Getting started with Automator

Getting started with Automator

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Automator is a powerful but confusing tool. Generally speaking Automator isn’t going to be much use to you unless you have something you need to do over and over again. If you haven’t used Automator much you’ll run into the first common problem of automation. Which is by the time you figure out the automation you could be done with the task if you did it yourself. But this is more of a lack of knowledge problem. You have to be familiar with what Automator can do before Automator can do for you.

There are 262 or so actions built in depending on what you have installed. iWork 08 installs a bunch on its own for example. Automation tasks can be sorted by Task or by Application. Some tasks are listed in Other.

I learned some new things about my apps. For example in the Contacts app you can add fields. I dididn’t know that you could. Like b-day. URL. Maiden name (seems to take you back to a time when you’d slay the dragon by saying that).

One confusing thing about automator is that there often is no last step. Like Save for example. An output of a module is always the last step. You can see the results using the View Results module or in Leopard click on the Results button to see what happened.

When making a Automation that starts with the Finder you need to always start with “Get Selected Finder Items”. Without this step what you drag and drop to your Automator app will get ignored.

An interesting app is one called Do It. But it turns out you don’t need to download it to make it. All you have to do is add a “New iCal Events” to a workflow then in the Options box click the “Show this action when the workflow runs.” Turns out there are lots of automation actions that could be made using this option.

After you make a “app” make it look unique by changing it’s icon. Click on the automation then press Command – I for Get Info. Click the icon then paste to change icon. You will have to get a new icon from someplace like IconFactory first.

Some practice Automations that you can make are:

1. Make is a Renamer. Make start with “get selected finder items”
2. Make a resizer
3. Make a recorder
4. Make a PDF contact sheet

Note: the example Automator actions for the above will be posted by Dec 10th. In the meantime try to make them yourself.

Apple has a large number of pre-made Automator actions that you can download for free. Here’s the