One thing Photoshop lacks for an interface guy

.. or; why does Photoshop lack a search filter for layers?

Photoshop is one of the key programs for designers out there, be it game design, web design or whatever kind of design, Photoshop gets used a lot. Especially when designing interfaces, naming your layers and organizing your layer groups is key to a productive Photoshop workflow.

A few years ago Adobe made us happy by introducing Smart Objects, the flexibility got taken to a whole new level. Now, and I’m gonna keep this short, why the heck is there not a search filter for layers?

For example; I have ten buttons which are much the same, except the subject of the button. The subject (value, contents, whatever) of the button is a sprite. And because I want to make the interface look real, these sprites are not contained in any Smart Object. Sure the background of the button is a Smart Object with twenty layers, all with their own blending modes and gazillion layer effects. Next to that, to organize the PSD, every button has it’s own layer group.

If I now want to add an effect to all the sprites with “Copy Layer Style” and “Paste Layer Style”, I have to open up all groups, hold Command (or CTRL when in Windows Land) select all the layers one at a time, right-click and press “Paste Layer Style”. That’s 2n + 3 actions, where n is the number of layers. With ten layers that’s 23 actions (!!!) and some scrolling. I would have to disorganize my layers to get a quick workflow out of this.

The solution? How about adding a tiny magnifier icon at the top right of the layer panel that would open up a search filter. Because if I order my PSD, every sprite has the name “button sprite”. Would I then enter this term into the search filter, the search would give me a list of those layers (much like Spotlight would in OS X). I’d click the top layer, hold Shift, click the bottom layer, and after selecting all the layers with just three moves, I would right click and “Paste Layer Style”.

Now this is just the most basic example for this piece of interface, yet the real thing I am wondering is why this hasn’t been around since PS 8.0 or even earlier. A PSD isn’t a big file to index, searching inside should be a piece of cake. I mean, OS X can read the layer names from the meta data, so the textual data is already being stored somewhere accessible.

Come on, Adobe!