Software developers catch a lot of flack for bugs. Do we want and expect perfect software? Of course. Will we ever get a program like Photoshop’s 10 million lines of code to be 100% bug free? Not likely, especially if we want to keep getting new features. And of course, Photoshop (PS) is a very open-ended platform that allows you to add functionality with plug-ins, extension panels, and scripts – all of which create numerous other opportunities for bugs when using PS that have nothing to do with code written by Adobe.
So bugs are inevitable, and so it’s critical to have a good strategy to diagnose, workaround, and fix bugs. In this article, you’ll learn ways to do all three a little more quickly and easily.
How to diagnose bugs in Photoshop
This is by far the hardest step of the process. If you don’t know what is going wrong and why, you have almost no hope of fixing the problem or finding a workaround to manage it. It’s very easy to waste a lot of time checking the wrong things, or to assign blame to something that isn’t related to the real problem. The best approach is to (1) identify likely causes and (2) confirm the problem by isolating it.
Identifying the problem is all about figuring out what to test and confirming is all about a systematic method of testing that helps you eliminate unrelated factors to ultimately find the underlying problem(s).
To help identify the cause, ask yourself:
- What does the problem itself tell me?
- There may be an error message which explicitly points the finger at a specific feature to test.
- Often times, there may be an error number or other specific text which may not make sense right away, but may be very helpful in a Google search to find support articles where others may have run into the same problem. Be sure to put quotes (“”) around important phrase to help Google narrow down results to more relevant results.
- Which conditions seem to be involved in triggering the bug?
- Does it seem to occur when using a certain feature in Photoshop or an extension panel?
- Is there anything unique about my workflow? My
To confirm the problem, use the following workflow:
- Simplify the test environment (to a reasonable extent):
- It is critical to reduce the number of potential variables, to help save time and avoid assigning blame to the wrong factors.
- For example, if you believe you’re seeing a crash due to using Smart Objects, you may want to create a copy of the image to test with just one Smart Object layer.
- If you have lots of plug-ins and are unsure if they are involved, you can disable them by holding <shift> while starting Photoshop. Just answer “yes” when prompted about skipping loading plug-ins.
- If you want to disable a specific plug-in, just temporarily move it out of its installed location (plug-ins subfolder next to the app itself) and restart PS.
- If you want to disable a specific extension panel (such as Lumenzia), just close it and restart Photoshop. Such panels generally should not load if they have never been made visible in a given PS session, though there can be some exceptions (Lumenzia is not an exception, it will not load until it becomes visible in a PS session).
- But don’t go overboard. You rarely need to uninstall or reinstall software to find or fix the issue. Don’t take dramatic steps to simplify right away, as that can waste a lot of time and cause other problems (such as needing to reset all your preferences).
- Simplify the workflow (find the simplest steps that reproduce the problem consistently):
- You should be able to open an image and just take a few steps to trigger the issue.
- The more steps you take, the greater the chance you may not identify the right cause. This complicates this if you need to get help from Adobe or some other software developer.
- Validate that the problem occurs ONLY when the condition is PRESENT.
- If the suspected problem is Smart Objects, you shouldn’t trigger the issue when you only have other types of layers.
- Validate that the problem GOES AWAY when the condition is NOT present.
- If the suspected problem is Smart Objects, you shouldn’t trigger the issue when you don’t have Smart Objects.
- Failing to confirm this is one of the most common mistakes I see in troubleshooting. It is critical to confirm that the problem goes away when you remove the suspected cause. It is very easy to get so focused on the conditions mentioned above (such as assuming the software you installed 2 days is the problem) that you draw the wrong conclusions.
- Do you get the same results for #4 and #5 on another computer?
- If so, that generally indicates you’ve found the issue – though it could also be linked to commonalities between your test computers (such as they both run Windows).
- If you cannot replicate on another machine, that likely indicates that a combination of your suspected cause and some software configuration/preference or your computer hardware is a related secondary factor. A good example of this would be a specific feature crashing in Photoshop when using a certain GPU.
- This step isn’t necessary, but is often very helpful when dealing with complex issues.
How to “fix” bugs in Photoshop
Once you have confirmed the steps above, you’re now ready to find solutions. The following questions/steps should help you find the best immediate and long term solution:
- Can you fix the problem yourself?
- Sometimes the fix is obvious.
- If step #5 above indicates that the specific computer setup is a factor, you may wish to try:
- Installing another version of Photoshop. With Photoshop CC, you can install the last 2 major versions (such as 2019 and 2020) side by side without issue. This offers a quick way to see if the issue is specific to a new version of Photoshop. You can see the Photoshop bug fix release notes for a list of bug fixes and other details.
- resetting Photoshop preferences
- Downgrade to a prior minor release of Photoshop. Open the CC installer, click the three dots (…) next to Photoshop, and choose “other version”.
- Re-install Photoshop. Open the CC installer to uninstall and then install again.
- Can you work around the problem?
- While the long-term goal is obviously a fix, sometimes you can keep working by taking a different approach for now.
- For example, when an older version of Nik started crashing, I found that I could change a preference in Nik and work on normal layers instead of Smart Objects to keep working until there was an updated version to fix the issue.
- Provide feedback to the developer.
- If you report misleading, extraneous, or incorrect information; there is a good chance the developer won’t be able to find and fix your issue.
- The key is to provide information that will allow the developer to reproduce the issue.
- The information from steps #1-5 above should help make it easy for the developer to do that, which greatly increases the odds that you’ll ultimately get a fix.
If you have Lumenzia
As a developer, I want to make things as easy as possible for you and am constantly working to improve Lumenzia. Here are a few tips specific to Lumenzia to help you:
- If you see the expected version number at the bottom of Lumenzia and any of the buttons work, it is properly installed and there is no value in uninstalling or reinstalling it. (If you cannot see the version number, click and drag the bottom edge of the panel down).
- While not generally intended to resolve issues, you may wish to try running Lumenzia’s Optimize utility to ensure you have ideal PS preferences for photography. Go to the Utilities menu (top-right three bars icon in Photoshop CC or <ctrl/cmd>-click the “Tutorials” button) and click “OPTIMIZE Photoshop”. In a few situations, you may find this resolves your issue.
- If you wish to eliminate Lumenzia as a potential issue, close Lumenzia and restart Photoshop (right-click the panel’s name tab at the top to close) . Lumenzia’s code will not run until you make it visible during a Photoshop session. There is never a need to uninstall Lumenzia to eliminate it as a variable (of course, you can uninstall if you wish to do so).
- Reset Lumenzia’s preferences. Go to the Utilities menu (top-right three bars icon in Photoshop CC or <ctrl/cmd>-click the “Tutorials” button) and click “Reset all panel preferences to default” and restart Photoshop to see if this resolves your issue.
- If you believe there is ultimately a bug in Lumenzia, you may wish to go to the Utilities menu (top-right three bars icon in Photoshop CC or <ctrl/cmd>-click the “Tutorials” button) and click “Draft an email button with system info for support“. This will open an email with additional information about your setup that may be helpful to troubleshooting your issue. Please include as much info from steps #1-5 above.
Please provide comments below or email me with any feedback to help further improve this troubleshooting guide.