Keep Track of Editing History in Photoshop CS

Activate the history logging feature in Photoshop CS

Photoshop window

 Sue Chastain

Photoshop CS’s history window (Window > History) is quick, but it shows you only the basics. For example, if you used an effect, it will tell you which effect, but it won’t tell you the specific settings. For a more detailed recounting of your actions, use Photoshop's history log.

Aside from being helpful for personal use, the history log can be used to record time-tracking information for client work, to create a legal record, and for training purposes.

The steps here pertain to Adobe Photoshop CS 6 but are similar in other versions in the CS family.

How to Turn On the History Log

The history log is turned off by default. To turn it on:

  1. In macOS, open Photoshop > Preferences > General. In Windows, go to Edit > Preferences > General.

    Photoshop Prefs > General
  2. In the lower section of the dialog box, click the checkbox to enable History Log.

    Enable history log in Photoshop CS
  3. You can choose whether you want the information embedded into the file as metadata, stored in a text file (see below for directions), or both.

Under Edit Log Items are three choices:

  • Sessions Only: Only records when Photoshop is opened and closed, and when each file is opened and closed. Useful for time tracking, but doesn’t record inactivity—so unless you were working on the image continuously from open to close, the recorded time will be only an estimate.
  • Concise: Similar to the history window. Records basic functions, plus the text that appears in the History palette, but no detailed settings or information.
  • Detailed: Records the items listed above, plus the text that appears in the Actions palette. This essentially tracks the complete history of edits to the file, from brush sizes and settings to saved location.

Recording a History Log in a Text File

If you’re editing an image for a third party, you might not want a recorded history of the image. You can still keep a history log, however, by recording it to a different location than the original image file by sending the information to a .txt file:

  1. Create an empty text file in Notes, Notepad, TextEdit, or other text editor before you open Photoshop. This is where the history log will be recorded.

  2. Go to Photoshop > Preferences > General on a Mac, or Edit > Preferences > General in Windows.

  3. Click Choose and select the text file in which you want to save the history log. If you select Both, the image file and the new text file will record the history.

    Save Photoshop CS history log to a .txt file

Accessing the History Log

You can view history data from the File Info dialog box and in the metadata panel of the File Browser.

Photoshop CS6 File > File Info

Be careful about storing the history log in the metadata because it can increase the file’s size and reveal editing details that you'd prefer to remain undisclosed.

Now, for example, If you ever forget how you achieved a particular effect, just open the history log and follow the trail. The history log will remain active on all images until you manually disable it.

Photoshop CS edit log