevy Belair on some iterations.

In any case, having cracked the code as it were, I have proceeded to enhance and add to my library. After a little more testing, I’ll be posting it here or on GitHub.

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