A modification of digital controller algorithms, based on the introduction of a virtual reference value, which never exceeds active constraints in the actuator output is presented and investigated for some algorithms used in single-loop control systems. This idea, derived from virtual modification of a control error, can be used in digital control systems subjected to both magnitude and rate constraints. The modification is introduced in the form of on-line adaptation to the control task. Hence the design of optimal (in a specified sense) digital controller parameters can be separated from actuator constraints. The adaptation of the control algorithm (to actuator constraints) is performed by the transformation of the control error and is equivalent to the introduction of a new, virtual reference value for the control system. An application of this approach is presented through examples of three digital control algorithms: the PID algorithm, the dead-beat controller and the state space controller. In all cases, clear advantages of transients are observed, which yields some general conclusions to the problem of processing actuator constraints in control.