What software allows me to use placeholders?

I use Photoshop 7 for graphic design for not-for-profit technical manuals, generally for specs and abstracts. Some of my photoshop files get thick with layers because i use clones of sets. For example, imagine a set of a dozen GUI images using various Blending Styles but constituting a single set of say, buttons and labels. These need to be cloned for a list of a dozen panels, each of which must have these GUI elements. So now i’ve got 144 independent images to display!

What i’d like to do — and i dont know if theres any software that even does this — is use aliases to these duplicated sets in my project graphics, which of course draws them faithfully, but the set’s layers are not part of the project file — they are linked files. The application simply displays the linked file. If i edit the linked file, it would of course change the view of all the aliases in the project file. Kinda like how Word updates and shows subdocs in a master file.

I know this is complicated to explain, but i hope i made it clear what im trying to do. Has anyone ever seen software that does this, new or old?

If I understand you correctly (and I’m not sure I do), Photoshop is not layout software for designing technical manuals or any other kind of publication. I could cite multiple reasons why it’s inappropriate, but you named one — the file sizes.

The obvious answer is to use InDesign to assemble the documents since it does exactly what I think you want, but since it’s such an obvious answer, it makes me wonder if I’m misunderstanding your question.

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No i use Word for the text. Photoshop is for the graphics of course. I could use InDesign, but it doesnt have to be that complicated. :grin:

Im looking for a graphics editor that uses links to other images, where i can move the placeholders within the main graphics file, but not having to load the actual layers.

Well, that doesn’t change the best answer — still InDesign, although it’s not a ‘graphics editor’ per se.

Compared to your description of the Photoshop workflow you’ve devised, it’s not complicated at all.

I’m not at all sure what you’re asking. From what I can make out, you seem to have invented an out-of-the-ordinary workflow that depends on lots of images contained in one file on a bunch of layers.

  • MS Word is a text editor with very limited layout capabilities.
  • Adobe Photoshop is used to edit raster (bitmapped images), such as photos and scanned illustrations.
  • Adobe Illustrator is used to create resolution-independent scalable vector graphics.
  • InDesign is a layout tool that enables a designer to add text and link to Photoshop and Illustrator files.

That’s a bit of an oversimplification, and each of these tools has some overlap with the others. However, each is specialized around the separate purposes I mentioned.

If you’re using Photoshop layers as repositories for multiple images, you’re mistaken about the purpose of those layers. Perhaps I’m mistaken about what you’re doing, but the way you described things doesn’t correspond to the typical way things are done.

I don’t understand what you’re saying. What do you mean by a “graphics editor” that uses links to other images"? That’s exactly what InDesign does. However, you go on to say that you want this graphics editor to move placeholders within the main graphics file, which makes no sense to me. What is “the main graphics file”? In your case, would this be Photoshop (or another photo editor)? If so, this would imply, as I previously mentioned, that you’re using Photoshop layers as image repositories, which isn’t really what the layers are for.

Some extra explanation from you might help.

You mention buttons… is this an interactive publication, and you’re trying to create buttons with different states?

Word is not a good solution for several reasons one being color management.

As far as I understand, @Harbinger is describing layout software like Adobe InDesign, Affinity Publisher or QuarkXPress

Placing stuff which can be separate linked files with layers on its own like Affinity Publisher files, Affinity Photo files, Affinity Designer files, Adobe Photoshop files, PDFs and much more.

Linked vs not linked

Automation of linked data and files via Data Merge

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I’m going to preface this by saying, in bold caps (bearing in mind I work in a weird corner of this industry)
While the software allows you to do this, you can wreak havoc with some print vendor workflows.
I have seen this explode in designer’s faces more than I care to admit.

Indesign allows you to place multi-layer .psd files and select the layers that are visible in the document.
You place the multilayer .psd as you would any other image (and it has to be .psd, no other format.)
When you do, you get to select which layers are visible on placing. That option can be changed by selecting the object and going to Object > Object Layer Options.
In both instances you will see something like this:
Screenshot 2023-06-29 at 11.47.24 AM


I love when placed images preview as the top image in the stack rather than the image that’s supposed to be in the file. It causes a tech to ‘pause’ while working on the files. Sometimes the exclamation “WTF!” can be heard.

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I would agree. In my opinion, the only way InDesign’s Object Layer Options workflow is advisable is if your native InDesign file will never travel, (in other words, you only handoff accuracy-confirmed PDF/other files, never .indd), and its archival integrity won’t be relied upon by anyone else, ever.

Yeah, I probably shoulda mentioned, in wide format we require native files with text outlined and images linked. You can send pdfs…but chances are you don’t have the conversion profiles needed for the specialized print machines. You get what you get (GIGO applies)

God bless you all for trying to figure me out! :smile: I am absolutely humbled.

Okay, i dont need to explain what im doing now (as that complicates the matter), but what i wish to do. So lets start from the bottom and work my way up.

Im looking for a graphics editor, like photoshop where i can edit the layers and apply effects.

But for some graphics in my project file (in this case, a multilayered psd file that im working on), especially for those layers or images that are duplicated a lot, i would rather use aliases, for lack of a better term, that links to another image file (or even layer in the same project). This would allow me to duplicate the alias instead of the multiple layers, and move them more-or-less as a rendered copy (placeholder) within my project.

So it would incorporate some layout capabilities of InDesign, but have all the graphics editing capabilities that Photoshop does. I dont need vector graphics for my work.
Im still using Photoshop 7. Does maybe newer or different versions of Photoshop do this? Perhaps GIMP?

It still sounds like a dodgy workflow, but in Photoshop you can use File/Place Linked and link to a PSD file that can be separate and separately adjusted if need be, and then updated. Sort of like a placeholder. But with Photoshop 7 being considerably older, 20 years old or so if wikipedia is right. So, I’m not sure if it had that capability.

Try placing as a Smart Object. To edit you do so in the links palette upper right corner menu.
I think this is what CraigB might be referring to.

Okay, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that a more recent version of Photoshop will have this ability. I will look into that. Thank you so much.

UPDATE: OK. After some research, it appears PS 21 is the earliest version that used Smart Objects (which is apparently exactly what i was talking about), but that requires Windows 10 and a monthly cost, neither of which i will be doing. But at least i found out the technology is out there.

So, a further stipulation is that it must be Windows 7 compatible.

Any further ideas?
(You guys are helping so much, so thank you for that!)

Well, it looks like it was actually CC 2014 (version 15). This describes the feature. However, it would still require a monthly cost and Windows 10.

Finding something Windows 7 compatible (which is 14 years old) and meets what you need seems unlikely. Unless you switch to placing your PSD files in a single InDesign document which would work better and there are certainly older versions of InDesign that would be a fixed price rather than a monthly cost if you can find it.

Plus, if you change the embedded PS or AI file, ID constantly asks you to relink it because it recognizes that it has changed.

Any further ideas?<

Stop using Word. It sucks.

Only if you edit outside of ID.

If you choose to edit from a InDesign it will update insitu.

Otherwise you get warning

yes, yes it does. It will stop if you either update the image you updated, or relink to an original version.
It’s working as designed. Illustrator will ask you if you want to relink even if you’ve done nothing to the image link other than moved it into a new folder. Any deviation in the image location path makes you check your work to make sure you haven’t made an error. Sometimes both features can save your butt.

Now if only illustrator would save a copy of the file when creating a PDF like InD does so I don’t get client-submitted Illustrator files that have been saved to a low-rez PDF and worked on after the fact. If you have to resave as .ai cuz you goofed, likely you have messed up the file. Everything from color space to raster effects can be compromised.