Installing Tools For After Effects
A quick guide to installing scripts, extensions, presets and plug-ins
This guide will walk you through the process of installing tools for After Effects. There are many different types of tools that After Effects can use, including Scripts and Script UI Panels, Plug-ins, Presets and Pseudo Effects, and Extensions.
Scripts & Extensions
Complete repetitive and time consuming tasks in seconds
Plug - ins
Add more capabilities to After Effects, from new visual effects to added functionality
Presets & Pseudo Effects
Work faster by using pre-made effect templates and quickly create interesting visuals
Installing tools is slightly different depending on your operating system
Which OS are you using?
Which type of tool would you like to install?
Scripts come in two different formats. There is the .jsx and .jsxbin. Both of these formats are installed and run the same way. The difference is that .jsx files are able to be opened and edited, while .jsxbin files have beed converted to a proprietary binary format in order to prevent users from edting or copying the code of the script.
There are also several categories of scripts, however installing each of them is very similar. These categories are:
- Basic Scripts
- Script UI Panels
- Startup Scripts
- Shutdown Scripts
'Basic Scripts' or just 'scripts' can be ran using two different methods. First, if it is a script that you will not be using very often, you can simply go to:
File > Scripts > Run Script File...
This will bring up a file dialog where you can then choose which script file to run. Upon opening, the script will execute.
The only downside to running scripts this way is that if you are constantly navigating your file system to find the script you need, you'll be constantly wasting time. Although After Effects does have the 'Recently Used Scripts' section, there is a slightly better method for running your commonly used scripts. In order to work a little more efficiently, you can simply save the script into the 'Scripts' folder and have it show up directly in the list.
This folder is located at:
C:/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe After Effects YOUR VERSION/Support Files/Scripts/
~/Applications/After Effects YOUR VERSION/Scripts/
Within the 'Scripts' folder you will see a list of default scripts as well as a few folders. For basic scripts, simply copy it into the scripts folder. Then when you restart After Effects, it will show up right in the list under File > Scripts
Installing Script UI Panels
'Script UI Panels' are probably the most common type of scripts you will use if you're downloading tools from the internet. They are scripts with a user interface which makes them easy to modify and customize. They can also be docked like regular panels in After Effects so you can add them neatly to your workspace. To take advantage of the dockable panel, you must install them in the correct location. Otherwise, you can run them like a normal script, but the panel you are given cannot be docked.
To get a dockable panel, all you have to do is put the script file into the 'ScriptUI Panels' folder withing the 'Scripts' folder:
This folder is located at:
C:/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe After Effects YOUR VERSION/Support Files/Scripts/ScriptUI Panels/
~/Applications/After Effects YOUR VERSION/Scripts/ScriptUI Panels/
If for some reason you do not have the 'ScriptUI Panels' folder, you can manually create it, keeping in mind that the folder name is case sensitive and must be named exactly as you see it here.
Running Script UI Panels is also slightly different. Rather then going to the scripts menu, you will go to the 'Window' menu. At the very bottom of this menu, you will see a list of all of your script ui panels. Once again, if you want the Script UI Panel to be dockable, it must be opened from the 'Window' menu. If you open it from the 'Scripts' menu, it will run perfectly and still show the interface, however it will not be dockable.
Startup and Shutdown Scripts:
Also within the scripts folder, there are two additional folders: 'Startup' and 'Shutdown'. Any scripts placed in these folders will be automatically run by After Effects each time it is opened or closed. Startup scripts will be run when After Effects is started, and Shutdown scripts will be run just before After Effects exits. Scripts in these folders are usually utility scripts, for instance they could create a project folder structure each time you start After Effects. They should not be Script UI panels.
CEP Extensions first became available for After Effects in version CC 2014. CEP extensions give you all the benefits as Script UI panels, however they also allow for much more complex and user-friendly interfaces.
To install an extension, which has a .zxp file type, you must use an installer. Adobe has their own installer, however it limits your Extensions to what is available on Adobe's own platform. A much simpler and open option is to use the ZXP Installer from aescripts.com. It is available for free for both Mac and Windows machines.
Once you've downloaded and installed the ZXP Installer, simply open the .zxp extension in the installerdrag the extension into the installer. The ZXP Installer will take care of the rest. Once the extension has been installed, you can see basic information about the extesion, such as its version. Then, when you start up After Effects, you can run your extensions by going to 'Window > Extensions' and you will see your extensions in the list.
Another benefit of extensions is that once install it a single time and it will be available in every version of After Effects from CC 2014 and up, and some extensions even work between different CC programs.
Plugins for After Effects are very simple to install. Some plugins even include an installer that takes care of everything for you, but if you have a plugin that is just a .aex.plugin file, it must be installed manually. To do this, simply copy the .aex.plugin file into the After Effects Plug-ins folder:
C:/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe After Effects YOUR VERSION/Support Files/Plug-ins/
~/Applications/Adobe After Effects YOUR VERSION/Plug-ins/
If you would like, you can create your own folders within the 'Plug-ins' folder in order to organize your files, however these folders will have no effect on how After Effects organizes your plug-ins within the program, it would only be for your own oragnizational needs on your file system.
Once the .aex.plugin file is somewhere in within your Plug-ins folder, start up After Effects and your plugin will be available. If it is an effect, it will be under the 'Effects' menu, however, not all plug-ins are effects, so it may appear elsewhere.
Installing Presets and Pseudo Effects
Presets and Pseudo Effects both have a .ffx file extension, and in fact, a Pseudo Effect is just a Preset with a custom control interface. To install them, simlply move them in to the User Presets folder.
C:/Users/USERNAME/Documents/Adobe/After Effects YOUR VERSION/User Presets/
~/Documents/Adobe/After Effects YOUR VERSION/User Presets/
Within this folder, you can also create sub folders to keep presets organized. Within the After Effects 'Effects and Presets' panel, any organizational folders you set up WILL be imported as well, so creating folders can help you stay organized on the file system as well as within After Effects.
Once you have copied your presets into its folder, you have a couple options for getting your preset to load. If After Effects has not yet been started, it will automatically be loaded upon startup. If After Effects is already open, you can simply go to the flyout menu for the 'Effects and Presets' panel and choose 'Refresh List'. Your newly added presets will then show up under the '*Animation Presets > User Presets' section.