Here's a common freelance issue: you're working in-house at some studio (or remotely logged into a studio's workstation), and you don't have admin access to the computer. So how are you going to install all of your favourite After Effects scripts, presets, plugins, and extensions?!

Little known fact: on both MacOS and Windows, Adobe's actually given us specific folders to install our tools in that don't need Admin access.

That's right! You can stroll into Buck with your favourite scripts and install them into AE without needing to go bug IT for the fifth time this morning (how the heck is my Wacom still broken??).

All this to say, scripts, presets, and extensions can live in one of two locations:

  1. the User Path, which doesn't require Admin access (installs for just your user)
  2. the System Path, which does require Admin access (installs for all users on the computer)

Note: As of AE 12.1 ("AE CC", Oct 2013), installing a script via either File > Scripts > Install Script... options will send it to the user path, avoiding the need for privileges altogether. 🎉

Let's take a look at where to find 'em all. Note that you'll want to replace "CC Version" with something like "CC 2019" and "App Version" with "17.1," or your specific After Effects version (from Help > About).

User Paths (No Admin!)

MacOS
Windows
Scripts
~/Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects/[App Version]/Scripts/%appdata%\Adobe\After Effects [App Version]\Scripts\
Presets
~/Documents/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects [CC Version]/User Presets/%userprofile%\documents\After Effects [CC Version]\User Presets\
Extensions
~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CEP/extensions/%appdata%\Adobe\CEP\extensions\
Plugins
(none)(none)

System Paths (Needs Admin!)

MacOS
Windows
Scripts
/Applications/Adobe After Effects [CC version]/Scripts/C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects [CC Version]\Support Files\Scripts\
Presets
/Applications/Adobe After Effects [CC version]/Presets/C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects [CC Version]\Support Files\Presets\
Extensions
/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CEP/extensions/C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Adobe\CEP\extensions\
Plugins
/Applications/Adobe After Effects [CC version]/Plug-ins/C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects [CC Version]\Support Files\Plug-ins\

Now that you know where to put your After Effects addons, all you need to do is drag and drop your .jsx or .jsxbin files (scripts), .ffx files (presets), or the extracted zxp contents (extensions) into the right folder, restart AE, and be on your merry animating way!

Note that if you're looking to install a dockable ScriptUI Panel, you may need to make a new folder called "ScriptUI Panels" within the user Script folder if it doesn't exist.

And keep in mind that plugins don't really have a good equivalent, so if you really needed something like Particular you'll still have to email the studio's helpdesk. But for everything else, you can easily customize your workstation the way YOU want it, no tech support required.