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Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Dedication......Page 4
Acknowledgments......Page 5
About the Author......Page 6
Table of Contents......Page 7
Introduction......Page 10
Chapter 1: Getting Started......Page 20
About Workflows......Page 21
About Actions......Page 22
About Variables......Page 28
Which Applications Work with Automator?......Page 30
Getting to Know Automator’s Interface......Page 32
Chapter 2: Building Simple Workflows......Page 48
Email Daily Birthday Greetings......Page 49
Add Spotlight Comments to Photos......Page 57
Email Photo Thumbnails......Page 66
Chapter 3: Workflow Basics......Page 74
Planning a Workflow......Page 75
Creating a Workflow......Page 78
Running a Workflow within Automator......Page 80
Saving a Workflow......Page 83
Opening a Workflow......Page 85
Chapter 4: Working with Actions......Page 88
Locating Actions to Do What You Want......Page 89
Inserting Actions into a Workflow......Page 92
Viewing an Action’s Description......Page 95
Action Settings......Page 96
Action Options......Page 98
Deleting Actions......Page 101
Disabling Actions......Page 102
Moving Actions......Page 103
Copying Actions......Page 104
Renaming Actions......Page 106
Collapsing Actions......Page 107
Working with Input and Output Values......Page 108
Viewing Action Results as a Workflow Runs......Page 113
Chapter 5: Types of Workflows......Page 116
Workflow Files......Page 117
Workflow Applications......Page 123
Services......Page 133
Folder Actions......Page 150
Print Plugins......Page 161
iCal Alarms......Page 168
Image Capture Plugins......Page 173
Converting Workflow Types......Page 178
Script Menu......Page 180
Chapter 6: Recording Manual Events......Page 182
Enabling Recording......Page 183
Recording Manual Tasks......Page 185
Removing Recorded Events......Page 189
Preparing to Play Recorded Events......Page 190
Chapter 7: Workflow Looping......Page 192
About Looping......Page 193
Basic Looping Workflows......Page 196
Advanced Looping Workflows......Page 202
Chapter 8: Using Variables......Page 206
Types of Variables......Page 207
Adding Variables to Workflows......Page 209
Using Variables as Action Input......Page 211
Inserting Variables in Action Fields......Page 213
Storing and Retrieving Action Results......Page 216
Adjusting Variable Options......Page 219
Creating a Simple Variable Workflow......Page 220
Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow......Page 225
Chapter 9: Troubleshooting......Page 230
Problems Running Workflows......Page 231
Problems Opening Workflows......Page 237
General Problems......Page 240
Chapter 10: Customizing Automator......Page 242
Customizing the Toolbar......Page 243
Customizing the Workflow Window......Page 249
Grouping Actions......Page 253
Chapter 11: Sharing Actions and Workflows......Page 258
Distributing Workflows......Page 259
Locating Action Files......Page 262
Importing Actions......Page 265
Printing a Workflow......Page 267
Chapter 12: Automator Resources......Page 268
Automator’s Help......Page 269
Automator’s Example Workflows......Page 270
Websites......Page 271
Mailing Lists and Forums......Page 273
Sending Feedback to Apple......Page 276
Companion Website and Bonus Content......Page 277
Glossary......Page 278
Appendix A: Workflow Creation Step-by-Step Guide......Page 280
A......Page 282
E......Page 283
I......Page 284
P......Page 285
S......Page 286
V......Page 287
X......Page 288
Chapter 13: Workflow Starting Points......Page 290
Processing Files and Folders......Page 291
Processing Music and Audio......Page 295
Processing Photos and Images......Page 299
Processing Movies and Video......Page 307
Processing Text......Page 311
Processing Web Content......Page 313
Chapter 14: Building Advanced Workflows......Page 316
Running AppleScript Commands......Page 317
Running UNIX Commands......Page 322
Using AppleScript Variables......Page 325
Using UNIX Variables......Page 328
Watch Me Do and AppleScript......Page 331
Developer-related Actions......Page 333
Appendix B: Example Workflows......Page 334
Backup Safari Data......Page 335
Make Dated Subfolder......Page 339
Clean Up Desktop......Page 342
Appendix C: Developer Resources......Page 346
Apple Developer Connection......Page 347
Websites......Page 348
Third-party Mailing Lists and Forums......Page 349
Books and Tutorials......Page 350
Action Templates and Example Code......Page 351
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VISUAL QUICKSTART GUIDE

AUTOMATOR FOR MAC OS X 10.6 SNOW LEOPARD

Ben Waldie

Peachpit Press

Visual QuickStart Guide

Automator for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Ben Waldie

Peachpit Press 1249 Eighth Street Berkeley, CA 94710 510/524-2178 510/524-2221 ( fax) Find us on the Web at: www.peachpit.com To report errors, please send a note to [email protected] Peachpit Press is a division of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2010 by Ben Waldie Project Editor: Susan Rimerman Production Editor: Becky Winter Developmental/copyeditor: Anne Marie Walker Technical Editor: Mary Norbury Proofreader: Liz Welch Indexer: James Minkin Composition: David Van Ness Cover Design: Peachpit Press

Notice of Rights All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information on getting permission for reprints and excerpts, contact: [email protected].

Notice of Liability The information in this book is distributed on an “As Is” basis, without warranty. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of the book, neither the author nor Peachpit shall have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book or by the computer software and hardware products described in it.

Trademarks Visual QuickStart Guide is a trademark of Peachpit, a division of Pearson Education. Automator is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book, and Peachpit was aware of a trademark claim, the designations appear as requested by the owner of the trademark. All other product names and services identified throughout this book are used in editorial fashion only and for the benefit of such companies with no intention of infringement of the trademark. No such use, or the use of any trade name, is intended to convey endorsement or other affiliation with this book. ISBN-13: 978-0-321-68583-4 ISBN-10: 0-321-68583-0 987654321 Printed and bound in the United States of America

Dedication For Jen, Lizzie, and Maddie. You keep me going, and I couldn’t do it without you.

Acknowledgments I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank a number of people who have directly led to and assisted with the creation of this book. Thanks to my wife, Jen. Without her, many of the things that I set out to accomplish would not be possible. Thanks to my two beautiful daughters, Lizzie and Maddie, for your love, support, and above all, patience. Thanks to my editor, Susan Rimerman, for doing a great job managing the production of this book and for everything else she has done along the way. Thanks to Anne Marie Walker, Mary Norbury, and Liz Welch for their patience, and for consistently providing great feedback.

Thanks to Becca Freed for kick-starting this project and for all of her help with the previous edition. Thanks to everyone else at Peachpit who contributed to the publication of this book, as well as its previous edition. Thanks to Sal Soghoian at Apple, who always offers helpful input, suggestions, and information about Automator and AppleScript. Thanks to the incredibly talented developers at Apple for implementing and keeping alive such amazing Mac automation technologies. Keep up the good work! Thanks to Tim Davis for giving me the opportunity to learn AppleScript so very many years ago. Without that opportunity, I would not be where I am today.

About the Author Ben Waldie, president of Automated Workflows, LLC, has developed professional AppleScript, Automator, and workflow solutions for Mac-based businesses across the globe, including Adobe, Apple, CNN, and Microsoft. In addition to the first edition of this book, Ben is the author of AppleScripting the Finder and has written for Apple.com, Macworld, MacTech, and MacScripter.net. Ben also hosts the Mac Automation Made Simple video podcast series (Peachpit Press), is author of AppleScript training CDs for the Virtual Training Company, and is a frequent presenter at Macworld and other industry events. www.automatedworkflows.com [email protected]

Table of Contents Introduction Chapter 1:

Getting Started

ix 1

Table of Contents

About Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 About Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 About Variables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Which Applications Work with Automator? . . . . . 11 Getting to Know Automator’s Interface . . . . . . . . . . 13

Chapter 2:

Building Simple Workflows

29

Email Daily Birthday Greetings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Add Spotlight Comments to Photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Email Photo Thumbnails . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

Chapter 3:

Workflow Basics

55

Planning a Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Creating a Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Running a Workflow within Automator . . . . . . . . . 61 Saving a Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Opening a Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66

Chapter 4: Working with Actions

69

Locating Actions to Do What You Want . . . . . . . . . 70 Inserting Actions into a Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Viewing an Action’s Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Action Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Action Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Deleting Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 Disabling Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Moving Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Copying Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Renaming Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Collapsing Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Working with Input and Output Values . . . . . . . . . . 89 Viewing Action Results as a Workflow Runs . . . . . 94

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Table of Contents

Chapter 5:

Types of Workflows

97

Workflow Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 Workflow Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 Folder Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 Print Plugins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 iCal Alarms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 Image Capture Plugins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154 Converting Workflow Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Script Menu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161

Chapter 6:

Recording Manual Events

163

Chapter 7:

Workflow Looping

173

About Looping. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 Basic Looping Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Advanced Looping Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183

Chapter 8:

Using Variables

187

Types of Variables. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188 Adding Variables to Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190 Using Variables as Action Input . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192 Inserting Variables in Action Fields . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 Storing and Retrieving Action Results . . . . . . . . . . 197 Adjusting Variable Options. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200 Creating a Simple Variable Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . 201 Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow . . . . . . 206

Chapter 9:

Troubleshooting

211

Problems Running Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212 Problems Opening Workflows. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218 General Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221

Chapter 10:

Customizing Automator

223

Customizing the Toolbar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224 Customizing the Workflow Window . . . . . . . . . . . . 230 Grouping Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234

Chapter 11:

Sharing Actions and Workflows

239

Distributing Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 240 Locating Action Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 Importing Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246 Printing a Workflow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248

vii

Table of Contents

Enabling Recording . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164 Recording Manual Tasks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166 Removing Recorded Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 Preparing to Play Recorded Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171

Table of Contents

Chapter 12:

Automator Resources

249

Automator’s Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250 Automator’s Example Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 Websites. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252 Mailing Lists and Forums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254 Sending Feedback to Apple . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257 Companion Website and Bonus Content . . . . . . . 258

Appendix A:

Glossary

259

Workflow Creation Step-by-Step Guide

261

Index

263

Table of Contents

Bonus Chapters on the Companion Website Chapter 13:

Workflow Starting Points Processing Files and Folders Processing Music and Audio Processing Photos and Images Processing Movies and Video Processing Text Processing Web Content

Chapter 14:

Building Advanced Workflows Running AppleScript Commands Running UNIX Commands Using AppleScript Variables Using UNIX Variables Watch Me Do and AppleScript AppleScripting Automator Developer-related Actions

Appendix B:

Example Workflows Backup Safari Data Make Dated Subfolder Clean Up Desktop

Appendix C: Developer Resources Apple Developer Connection Websites Apple Mailing Lists Third-party Mailing Lists and Forums Books and Tutorials Action Templates and Example Code

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Introduction

Take digital photography, for example. Each time you plug your digital camera into your computer, you need to download the images into a set of folders, import them into a photo catalog, rename them, assign keywords, and more—sounds like a ton of work. Applications such as iPhoto can help tremendously with these tasks by automating much of the process for you. If you look closely at the tasks you do—known as your workflow—you will probably see that many are automated by your existing software.

Everything you do on your computer involves software—it provides you with the tools you need to do page layout, image editing, word processing, and more. Sometimes, your software does its job well; however, this isn’t always the case. You may need your software to do things it wasn’t quite designed to do. Perhaps an application just doesn’t automate those time-consuming tasks that you do regularly. Or, you may need a way to move information between multiple applications. If you’re a programmer, you can write your own custom software, or you may be able to automate your existing software using something like AppleScript. But what if you’re not a programmer? Well, your wish has been granted! Installed with Mac OS X is Automator, a tool for average folks that has one job: to perform repetitive tasks the way you need them done.

ix

Introduction

With its knack for reliably automating complex, repetitive tasks, the personal computer was supposed to make life easier. But does yours really, or does it just make more work for you? For many, the latter seems to be the case, but it doesn’t have to be. Your computer’s ability to make your life easier depends on how you use it. If you’re like me, you probably use many different software applications during your workday, and you probably find yourself doing the same things over and over again.

i

Introduction

About Automator

About Automator

Automator’s user-friendly interface lets anyone create custom automated tasks, whether simple or complex. Within Automator, you’ll work with two main types of components: actions and workflows (Figure i.1). ◆

Actions are built by developers and are installed onto your Mac either individually or with an application. Each action’s responsibility is to perform a single specific task, such as opening a file, checking for new email, or rotating an image.



Workflows are designed and built by you: You place a series of actions to create an assembly line of tasks. You can save workflows and run them later in a variety of ways, such as from within Automator, from the Mac OS X Finder, from iCal, and more.

Programmers are in luck, too: Mac OS X includes all the tools necessary to build custom actions. You plug them right into Automator to extend your automation possibilities even further.

Benefits of Automator Automator is much easier to use than any automation technology that’s been available before and includes many of the same benefits. After you’ve created a few workflows, you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without Automator. Its main benefits include: ◆

x

Ease of use. Automator’s simple user interface makes automation easy for anyone with a decent grasp of how to get around Mac OS X. With Automator, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a skilled programmer) to build an automated

Figure i.1 Say hello to Automator’s friendly little icon mascot, Otto.

Introduction workflow. By putting such an easy-to-use tool directly into the hands of a typical Mac user, Apple ensures that anyone can take advantage of automation. Less stress. Automator can actually reduce stress. That’s right, you read that correctly. Automator reduces stress. By removing the same old repetitive, boring tasks from your workload, you’ll feel a renewed sense of energy and motivation as you become free to focus on things that you actually enjoy, such as graphic design, photography, and more. Spend your time being more creative.



Fewer mistakes. No matter what we might like to think, we all make mistakes from time to time—entering an incorrect filename, accidentally deleting a file, moving a file into the wrong folder, and so on. By automating tasks, you can eliminate these sorts of mistakes. A properly created Automator workflow doesn’t make mistakes. It performs consistently and accurately day in and day out, like a robot.



Do more faster! An Automator workflow interacts directly with your Mac, eliminating time spent moving and clicking the mouse, pressing keys on the keyboard, and mulling over what to do next. Thus, you accomplish more work in the same amount of time. In some cases, it may even be possible for your workflow to run while you’re away from your computer— at lunch or when you leave at the end of a day.

xi

About Automator



Introduction to another. Quickly and easily manipulate them with workflows that perform scaling, cropping, rotating, and more.

What Can Automator Do for You? This will vary, depending on your specific workflow needs. Every Mac user’s workflow is different, and every Automator workflow you build will be different.



PDF processing. Need to encrypt a PDF, add a watermark, or insert metadata? Built-in PDF actions make it easy to create workflows to batch process your PDF documents.



Email- and Internet-related tasks. Create Automator workflows that download photos from Web pages and import them into iPhoto, or upload files to your website, email files, and more.



Folder watching. Create a workflow that watches a folder on your Mac. Simply drop files into that folder to run the workflow, allowing the files to be processed.



Scheduled workflows. Use iCal to schedule workflows to run anytime—even if you’re in a meeting or it’s the middle of the night!



System-wide processing. Save workflows into the Mac OS X Services menu, which gives you quick access to process files, text, URLs, and more in virtually any application.

What Can Automator Do for You?

Here are a few of the tasks Automator can do: ◆

File and folder processing. Quickly create workflows that rename files and folders on your Mac, compress them into archives, burn them to disc, and more.



Music- and audio-related tasks. Build a workflow that simply plays music in iTunes. Or, create a more involved workflow that downloads songs from a website, imports them into iTunes, and syncs them with your iPod.



xii

Photo and image conversion and manipulation. If you’re like me, you probably have thousands of digital photos and images on your Mac. Don’t work with them one at a time. Instead, create workflows that batch process photos and images, converting them from one format

Introduction

What Can’t Automator Do for You?

✔ Tips Chapter 7, “Workflow Looping,” discusses some ways to get around Automator’s linear processing limitation. One way is to download my Automator MultiItem Processing Utility from www. automatedworkflows.com/software/ automator_actions/automator_tools. html. This free tool converts Automator workflows to AppleScript applications. After converting the workflow, simply drag and drop multiple files or folders onto the AppleScript application to process them one at a time through the workflow.



If you occasionally feel limited by the actions available to you, just look around because the list is still growing. In addition to the dozens of Automator actions Apple provides in Mac OS X, more are included with specific Apple applications, such as iPhoto and Keynote, as well as some popular third-party applications like Microsoft Word and Excel. Additional actions are also being released regularly by third-party developers. Visit www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ automator to see what’s available.

Automator can do a lot, but it can’t do everything. Like all good software, it still has limitations: ◆

Automator can’t make decisions. It can do only the things you tell it to do, exactly the way you specify, in the order that you specify. It can’t choose different courses of action based on varying conditions, which more advanced automation technologies (such as AppleScript) can.



In Snow Leopard, you can create an Automator workflow that runs repeatedly (or loops). But information is still passed through the workflow in a linear fashion. In other words, there’s no built-in way to have Automator pass one file at a time through the workflow. For example, let’s say you create a workflow that performs three tasks: open a file, make a change, and save the file. If you are processing 700 files, all 700 files will be opened first, then all 700 files will have a change made, then all 700 files will be saved. This can really make processing large numbers of files difficult because you probably don’t want 700 files open at once on your desktop.

When to Use AppleScript Need to do something Automator can’t handle? Try AppleScript. Though it has a much steeper learning curve than Automator, it too can be self-taught. I know because I taught myself AppleScript. With a little time and practice, you can write AppleScripts to automate virtually any task in Mac OS X. As you’ll learn in Bonus Chapter 14, “Building Advanced Workflows,” available online, AppleScripts can even be plugged into your Automator workflows to extend Automator’s reach. No time to learn a scripting language? Prewritten AppleScripts are a good introduction, and you can find plenty of them online. Visit www.macosxautomation.com to get started.

xiii

What Can’t Automator Do for You?



Introduction

System Requirements

System Requirements

Automator was first released with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), which is the minimum installation to use Automator. Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) introduced a completely revamped version of Automator with loads of new useful features and a redesigned interface. Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) continues to build on Leopard’s enhancements with even more features designed to make Automator easier to use and more useful than ever. This book focuses on using Automator in Snow Leopard and with the applications installed with Mac OS X. While some of the main principles and topics will still be pertinent to Tiger and Leopard users, many discussions will be Snow Leopard specific. Likewise, some of the example workflows provided involve iLife and iWork applications, such as iPhoto or Keynote. If you don’t have these installed, simply do your best to follow along.

xiv

Introduction

New with Automator in Snow Leopard? Automator was off to a great start in Tiger, but it was still a 1.0 release. Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was a giant leap forward, introducing a number of enhancements, including: Revamped interface. A slick new interface emerges that’s easier to use and customize (Figure i.2).



Better performance. There’s no way around it, building Automator workflows in Tiger was a sluggish process. Automator’s interface becomes quick and snappy, allowing you to build and edit workflows in a flash.



Media Browser. Automator makes it easy to quickly insert audio, photos, and music into a workflow with just a few clicks of the mouse (Figure i.3).



Recording. Use Automator to control almost any Mac OS X application. Simply tell Automator to watch your mouse clicks and keystrokes, and then play them back as part of a workflow (Figure i.4).



Variables. One of the most useful additions, variables, allows you to store information at one point in a workflow and refer back to it at a later time. Variables can also be used to integrate dynamic content, such as dates, information about the current user, and more into your workflows.

Figure i.2 Automator’s interface in Snow Leopard is improved and much quicker than in Tiger.

Figure i.3 Inserting audio, photos, and movies into a workflow is a snap with Automator’s Media Browser.

Figure i.4 Automator can watch your every move. Record your mouse clicks and keystrokes, and play them back as part of a workflow.

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New with Automator in Snow Leopard?



Introduction

New with Automator in Snow Leopard?

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard continues to build upon Leopard’s improvements, taking Automator to the next level. New Automator features in Snow Leopard include: ◆

Workflow templates. Creating workflows has never been easier. Automator now helps get you started by prompting you up front to choose the type of workflow you want to create. Options include Application, Service, Folder Action, iCal Alarm, Print Plugin, and more (Figure i.5).



Services. Perhaps the most exciting new Automator feature in Snow Leopard is the ability to save workflows as services. A service is a type of plug-in, which can be run from a system-wide Services menu and certain applications’ contextual menus in Mac OS X. In the past, Automator allowed users to run workflows from the Finder’s contextual menu to process selected files and folders. Workflows saved as services, however, can be run from within virtually any application and can process a variety of types of input, such as selected text, image files, email addresses, or URLs, providing even greater flexibility and extensibility.

xvi

Figure i.5 Automator’s templates allow you to choose the type of workflow you want to build.

Introduction More reliable folder action workflows. Automator has always allowed you to save a workflow as a folder action, that is, a workflow that will run whenever items are added to an attached folder (think hot folder/watched folder). Unfortunately, folder action workflows have had a knack for being a tad unreliable. Snow Leopard, however, introduces some key improvements. For one, the folder actions background application in Mac OS X now runs Automator workflows directly. In the past, an intermediate AppleScript file was used to run the workflow, thus adding a potential point of failure. Another welcome enhancement is that folder actions now attempt to wait for items to be written before processing them. In the past, workflows had a tendency to begin running while items were still being copied or saved, thus usually causing the workflow to fail.



Improved actions. A number of actions in Snow Leopard have also been improved. In particular, you’ll see a lot of changes in the Filter and Find actions, which are generally more reliable and have a variety of new options. For example, the Filter Finder Items action now allows you to filter files by size, modification date, and label color—no doubt welcome additions for many Automator users.

xvii

New with Automator in Snow Leopard?



Introduction

About This Book Automator for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide is written for any Mac enthusiast interested in learning how to use Automator regardless of skill level. Whether a beginner or an expert, you’ll find that this book covers Automator from top to bottom. While you’re certainly free to skip around, the chapters are arranged in a logical manner. For the best possible learning experience, move through them in order.

About This Book

If you do, you’ll begin by exploring some of Automator’s key concepts that you’ll use throughout the book. Next, you’ll create some simple Automator workflows. Hands-on experience is perhaps the best way to learn Automator. These workflows are designed to familiarize you with Automator’s interface and help Automator’s key concepts to sink in. The remainder of the book covers Automator in detail. Screen shots and step-by-step instructions carefully walk you through all

xviii

aspects of Automator, including creating, saving, and running workflows, and much more. You’ll be up and running with Automator in no time!

Bonus Chapters and Content There’s a lot to cover when it comes to Automator. We’ve created additional bonus chapters on “Workflow Starting Points” and “Building Advanced Workflows” available online. Also two more appendices on “Example Workflows” and “Developer Resources.” You will also find completed versions of all the example workflows discussed throughout this text. To access this material, follow this link to the Automator site at: www.peachpit.com/ vqs/automator-snow-leopard. You will need to register your book by creating a Peachpit login account, entering the book ISBN code (0321685830), and answering a security question (answer found in the book). Look for the link “access to protected content” on the book page after you register.

Getting Started

1 In Automator, each task is called an action, and you can link multiple actions together to form a workflow. The workflow you create can run within Automator, or you can save it to run outside of Automator in a variety of ways. When run, the actions within your workflow execute sequentially, in some cases passing information between one another. For example, you might create a workflow that retrieves unread emails from your inbox, converts them to audio format, adds them to iTunes, and syncs them with your iPod, allowing you to listen to your email on the go. You’ll soon find that Automator makes it easy to create useful workflows for photos, music, text, and more.

1

Getting Started

Automator’s purpose is to help you to become more efficient. It works with the files, folders, applications, and the operating system on your Mac to automate timeconsuming or repetitive tasks. When using Automator, you’ll first think about an overall job you want to accomplish. Next, you’ll identify the applications or processes that will be involved, and finally, you’ll specify the individual tasks you want to perform within those applications or processes.

Chapter 1

About Workflows Automator documents are called workflows. You build a workflow by gathering and configuring the actions for the tasks you want to automate. You can then perform these tasks at any time simply by running the workflow.

About Workflows

✔ Tips ■

Look for example workflows to get you started. A good online source is www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ automator, or you can try other thirdparty Automator sites.



Don’t be afraid to use or build onto another person’s existing workflow.



Be sure to spread the good word about Automator. Share your own workflows with others, too.

You can run workflows in a variety of ways: ◆

From within Automator



As applications from outside of Automator



As plugins for other applications or processes

✔ Tips ■

If desired, you can schedule workflows to run at a specific time, such as in the middle of the night or while you’re at lunch.



A workflow can be attached to a folder, so it will run automatically when new files are added to the folder.



Workflows can be configured to process selected text, URLs, or other content within applications.



You can add workflow applications as login items, allowing them to run automatically whenever you log into your machine.

2

Getting Started

About Actions Most Automator actions are designed to perform a single specific task, such as writing text to a file, opening a URL, or copying files from one location to another. In some cases, a single action may do everything that you need. You also can link Automator actions sequentially, however, to form a larger, more complex, multipart, automated process, such as downloading songs from a website, importing them into iTunes, and syncing them with your iPod.

Determine the actions to use Before building a workflow, you need to figure out what you want to automate. Look for tasks you do manually that take a lot of time or are repetitive. For example, renaming and resizing image files are both time-consuming and repetitive. Now look for actions that can do these things for you. To get started:



Try outlining your desired workflow. It’s a good idea to step through the sequence of manual tasks, and outline each step as you go.



Think about how you want to run your completed workflow—for example, as a stand-alone application or from within another application—perhaps to process selected text. Thinking this through up front will help you to identify the type of workflow to create. It will also dictate some of the actions you may need to include at the beginning of the workflow.



Need to create a repeating workflow? Learn how to use Automator’s Loop action in Chapter 7, “Workflow Looping.”

Think of the tasks that you normally need to perform manually.



Think of each step in your manual workflow as a single Automator action.

When you build your workflow in Automator, you’ll assemble these actions together to form your complete workflow.

3

About Actions

✔ Tips



Chapter 1

Action input and output In a workflow, an action can get information (input) from the previous action, and pass information (output) down to the next action. For example, you can build a workflow that retrieves photos from a folder, compresses them into an archive, and attaches the archive to a new email message. You would need four Automator actions for this: 1. Ask for Finder Items (Figure 1.1). Asks the user to choose a folder of photos. It then passes that folder down (output) to the next action (input) in the workflow.

About Actions

2. Get Folder Contents (Figure 1.2). Gets a list of any files in the folder passed as input and passes those files to the next action in the workflow. 3. Create Archive (Figure 1.3). Compresses the list of files passed from the previous action into a zip archive. The location of the created archive is then passed to the final action in the workflow. 4. New Mail Message (Figure 1.4). Tells Mail to create a new email message and attaches the archive passed from the previous action.

Figure 1.1 The Ask for Finder Items action asks the user to choose a folder of photos.

Figure 1.2 The Get Folder Contents action gets a list of any files in the folder that was passed from the previous action.

Figure 1.3 The Create Archive action builds a zip archive containing the files passed from the previous action.

Actions can pass a variety of information between one another, such as file and folder paths, text, email messages, and so forth. The task an action performs determines the type of information it inputs or outputs.

✔ Tip ■

4

Not all actions accept input or pass output; whether they do or not depends on their function.

Figure 1.4 The New Mail Message action creates a new email and attaches the archive passed from the previous action.

Getting Started

Figure 1.5 The Download URLs action accepts URLs as input but passes files and folders as its result.

Some actions accept one kind of information as input but output a different kind. For example, the Download URLs action, included with Automator, accepts a list of URLs from a previous action as its input (Figure 1.5). It then downloads the specified URLs and outputs the file paths of the downloaded files to the next action for further processing.

✔ Tips ■

Just passing through? Some actions don’t generate output of their own. Instead, they pass their input down as output for further processing.



Check an action’s description area to see the kinds of input and output it uses.

5

About Actions

Many actions are designed to process information passed to them by the previous action. When adding actions to a workflow, therefore, take care that each action passes the right kind of information to the next one in a workflow. For example, an action that compresses files into a zip archive can accept only file paths as input from the previous action. Passing the wrong kind of information to an action produces an error, or the action simply ignores the information and does nothing. Chapter 4, “Working with Actions,” provides more detail on adding actions into workflows.

Chapter 1

Conversion Actions Sometimes you may need to put two actions together whose output and input don’t match. In these situations, Automator will try to convert the mismatched output from the first action to the right kind of input for the second. To do this, Automator uses conversion actions. Conversion actions are built into Mac OS X but aren’t visible within Automator’s interface. You don’t need to worry about adding conversion actions into a workflow. Automator automatically does this in the background when the workflow runs.

About Actions

Whenever Automator finds mismatched actions together, it looks for a conversion action that can change the first action’s output to the correct input type for the next action in the workflow. If it finds a conversion action, the workflow runs successfully. Because conversion actions are not visible within Automator’s interface, you probably won’t even know that this process has happened. If Automator can’t find a conversion action, it may return an error when the workflow runs, or the second action may ignore the output of the first action. Figure 1.6 shows an example of mismatched output/input values. The Get Selected iTunes Items action (shown as Get Selected iTunes Tracks because it’s configured to get selected tracks) retrieves a list of any selected tracks in iTunes and passes them to the Copy Finder Items action. The Copy Finder Items action accepts files and folders as its input, however, not iTunes items. When you run this workflow, Automator runs a conversion action behind the scenes to convert the iTunes items to Files/Folders, so that they can be processed without a problem. Automator’s log area, covered later in this chapter, will show you where conversions are used when your workflow runs (Figure 1.7).

6

Figure 1.6 Mismatched action output/input. The result of the Get Selected iTunes Items action is iTunes items, but the input for the Copy Finder Items action is Files/Folders. This is handled behind the scenes by a conversion action. Conversion Action

Figure 1.7 Automator’s log indicates when conversion actions run.

Getting Started Settings

Figure 1.8 The Create Archive action has modifiable settings, including the name and save location for the archive.

Figure 1.9 The Update iPod action has no modifiable settings.

Action settings Actions don’t always know exactly what you want them to do. Sometimes you may need to tell them how to behave by specifying certain details, such as where to save a file, what name to use, and so forth. As Chapter 4 details, when you build a workflow, you often have the ability to specify settings for actions. These settings control how the action behaves when the workflow runs. Remember the workflow that compresses photos into a zip archive and then attaches the archive to a new email message in Mail? Several of its actions have modifiable settings. For example, the Create Archive action allows you to specify a name (My Latest Photos) and output folder (Desktop) for the archive, and whether any unreadable items should be ignored (Figure 1.8).

✔ Tip ■

If you’re unsure of what an action’s setting does, check its description for more information, or see if it has any accompanying documentation.

7

About Actions

Some actions perform a single, very basic task and may not require settings to be specified at all. For example, Automator includes an iTunes action for updating a connected iPod (Figure 1.9). This action doesn’t require any settings to be specified. It simply uses iTunes to update any connected iPod.

Chapter 1

Action options

Show action when run

In some cases, you may not want to configure an action’s settings when you build the workflow. Instead, you may want the action’s settings to be specified when the workflow runs. To allow for this, many actions can be configured to display their settings when the workflow runs. For example, you may decide that you want to change the name of the zip archive occasionally in the photo compression workflow. To do this, you can configure the Create Archive action to display when the workflow runs (Figures 1.10 and 1.11).

Figure 1.10 Configuring the Create Archive action to display when run.

✔ Tips

About Actions





Allow for customization. Others may want or need a workflow to run differently than you do. If you plan to share your workflow with others, consider configuring some actions in the workflow to display when run.

Figure 1.11 The Create Archive action as it appears when run.

Selected items

Show only selected items

Some actions can be configured to show only specified settings rather than all settings, allowing you to pick and choose which settings will be modifiable when the workflow runs (Figures 1.12 and 1.13).

Figure 1.12 Configuring the Create Archive action to display only selected settings when run.

Figure 1.13 The Create Archive action, displaying only selected settings when run.

8

Getting Started

About Variables

Figure 1.14 The New Folder action builds a folder named Website Photos on the desktop. Variable

Figure 1.15 The Set Value of Variable action stores the Website Photos folder created by the previous action for reference later in the workflow.

An action in a workflow can receive information from the previous action, and it can pass information down to the next action. But what about two actions that don’t appear together in a workflow? Can they still share information with one another? The answer is yes! Automator includes a powerful feature called variables that can help you create robust workflows. Variables allow you to store information, such as File/Folder references or text, in memory at a certain point in a workflow and refer back to it at a later time.

1. New Folder (Figure 1.14). This action creates a folder named Website Photos on the desktop, if one does not already exist. It passes a reference to the newly created folder to the next action in the workflow. 2. Set Value of Variable (Figure 1.15). This action accepts the reference to the folder from the previous action, and stores it in a variable named My Variable for future reference. (Chapter 8, “Using Variables,” covers naming and using variables in detail.) continues on next page

9

About Variables

For example, suppose you want to build a workflow that creates a folder on the desktop, gets the current webpage in Safari, retrieves the URLs of images linked from that page, and then downloads those URLs into the newly created folder. In this workflow, the first action would create the folder, and the last action would download URLs into that folder. Several other actions fall between these two, however, so how will the last action know about the folder created by the first? The solution is to use a variable to store the folder when the first action creates it. The last action can then reference this variable when it needs to access the folder. The final workflow consists of these five actions:

Chapter 1 3. Get Current Webpage from Safari (Figure 1.16). This action ignores the results of the previous action, gets the current webpage from Safari, and passes it down to the next action in the workflow. 4. Get Image URLs from Webpage (Figure 1.17). This action locates the URLs of any image links on the webpage passed from the previous action and outputs these URLs to the next action in the workflow. 5. Download URLs (Figure 1.18). This action downloads the image URLs passed from the previous action. The problem is that this action received only the image URLs as input. It doesn’t know about the folder that was created at the start of the workflow. To work around this issue, you can refer back to the variable My Variable.

About Variables

✔ Tips ■



Want to test the preceding workflow? Try replicating the actions and settings in the screen shots. Then open this sample photo webpage in Safari and run the workflow— www.automatedworkflows.com/demos/ photos. Sorry Tiger users. Variables didn’t debut in Automator until Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Preexisting variables You can also retrieve values from a number of built-in, preexisting variables that can dynamically provide dates, times, locations, system information, user information, and more to your workflow at runtime. For example, you might want the name of that new photos folder to include the name of the current weekday. You could add it by referencing Automator’s built-in Current weekday variable in the New Folder action’s Name field (Figures 1.19 and 1.20). Chapter 8 explores preexisting variables, as well as how to add variables into actions and workflows.

10

Figure 1.16 The Get Current Webpage from Safari action gets the currently opened webpage in Safari.

Figure 1.17 The Get Image URLs from Webpage action retrieves URLs to any images in the webpage from the previous action. Variable

Figure 1.18 The Download URLs action downloads the image URLs from the previous action into the stored Website Photos folder. The Current weekday variable

Figure 1.19 The Current weekday variable to be added to the name of a new folder.

Figure 1.20 A new folder named with the current weekday.

✔ Tip ■

If variables seem confusing, don’t feel like you need to start using them right away. Get comfortable creating workflows first, and then move on to variables.

Getting Started

Which Applications Work with Automator?

As you install other Apple software, you may also begin to see more actions appearing in Automator. For example, iLife automatically adds actions for iPhoto and iDVD.

✔ Tip ■

Automator actions are installed with a number of other Apple applications, including Aperture, Keynote, Apple Remote Desktop, and Soundtrack Pro.

11

Which Applications Work with Automator?

To control an application with Automator, you must have actions for that application installed on your Mac. Many times, these actions are built right into the application or installed automatically, but sometimes you must manually install them separately. To get you started, Mac OS X includes hundreds of actions that cover most of the core Apple applications, including Address Book, the Finder, iTunes, Mail, and Safari, as well as application-independent activities, such as manipulating images, setting the audio volume on your system, or taking a screen shot.

Chapter 1 Some non-Apple applications also now have built-in actions that automatically appear in Automator when you install the application. In addition, loads of third-party developers are releasing Automator actions for a variety of applications and processes.

Which Applications Work with Automator?

BBEdit was the first commercial application with built-in Automator actions, and the list is growing. Third-party applications with built-in Automator actions now include Fetch, GraphicConverter, Microsoft Office 2008, NetNewsWire, Stuffit Deluxe, and Transmit. Some third-party applications are bundled with Automator actions that need to be installed separately. Third-party developers have also released Automator actions for applications including Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, FileMaker Pro, iView MediaPro, and QuarkXPress.

✔ Tips ■

For a comprehensive, up-to-date list of third-party Automator actions, visit Apple’s Mac OS X download website at www.apple.com/downloads/ macosx/automator/, or check out www.automatoractions.com.



Having trouble finding actions for an application? Consider contacting the application developer. Make it known that you want Automator actions for the application and provide some ideas of what you want to do with those actions.

12



You may still be able to control an application with Automator even if it doesn’t have actions of its own. As you’ll learn in Chapter 6, “Recording Manual Events,” Automator now supports recording your manual tasks in lots of Mac OS X applications.



Are you an AppleScripter? If so, you can create your own Automator actions for any AppleScriptable application using Xcode. Bonus Appendix C, available online (see Introduction), will give you the details.

Getting Started

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface So far, we’ve explored some of the key concepts of Automator, including actions, workflows, and variables. Now let’s dive in a bit deeper to see how the components of its interface come together. Automator’s interface may seem complex at first glance (Figure 1.21). Once you get to know it, however, you’ll find it fairly simple and straightforward to navigate. Here’s a look at Automator’s primary parts. Figure 1.21 Automator’s interface may seem complex at first, but you’ll soon find that it’s fairly straightforward.

✔ Tips Don’t expect to catch on to Automator’s interface instantly. To learn your way around, build a few basic workflows. Things will start to fall into place and make sense with time.



You can customize many aspects of Automator’s interface, hiding some areas, resizing others, and so forth. Chapter 10, “Customizing Automator,” explores this further.

13

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface



Chapter 1

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Understanding workflow templates When you first launch Automator, a new workflow window opens with a templates panel attached. New to Automator in Snow Leopard, this panel (Figure 1.22) makes it easy to begin building workflows. Simply choose the type of workflow you want to create, and Automator will open the appropriate template to get you started. Then you can dive right in and begin adding actions to the workflow. When you save the workflow, depending on the chosen template, Automator will even handle saving it into the proper location on your Mac and enabling it for use.

✔ Tips ■

Some workflow templates provide options that allow you to control the kind of information the workflow can process.



In Leopard, workflow templates were a bit different. A Starting Points panel allowed you to choose the kind of information the workflow should process. Options included Files & Folders, Music & Audio, Photos & Images, and Text. Automator then created a workflow, inserting some initial actions to retrieve the specified information. You then built upon the initial actions to form your workflow and saved it in the desired format.



Workflow templates and Starting Points didn’t exist for Automator in Tiger. If you’re a Tiger user, you’ll have to create all your workflows from scratch, and then save them in the appropriate format.

14

Figure 1.22 The templates panel attached to a workflow window.

Getting Started In Snow Leopard, Automator includes the following types of workflow templates: Workflow. A file that can be opened and run within Automator or resaved as an application. Some external applications and processes can run workflow files, including Microsoft Word 2008 and the system-wide script menu.



Application. Works like any other application in Mac OS X. Double-click it in the Finder to run it, add it to your Dock for quick access, or drop files or folders onto it to begin processing them. Workflow applications can also be opened in Automator and resaved as workflow files.



Service. As a plugin for the Mac OS X services architecture, a service workflow can be enabled for a specific application or for all the applications on your Mac. Once enabled, you can run the workflow by selecting it from the Services menu in the application’s main menu (Figure 1.23). In some cases, you can even run service workflows from contextual menus to process selected text, URLs, image files, and more (Figure 1.24).



Folder Action. Used to create custom watched folders. When attached to any folder on your Mac, the workflow will automatically run whenever files are placed into the folder. For example, you could set up a folder action workflow that notifies you whenever a file is added to your home folder’s public drop box.

Figure 1.23 Running a service workflow from an application’s main menu.

Figure 1.24 Running a service workflow from an application’s contextual menu.

continues on next page

15

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface



Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Chapter 1 ◆

Print Plugin. The workflow appears in the Print window’s PDF pop-up menu (Figure 1.25). When run, the current document is printed to PDF and then passed to the workflow for processing. Print plugins provide a way for you to customize Mac OS X’s built in print-to-PDF behavior with workflows that automatically encrypt, back up, and upload printed PDFs, and more.



iCal Alarm. The workflow is run by an iCal event alarm at a scheduled time. Save time by setting up workflows that run at night, on the weekend, or whenever you have downtime.



Image Capture Plugin. The workflow can be run as an automatic task when downloading images from your digital camera with Image Capture. Create advanced photo workflows that add Spotlight comments to your photos, back them up, import them into iPhoto, and more, all while downloading them from your camera (Figure 1.26).

Chapter 5, “Types of Workflows,” will walk you through all the types of workflows that you can create using Automator’s workflow templates.

16

Figure 1.25 Running a print plugin workflow from the Mac OS X print window.

Figure 1.26 Running a plugin workflow in Image Capture.

Getting Started

Understanding Automator’s toolbar The toolbar at the top of an Automator workflow window gives you quick access to common functions (Figure 1.27). Just click a button to begin recording manual tasks, run a workflow, or open Automator’s Media Browser to access your music, photos, and movies. As you’ll learn in Chapter 10, the buttons in the toolbar can be customized as well.

✔ Tip ■

Record button

Run button

Figure 1.27 Automator’s toolbar.

17

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Media button

Can’t find an action to do what you need? Click the Record button in Automator’s toolbar to begin recording manual tasks within an application, such as selecting menus, clicking buttons, and typing text. You can then play those tasks back as part of your workflow.

Chapter 1

Understanding Automator’s Media Browser Often, you may want to create a workflow that processes music, photos, or movies. Automator’s Media Browser allows you to preview and navigate these items visually. To process an item, simply drag it from the Media Browser into a workflow (Figure 1.28).

To display Automator’s Media Browser: Click the Media button in the workflow window’s toolbar (Figure 1.29).

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

or Choose Window > Media Browser (Figure 1.30). The Media Browser is displayed.

Figure 1.28 Automator’s Media Browser window.

Figure 1.29 Clicking the Media button in the workflow window’s toolbar displays the Media Browser.

Figure 1.30 Choosing to display Automator’s Media Browser window.

18

Getting Started

Understanding the Actions and Variables Library The left side of the workflow window contains a library of available actions and variables (Figure 1.31). The Library is split into two columns:

Figure 1.31 The Library of actions and variables in an Automator workflow window.



Categories/Applications. This column lists the categories or applications of actions or variables.



Actions/Variables. This column lists the actions or variables within the selected category or application.

19

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

You select actions and variables within the Library list and drag them into a workflow area to form an Automator workflow. As you install more Automator-ready applications, or third-party actions, the list of available actions will expand.

Chapter 1

To view a list of available actions:

Actions button

Category/Application list

Action list

Click the Actions button at the top of the Library area to display a list of action categories in the Library’s left column (Figure 1.32).

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

By default, Automator’s actions are arranged in categories such as: ◆

Calendar. Actions for performing calendar-related tasks in such applications as iCal.



Files & Folders. Actions for copying, moving, compressing, and otherwise manipulating files and folders.



Internet. Actions for downloading and opening URLs in Safari, as well as other Internet-related operations.



Mail. Actions for creating emails, opening emails, and more.



Movies. Actions for working with movies in DVD Player, QuickTime, and similar applications.



Music. Actions for importing audio files into iTunes, syncing your iPod, and more.



Photos. Actions for resizing or cropping images, importing images into iPhoto, and more.

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Figure 1.32 The Library list of actions, arranged by category.

Getting Started

To view the actions within a category: Click the category name in the left column of the Library list to display the actions within that category in the right column (Figure 1.33).

✔ Tip Figure 1.33 Viewing the Calendar category of actions.



If you have actions installed that don’t fall into one of Automator’s built-in categories, look for them in the Other category, which appears at the bottom of the Library list (Figure 1.34). If you don’t see this category, all of your installed actions fit into Automator’s built-in categories.

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Figure 1.34 The Other category of actions, displaying a third-party action that doesn’t fit into a built-in category.

21

Chapter 1

To view all actions: Click the Library item at the top of the left column of the Library list to display a list of actions for all categories (Figure 1.35). In Tiger, actions were arranged by application only. If you would feel more comfortable with this familiar view, you can arrange the action list by application rather than by category (Figure 1.36).

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Figure 1.35 Viewing a list of all installed actions.

Figure 1.36 The Library list of actions, arranged by application.

22

Getting Started

To arrange actions by application: Choose View > Arrange Actions by > Application (Figure 1.37).

✔ Tips Automator remembers your view choices. If you configure Automator to arrange actions by application, actions will still be arranged that way the next time Automator launches.



When you view actions by application, some actions remain listed in categories, such as PDF and System. These categories are used to organize actions that aren’t tied to a specific application.



Some actions may be listed in multiple applications or categories.

Figure 1.37 Arranging actions by application rather than by category.

Address Book

Action search field

Address Book actions

To view the actions associated with an application: Figure 1.38 Viewing actions by application.

Click the application name in the Library list to display a list of actions for that application (Figure 1.38).

✔ Tips ■

Need to quickly locate an action? Type its name or a related keyword into the Search field at the top of the Library area (Figure 1.38).



As you’ll learn in Chapter 10, you can create your own custom groupings of commonly used actions in Automator’s Library list.

23

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface



Chapter 1

To view a list of available variables:

Variables button

Just as you can choose how the Library list displays actions, you can instruct it to display a list of Automator’s predefined variables. Click the Variables button at the top of the Library area to display a list of variables (Figure 1.39).

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Variables in the Library list are arranged into several categories: ◆

Date & Time. Variables relating to dates and times, such as the current date.



Locations. Variables for various locations on your Mac, such as your Movies or Photos folder.



System. Variables for such system information as your IP address or operating system version.



Text & Data. Variables for storing text content and other kinds of data.



User. Variables for user-specific information, such as your first or last name, email address, or phone number.



Utilities. Advanced AppleScript and shell script variables, and variables for getting random numbers and identifiers.

To view the variables within a category: Click the category name in the Library list (Figure 1.40).

24

Figure 1.39 Viewing workflow variables.

Figure 1.40 Viewing a category of variables.

Getting Started

Viewing the action and variable description area When you select an action or variable in the Library, Automator displays its description in the bottom-left corner of the workflow window (Figures 1.41 and 1.42).

Figure 1.41 The description of the Ask for Finder Items action.

Action descriptions vary in length and content. Some are highly descriptive, but others may contain little information or be extremely confusing. Action descriptions may include: An overview of the action’s functionality



A list of input and output types for the action



A list of other related actions



A link to the developer’s website



Alerts



Copyright notices



Notes



Options



Requirements

✔ Tips ■

If you don’t know what an action does, consult its description for more information.



Some third-party actions may have accompanying documentation or example workflows, which can provide you with more information about the action’s behavior.

25

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Figure 1.42 The description for the Today’s date variable.



Chapter 1

Understanding the workflow area You’ve made it! The main part of an Automator workflow window is the workflow area (Figure 1.43). This is where you’ll spend most of your time. To create a workflow, simply drag one or more actions from the Library list into the workflow area. A detailed view of the added action appears, giving you access to the action’s settings and options. Within the workflow area, actions can be configured, rearranged, disabled, and more.

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Viewing the workflow status area When you run a workflow within Automator, the bottom of the workflow window provides brief status messages that tell you which action in the workflow is currently running (Figure 1.44). When a workflow finishes, the status area tells you if it was successful (Figure 1.45) or if a problem occurred (Figure 1.46).

Figure 1.43 Actions, which have been inserted into Automator’s workflow area.

Figure 1.44 Status of a running workflow.

Figure 1.45 Status of a successfully completed workflow.

Figure 1.46 Status of a problematic workflow.

26

Getting Started Events

Duration of events

Figure 1.47 Automator’s log area.

Viewing the workflow log area The status area in Automator is great for quick updates. If you want a more detailed account of your workflow’s status, however, you can consult Automator’s log area. The log, which resides at the bottom of the workflow area, indicates which actions ran, whether they ran successfully, whether any conversion actions ran, and more. It also provides detailed information about any errors that may have occurred (Figure 1.47).

To view the workflow log area: Choose View > Log (Figure 1.48). or at the bottom Click the View Log button of the workflow area (Figure 1.49). or Press o$% L. The workflow log is displayed at the bottom of the workflow area.

✔ Tip ■

The workflow log can be a very valuable troubleshooting tool. Be sure to check it often!

View Log button Figure 1.49 Automator’s log area at the bottom of a workflow window.

27

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Figure 1.48 Choose Log from the View menu to display Automator’s log area.

Chapter 1

Viewing the workflow variables area If your workflow uses variables, the bottom of your workflow area can display a list of those variables as well. Here, you can configure your variables or drag them into various places within the workflow (Figure 1.50).

Variables

Figure 1.50 Automator’s workflow variables area.

To view the workflow variables area: Choose View > Variables (Figure 1.51). or

Getting to Know Automator’s Interface

Click the View WorkflowVariables button at the bottom of the workflow area (Figure 1.52). A workflow variables list is displayed at the bottom of the workflow area.

Figure 1.51 Choose Variables from the View menu to display Automator’s workflow variables area.

View Workflow Variables button Figure 1.52 Automator’s workflow variables area at the bottom of a workflow window.

28

2

Building Simple Workflows

The best way to learn to use Automator is to dive in and build a practical workflow that accomplishes something you do repeatedly. Not only will such a project familiarize you with Automator’s interface, it will show you how much of a difference the application can make in your unique workflow.



Email Daily Birthday Greetings. Creates birthday greeting emails for anyone in your Address Book whose birthday is the current day.



Add Spotlight Comments to Photos. Adds Spotlight comments to your digital photos, making them easier to search.



Email Photo Thumbnails. Creates thumbnail versions of iPhoto images and inserts them into a new email message.

For each of these workflows, step-by-step instructions demonstrate how to create a workflow, locate the necessary actions, configure them, assemble them to form a completed workflow, and then save the workflow so you can use it outside of Automator. This chapter provides quick introductions to many of the topics discussed in detail later.

29

Building Simple Workflows

To help you get started, this chapter walks you through creating several simple workflows:

Chapter 2

Email Daily Birthday Greetings If you’re like me, you’re probably guilty of frequently forgetting people’s birthdays. Have no fear, Automator can help! With only two actions, you can create a simple workflow that sends birthday greetings automatically.

Actions used: ◆

Find Address Book Items



Send Birthday Greetings

Figure 2.1 Creating a new workflow.

To build the workflow:

Email Daily Birthday Greetings

1. Choose File > New (Figure 2.1). or Press $%N . A new workflow window and template selection panel appear (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 A new workflow window with the template selection panel.

30

Building Simple Workflows iCal Alarm button

Choose button

2. To create a scheduled workflow, click the iCal Alarm button in the template selection panel (Figure 2.3). 3. Click the Choose button in the template selection panel to create an empty workflow window. A header bar above the workflow areas indicates that the workflow will be run by an iCal event (Figure 2.4). Now you’re ready to begin adding actions to the workflow.

✔ Tips If you notice an action in a screen shot in this book but don’t see it on your own machine, don’t worry. My machine has more than the default set of applications and actions installed.



The example workflows in this chapter feature actions arranged by category. If your actions are arranged by application, choose View > Arrange Applications by > Category (Figure 2.5) to match the examples.

Figure 2.3 Choosing the iCal Alarm option in the template selection panel to create a scheduled workflow.

Empty workflow area

Figure 2.4 A new iCal Alarm workflow window, as created by Automator.

Figure 2.5 Setting Automator to arrange actions by category.

31

Email Daily Birthday Greetings



Chapter 2

To add the Find Address Book Items action: 1. Click the Contacts category in the left column of the Library list (Figure 2.6). Automator lists that category’s actions in the right column. 2. Click the Find Address Book Items action in the right column of the Library list (Figure 2.7).

Email Daily Birthday Greetings

3. Drag the Find Address Book Items action from the Library list into the workflow area (Figure 2.8). Automator displays an interface for the action within the workflow area (Figures 2.9 and 2.10).

Figure 2.6 Select the Contacts category in the Library list.

Figure 2.7 Select the Find Address Book Items action in the Library list.

Figure 2.8 Dragging the Find Address Book Items action into the workflow area.

32

Building Simple Workflows 4. Configure the settings on the action’s interface to find people where All of the following are true – Birthday is in the next 1 days (Figure 2.11). This will limit the action’s results to only people whose birthday falls within 1 day, or 24 hours, from the time the workflow runs. Figure 2.9 When added to the workflow area, the Find Address Book Items action’s interface is displayed.

✔ Tips Actions are listed in alphabetical order in the right column of the Library list.



You can quickly navigate to an action by entering the first few characters of its name in the search field at the top of the Library list.



In the workflow area, the Find Address Book Items action’s title bar reflects how the action is configured. In this case, the action is set to find people, so the title of the action reads Find Address Book People.



You might have noticed a Find People with Birthdays action in the Contacts category and wonder why it is not used here. At the time of this writing, a bug appeared in the Find People with Birthdays action, which caused the action to return no results. As a workaround, we’re using the Find Address Book Items action. Once this bug is fixed, you can certainly use the Find People with Birthdays action instead.



You may also be wondering why we didn’t configure the Find Address Book Items action to find people whose birthday is Today. This is also due to an apparent bug, which caused the action to sometimes return no results.

Figure 2.10 The Find Address Book Items action’s interface.

Figure 2.11 Configuring the Find Address Book Items action to locate people with a birthday in the next 24 hours.

33

Email Daily Birthday Greetings



Chapter 2

To add the Send Birthday Greetings action: 1. Click the Mail category in the left column of the Library list (Figure 2.12). In the right column, Automator lists the actions in the Mail category. 2. Click to select the Send Birthday Greetings action in the right column of the Library list (Figure 2.13).

Email Daily Birthday Greetings

3. Drag the Send Birthday Greetings action from the Library list into the workflow area and drop it below Find Address Book Items. Automator displays an interface for the action within the workflow area (Figures 2.14 and 2.15).

Figure 2.12 Selecting the Mail category in the Library list.

Figure 2.13 Selecting the Send Birthday Greetings action in the Library list.

Figure 2.14 The Send Birthday Greetings action, once added into the workflow area.

34

Building Simple Workflows 4. Type a birthday greeting into the text field in the action’s interface (Figure 2.16). 5. Click the Random Image For Each Recipient checkbox in the action’s interface (Figure 2.16).

Figure 2.15 The Send Birthday Greetings action’s interface.

It’s that simple! The workflow is complete and ready to be tested and saved (Figure 2.17).

✔ Tips If you accidentally drop the Send Birthday Greetings action into the workflow window before Find Address Book Items, simply select the action’s interface in the workflow area and drag it below the Find Address Book Items action’s interface.



Because this workflow uses Mail to send the birthday greetings, you must have an account configured in Mail to run this workflow.

Random Image checkbox Figure 2.16 The Send Birthday Greetings action’s interface with its settings configured.



Because this workflow searches the Birthday field in Address Book, you must have dates entered there for the workflow to run successfully (Figure 2.18).

Figure 2.18 An Address Book entry with a birthday specified. Figure 2.17 The completed Email Daily Birthday Greetings workflow.

35

Email Daily Birthday Greetings

■ Birthday Greetings text field

Chapter 2

To test the workflow: Click the Run button in Automator’s toolbar at the top of the workflow (Figure 2.19). Automator begins running the actions in your workflow. You can monitor its progress in the status area, located at the bottom of the workflow area (Figure 2.20).

Run button

Figure 2.19 The Run button in Automator’s toolbar.

Figure 2.20 The status of the workflow as it runs.

As the workflow runs, it: 1. Opens Address Book. 2. Searches for and identifies people with a birthday in the next 24 hours.

Email Daily Birthday Greetings

3. Creates a new birthday greeting email in Mail for people found to have a birthday. 4. Personalizes each email with the first name of the person receiving the greeting (assuming it is entered in Address Book) and inserts your username into the subject of the email (Figure 2.21).

✔ Tip ■

To prevent unwanted emails from being sent while learning how to use Automator, this example workflow doesn’t actually send the emails it generates. Rather, it leaves them opened in Mail, allowing you to look them over and then send them at your leisure, if desired. If you do want the workflow to send the messages, you can add the Send Outgoing Messages action, which is found in the Mail category of actions, to the end of your workflow (Figure 2.22).

Figure 2.21 A birthday greeting email generated by the Email Daily Birthday Greetings workflow.

Figure 2.22 You can use the Send Outgoing Messages action to actually send the greetings.

36

Building Simple Workflows

To save and schedule the workflow: 1. Choose File > Save (Figure 2.23). or Press $%S . A Save iCal Alarm panel appears (Figure 2.24). 2. Enter Send Birthday Greetings into the Save iCal Alarm as field, and click Save. iCal is launched, and a new event is created with an Open File alarm set to open the workflow (Figure 2.25). Figure 2.23 Saving the workflow.

3. Set the event to an all-day event that repeats every day. Then set the event’s alarm to run the day before, at 11:59 pm (Figure 2.26).

✔ Tip ■ Figure 2.24 Saving the workflow as an iCal Alarm.

Figure 2.25 Saving an iCal Alarm workflow produces a new event in iCal.

Notice that iCal Alarm workflows are added to a calendar named Automator. This allows you to easily hide them from view, if desired. It also offers a quick way to delete all scheduled workflows simply by deleting the Automator calendar should the need ever arise.

Figure 2.26 You can set iCal to run the event on a schedule, such as every night at 11:59 PM.

37

Email Daily Birthday Greetings

That’s it! Now, every night at 11:59 pm, the workflow will run, find people in Address Book with a birthday in the next 24 hours, and create a birthday greeting email for them. When you wake up in the morning, all you need to remember is to click the Send button!

Chapter 2

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos In Mac OS X, Spotlight makes searching for files a breeze—as long as they contain searchable text or descriptive names. If they don’t, locating them can be a bit more difficult. Take digital photos, for example. Digital cameras typically assign nondescript unique numeric names, such as IMG_1234.JPG, to your photos. How can you quickly locate specific photos from a list of names like that? Automator makes it easy. Adding meaningful comments to these files can help you find them later, and with Automator, you can create a workflow that assigns Spotlight comments to your photos.

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

Actions used: ◆

Ask for Finder Items



Get Folder Contents



Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items

✔ Tip ■

38

Automator also includes a useful Spotlight action, which performs Spotlight searches and passes items it finds to later actions in a workflow for further processing.

Building Simple Workflows Application button

Choose button

To build the workflow: 1. Choose File > New. or Press $%N . A new workflow window and template selection panel appear. 2. Click the Application button in the template selection panel to create a workflow application (Figure 2.27).

Figure 2.27 Creating a workflow Application using the template selection panel.

3. Click the Choose button in the template selection panel. Automator creates a workflow window with a header bar at the top of the workflow area. This header indicates that the workflow will receive files and folders as input (Figure 2.28).

✔ Tip Although a workflow Application does not, some types of workflows display configuration options in the header bar above the workflow area, allowing you to control how the workflow will behave when run.

Figure 2.28 A workflow Application contains a header bar showing that it receives files and folders as input.

39

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos



Chapter 2

To add the Get Folder Contents action: 1. Click the Files & Folders category in the left column of the Library list (Figure 2.29) to see the related list of actions in the right column. 2. Select the Get Folder Contents action in the right column of the Library list (Figure 2.30), and drag it into the workflow area (Figure 2.31). 3. Click the “Repeat for each subfolder found” checkbox on the action’s interface (Figure 2.32). With this option selected, when you choose a folder containing other folders, the workflow processes the contents of those subfolders as well.

Figure 2.29 Selecting the Files & Folders category in the Library list.

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

✔ Tip ■

Why do you need to get the contents of the specified folder? If you don’t first get the folder’s contents, the next action adds Spotlight comments to just the folder itself.

Figure 2.30 Selecting the Get Folder Contents action in the Library list.

Figure 2.31 The Get Folder Contents action, once added into the workflow area.

Figure 2.32 The Get Folder Contents action’s interface, once its settings have been configured.

40

Building Simple Workflows

To add the Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action: 1. Drag the Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action from the right column of the Library list (in the Files & Folders category, which should still be selected) into the workflow area (Figure 2.33). Append existing comments checkbox Figure 2.33 The Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action, once added into the workflow area.

Show when run checkbox Options button

3. Click the Options button at the bottom of the action. The action expands to display additional options (Figure 2.34). 4. Click the “Show this action when the workflow runs” checkbox at the bottom of the action (Figure 2.34) to instruct the action to prompt you to enter the desired Spotlight comments when the workflow is run. The main part of the workflow is now complete and ready to be tested.

✔ Tip ■

If you’d rather replace existing Spotlight comments, deselect the “Append to existing comments” checkbox.

41

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

Figure 2.34 Configuring the Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action to “Show this action when the workflow runs.”

2. Verify that the “Append to existing comments” checkbox is selected in the action (Figure 2.33). If it is not, existing Spotlight comments will be overwritten!

Chapter 2

Before testing the workflow: Recall that you chose to create a workflow Application, which accepts files and folders as input when run outside of Automator. To test this workflow in Automator, you must give it something to process, so you’ll insert an Ask for Finder Items action at the beginning of the workflow. 1. From the Files & Folders category in the Library list, drag the Ask for Finder Items action to the beginning of the workflow, right before the Get Folder Contents action (Figure 2.35). 2. Enter Choose

a folder of images to

Figure 2.35 The Ask for Finder Items action as it appears when first added to a workflow.

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

apply Spotlight comments to: into the

Prompt text field of the Ask for Finder Items action. The text you type here will appear in a dialog when the workflow is run. 3. Verify that the Desktop option is specified in the “Start at” pop-up menu within the action’s interface. 4. Select the Folders option from the Type pop-up menu to ensure that you are prompted for folders only when the workflow is run. 5. Verify that the Allow Multiple Selection checkbox is not selected on the action’s interface to ensure that you’re only prompted to choose a single folder. The configured action should appear as in Figure 2.36.

42

Prompt text

Default folder

Finder Allow Multiple Selection item type checkbox Figure 2.36 The configured Ask for Finder Items action.

Building Simple Workflows 6. With the Ask for Finder Items action still selected in the workflow area, choose Action > Ignore Input (Figure 2.37). Setting the action to ignore its input just tells Automator that the action doesn’t need anything to be passed to it in order to run.

Figure 2.37 Setting the Ask for Finder Items action to ignore its input.

The test workflow is complete and ready to be run to make sure it works properly (Figure 2.38).

✔ Tip ■

When configuring the Ask for Finder Items action, you can choose any folder that’s convenient for you as the default.

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

Figure 2.38 The completed Add Spotlight Comments to Photos workflow is ready for testing.

43

Chapter 2

To test the workflow:

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

1. Click the Run button in Automator’s toolbar at the top of the workflow. The Ask for Finder Items action runs first and prompts you to choose a folder of items. 2. Navigate to and select a folder of photos. For example, I chose a folder of images from an Arizona vacation (Figure 2.39). Ask for Finder Items then passes the chosen folder to the next action. The Get Folder Contents action retrieves a list of the items in the specified folder (received as input) and passes those items to the next action. The Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action runs next, and the action’s window prompts you to enter some Spotlight comments. 3. Enter the desired comments. For example, I entered Grand Canyon and Sedona (Figure 2.40). The action now applies these comments to the items received from the previous action.

44

Figure 2.39 Choosing a folder of items to receive Spotlight comments.

Figure 2.40 Entering Spotlight comments to be applied to the items in the specified folder.

Building Simple Workflows

To verify that the workflow was successful: 1. Press $%F in the Finder to perform a Spotlight search. A search window is displayed. 2. In the window’s search field, enter the Spotlight comments that you typed when the workflow ran (Figure 2.41). Spotlight locates the items in the folder you chose while running the workflow (Figure 2.41).

✔ Tip Figure 2.41 Locating commented items using Spotlight.



You can also perform a Spotlight search from the search field in the upperright corner of the Mac OS X menu bar (Figure 2.42).

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

Figure 2.42 Performing a Spotlight search from the menu bar.

45

Chapter 2

To save the workflow: The workflow is now ready to be saved as an application. First, however, the Ask for Finder Items action must be disabled. Since the workflow Application will receive files and folders as input, this action is no longer necessary. 1. Select the Ask for Finder Items action in the workflow area, and choose Action > Disable (Figure 2.43). The Ask for Finder Items action should now appear compressed and grayed out in the workflow area (Figure 2.44).

Figure 2.43 Disabling the Ask for Finder Items action.

Add Spotlight Comments to Photos

2. Choose File > Save (Figure 2.45). A save panel appears. 3. Enter the name Add Spotlight Comments to Photos, verify that the File Format pop-up menu is set to Application, and choose the desired destination folder. Then click Save (Figure 2.46). The workflow is saved into the specified destination as an Application.

Figure 2.44 The completed workflow ready to be saved.

As the header bar above the workflow area indicated, workflow Applications receive files and folders as input. So, to process a folder of images, just drag it onto the saved application (Figure 2.47). With the exception of being prompted to choose a folder (which you disabled and is now being ignored), the workflow should proceed as it did when you ran your test within Automator. Figure 2.45 Saving the workflow.

Figure 2.47 Workflow Applications will process dropped files and folders as input.

46

Figure 2.46 Specifying a name and location for the workflow Application.

Building Simple Workflows Services button

Choose button

Email Photo Thumbnails Want a quick way to email thumbnail versions of your latest and greatest digital photos to friends? Sure, you can do this from within iPhoto. But you can also do it with an Automator workflow without launching iPhoto.

Actions used:

Figure 2.48 Creating a Service workflow using the template selection panel.



Ask for Photos



Create Thumbnail Images



Move Finder Items



New Mail Message

To build the workflow: 1. Choose File > New. or Press $%N . A new workflow window and template selection panel appear.

Figure 2.49 The header bar in a Services workflow.

Figure 2.50 Configuring the workflow to receive no input and to be available in Mail.

3. Click the Choose button in the template selection panel. Automator opens a workflow window. In the header bar above the workflow area, some configuration options are displayed (Figure 2.49). 4. In the header bar above the workflow area, set the “Service receives” pop-up menu to “no input,” and set the “in” popup menu to the Mail application. Verify that the “Replaces selected text” checkbox is not selected (Figure 2.50).

✔ Tip ■

Figure 2.51 Manually locating the Mail application.

If Mail doesn’t appear in the “in” pop-up menu’s list of applications, just choose Other, and you will be prompted to choose an application (Figure 2.51).

47

Email Photo Thumbnails

2. Click the Service button in the Starting Points panel (Figure 2.48).

Chapter 2

To prepare the Ask for Photos action: 1. Click the Photos category in the left column of the Library list to display that category’s actions in the right column (Figure 2.52). 2. Select the Ask for Photos action in the right column of the Library list, and drag it into the workflow area. 3. Type Choose some photos to email: in the Prompt text field of the Ask for Photos action (Figure 2.53). When the workflow is run, this text will be displayed at the top of the window that asks you to choose photos.

Figure 2.52 Locating the Ask for Photos action and adding it to the workflow area.

4. Verify that the “Allow multiple selection” checkbox is selected on the action’s interface (Figure 2.53). Otherwise, you’d be able to select a single photo only!

Email Photo Thumbnails

✔ Tip ■

48

If you don’t have iPhoto installed, you can still create this workflow. Just use an Ask for Files and Folders action in the Files & Folders category rather than an Ask for Photos action. As you follow along, just be aware that some of the steps will differ slightly.

Prompt text Allow multiple selection Figure 2.53 The configured Ask for Photos action.

Building Simple Workflows

To add the Create Thumbnail Images action: The Photos category should still be selected in the Library list. Select the Create Thumbnail Images action in the right column of the Library list, and drag it into the workflow area (Figures 2.54 and 2.55). You’ll use the default settings for this action, so you don’t need to change anything.

Figure 2.54 Locating the Create Thumbnail Images action.

Email Photo Thumbnails

Figure 2.55 The Create Thumbnail Images action, once added to the workflow area.

49

Chapter 2

To add the Move Finder Items action: 1. Click the Files & Folders category in the left column of the Library list to display its actions in the right column (Figure 2.56). 2. Drag the Move Finder Items action from the right column of the Library list into the workflow area. The action is displayed within the workflow area (Figure 2.57) and by default is configured to move items to the desktop with the “Replacing existing files” checkbox deselected. No changes are necessary.

✔ Tip The photos that you choose to process most likely reside within your iPhoto library folder, but you probably don’t want to leave the thumbnails in your iPhoto library folder. The Move Finder Items action moves the thumbnails to your desktop.

Email Photo Thumbnails



Figure 2.56 The Files & Folders category of actions, displayed in the Library list.

Figure 2.57 The Move Finder Items action, once added into the workflow area.

50

Building Simple Workflows

To add the New Mail Message action: 1. Click the Mail category in the left column of the Library list to display that category’s actions (Figure 2.58). 2. Click the New Mail Message action in the right column, and drag it into the workflow area. The action displays within the workflow area (Figure 2.59). continues on next page Figure 2.58 Mail-related actions, displayed within the Library list.

Email Photo Thumbnails

Subject field Message field

Figure 2.59 The New Mail Message action, once added into the workflow area.

51

Chapter 2 3. Enter the desired text into the Subject and Message text fields in the action’s interface (Figure 2.60). The workflow is now complete and ready to be run (Figure 2.61).

✔ Tip Because this workflow uses Mail to send the thumbnail images, you need an account configured in Mail to run the workflow.

Figure 2.60 The configured New Mail Message action.

Email Photo Thumbnails



Figure 2.61 The completed Email Photo Thumbnails workflow.

52

Building Simple Workflows

To test the workflow: 1. Click the Run button in Automator’s toolbar at the top of the workflow. The workflow begins to run, and the Ask for Photos action prompts you to choose some photos from your iPhoto library. 2. Choose the desired photos (Figure 2.62). 3. The Create Thumbnail Images action runs next. It may take a few seconds because it generates thumbnail versions of the images that you chose. 4. The Move Finder Items action moves the thumbnail images to the desktop.

Figure 2.62 Choosing photos for processing by the workflow.

5. Finally, the workflow creates a new message in Mail that contains the subject and body that you specified in the New Mail Message action. Thumbnail versions of the specified images are attached (Figure 2.63).



If you don’t have iPhoto installed and your workflow contains an Ask for Finder Items action instead, you are prompted to locate image files on disk.

Figure 2.63 An email generated by the workflow with thumbnail images attached.

53

Email Photo Thumbnails

✔ Tip

Chapter 2

To save the workflow: The workflow is now ready to be saved as a Service. 1. Choose File > Save. A save panel appears.

Figure 2.64 Saving the workflow as a Service.

2. Enter the name Email Photo Thumbnails. Then click Save (Figure 2.64). The workflow is saved as a Service.

Email Photo Thumbnails

To run the workflow, bring Mail to the front and choose Services > Email Photo Thumbnails from the Mail menu in the menu bar (Figure 2.65).

54

Figure 2.65 Running the Email Photo Thumbnails workflow within Mail.

3 Workflow Basics So far, you’ve created a few simple Automator workflows. You should now be somewhat familiar with Automator’s interface and how to use it. There’s still more to learn, however. In this chapter, you’ll begin exploring workflows in a bit more detail.

For this chapter’s examples, I’ve used the Add Spotlight Comments to Photos workflow from Chapter 2, “Building Simple Workflows.” To follow along, create this workflow. Or, if you’re feeling brave, create a new workflow of your own and jump right in.

55

Workflow Basics

When building a workflow, figuring out what you want to automate is the easy part. Figuring out how to create the workflow takes more effort. You’ll learn how to plan a workflow’s tasks and then how to locate actions that can perform those tasks. You’ll also learn more about creating, running, saving, and opening workflows.

Chapter 3

Planning a Workflow Before creating a workflow, take time to plan what you want it to do. For simple workflows, thinking about the overall job you want to accomplish is often enough. For complex workflows, however, writing an outline may be more helpful. An outline guides you through a workflow’s creation, helps to prevent you from leaving out any steps along the way, and ensures that all of your actions are in the proper order. It sometimes also points out potential problem areas and allows you to consider workarounds for these up front.

To outline a workflow: 1. Think about the entire job you want to perform.

Planning a Workflow

2. Divide the job into individual tasks, and make a list of these tasks: create a folder, rename the folder, move the folder, and so on. 3. Translate each task to an Automator action. To make this step easy, try to narrow down the list of actions by entering keywords into the search field in Automator’s Library list.

✔ Tips ■

If you’re unsure of the exact tasks within a complicated workflow, go through the process manually and list the steps as you perform them.



Look for helper workflows online. You may not find one that does exactly what you’re trying to do, but you may find similar workflows that can point you in the right direction.



Be sure to also think about how you will want to run the completed workflow, because this will dictate the type of workflow you create. For example, if you want a workflow that runs on a schedule, you’ll need to create an iCal Alarm workflow.

56

Workflow Basics Search field

Outlining an example workflow Suppose you want to create a workflow that adds Spotlight comments to photos. An outline for this task might consist of three steps: 1. Locate a folder of photos.

Figure 3.1 To quickly locate an action, enter keywords into Automator’s search field. Typing folder helps find the Ask for Finder Items action.

2. Get a list of photos inside the folder. 3. Add Spotlight comments to the photos. When you’re ready to build the workflow, you must find Automator actions for the steps you’ve outlined.

Step 1: Locate the folder

Figure 3.2 The keywords get and folder take you right to the Get Folder Contents action.

1. Select the Files & Folders category in the Library list. Automator displays a list of actions related to files and folders. 2. Enter a keyword, such as folder, into the search field to narrow the list of actions. 3. Look for an action that does what you need. In this case, Ask for Finder Items should do the trick (Figure 3.1).

Step 2: Get the photos Type the keywords get folder into the search field. The Get Folder Contents action appears, which looks like it’s just what you need (Figure 3.2).

Step 3: Add Spotlight comments Enter Spotlight as a keyword; the Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action appears (Figure 3.3).

57

Planning a Workflow

Figure 3.3 The Spotlight keyword displays a list of Spotlight-related actions.

Chapter 3

✔ Tips ■

Locating actions to do what you want may sound simple, but it’s often easier said than done. It becomes easier with practice.



Not sure what an action does just by looking at its name? Check its description for more clues (Figure 3.4).



Using the search field in the Library list doesn’t just search action names. It also searches keywords within actions, making it easier to find actions if you don’t know their names (Figure 3.5).



Figure 3.4 An action’s description provides additional details about its function.

If you can’t find an action within Automator that performs a specific task, check the Automator section of Apple’s Mac OS X Downloads page at www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ automator/ for third-party actions.

Planning a Workflow

Figure 3.5 Searching for keywords can help you find an action when you’re unsure of its name. Here, typing the keyword add helps find the Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action.

Automator Workflow Creation in a Nutshell Think of creating Automator workflows as a four-step process: ◆

Step 1. Plan the workflow. Figure out what you want the workflow to do and how you want to run it.



Step 2. Create the workflow. Add the actions and configure the settings and options.



Step 3. Test the workflow in Automator, troubleshoot, and fix any problems. Make sure the steps are running smoothly.



Step 4. Save the workflow so you can run it outside of Automator.

Be sure to check out Appendix A, “Workflow Creation Step-by-Step Guide,” for a down-anddirty guide to building workflows.

58

Workflow Basics

Creating a Workflow When you launch Automator, a new workflow window opens automatically. You can also create a new workflow at any time after Automator has been launched.

To create a workflow:

Figure 3.6 Creating a new Automator workflow.

continues on next page

59

Creating a Workflow

Figure 3.7 The template selection panel allows you to choose the type of workflow you want to create.

1. Choose File > New (Figure 3.6). or Press $%N . Anytime a new workflow window appears, a template selection panel displays (Figure 3.7). This panel allows you to choose the type of workflow you want to build. From this panel, you can create a Workflow file, an Application, a Service, a Folder Action, a Print Plugin, an iCal Alarm, or an Image Capture Plugin. The type you choose depends on how you want to use the workflow when it’s finished. For example, if you want to run the workflow when you’re in a specific application, such as Mail, you may want to create a Service. If you want to run the workflow whenever you download your digital photos, you may want to create an Image Capture Plugin. If you’re unsure of how you want to run the workflow, just choose to create a Workflow, and you can convert it to a different type later.

Chapter 3 2. Choose the desired type of workflow in the template selection panel, and then click Choose. For example, in Chapter 2, you chose Application for the Add Spotlight Comments to Photos workflow. The panel disappears, and you’re left with an empty workflow window. Depending on the type of workflow you chose to create, you may see some configuration options at the top of the workflow area (Figure 3.8). You’ll learn all about the different types of workflows, their configuration options, and how to save them in Chapter 5, “Types of Workflows.” This chapter focuses mainly on Workflow files and Applications.

✔ Tips You can open a saved Automator workflow from the template selection panel. To do so, click the Open an Existing Workflow button.



Clicking the Close button closes the template selection panel and the workflow window.

Creating a Workflow



Workflow Configuration Options

Figure 3.8 Some types of workflows, such as a Service, display configuration options above the workflow area.

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Workflow Basics

Running a Workflow within Automator

Figure 3.9 Choosing Run from the Workflow menu to run the current workflow.

After you’ve finished creating a workflow, it’s always a good idea to run it within Automator. Testing this way gives you quick access to valuable troubleshooting tools, such as Automator’s log, and allows you to adjust the workflow by changing an action’s settings, inserting a new action, or whatever else might be necessary. When it’s running properly, you’ll then want to save the workflow for use outside of Automator.

✔ Tips Figure 3.10 Running a workflow by clicking the Run button in the Automator workflow window toolbar.

Although the process of running all types of workflows within Automator is pretty much the same, each type of workflow behaves differently once saved. Chapter 5 explains how different types of workflows are run outside of Automator.



For advice on troubleshooting workflows, see Chapter 9, “Troubleshooting.”

To run a workflow in Automator: ◆

Choose Workflow > Run (Figure 3.9). or Click the Run button in the workflow window toolbar (Figure 3.10). or Press $%R . The workflow begins to run.

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Running a Workflow within Automator



Chapter 3

What you see as a workflow runs As a workflow runs within Automator, you’ll notice several things: ◆

The buttons in the workflow window’s toolbar change. The Record button is disabled, the Stop button is enabled, and the Run button changes to Pause (Figure 3.11). The currently running action displays a progress spinner in its lower-left corner (Figure 3.12).



If an action produces an error, Automator displays a red X in the lower-left corner of the action (Figure 3.13). The workflow then stops running.

Running a Workflow within Automator



Figure 3.11 The workflow window toolbar buttons change while a workflow is running.

Progress spinner

Currently running action

Figure 3.12 As a workflow runs within Automator, a spinner displays in the lower-left corner of the currently running action.

Error indicator Figure 3.13 If an action generates an error while a workflow runs, a red X appears in the lower-left corner of that action.

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Workflow Basics Success indicator



After an action runs successfully, Automator displays a green checkmark in its lower-left corner (Figure 3.14) and proceeds to run the next action in the workflow.



The bottom of the workflow window reports the overall status of your workflow, displaying the name of the currently running action, errors, or successful completion (Figures 3.15, 3.16, and 3.17).

Figure 3.14 A green checkmark displays in the lowerleft corner of an action that runs successfully.

Running a Workflow within Automator

Currently running action Figure 3.15 As a workflow runs, the bottom of the workflow window lists the currently running action.

Workflow error Figure 3.16 The bottom of the workflow window indicates when an error occurs.

Workflow successful Figure 3.17 The bottom of the workflow window indicates when the workflow runs successfully.

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Chapter 3

Saving a Workflow After you’ve created and tested a workflow, you’re ready to save it.

To save a workflow: ◆

If your workflow is a new workflow, choose File > Save (Figure 3.18) or press $%S .

Or

Saving a Workflow



If your workflow is an existing workflow, choose File > Save or press $%S to resave the workflow in its current location. If you don’t want to overwrite your existing workflow, choose File > Save As (Figure 3.19) or press S$%S . If you’re not replacing an existing workflow, Automator displays a Save panel attached to the front workflow window. For Workflow files and Applications, this Save panel allows you to specify a name and destination folder for the workflow. You also have the option of changing the format of the workflow here, if you need to do so, to either a Workflow file or an Application (Figures 3.20 and 3.21).

Figure 3.18 Save a new workflow by choosing File > Save.

Figure 3.19 Save an existing workflow with a new name by choosing File > Save As.

Figure 3.20 When you save a Workflow file or Application, Automator displays a Save panel.

Figure 3.21 Automator allows you to toggle between Workflow files and Applications when saving.

64

Workflow Basics

Figure 3.22 Automator only prompts you for a name when saving a Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, iCal Alarm, and Image Capture Plugin workflow.

For Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, iCal Alarm, and Image Capture Plugin workflows, a Save panel is also displayed, but it only allows you to specify a name for the workflow. You don’t need to choose a destination folder. Rather, Automator handles saving it to the correct location for you automatically, based on the workflow type (Figure 3.22).

✔ Tips ■

Chapter 5 discusses saving Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, iCal Alarm, and Image Capture Plugin workflows in more detail, and explains where these workflows are stored once they’re saved.



When specifying a destination folder in a Save window, press $%D to quickly choose the Desktop as the desired location. Press s$%H to choose your Home folder.

Saving a Workflow 65

Chapter 3

Opening a Workflow Any workflow, regardless of its type, can be reopened in Automator for further editing.

To open a workflow:

Opening a Workflow

1. Choose File > Open (Figure 3.23). or Press $%O . or Click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel (Figure 3.24). The Open dialog appears.

Figure 3.23 Open a workflow by choosing File > Open.

Open an Existing Workflow button Figure 3.24 Workflows can also be opened from the template selection window.

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Workflow Basics 2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to the type of workflow you want to open. Automator allows you to choose a workflow of the specified type. If you’re unsure of the workflow’s type, set the pop-up menu to display All workflows (Figure 3.25).

Workflow Types Figure 3.25 The Open dialog allows you to choose the type of workflow you want to open.

3. Locate the workflow and click Open (Figure 3.26). The workflow opens in Automator. You can now modify the workflow, if desired, by inserting new actions, removing actions, or modifying action settings. When you’re done, don’t forget to test and resave the workflow.

✔ Tips You can open recently opened workflows by choosing File > Open Recent (Figure 3.27).



You can quickly open any workflow by dragging it onto the Automator icon in your Dock. You can also open a Workflow file (not a workflow Application) by double-clicking it.



If you’ve received a workflow from a friend or have downloaded one from the web, it’s good practice to open it in Automator before running it. Doing so allows you to preview what the workflow will do. It also lets you ensure that all the actions used by the workflow are installed on your machine, because Automator will alert you if they are not.

Figure 3.27 Previously opened workflows can be reopened by choosing File > Open Recent.

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Opening a Workflow

Figure 3.26 When the Open dialog appears, locate the workflow file you want to open, and click Open.



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Working with Actions

4

By now you should be comfortable creating basic workflows and getting around the main portions of Automator’s interface. There’s still a lot more of Automator to learn, though. To do anything truly useful, you need to add actions to your workflow, and you need to configure those actions to do what you want. This chapter helps you get to this next level by showing you how to: Find an action that’s right for your workflow



Add actions to your workflow and understand warning messages that may be displayed



Configure an action’s settings and options so the action will do what you want



Adjust your workflow by renaming, deleting, and disabling actions



Use action input and output values properly so that your actions work together when you run the workflow

The techniques you learn in this chapter will apply to working with virtually any action within an Automator workflow.

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Working with Actions



Chapter 4

Locating Actions to Do What You Want Automator comes with hundreds of actions, and that list grows every time you add new Automator-ready applications or third-party actions to your machine. With so many actions, locating the one to do what you want is no small feat. However, there are some practical ways to find them.

Picking the right action for a task

Locating Actions to Do What You Want

In Chapter 3, “Workflow Basics” (see “Planning a Workflow”), you learned that it’s a good idea to think through the job of a workflow before creating it. Break it down into individual tasks, and then translate those tasks to actions. But how do you pick the right action for a task? Think about the task. What does it do? For example, does it create a folder on the desktop? What is its result? The newly created folder? What application or process does it target? The Finder? Use the words from these questions and answers as keywords, and type them into Automator’s search field to help find an appropriate action.

✔ Tip ■

Be sure to check action descriptions frequently, because they often contain important information. See “Viewing an Action’s Description” later in this chapter.

Five Useful File & Folder Actions 1. Find Finder Items. Helps you locate specific files and folders on your Mac when your workflow runs. 2. Filter Finder Items. Allows you to filter a list of files for ones matching specific criteria. For example, you could use this action to filter for only image files. 3. Sort Finder Items. Use this action to sort Finder items into the order you want to process them. This can be especially useful if you want to process files sequentially or in the order they were last modified. 4. Connect to Servers. Does your workflow process files and folders on a server volume? Use this action to make sure that server volume is connected when your workflow runs. 5. Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items. Spotlight searching makes locating files a breeze. Use this action to ensure that files without descriptive names, such as your digital photos, are found when you perform a search.

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Working with Actions Clear search field button Library

Search field

To locate an action by application name, action name, or keyword: 1. In your workflow window, click Library in the left column of the Library list to display a list of all available actions (Figure 4.1). 2. In the search field at the top of the Library list, type a search term, such as an application name, action name, or a keyword. For example, to find an action that creates a new calendar in iCal, you might enter iCal or calendar. Automator lists any actions that match the specified criteria (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1 Searching for calendar actions using a keyword.

3. Scan through the list of found actions and look for one that does what you need. Then drag it into your workflow.

✔ Tips If you’re having trouble locating an action using one keyword, try a synonym. For example, if you want to locate an action that will search for something, try the keywords search and find.



If no actions are found by your search, verify that you have clicked Library at the top of the left column in the Library list.



Click the X button on the right side of the search field to clear the search and display other actions again (Figure 4.1).



If you’ve tried and tried, but are unable to locate an action, see if a third-party developer has created one. Search Apple’s Mac OS X Automator action download site at www.apple.com/downloads/ macosx/automator/.

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Locating Actions to Do What You Want



Chapter 4

To locate all actions within a category: 1. Ensure that Automator’s Library list is arranged by category. If it’s not, choose View > Arrange Actions by > Category (Figure 4.2). 2. Click the desired category name within the Library list. Automator displays the actions within that specific category (Figure 4.3). Now you can scan through the list of actions within the category for the desired action or actions. When you find what you’re looking for, drag it into your workflow.

Figure 4.2 Configuring Automator’s Library list to arrange actions by category.

✔ Tip

Locating Actions to Do What You Want



If actions don’t fit into a specific category, they’ll be in the category Other. Check in that category if you can’t find the action you want. If you don’t see the Other category, all of your actions fit into Automator’s built-in categories.

Figure 4.3 Selecting a category of actions.

To locate all actions for a given application: 1. You may find it easier to locate actions by application rather than by category. To do this, first ensure that the Library list is arranged by application. If it’s not, choose View > Arrange Actions by > Application (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4 Configuring Automator’s Library list to arrange actions by application.

2. Click the appropriate application name within the Library list to display the actions that pertain to that specific application (Figure 4.5). For example, to see all iCal-related actions, click iCal. 3. Scan through the list of application actions for one that does what you need, and then insert it into your workflow. Figure 4.5 Selecting an application to display all actions for that application.

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Working with Actions

Inserting Actions into a Workflow

Figure 4.6 Dragging an action into a workflow.

You already know that you can add an action to your workflow by selecting it in the Library list and dragging it to the desired spot in your workflow. You can also insert an action at the end of your workflow by double-clicking it in the Library list (Figures 4.6 and 4.7).

✔ Tip ■

If you’ve accidentally added an action to the wrong place in a workflow, simply select it and drag it to the correct location.

Figure 4.7 An action’s interface, once added to a workflow.

1. Run AppleScript. Automator’s a great tool, but as discussed in the Introduction, it has some limitations that can be overcome with AppleScript functions. This action allows you to paste in AppleScript code, so that it runs as part of your workflow. 2. Run Shell Script. This action provides even greater possibilities for creating robust workflows by providing access to the UNIX underpinnings of Mac OS X. Just paste in the desired shell commands to incorporate them into your workflow. 3. Loop. Need to create a workflow that runs over and over again? As you’ll learn in Chapter 7, “Workflow Looping,” this action allows you to do just that. 4. Set/Get Value of Variable. Does your workflow include actions in different locations that need to share information? As you’ll learn in Chapter 8, “Using Variables,” this pair of actions allows you to store the output of an action in memory and then refer back to it later in your workflow.

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Inserting Actions into a Workflow

Four Useful Actions for Advanced Automator Users

Chapter 4

Understanding action insertion warnings Sometimes when you drag an action into a workflow, Automator displays an alert panel. This generally occurs when the action you’re adding will modify files, folders, or other data in some irreversible way. The type of warning displayed determines how you handle it. Some warnings simply alert you to something important. In these cases, you can usually choose to continue adding the action to the workflow, or you can decide not to add the action and simply cancel the alert (Figure 4.8).



Other warnings provide a message and suggest adding another action first, usually to avoid potential data loss. In these cases, you can choose to cancel, add the suggested action in addition to the action you’ve dragged into the workflow, or insert only the action you’ve dragged into the workflow (Figure 4.9). If you click Add, Automator inserts the suggested action immediately before the action you dragged into the workflow (Figure 4.10). If you click Don’t Add, Automator adds only the action you dragged into the workflow. If you click Cancel, the workflow remains unchanged.

Inserting Actions into a Workflow



74

Figure 4.8 An insertion warning for the Delete iCal Events action. Clicking Continue adds the action to the workflow. Clicking Cancel leaves the workflow as it is.

Figure 4.9 An insertion warning displayed by the Scale Images action asks if you’d like to add a Copy Finder Items action to prevent data loss.

Figure 4.10 An auto-inserted Copy Finder Items action precedes the Scale Images action to prevent data loss.

Working with Actions

✔ Tips

Disable future alerts checkbox Figure 4.11 Action alerts give you the option of disabling future alerts.



When it comes to potential data loss, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t be afraid to add a suggested action to your workflow. You can always remove it if you decide later that you don’t need it.



Tired of seeing action alerts? To insert an action into a workflow without displaying its action insertion warning, hold s while dragging the action into the workflow area. This will not permanently disable the alert for that particular action.



You can also disable all action alerts by selecting the “Do not show this message again” checkbox in any alert window (Figure 4.11).



You can enable all disabled action alerts by choosing Automator > Reset Warnings from the menu bar (Figure 4.12).

Figure 4.12 Enabling all action alerts.

Inserting Actions into a Workflow

Insertion Warnings and the Actions That Cause Them Two common types of actions that cause insertion warnings include: ◆



Deletion Actions. Most actions that permanently delete something display a warning of some type when inserted into a workflow. For example, the Remove Empty Playlists action lets you know that once you run it, there’s no way to get those playlists back (Figure 4.13). File Manipulation Actions. Most actions that modify files display a warning letting you know that those modifications can’t be undone. If you want to retain your originals, consider adding an action, such as a Copy Finder Items or Create Archive action, to back up your files prior to modifying them (Figure 4.14).

Figure 4.13 An alert displayed by a deletion action.

Figure 4.14 An alert displayed by a file manipulation action.

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Chapter 4

Viewing an Action’s Description

Selected action

Each Automator action has a description that provides an overview of the action, the types of input the action accepts, the types of output the action produces, and more—a treasure trove of information for any Automator user. You can view an action’s description in the Library list or in the workflow area.

Action description

To view the description of an action in the Library list: ◆

In the Library list, select the action you want to view to see its description in the workflow window’s lower-left corner (Figure 4.15).

Figure 4.15 Viewing the description of the Create Archive action in the Library list.

Description button

Action description

Viewing an Action’s Description

✔ Tips ■

If you’re unsure of an action’s function or one of its settings, check its description.



If the description area is not visible in the lower left of the workflow window, click icon at the bottom of the window the to display it.

To view the description of an action in the workflow area: ◆

76

Click the Description button at the bottom of the action’s interface. The action’s interface expands to show its description (Figure 4.16). To hide the description, click the Description button again.

Figure 4.16 Viewing the description of an action in the workflow area.

Working with Actions

Action Settings

Figure 4.17 The New iCal Events action has settings that can modify its behavior.

Modifiable settings

Many actions have settings you can change to control the action’s behavior when you run the workflow. Take the New iCal Events action, for example (Figure 4.17). This action allows you to specify a calendar and title for the event along with a start and end time, an alarm, and more. When run within a workflow, this action behaves according to the settings you’ve specified. Whenever you add an action to a workflow, you should check to see whether the action contains any modifiable settings, and if so, adjust them accordingly.

Figure 4.18 Modifiable settings for the Create Archive action.

Modifiable settings

Figure 4.19 Modifiable settings for the Burn a Disc action.

Actions with settings It’s difficult to talk about individual action settings. Because every action performs a different task, each action’s settings are different. When you begin working with a new action, you need to become familiar with its settings so you can make it do what you want. To understand how modifying the settings on an action affects how it behaves when run, experiment with some examples: The Create Archive action’s settings allow you to specify the name and location of the archive and whether any unreadable items should be ignored (Figure 4.18).



The Burn a Disc action’s settings enable you to specify the name of the disc, whether it should be erased first, whether it should be verified, and whether it should be ejected or mounted on the desktop after burning (Figure 4.19). continues on next page

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Action Settings



Chapter 4 ◆

The New Mail Message action’s settings allow you to specify the To, Cc, and Bcc recipients, the subject, the message content, and the account for the message (Figure 4.20).

Modifiable settings

✔ Tip ■

Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you’re unsure of what an action setting does, try running the action in a test workflow to find out. Just be careful. If the action deletes or changes something, make sure you test it with data you don’t mind deleting or changing.

Figure 4.20 Modifiable settings for the New Mail Message action.

Actions without settings Some actions don’t have modifiable settings. The interface for such an action is simply a title bar and a footer area—rather plain, as you can see (Figure 4.21).

✔ Tip

Action Settings



78

Looking for an action setting that doesn’t exist? Developers try to provide action settings that users will need to change on a regular basis. But they often don’t think of everything. If you need a specific action setting that doesn’t exist, let the action’s developer know about it, and perhaps it will be added in a future release.

Figure 4.21 The Get Selected Finder Items action does not contain modifiable settings.

Working with Actions

Action Options

Show selected settings Show action when run Figure 4.22 Configuring the Rename Finder Items action to allow its settings to be adjusted when run within a workflow.

Configuring an action’s settings in advance can be helpful, but for some situations you may need to change the action’s settings when the workflow runs. For example, suppose you’re creating a workflow that creates a new email message in Mail. Rather than using the same settings every time, you may want to change the subject, message content, and more each time the workflow runs. Allowing an action’s settings to be adjusted when the workflow runs is also extremely helpful in a workflow that you’re giving to other people. Users can then modify the workflow’s behavior to meet their unique needs. Many Automator actions can be set to show their settings when run, and this can often make your workflow more flexible.

Figure 4.23 The Rename Finder Items action’s interface, as displayed when run within a workflow, allows its settings to be adjusted.

To configure an action to allow all its settings to be modified when run: 1. Click the Options button at the bottom of the action. The action’s interface expands to display some additional configuration options. 2. Select the “Show this action when the workflow runs” checkbox (Figure 4.22).

Some actions allow you to be a bit more selective with regard to which of the action’s settings may be modified. Rather than allowing all of the action’s settings to be adjusted when the workflow is run, you can pick and choose the ones that you’d like to be modifiable. continues on next page

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Action Options

Now when the workflow is run, the interface for the action is displayed, allowing the action’s settings to be adjusted as needed (Figure 4.23).

Chapter 4

✔ Tips ■

If an action is configured to allow its settings to be modified when the workflow runs, any preconfigured settings serve as the default settings for the action. Even if you’ve configured an action with modifiable settings, it’s still a good idea to enter some defaults. Enter the settings that you expect to be used most often when the action is run. This will save you time when the workflow runs, because you won’t need to adjust settings unless changes are needed.



If an action’s Options button is disabled, the action cannot be configured to allow settings modification at runtime (Figure 4.24).

Action Options



80

Disabled Options button Figure 4.24 The Ask for Finder Items action’s settings cannot be adjusted when the workflow is run.

Working with Actions

To configure an action to allow only specified settings to be modified when run: 1. Select the “Show this action when the workflow runs” checkbox in the Options area.

Figure 4.25 Enabling the New Mail Message action to show selected settings when run.

Selected settings

2. Select the “Show only the selected items” checkbox in the Options area. The settings within the action’s interface become highlighted with checkboxes displayed next to them (Figure 4.25). 3. Select the checkboxes next to any settings that you’d like to be adjustable at runtime (Figure 4.26). Now when the workflow is run, only the settings you selected are displayed, allowing users to adjust only these as needed (Figure 4.27).

✔ Tip ■ Show selected items Show action when run

If an action does not allow a subset of settings to be modified at runtime, the “Show only the selected items” checkbox in the Options area is disabled (Figure 4.22).

Figure 4.26 Configuring the New Mail Message action to allow only specified settings to be adjusted when run within a workflow.

Action Options

Figure 4.27 Specified adjustable settings for the New Mail Message action’s interface, as displayed when run within a workflow.

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Chapter 4

Deleting Actions As you build a workflow, you may place the wrong action or change your mind about whether to include a certain action—hey, it happens. Don’t worry; you can delete the undesirable action.

Delete button

Figure 4.28 Deleting an action from a workflow.

To delete an action from a workflow: 1. Select the action in the workflow area. 2. Press the D key. or Click the X button on the right side of the action’s title bar (Figure 4.28). or Choose Edit > Delete (Figure 4.29). The action disappears from the workflow. If any actions were below it, they move up to fill in the gap.

Figure 4.29 Deleting the selected action in a workflow.

Deleting Actions

✔ Tips ■

A note of warning: When you delete an action from a workflow, you will not be prompted to confirm your intent. Rather, Automator deletes the action immediately, settings and all. So, before you choose to delete an action, make sure that you really want to delete it. If you’re unsure, try disabling it instead (see the next section).



If you do accidentally delete an action, you can try to get it back by pressing $%Z or by choosing Edit > Undo Remove Action (Figure 4.30).

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Figure 4.30 Sometimes, the deletion of an action can be undone.

Working with Actions

Disabling Actions

Figure 4.31 Disabling the selected action in a workflow.

Instead of completely deleting an action from a workflow, you way want to disable it. This can be useful for testing purposes, because disabling the action allows you to see how your workflow behaves without the action. If the workflow works well, you can then delete the action. One extremely helpful benefit of disabling an action is that if you do change your mind, you can always enable the action and you won’t lose any of the settings that you may have configured.

To disable an action in a workflow: 1. Select the action in the workflow area. Figure 4.32 Disabling an action within a workflow from the action’s contextual menu.

Figure 4.33 A disabled action.

2. Choose Action > Disable (Figure 4.31). or While holding down the C key, click the action’s title bar to display the contextual menu and choose Disable (Figure 4.32). After you disable an action, it appears dimmed within the workflow (Figure 4.33). When you run your workflow, the action is simply ignored.

To enable a disabled action: 1. Select the disabled action. 2. Choose Action > Enable (Figure 4.34). or While holding down the C key, click the action’s title bar to display the contextual menu and choose Enable (Figure 4.35). The action regains its normal appearance and runs as part of your workflow again.

Figure 4.35 Enabling a disabled action within a workflow.

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Disabling Actions

Figure 4.34 Enabling the selected disabled action in a workflow.

Chapter 4

Moving Actions As your workflow takes shape, you may have to move actions to new locations in the workflow. Automator makes this easy.

To move an action up or down in a workflow: 1. Select the action. 2. Press $%W to move the selected action up one step, or press $%Z to move it down one step. or Choose Action > Move Up to move the selected action up one step or Action > Move Down to move down one (Figure 4.36). or While holding down the C key, click the title bar of the action to display the contextual menu and choose Move Up to move the action up or Move Down to go the opposite way (Figure 4.37).

Figure 4.36 Moving the selected action down in a workflow.

Figure 4.37 Moving an action down in a workflow using the action’s contextual menu.

To move an action into a specific location within a workflow:

Moving Actions

1. Select the action in the workflow area. 2. Click the action’s title bar, and drag it to the desired location within the workflow (Figure 4.38).

✔ Tip ■

Dragging an action to a new location is the fastest way to move an action to the right spot in a long workflow. Figure 4.38 Dragging an action to a new location in a workflow.

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Working with Actions

Copying Actions Sometimes you want an action to stay put, but you need another copy of it elsewhere. You can do this by copying the action and then pasting it into the desired location in your workflow or even in a different workflow entirely. Figure 4.39 Copying a selected action to the clipboard.

Copying and relocating actions, method 1: 1. Select the action in the workflow area and choose Edit > Copy to copy the action to the clipboard (Figure 4.39). or Press $%C . 2. Select the workflow in which you want to insert the copied action. You can use the same workflow or a different one.

Figure 4.40 Pasting an action into the currently selected workflow.

3. Choose Edit > Paste (Figure 4.40). or Press $%V . Automator pastes the action at the end of the workflow. If you pasted into the same workflow, the action now resides in two places.

Copying and relocating actions, method 2: 2. While holding down the o key, drag the action to the desired location. Automator copies the action to that location (Figure 4.41). continues on next page

Figure 4.41 Copying an action from one location to another.

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Copying Actions

1. Select the action in the workflow area.

Chapter 4

Copying and relocating actions, method 3: 1. Select the action in the workflow area. 2. Drag the action from the current workflow into the desired location in a different workflow (Figure 4.42). Automator copies the action to the other workflow.

✔ Tip ■

Copying Actions

When you copy an action, Automator retains the settings you configured for the original action in the pasted action.

Figure 4.42 Copying an action from one workflow to another.

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Working with Actions

Renaming Actions

Figure 4.43 Renaming the selected action in a workflow.

While building a workflow, there may be times when you’d like an action’s name to be a bit more descriptive than the default name. Take the Connect to Servers action, for example. Renaming this action to include the name of the server volume to which it connects would be helpful. You can rename a workflow’s action in two steps.

To rename an action:

Figure 4.44 Renaming an action within a workflow from the action’s contextual menu.

Figure 4.45 Renaming the Connect to Servers action.

Figure 4.46 The Connect to Servers action is renamed to Ask for Images Folder.

1. Select the action in the workflow area and choose Action > Rename (Figure 4.43). or While holding down the C key, click the action’s title bar to open the contextual menu and choose Rename (Figure 4.44). The action’s name in the title bar becomes editable. 2. In the field, type the desired name and press the r key (Figure 4.45). The action’s title bar now displays the action’s new name in parentheses after the original name for the action (Figure 4.46).

✔ Tips Renaming an action is a good way to insert a comment into a workflow. This is especially helpful if you’re distributing your workflow to other people who may need to edit it.



Renaming only affects an action within your workflow. Within the Library list, the action retains its original name.

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Renaming Actions



Chapter 4

Collapsing Actions As you begin creating longer workflows, you may find that you’re scrolling a lot to reach an action. There is a solution to this tedious task. Automator makes it easy to collapse individual actions, enabling you to view more of your workflow at a time, which means less scrolling. Collapsing an action condenses the action’s interface down to a single title bar, hiding the action’s settings, options, description, and so on.

To collapse an action in the workflow area: ◆

Double-click the action’s title bar (Figure 4.47). or Click the small disclosure triangle to the left of the action’s name in the title bar.

To expand a collapsed action in the workflow area:

Collapsing Actions



88

Double-click the title bar of the action (Figure 4.48). or Click the small disclosure triangle to the left of the action’s name in the title bar again.

Disclosure triangle

Action title bar

Figure 4.47 A collapsed action in the workflow area.

Disclosure triangle

Action title bar

Figure 4.48 An expanded action in the workflow area.

Working with Actions Input types

Working with Input and Output Values Actions can talk to each other. As you learned in Chapter 1, “Getting Started,” most actions can receive information (called input) from a previous action, and they can pass information (called output) to the next action in a workflow sequence. This process allows actions to work together like an assembly line, passing information along from one action to the next.

Output/ Result types Figure 4.49 Viewing the input and result types for the Create Archive action.

Three Action Gems

1. Spotlight. Need to find files to process when your workflow runs? Check out this action. It performs a Spotlight search for the specified criteria and passes the results down to the next action for further processing.

Some actions can receive any kind of input and can live anywhere in a workflow. Many actions, however, need a specific kind of input to work properly. These actions must be placed into a workflow immediately following an action that provides the right kind of output. For example, an action that takes files and folders as input must come after an action that produces files and folders as output. An action’s description indicates the kind of input it needs as well as the kind of output (result) it generates (Figure 4.49). continues on next page

2. Burn a Disc. This great action burns files and folders directly to a CD or DVD. Consider using this action to create a workflow that backs up your modified files to DVD once per week. 3. Text to Audio File. This action can actually convert input text to audio format. In a hurry, and don’t have time to read your email at your desk? Why not process it with this action, and listen to it on your iPod or iPhone?

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Working with Input and Output Values

Automator includes dozens of great actions that are sure to benefit the workflows of many. Here are a few very useful ones:

Matching action input and output values

Chapter 4 When actions are placed together in a workflow, Automator checks if their input and output information matches. If it does, Automator links the actions visually (Figure 4.50). If the actions don’t match, they appear separated (Figure 4.51). These visual clues can help you determine whether information will pass through your workflow as expected.

Matching Result/ Input

Matching action link

✔ Tip ■

Mismatched actions don’t always cause a problem. Whenever a mismatch occurs, Automator tries to convert the input and output values of the actions to matching types using a conversion action. For more on conversion actions, see the sidebar in the “About Actions” section in Chapter 1.

Figure 4.50 Two properly matched actions within a workflow, passing Files/Folders between one another. No action link

Working with Input and Output Values

Mismatched Result/ Input

Figure 4.51 Two improperly matched actions within a workflow.

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Working with Actions Downloaded files will be passed as input to the New Mail Message action

Ignoring an action’s input There may be times when you don’t want an action to do anything with the input it receives. For example, Figure 4.52 shows a workflow that retrieves URLs from a current webpage in Safari, downloads those URLs, and then sends out an email notice. This workflow consists of four actions:

Figure 4.52 An example workflow, which downloads URLs from the current webpage in Safari and sends out an email notice when complete.



Get Current Webpage from Safari



Get Link URLs from Webpages



Download URLs



New Mail Message

In this workflow, the Download URLs action passes downloaded files as input to the New Mail Message action. The New Mail Message action then adds those files as attachments to the Mail message that it creates. Although that’s a nice feature, you may just want to send a notice that the files have been downloaded without actually attaching the downloaded files. To do this, you can tell the New Mail Message action to ignore its input.

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Working with Input and Output Values

continues on next page

Chapter 4

To tell an action to ignore its input: ◆

In the workflow area, select the action whose input you’d like to ignore and choose Action > Ignore Input (Figure 4.53). or While holding down the C key, click the action’s title bar to display the contextual menu and choose Ignore Input (Figure 4.54). The action becomes visually separated from the preceding action in the workflow, indicating that the action no longer accepts input (Figure 4.55).

Figure 4.53 Telling the selected action in a workflow to ignore its input.

After you disable an action’s input, you can turn it back on again should the need arise.

✔ Tip

Working with Input and Output Values



Not all actions can be told to ignore their input. If an action won’t let you do this, the Ignore Input option is disabled in the Action menu, as well as in the action’s contextual menu. Download URLs is one such action (Figure 4.56).

Figure 4.56 The Download URLs action won’t allow its input to be ignored.

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Figure 4.54 Telling the New Mail Message action to ignore its input from the action’s contextual menu.

Input is ignored

Figure 4.55 The New Mail Message action is configured to ignore its input in a workflow.

Working with Actions

To tell an action to accept its input: ◆

Figure 4.57 Telling the selected action in a workflow to accept its input.

Select the action in the workflow area and choose Action > Accept Input (Figure 4.57). or While holding down the C key, click the action’s title bar to display the contextual menu and choose Accept Input (Figure 4.58).

Automator links the action to the preceding action in the workflow again, visually indicating that it now accepts input again (Figure 4.59).

Figure 4.58 Telling the New Mail Message action to accept its input from the action’s contextual menu.

Working with Input and Output Values

Input is accepted

Figure 4.59 The New Mail Message action is configured to accept its input.

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Chapter 4

Viewing Action Results as a Workflow Runs As a workflow runs within Automator, you may want to monitor the results of each action. Doing so lets you make sure that the correct information passes from action to action. As Chapter 9, “Troubleshooting,” explains, this can be a valuable way to determine the cause of any problems you may encounter.

Results button Figure 4.60 Click the Results button at the bottom of an action to display the action’s results when the workflow runs.

Figure 4.61 Choosing Show Results from the Action menu displays the selected action’s results when the workflow runs.

To view an action’s result:

Viewing Action Results as a Workflow Runs

1. Select an action within the workflow. 2. Click the Results button at the bottom of the action (Figure 4.60). or Choose Action > Show Results (Figure 4.61). or Press $%K . The action expands to display a results area (Figure 4.62).

Results area Figure 4.62 The results area of an expanded action, ready to show its results when the workflow runs.

Interpreting Action Results Results vary from action to action. Some results, such as files and folders, iPhoto items, and iTunes songs, may be easy to interpret. Others, however, may be more difficult. Take your time, and do your best to make sense of them. Start by viewing action results as icons. In many cases, you’ll see previews, such as iPhoto image thumbnails. If no icons are displayed or if they all look the same, try list view. Here, you may find a bit more information, such as the full paths of files and folders. View the results in list view as a last resort, however. Often, list view will display results as AppleScript code, which may not make a whole lot of sense if you don’t know AppleScript.

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Working with Actions 3. Run the workflow. As the workflow runs, the results area displays the results of the action (Figure 4.63). By default, action results are displayed as icons. You can, however, view action results as a table or list. To change the view, click one of the view icons above the result area (Figures 4.63, 4.64, and 4.65). Icon view button

Action results

Figure 4.63 By default, action results are displayed as icons.

✔ Tip ■

Not all actions can display their results as icons. If you don’t see anything listed when viewing an action’s results as icons, try selecting another view.

Viewing Action Results as a Workflow Runs

Action results Table view button Figure 4.64 Choosing to view an action’s results as a table.

Action results List view button Figure 4.65 Choosing to view an action’s results as a list.

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Types of Workflows

Workflow plug-ins can run in a more efficient or unique manner than a Workflow file or Application. It’s like a way of adding your own features to the applications on your machine. For example, you can create a Service workflow, a plug-in for Mac OS X’s system-wide Services architecture. Then you can run the workflow from a contextual menu to process

selected text in an application such as Mail or TextEdit. Or, you can create an iCal Alarm workflow, which can be run by an iCal event at scheduled intervals, such as at night or while you’re at lunch. You can even create a plug-in that runs anytime a file is added to a specified folder. Chapter 3, “Workflow Basics,” briefly covered some of the common steps involved in building, saving, and opening workflows. This chapter gets much more specific. You’ll learn more about creating, saving, and running Workflow files and Applications, as well as the other types of workflows Automator supports—Services, Folder Actions, Print Plugins, iCal Alarms, and Image Capture Plugins. For each type of workflow discussed, step-by-step instructions walk you through the process of creating a simple example workflow to get you started.

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Types of Workflows

Automator workflows are pretty versatile, as you know by now. They can be built and run within Automator, saved as Workflow files for later use, and even saved as standalone Applications. Although these methods are certainly useful in a variety of scenarios, Automator allows you to create additional types of workflows that are even more flexible and powerful. Workflows can be built as plug-ins for other applications or even for the operating system.

5

Chapter 5

Workflow Files Workflow files (Figure 5.1) have been discussed to some extent throughout this text. This section serves as a recap, although it brings together the concepts discussed so far, making them a bit more cohesive.

Figure 5.1 A Workflow file.

Workflow button

Think of a Workflow file as a document file, such as a Microsoft Word document. Once saved, you can open a Workflow file in Automator, make changes to it, resave it, and close it. You can also run it within Automator.

Workflow Files

Building a Workflow file Imagine you’re preparing to send out holiday cards to some of your closest business associates. Although you have their mailing addresses entered in Address Book, it is easiest to see them together in a single list. This example workflow gets a list of selected recipients in Address Book, extracts their names and addresses, and inserts them into a new TextEdit document.

Actions used: ◆

Get Selected Address Book Items



Get Contact Information



New TextEdit Document

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new workflow. When the template selection panel appears, choose Workflow, and then click Choose (Figure 5.2). Automator creates an empty workflow window for you.

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Figure 5.2 Creating a new Workflow file.

Types of Workflows

Figure 5.3 The Get Selected Address Book Items action’s title changes to reflect the type of items it retrieves.

2. From the Contacts category, drag the Get Selected Address Book Items action to the workflow area. When the action’s interface appears, its title changes to Get Selected Address Book People because it’s configured to get people by default (Figure 5.3). 3. With the Contacts category still selected, drag the Get Contact Information action to the end of the workflow area (Figure 5.4).

5. From the Text category, locate the New TextEdit Document action and add it to the workflow (Figure 5.6).

✔ Tip ■

Chapter 4, “Working with Actions,” explains in detail how to locate an action and add it to a workflow.

Figure 5.5 The Get Contact Information action configured to retrieve specific content fields.

Figure 5.6 The New TextEdit Document action has no modifiable settings.

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Workflow Files

Figure 5.4 The Get Contact Information action as it appears when added to a workflow.

4. Configure the Get Contact Information action’s settings. Verify that the Export Format pop-up menu is set to Formatted Text. In the list of fields, select only the First Name, Last Name, and Work Address fields. Make sure the Add Labels checkbox is not selected and that the Combine Names checkbox is selected (Figure 5.5).

Chapter 5

Running a Workflow file Generally, Workflow files are run within Automator, and that’s what you’ll do for this example. Some third-party applications also have the ability to run Workflow files. The Microsoft Office 2008 applications (Entourage, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word), for example, include script menus that can run Automator Workflow files.

✔ Tip

Workflow Files



Figure 5.7 Selecting some close business associates in Address Book.

The system-wide Script menu that’s built into Mac OS X (see the “Script Menu” section at the end of this chapter) can also run Workflow files.

To run the workflow: 1. Launch Address Book and select a few people to process (Figure 5.7). 2. Bring Automator back to the front. 3. Choose Workflow > Run (Figure 5.8). or Click the Run button in the workflow window toolbar (Figure 5.9). or Press $%R . The workflow runs. The names and addresses of the selected Address Book people are retrieved and inserted into a new TextEdit document (Figure 5.10).

Figure 5.8 Running the current workflow from the menu bar.

Run button

Figure 5.9 Running the workflow from the toolbar.

Figure 5.10 A TextEdit document contains the contact information retrieved by your workflow.

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Types of Workflows

Saving and opening a Workflow file Whenever you create a workflow, even if it’s a quick one you only intend to use once, it’s a good idea to save it. By doing so, you can reference it again in the future should the need ever arise. Believe me, referencing old workflows can come in handy when building new ones, and they provide a great jumpingoff point. Also, even though you may not intend to use a workflow again, you never know what the future may bring. Archiving the workflow might just save you precious time later.

Figure 5.11 Saving a workflow.

Figure 5.12 Saving a workflow with a new name or in a new location.

Save panel

1. Choose File > Save (Figure 5.11) or press $%S . or If you need to save an existing workflow in the future using a new name or in a new location, choose File > Save As (Figure 5.12) or press S$%S . You can do this to avoid overwriting your existing workflow. Automator displays the Save panel attached to the workflow window (Figure 5.13). continues on next page

Figure 5.13 When you save a Workflow file, Automator displays the Save panel.

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Workflow Files

To save the workflow:

Chapter 5 2. In the panel’s Save As text field, type Build Address List (Figure 5.14). 3. From the Where pop-up menu, choose where you want to save the workflow. 4. Verify that the File Format pop-up menu is set to Workflow (Figure 5.15). 5. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as a Workflow file (Figure 5.16). You can now store it somewhere on your Mac for later use or send it to a friend.

Figure 5.14 Enter a name for the Workflow file into the Save As field and choose a destination folder.

✔ Tip Workflow Files



If you decide later that you want to convert your Workflow file to an Application, no problem. Just open it in Automator, choose File > Save As, and change the File Format pop-up menu to Application.

Figure 5.15 When saving a Workflow file, verify that the File Format pop-up menu is set to Workflow.

Figure 5.16 A saved Workflow file.

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Types of Workflows

To open the workflow:

Figure 5.17 Open a workflow by choosing File > Open.

1. Within Automator, choose File > Open (Figure 5.17). or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel (Figure 5.18). The Open dialog appears. 2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to either Workflow or All.

✔ Tip ■ Open Workflow button Figure 5.18 Workflows can also be opened from the template selection panel.

You can also open a Workflow file by double-clicking it in the Finder or dragging it onto the Automator icon in your Dock.

Workflow type pop-up menu Figure 5.19 Set the Type pop-up menu in the Open window to allow you to choose a Workflow file.

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Workflow Files

3. Locate the Workflow file and click Open (Figure 5.19). The Workflow file opens in Automator. You can now modify the workflow, if desired, by inserting new actions, removing actions, or modifying action settings. When you’re done, remember to resave the workflow (press $%S ).

Chapter 5

Workflow Applications By now you know that Automator can save workflows as Applications (Figure 5.20). A workflow saved in this way works like any other application on your Mac. You launch it, and it runs by itself. You don’t even need to launch Automator.

Figure 5.20 A workflow Application.

Workflow Applications

Building and saving a workflow Application The Mac OS X Finder makes it easy to compress files or folders as .zip archives. To do so, just select a file or folder, and choose File > Compress from the menu bar (Figure 5.21). Once you’ve created an archive, you can send it as an email attachment by simply dragging it to the Mail icon in the Dock.

Figure 5.21 Compressing a file or folder in the Finder is as easy as selecting from a menu.

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Types of Workflows Application button

With Automator, you can turn this two-step process into a single step by creating a workflow Application that compresses a specified file or folder and attaches it to a new outgoing message in Mail.

Actions used: ◆

Ask for Finder Items



Create Archive



New Mail Message

To build the workflow:

Header area

Figure 5.23 The header bar in a workflow Application lets you know that the workflow receives files and folders as input.

Indication that the action receives input

2. Click the Files & Folders category in the action library. Select Ask for Finder Items, and drag it to the workflow area (Figure 5.24). continues on next page

Figure 5.24 The Ask for Finder Items action when added to the workflow Application.

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Workflow Applications

Figure 5.22 Creating a new workflow Application.

1. Create a new workflow. In the template selection panel, click Application, and then click Choose (Figure 5.22). A new workflow window appears, and its header area indicates that the Application receives files and folders as input (Figure 5.23). You’ll get to file and folder input handling shortly. For now, you’ll configure the Application to prompt you to choose a file or folder to process.

Chapter 5 3. With the Ask for Finder Items action selected in the workflow area, choose Action > Ignore Input (Figure 5.25). 4. Set the action’s Type pop-up menu to allow you to choose Files and Folders when prompted. You don’t need to change any other settings for this action (Figure 5.26).

Workflow Applications

5. Drag the Create Archive action to the end of the workflow from the Files & Folders category in the Library list. 6. Select the “Ignore unreadable items” checkbox in the Create Archive action’s interface. You can leave all other action settings set to their default values (Figure 5.27).

Figure 5.25 Disabling input from being passed to the Ask for Finder Items action.

Indication that the action no longer receives input

Figure 5.26 The configured Ask for Finder Items action no longer indicates that it receives input.

Figure 5.27 The properly configured Create Archive action.

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Types of Workflows 7. From the Mail category, locate the New Mail Message action, and add it to the end of the workflow. No additional configuration of this action is necessary (Figure 5.28). The workflow is complete and is ready to be saved (Figure 5.29). Figure 5.28 The properly configured New Mail Message action.

✔ Tips Normally, it’s a good idea to run a workflow in Automator before testing it externally to ensure it behaves as expected.



If you don’t set the Ask for Finder Items action to ignore its input and you then try running the workflow in Automator, you’ll see a warning indicating that the workflow expects files and folders as input (Figure 5.30).

Figure 5.29 The completed workflow Application.

Figure 5.30 A workflow Application displays an alert when run in Automator if the first action doesn’t accept files and folders as input.

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Workflow Applications



Chapter 5

To save the workflow: 1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing Application using a new name or in a new location, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays the Save panel attached to the workflow window.

Figure 5.31 Automator’s Save panel when saving a workflow as an Application.

Workflow Applications

2. In the panel’s Save As text field, type Compress and Email. 3. From the Where pop-up menu, choose the folder in which you want to save the workflow. 4. Verify that the File Format pop-up menu is set to Application (Figure 5.31). 5. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as a workflow Application (Figure 5.32). You can now run the workflow, send it to a friend, or file it on your Mac for later use.

✔ Tip ■

As you may recall, Workflow files can be saved as Applications. Likewise, Applications can be just as easily saved as Workflow files. Open the Application in Automator, choose File > Save As, and set the File Format pop-up menu in the Save panel to Workflow.

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Figure 5.32 A saved workflow Application.

Types of Workflows

Running a workflow Application A workflow Application behaves like any other Mac OS X application, and Automator doesn’t need to be running to use it. You can move a workflow Application to, and run it from, anywhere on your Mac, such as the Applications or Documents folder or even your desktop (Figure 5.33). Figure 5.33 An Automator workflow Application in the Applications folder.

Like other applications, workflow Applications can also be added to your Dock, added to the sidebar or toolbar of Finder windows, or simply launched by double-clicking on them.

1. Double-click the workflow Application in the Finder. The workflow launches and begins running. Figure 5.34 Choosing an item to process with the workflow Application.

2. When prompted, select a file or folder to process. Then click Choose (Figure 5.34). The workflow retrieves the chosen file or folder, compresses it into a .zip archive on your desktop, and attaches it to a new message in Mail (Figure 5.35).

What you see when the workflow runs: ◆

As the workflow Application runs, the icon (Figure 5.36). menu bar displays a If the workflow runs quickly, this icon may only appear briefly or you may not notice it at all.



The workflow Application appears as a launched application in the Dock (Figure 5.37).

Figure 5.35 A Mail message with a .zip archive attachment.

Workflow activity indicator

Figure 5.36 The menu bar indicates when a workflow Application runs.

Figure 5.37 Workflow Applications appear in the Dock while running.

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Workflow Applications

To run the workflow:

Chapter 5

Quitting a workflow Application There may be a time when you decide you need to cancel a workflow Application while it’s running. For example, the workflow might be taking too long to run and you don’t want to wait for it to complete, or you might have inadvertently launched the incorrect Application and need to stop it before it gets too far.

Figure 5.38 It’s easy to stop a running workflow Application from the menu bar.

To quit a running workflow Application:

Workflow Applications





Click the icon in the menu bar and choose Stop and the Application’s name (Figure 5.38). or Bring the Application to the front and choose Quit NewApplication from the Application’s menu in the menu bar (Figure 5.39).

✔ Tip ■

The name NewApplication in the Application menu of a workflow Application is likely a bug and should really indicate the name of the Application.

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Figure 5.39 Quitting a workflow Application from the Application’s menu.

Types of Workflows

Processing files and folders with a workflow Application

Figure 5.40 Disabling an action from the menu bar.

Disabled action

One of the most useful features of workflow Applications is that they are automatically saved as drag-and-drop applications, making it super easy to process files and folders. Simply drop some files or folders onto your workflow, and they are automatically passed as input to the first action for processing.

To prepare the workflow: 1. With the Compress and Send workflow Application opened in Automator, select the Ask for Finder Items action and choose Action > Disable (Figure 5.40). The Ask for Finder Items action should now appear grayed out, and its interface should be hidden (Figure 5.41). 2. Save the modified workflow (press $%S ). Figure 5.41 The Compress and Send workflow with a disabled Ask for Finder Items action.

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Workflow Applications

The first action in the Compress and Send workflow asks you to choose a file or folder to process. Because you’ve saved the workflow as an Application, however, you can simply drag a file or folder onto the Application to begin processing. Therefore, the Ask for Finder Items action is not necessary.

Chapter 5

Workflow Applications

✔ Tips ■

With the Ask for Finder Items action disabled, any files or folders received as input to the workflow go directly to the Create Archive action.



Don’t forget to check the description area of the first action in a workflow Application and make sure it accepts files and folders as input. Otherwise, the workflow won’t be able to process dropped files and folders.



When building a drag-and-drop workflow Application, be sure not to include a Get Specified Finder Items or Get Selected Finder Items action at the beginning of the workflow. Otherwise, dropped items may be processed by the workflow twice!

To process files or folders: ◆

Drag and drop the files and folders you want to process onto the workflow Application (Figure 5.42). The dropped files and folders are passed as input to the first action in the workflow Application. If the first action accepts files and folders, the dropped items are processed and you’re off and rolling.

Figure 5.42 Drag and drop files and folders onto workflow Applications to begin processing them.

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Types of Workflows

Editing a workflow Application The process for editing a workflow Application is a bit different than that for a Workflow file. Double-clicking on a Workflow file opens it in Automator, whereas doubleclicking a workflow Application causes it to run. Therefore, you need to instruct Automator to open the Application.

To open a workflow Application: Figure 5.43 Opening a workflow Application.

2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to either Application or All. Setting it to Application ensures that you’re only able to select workflows that are saved as Applications. 3. Locate the Application and click Open (Figure 5.43). The workflow Application opens in Automator and is ready for editing.

✔ Tip ■

You can also open a workflow Application by dragging it from the Finder onto the Automator icon in your Dock.

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Workflow Applications

1. In Automator, choose File > Open. or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel. An Open dialog is displayed, allowing you to choose a workflow.

Chapter 5

Services

Services

If you’re an avid Mac OS X user, you may be familiar with Services, a powerful though fairly underutilized feature of the operating system. Services offer a way for applications to share their useful and unique features with other applications throughout the operating system. For example, the Mail application “broadcasts” its ability to send an email message as a Service. When you’re in another application, such as TextEdit, you can initiate this Service to quickly and easily generate a new message in Mail that contains the currently selected text. The application that provides the text is completely isolated from Mail, and it doesn’t need to know anything about how to generate an email message. It simply passes the selected text to the Service, which handles the rest (Figures 5.44 and 5.45).

Figure 5.45 An email message containing selected text, created via a Service.

Service

Selected text

Figure 5.44 Triggering a Service built into Mac OS X to create a new email containing selected text.

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Types of Workflows Service

Accessing Services Services can be triggered in Mac OS X in several ways:

Figure 5.46 In most applications, Services can be run from the Services submenu in the application menu.

Services menu. Most applications provide access to Services through a Services submenu in the application menu (Figure 5.46).



Contextual menus. Many applications allow you to run Services from contextual menus. Hold down C and click on some text or a file to display a contextual menu (Figure 5.47).



Custom access. Some applications allow you to run Services in other, more integrated ways. For example, the Finder includes an Action menu, which lists Services (Figure 5.48).



Keyboard shortcuts. Services can even be assigned keyboard shortcuts—which you can customize, if desired—making it even easier to trigger them (Figure 5.49).

Service Figure 5.47 Some applications provide contextual menu access to Services.

Action menu

S$%Y keyboard shortcut

Service Figure 5.48 The Finder contains an Action menu, which provides access to Services.

Figure 5.49 Some Services can be run using keyboard shortcuts.

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Services



Chapter 5

Services

In Snow Leopard, Services are contextual. That is, they are enabled or disabled based on your current environment. For example, some Services are accessible only when you’re in a specific application, whereas others are accessible in all applications. Services that have the ability to process data are accessible only when the appropriate type of data is selected. For example, a Service that processes text appears when text is selected, whereas a Service that processes image files only appears when image files are selected. Services irrelevant to the current environment are automatically hidden from view, reducing the possibility for confusion or error. Services are also customizable, and you have full control over the Services that are available on your Mac. You can enable or disable specific Services, based on your unique needs, using System Preferences, as you’ll learn shortly.

✔ Tips ■

Lots of Services are built into Mac OS X. As you install new applications, some of those applications add even more.



Unfortunately, the iLife and iWork (iPhoto, iMovie, Keynote, etc.) applications, as well as Apple’s Pro applications (Aperture, Final Cut Pro, Logic, etc.) don’t provide integrated Services support via contextual menus or other built-in methods. Therefore, the only way you can trigger Services within these applications is from the Services menu in the application menu.

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Types of Workflows Service button

Automator and Services Snow Leopard introduces the ability to create your own custom Services with Automator. Simply build a new workflow, specify the type of content you want the workflow to process—such as text or image files—and choose whether the Service should be available in a specific application or in all applications. If your Service workflow processes text, you can also choose to replace the selected text with the processed text that’s output by your workflow. After your Service has been saved, you can even assign it a keyboard shortcut, if desired.

Figure 5.50 Creating a Service workflow.

Target application

Building, saving, and running a text processing Service workflow Text replacement option Figure 5.51 A Service workflow provides configuration settings in the header bar above the workflow area.

The following example workflow processes selected text in an application. When triggered, it looks up a selected word or term in Mac OS X’s dictionary and replaces the word or term with its definition. A Service like this might be useful to students for preparing a study sheet for an upcoming test.

Actions used: ◆

Get Definition of Word

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new workflow. When the template selection panel appears, select Service and click Choose (Figure 5.50). A new workflow window appears, and its header area includes some configuration options for the Service (Figure 5.51). continues on next page

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Services

Data to process

In this section, you’ll create two Service workflows that illustrate different ways of processing content. The first one processes text, and the second processes files.

Chapter 5 2. In the header area of the workflow, verify that the workflow is set to receive selected “text” from “any application” and that the “Replaces selected text” checkbox is selected (Figure 5.52).

Figure 5.52 Configuring a Service workflow to process selected text in any application.

3. From the Text category in the Library list, locate the Get Definition of Word action and drag it to the workflow. No additional configuration of this action is required (Figure 5.53). That’s it. The workflow is complete, and it’s ready to be saved and tested in an application.

Figure 5.53 A Service workflow that looks up the definition of a word or term received as input.

Services

✔ Tips ■

When building a Service workflow that processes text, make sure that the first action in the workflow accepts text as input.



When building a Service workflow that replaces selected text, make sure that the last action in the workflow produces text as its result.

Selectively Processing Text Service workflows that process text can be made even more selective. They can actually be configured to process specific kinds of text. Mac OS X’s data detection capabilities analyze selected text in an application and only allow your workflow to be run as a Service when appropriate. To enable this functionality, just choose the desired kind of text you want the workflow to process from the pop-up menu in the workflow’s header area (Figure 5.54). Options include: ◆

Text (i.e., any text)



URLs



Addresses



Phone numbers



Dates



Email addresses

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Figure 5.54 Service workflows can be configured to process specific kinds of text, such as URLs or email addresses.

Types of Workflows

To save the workflow:

Figure 5.55 When saving a Service workflow, you only specify a name for the Service. Automator handles the rest.

1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing Service using a new name, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays a Save panel attached to the workflow window. This Save panel is a bit different than that of a Workflow file or an Application. Rather than specifying an output location, you can only specify a name for the Service workflow. 2. In the panel’s “Save Service as” text field, type Replace with Word Definition (Figure 5.55).

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3. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as a Service and installs it into the proper location on your machine automatically. You can now run the Service anytime you have selected text in an application that provides access to Services.

Chapter 5

To run the workflow: 1. Launch TextEdit, create a new document, type and select a word or term you’d like to define, such as the term Steve Jobs (Figure 5.56).

Figure 5.56 Selecting a term to define in a TextEdit document. Service workflow

Services

2. Choose TextEdit > Services > Replace with Word Definition (Figure 5.57). or While holding down C , click the selected text and choose Replace with Word Definition from TextEdit’s contextual menu (Figure 5.58). The workflow runs, and the selected word or term is replaced with its definition (Figure 5.59).

Figure 5.57 Triggering the Replace with Word Definition Service workflow from the Services menu.

Service workflow Figure 5.58 Triggering the Replace with Word Definition Service workflow from a contextual menu.

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Figure 5.59 The Service workflow replaces the selected word or term with its definition.

Types of Workflows

What you see when the workflow runs: ◆ Figure 5.60 Stopping a Service workflow from the menu bar.

As a Service workflow runs, the menu bar icon. If the workflow runs displays a quickly, this icon may only appear briefly, in some cases, even too briefly to see.

To stop the running Service workflow: ◆

While the Service workflow is runicon in the menu bar ning, click the and choose Stop “Replace with Word Definition” (Figure 5.60).

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Chapter 5

Building, saving, and running a file processing Service workflow Processing files is just as easy as processing text. The following example workflow copies selected image files to the desktop to preserve the originals, and then converts them to a different type that is specified at runtime. For example, you might use this workflow to convert JPEG images to TIFF format.

Actions used: ◆

Copy Finder Items



Change Type of Images

Figure 5.61 A Service workflow configured to receive image files from the Finder.

Figure 5.62 The Copy Finder Items action makes sure your original images stay safe.

Services

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new workflow. In the template selection panel, select Service and click Choose. A new workflow window appears with Services configuration options in the header area. 2. In the header area of the workflow, set the pop-up menus, respectively, to receive “image files” from the Finder (Figure 5.61).

Figure 5.63 The Change Type of Images action converts images from one type to another.

Figure 5.64 Configuring the Change Type of Images action to display its interface allows you to choose the desired type at runtime.

3. Click the Files & Folders category in the library, and drag the Copy Finder Items action to the workflow. You don’t need to modify its settings. By default, it copies items to the desktop (Figure 5.62). 4. From the Photos category, drag the Change Type of Images action to the workflow area (Figure 5.63). 5. Click Options at the bottom of the action, and select “Show this action when the workflow runs” (Figure 5.64). When your workflow runs, this action’s interface is displayed, allowing you to choose the desired type of image on the fly. The workflow is done (Figure 5.65).

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Figure 5.65 The completed file processing Service workflow.

Types of Workflows

To save the workflow:

Figure 5.66 Saving the Change Type of Images Service workflow.

1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing Service using a new name, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays the Save panel attached to the workflow. 2. In the “Save Service as” text field, type Change Type of Images (Figure 5.66). 3. Click Save. Automator saves the Service and installs it for you.

Services

Selectively Processing Files or Folders Like text, you can configure a Service workflow to process specific kinds of files and folders. Once this is done, the Service can be run only on appropriate files (Figure 5.54). Available kinds of files or folders include: ◆

File or folders (i.e., any files or folders)



Folders (no files)



Documents



Image files



PDF files



Movie files



Audio files



Text files

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To run the workflow:

Service workflow

Services

1. Bring the Finder to the front. Then locate and select some image files. 2. Choose Finder > Services > Change Type of Images (Figure 5.67). or While holding down C , click the selected images and choose Change Type of Images from the contextual menu (Figure 5.68). or Choose Change Type of Images from the Action menu in the toolbar of the window containing the images (Figure 5.69). The workflow begins running, and the selected image files are passed to the first action in the workflow as input— much like dropping files onto a workflow application. The images are first copied Selected images Figure 5.67 Running the Change Type of Images workflow from the Services menu.

Service workflow Figure 5.68 Running the Change Type of Images workflow from the Finder’s contextual menu.

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Service workflow Figure 5.69 Running the Change Type of Images workflow from the Finder window’s Action menu.

Types of Workflows to the desktop. Then the Change Type of Images action’s window appears, allowing you to choose the desired image type (Figure 5.70). 3. Choose the desired type of images from the To Type pop-up menu. For example, if your images are JPEGs, you could choose TIFF.

Figure 5.70 The Change Type of Images action’s interface displays at runtime.

Original images

Processed images

4. Click Continue. The copied images on your desktop are converted to the specified type, and you now have two sets of images, the originals and a new set (Figure 5.71). You’re done. It’s that easy.

✔ Tips Don’t worry about losing your original images. Remember, the Copy Finder Items action copies the images to your desktop before the images are processed.



You can find dozens of useful downloadable Service workflows at www. macosxautomation.com/services/.

Other Types of Services A Service workflow doesn’t have to process text or files or folders. A Service workflow can also run without processing any input data. To configure a Service to behave in this manner, set the first pop-up menu in the header area No input to process “no input” (Figure 5.72). When the Service is triggered, it simply runs without acting on the selected data. Figure 5.72 Service workflows can be configured to require no input.

For Apple Remote Desktop users, Service workflows can even be built to process Remote Computers, allowing you to create Services that automate remote administrative tasks (Figure 5.73).

Remote Computers

Figure 5.73 Service workflows can be configured to process Remote Computers in Apple Remote Desktop.

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Services

Figure 5.71 Original images (JPEGs) and images produced by the Change Type of Images Service workflow (TIFFs).



Chapter 5

Editing a Service Workflow Like other types of workflows, you can open Service workflows and edit them.

To open a Service workflow:

Services

1. In Automator, choose File > Open. or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel. An Open window appears, prompting you to select a workflow.

Figure 5.74 Opening a saved Service workflow.

2. Set the Type pop-up menu to either Service or All. 3. Locate the desired Service and click Open (Figure 5.74). The Service opens in Automator and is ready for editing.

What About Finder Plug-ins? If you’ve used Automator in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard, recall that Automator allowed you to save workflows as Finder plug-ins. These plug-ins appeared in the Finder’s contextual menu and could be run to process selected files and folders. In Snow Leopard, Finder plug-ins have been replaced by Service workflows. This means that if you have existing Finder plug-in workflows, you won’t see them in the Finder’s contextual menu anymore. To get them back, you’ll need to re-create them as Service workflows. Actually, you can still open your existing Finder plug-ins in Automator. You’ll find them in the ~/Library/Workflows/ Applications/Finder folder in your home folder. Once opened, you can then merge them into new Service workflows. See “Converting Workflow Types,” later in this chapter to learn how to do this.

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Types of Workflows

✔ Tips Service workflows reside in the ~/Library/Services directory (Figure 5.75). When you set the Type pop-up menu in the Open dialog to Service, Automator automatically displays the contents of this folder.



A tilde (~) at the beginning of a folder path means that the folder resides in your home (i.e., user) directory.



At times, you may want to open an existing Service workflow, change its input type, such as from text to URLs, and then resave it. If you do this but the change doesn’t appear to take effect in the Services menu, try performing a Save As instead and replacing the previous version of the workflow with the modified version.

Figure 5.75 Service workflows are stored in the ~/Library/Services folder.

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Services



Chapter 5

Configuring Service workflows As you build more workflows and install more applications, your list of Services will likely continue to grow considerably, and you’ll need a way to manage them.

Services

For example, you may not want or need all Services to be active on your machine at once. To help, Mac OS X allows you to enable or disable individual Services. A disabled Service no longer appears in the Services menu or other areas in which Services are triggered.

Figure 5.76 Opening System Preferences via the Apple menu.

Keyboard settings

Mac OS X also allows you to assign keyboard shortcuts (i.e., key commands) to Services. Doing this to your commonly used Services can improve your workflow by reducing mouse clicks. Simply press the appropriate keys and the Service begins running. Services are configured via the Keyboard settings in System Preferences.

To disable or enable a Service workflow: 1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences (Figure 5.76). The System Preferences application launches (Figure 5.77).

Figure 5.77 System Preferences provides access to loads of system-wide settings on your Mac.

Keyboard Shortcuts tab

2. Click Keyboard. The keyboard settings are displayed (Figure 5.78).

Figure 5.78 The keyboard settings area in System Preferences.

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Types of Workflows Services category

Services

3. Click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab if it’s not already selected. A list of global keyboard shortcuts organized into categories is displayed. 4. Click the Services category in the column on the left side of the window (Figure 5.79). A list of Services is displayed.

Figure 5.79 Viewing settings for Services in the Keyboard area in System Preferences.

✔ Tip ■

To remove a Service workflow entirely, go to ~/Library/Services and delete the workflow.

Figure 5.80 Disabling the Change Type of Images Service.

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Services

Enable/disable checkbox

5. Scroll through the list, and deselect a checkbox next to a Service to disable it (Figure 5.80). The Service is disabled throughout the operating system. To enable it again, return to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in the keyboard settings area in System Preferences, and select the Service’s checkbox again.

Chapter 5

To assign a keyboard shortcut to a Service workflow:

Keyboard shortcut

1. In the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in the keyboard settings area in System Preferences, locate the desired Service. 2. Double-click the area immediately to the right of the Service’s name. 3. Press the desired keyboard shortcut, such as Co$%C (Figure 5.81). The shortcut is applied and now appears next to the Service in the Services menu (Figure 5.82).

Services

Figure 5.81 Assigning a keyboard shortcut to a service. Keyboard shortcut

Figure 5.82 A Service with a keyboard shortcut.

Managing Services Services Manager (Figure 5.83), a third-party utility, makes it even easier to configure Services in Snow Leopard. Its concise interface provides a more organized hierarchy of Services than you’ll find in System Preferences and even allows you to create your own custom groupings of frequently used Services. Services Manager makes it easy to enable and disable Services, and add keyboard shortcuts. It also allows you to specify whether individual Services appear in contextual menus, as well as how many Services can be displayed in contextual menus—there’s normally a limit. You can download this useful utility from www. macosxautomation.com/services/servicesmanager/.

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Figure 5.83 Services Manager, a third-party utility for managing Services in Mac OS X.

Types of Workflows

Folder Actions Need to create an unattended watched folder workflow? It’s simple. Just build an Automator workflow as a Folder Action and attach it to a specified folder. Once set up, there’s no need for you to monitor the folder for incoming items. The workflow automatically runs whenever files or folders are added to the folder.

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Folder Actions

As I’m sure you can imagine, there are countless uses for such a workflow. For example, you could attach a Folder Action to your incoming fax folder to run whenever a new fax arrives. Or, you could create a Folder Action that alerts you whenever someone copies a file into your Public folder. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Chapter 5

Building and saving a Folder Action workflow In this section, you’ll learn how to create a Folder Action workflow that runs whenever images are placed into a folder. Once triggered, it moves the detected images to the desktop and duplicates them into another folder to preserve the originals. It then converts the duplicate images to black and white.

Figure 5.84 A desktop folder ready to become a fully automated watched folder.

Folder Action button

Folder Actions

Actions used: ◆

Move Finder Items



New Folder



Get Folder Contents



Apply Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new folder on your desktop and name it Conversion Input (Figure 5.84). This folder will be utilized by the workflow. 2. Bring Automator to the front and create a new workflow. When the template selection panel appears, choose to create a Folder Action. Then click Choose (Figure 5.85). A new workflow window appears, and its header area indicates that the Folder Action receives files and folders added to a folder, which you have yet to specify (Figure 5.86). 3. Choose Other from the pop-up menu in the header area. A window appears, and you are asked to select a folder.

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Figure 5.85 Creating a Folder Action workflow.

Figure 5.86 A Folder Action workflow’s header lets you know that the workflow receives files and folders as input.

Types of Workflows 4. Locate the Conversion Input folder you created on the desktop in step 1. Then click Choose (Figure 5.87). The pop-up menu in the workflow’s header area updates to show the chosen folder (Figure 5.88).

Figure 5.87 Choosing a watched folder for the Folder Action workflow.

Figure 5.89 The Move Finder Items action moves detected items out of the watched folder for processing.

6. Drag the New Folder action to the workflow. Type Black and White Images into the Name field, and leave the Where popup set to create the folder on the Desktop (Figure 5.90). If you check the description of the New Folder action, you’ll see that it copies files and folders it receives as input into the new folder. Therefore, an additional action isn’t needed to duplicate the images into the new folder, because this happens automatically (Figure 5.91). continues on next page

Figure 5.90 The New Folder action creates an output folder for the processed image files.

Figure 5.91 The New Folder action’s description shows that the action copies items passed as input into the new folder.

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Folder Actions

Figure 5.88 The Folder Action workflow, configured to watch a specific folder.

5. From the Files & Folders category in the Library list, drag the Move Finder Items action to the workflow area. You can leave it set to move items to the Desktop and not to replace existing items (Figure 5.89). This action moves detected items out of the attached folder, so they aren’t accidentally detected by the workflow a second time.

Chapter 5

Folder Actions

7. With the Files & Folders category still selected in the Library, drag the Get Folder Contents action to the end of the workflow (Figure 5.92). This action is necessary because the result of the New Folder action is the newly created folder. What you want, however, is the contents of the newly created folder, not the folder itself. 8. Click the Photos category in the Library list. Locate the Apply Quartz Filter to Image Files action, and add it to the workflow. When you do this, Automator displays a warning, which indicates that the action will change your image files when the workflow runs. The warning suggests inserting a Copy Finder Items action first to preserve the originals. The workflow already creates duplicates of your original images. So, this additional step is unnecessary, because it would just create yet another copy. Choose not to insert the Copy Finder Items action by clicking Don’t Add (Figure 5.93). The Apply Quartz Filter to Image Files action is added to the workflow. Set the action’s pop-up menu to Black and White (Figure 5.94).

Figure 5.92 The Get Folder Contents action gets the image files from the newly created folder.

Figure 5.93 The Apply Quartz Filter to Image Files action warns you that it modifies your image files.

Figure 5.94 The Apply Quartz Filter to Image Files action converts your images to black and white during processing.

The Folder Action workflow is complete and is ready to be saved (Figure 5.95).

Figure 5.95 The completed Folder Action workflow ready to be saved.

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Types of Workflows

✔ Tips Make sure that your Folder Action workflow doesn’t create or rename files in the attached folder. Otherwise, they’ll be detected by the Folder Action and be processed by the workflow. This can create a vicious cycle and simply isn’t a good idea.



To improve Folder Action performance, it’s good practice to remove items from the watched folder immediately after processing.



Whenever modifying images or other files, especially in an irreversible way, it’s best practice to work with duplicates of your originals. This way you can revert back to the originals should you need to do so. Just be sure not to create the duplicates in the watched folder.

Figure 5.96 Saving a Folder Action workflow.

To save the workflow: 1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing Folder Action using a new name, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays a Save panel. 2. In the “Save Folder Action as” field, type Convert Images to Black and White

(Figure 5.96). 3. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as a Folder Action, installs it into the proper location on your machine, and attaches it to the folder you chose when you built the workflow.

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Folder Actions



Chapter 5

Running a Folder Action workflow Running a Folder Action workflow could not be easier.

To run the workflow:

Folder Actions



Select one or more images in the Finder, and drag them into the Conversion Input folder on the desktop (Figure 5.97). After a second or two, the Automator workflow begins running. The images are moved to the desktop, duplicated into a new folder named Black and White Images—which the workflow creates— and converted to black and white (Figure 5.98).

Figure 5.97 Select some image files, and drag them to the watched folder for processing.

✔ Tips ■



In Snow Leopard, Folder Actions try to wait for an item to finish writing to the attached folder before triggering. This is done by monitoring the size of the item until it remains unchanged for at least three seconds. In previous versions of Mac OS X, Folder Actions triggered immediately when an item appeared in the folder, causing problems if the item was still copying or saving. A workflow very similar to the Convert Images example Folder Action in this section was used to prepare all the screen shots for this book as black and white TIFF images.

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Figure 5.98 The original images move to the desktop, and the processed images appear in a new folder.

Types of Workflows

What you see when the workflow runs: ◆ Figure 5.99 You can stop running a Folder Action workflow via the menu bar.

As a Folder Action workflow runs, the icon. If the menu bar displays a workflow runs quickly, this icon may only appear briefly, in some cases, even too briefly to see.

To stop the running Folder Action workflow: ◆

While the Folder Action workflow is icon in the menu running, click the bar and choose Stop “Convert Images to Black and White” (Figure 5.99).

Folder Actions

Folder Actions and AppleScript Folder Actions can also be written in AppleScript, and doing so offers you some additional processing opportunities. Like an Automator-based Folder Action, an AppleScript can be written to run when items are placed into the attached folder. It can also, however, be written to run when items are removed from the attached folder, when the folder’s window is opened, or when the folder’s window is closed.

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Editing a Folder Action Folder Action workflows can be reopened and edited, if needed, just like other types of workflows.

To open a Folder Action workflow:

Folder Actions

1. Within Automator, choose File > Open. or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel.

Figure 5.100 Opening an existing Folder Action workflow in Automator.

2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to either Folder Action or All. 3. Locate the desired Folder Action and click Open (Figure 5.100). The Folder Action workflow opens in Automator and is ready for editing.

✔ Tip ■

Folder Action workflows reside in the ~/ Library/Workflows/Applications/Folder Actions directory (Figure 5.101). When you set the Type pop-up menu in the Open dialog to Folder Action, Automator automatically displays the contents of this folder.

Figure 5.101 Folder Action workflows are saved in ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/Folder Actions.

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Types of Workflows

Managing Folder Actions

Figure 5.102 You launch Folder Actions Setup from the Finder’s contextual menu.

The Folder Actions Setup application provides a central place to manage all the Folder Actions that are configured on your machine. Here, you can enable or disable Folder Actions, create new watched folders, and more.

To access Folder Actions Setup: 1. While holding the C key, click on a folder to display the Finder’s contextual menu.

✔ Tips ■

If you are prompted to choose a script to attach when Folder Actions Setup launches, you can simply click Cancel (Figure 5.104).



The Folder Action Setup application is found in the /System/Library/ CoreServices folder (Figure 5.105). You can launch it from there, if you prefer, rather than from the Finder’s contextual menu.



In Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard, Folder Actions Setup was found in /Applications/AppleScript. This folder no longer exists in Snow Leopard.

Figure 5.103 Folder Actions Setup allows you to manage your Folder Actions.

Figure 5.104 Sometimes, Folder Actions Setup prompts you to choose a script to attach.

Figure 5.105 Folder Actions Setup is found in /System/Library/CoreServices on your Mac.

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Folder Actions

2. Choose Folder Actions Setup from the contextual menu (Figure 5.102). The Folder Actions Setup application launches (Figure 5.103).

Chapter 5

To disable or enable a Folder Action: ◆

Enable/disable individual Folder Action checkbox

In the left column of the Folder Actions Setup window, deselect the checkbox next to desired Folder Action (Figure 5.106). The Folder Action is now disabled. To enable it again, select the Folder Action’s checkbox in the left column of the window.

As you build more and more Folder Action workflows on your Mac, use these steps to enable or disable them as needed.

Folder Actions

To disable or enable all Folder Actions: ◆

Deselect the Enable Folder Actions checkbox in the Folder Actions Setup application (Figure 5.107). Folder Actions are disabled system-wide on your Mac. To enable them again, select the Enable Folder Actions checkbox in Folder Actions Setup.

Figure 5.106 Disabling an existing Folder Action.

Enable/disable all Folder Actions checkbox

To detach a Folder Action from a folder: ◆

In the left column of the Folder Actions Setup window, select the desired Folder Action and click the minus (–) button beneath the column. Folder Actions Setup displays an alert panel asking you to confirm you really want to delete the Folder Action. Click OK (Figure 5.108). The Folder Action is detached from its folder.

✔ Tip ■

If you want to actually delete a Folder Action workflow rather than just detaching it from its folder, go to the ~/Library/ Workflows/Applications/Folder Actions folder, find the workflow, and move it to the trash.

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Figure 5.107 Folder Actions can be disabled systemwide, if desired.

Figure 5.108 Folder Actions Setup warns you before removing a Folder Action.

Types of Workflows

To attach an existing Folder Action to a new folder: 1. In the left column of the Folder Actions Setup window, click the plus (+) button beneath the column. A window appears, and you are prompted to choose a folder.

Figure 5.109 Choosing a watched folder for a Folder Action.

2. Locate the desired folder and click Open (Figure 5.109). The window disappears, and a new panel prompts you to choose a Folder Action to attach to the folder.

✔ Tip ■

Figure 5.110 Choosing a Folder Action to attach to a folder.

Watched folder

This example uses an AppleScript-based Folder Action—add - new item alert. scpt—that’s built into Mac OS X. Once configured, this Folder Action displays a message anytime a new item is detected in the attached folder (Figure 5.112).

Folder Action

Figure 5.111 A watched folder attached to a Folder Action.

Figure 5.112 The “add – new item alert.scpt” Folder Action notifies you when an item is added to the attached folder.

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Folder Actions

3. Select the desired Folder Action. Then click Attach (Figure 5.110). The window closes, and Folder Actions Setup indicates that the Folder Action is attached to the specified folder (Figure 5.111).

Chapter 5

Print Plugins

Print Plugins

You are probably already aware that you can convert any Mac OS X document to PDF format by selecting Save as PDF from the PDF pop-up menu at the bottom of the Print window. To further enhance your PDF processing capabilities, Automator allows you to create Print Plugins, which can also be run from this menu. When printing any document, in virtually any application in Mac OS X, simply choose the workflow to save the current document as a PDF and begin processing it with your workflow (Figure 5.113).

Building and saving a Print Plugin As you may know, metadata, such as an author’s name, copyright information, keywords, and more, may be embedded into PDF documents. This information can be useful for determining the source, content, or creator of a PDF. For this example, you’ll create a Print Plugin that can be triggered from the PDF pop-up menu in the Mac OS X Print window in any application. Once triggered, the workflow saves your document as a PDF, moves it to the desktop, names it using the current date, and adds specified metadata to it.

Actions used: ◆

Move Finder Items



Rename Finder Items



Set PDF Metadata

142

Figure 5.113 Automator workflows can be triggered from the Print window in Mac OS X.

Types of Workflows Print Plugin button

To build the workflow: 1. In Automator, create a new workflow. When the template selection panel appears, choose to create a Print Plugin and click Choose (Figure 5.114). A new workflow window appears, and its header area indicates that the Print Plugin receives PDF files from the print system (Figure 5.115).

Figure 5.114 Creating a Print Plugin workflow.

continues on next page Figure 5.116 The Rename Finder Items action warns you that the names of your files will be changed.

Add before names option

Figure 5.117 Set the Rename Finder Items action to add the current date before the file names.

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Print Plugins

Figure 5.115 The header area of a Print Plugin workflow.

2. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Rename Finder Items action to the workflow area. Automator displays a warning, indicating that the action will change the names of your files in an irreversible way. The warning suggests inserting a Copy Finder Items action first to preserve the original names. This isn’t necessary, since the workflow is processing a newly created PDF document, so click Don’t Add to prevent the Copy Finder Items action from being added to the workflow (Figure 5.116). The Rename Finder Items action is added to the workflow. It’s already configured to add the current date to the names of files. Simply change the Where pop-up menu to add the date before the name rather than after it (Figure 5.117).

Chapter 5 3. Drag the Move Finder Items action to the workflow area. The action should already be set to move files to the Desktop, so no additional configuration is needed (Figure 5.118). 4. From the PDFs category, drag the Set PDF Metadata action to the workflow area.

Figure 5.118 The Move Finder Items action moves the PDF to the desktop when the workflow runs.

Author field

Content Creator field

Print Plugins

5. Click the checkbox next to the Author text field, and enter your name. Then click the checkbox next to the Content Creator field, and enter some text, such as copyright information. If you’d like, you can enable other fields and enter default values into them too. 6. Click the Options button at the bottom of the action. The action expands to display additional options.

Show action when run checkbox Options button Figure 5.119 The Set PDF Metadata action, which contains some default values, displays its interface when the workflow runs.

7. Click “Show this action when the workflow runs” (Figure 5.119). When the workflow runs, it displays the Set PDF Metadata action, enabling you to modify the text fields, enter keywords, and more. The workflow is complete and ready to be saved (Figure 5.120).

✔ Tips ■

To insert the © symbol in text, press oG .



Print Plugins process PDFs that are written into a hidden temporary folder on your Mac. So, it’s a good idea to use the Move Finder Items action to move them somewhere useful during processing, such as the desktop or your Documents folder.

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Figure 5.120 The finished Create Dated PDF with Metadata workflow.

Types of Workflows

To save the workflow:

Figure 5.121 Saving a Print Plugin workflow.

1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing Print Plugin using a new name, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays the Save panel. 2. In the “Save Print Plugin as” field, type Create Dated PDF with Metadata (Figure 5.121). 3. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as a Print Plugin and installs it into the proper location on your machine.

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Chapter 5

Running a Print Plugin workflow A saved Print Plugin workflow automatically appears in the PDF pop-up menu of the Mac OS X Print window whenever you print something.

To run the workflow:

Print Plugins

1. Open a document to print, such as a TextEdit document. Or, if desired, you can simply use your opened Automator workflow. 2. Choose File > Print. or Press $%P . The Mac OS X Print window is displayed. 3. Choose Create Dated PDF with Metadata from the PDF pop-up menu in the bottom left of the Print window (Figure 5.122). The currently opened document is saved as a PDF to a temporary folder, and the Insert PDF Metadata Automator workflow runs and begins to process the PDF. The workflow first renames the PDF by appending a date prefix. Next, it moves the PDF to the desktop. Then it displays the Set PDF Metadata window. 4. Enter the desired information into the Set PDF Metadata window, such as a title for the PDF, a subject, and keywords. 5. Click Continue (Figure 5.123). The workflow appends the specified metadata to the PDF.

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Print Plugin workflow Figure 5.122 Running a Print Plugin workflow from the Mac OS X Print window.

Figure 5.123 The Set PDF Metadata window allows you to modify metadata values at runtime.

Figure 5.124 A dated PDF created by the Print Plugin workflow.

Types of Workflows

Metadata

You should now see a PDF on your desktop with a date prefix (Figure 5.124). To verify that the metadata was successfully applied, open the PDF in Preview and choose Tools > Show Inspector (or press $%I ) to display an information window. The information window should list the metadata values that you specified when the workflow ran (Figure 5.125).

What you see when the workflow runs: Figure 5.125 Viewing metadata for a PDF in Preview’s Inspector palette.



As a Print Plugin workflow runs, the icon. If the menu bar displays a workflow runs quickly, this icon may only appear briefly, in some cases, even too briefly to see.



While the Print Plugin workflow is runicon in the menu bar ning, click the and choose Stop “Create Dated PDF with Metadata.”

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Print Plugins

To stop running the Print Plugin workflow:

Chapter 5

Editing a Print Plugin Workflow Automator saves Print Plugin workflows as specially formatted workflow files into the ~/Library/PDF Services folder on your Mac (Figure 5.126).

To open the workflow:

Print Plugins

1. Within Automator, choose File > Open. or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel.

Figure 5.126 Print Plugin workflows are saved into ~/Library/PDF Services.

2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to either Print Plugin or All. 3. Locate the desired Print Plugin and click Open (Figure 5.127). The Print Plugin workflow opens in Automator and is ready for editing.

✔ Tips ■

When you set the Type pop-up menu in the Open dialog to Print Plugin, Automator automatically displays the contents of the ~/Library/PDF Services folder.



To delete or remove a Print Plugin, simply navigate to the ~/Library/PDF Services folder, locate the workflow, and move it to the trash or another folder. When you do this, the workflow no longer appears in the PDF pop-up menu at the bottom of the Print window.

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Figure 5.127 Opening a Print Plugin workflow.

Types of Workflows iCal Alarm button

iCal Alarms As you may recall from Chapter 2, “Building Simple Workflows,” an Automator workflow can be saved as an iCal Alarm, enabling you to configure the workflow to run at a specific date and time. You can even set it to run on a repeating schedule, such as every day at midnight. In Chapter 2, you created an iCal Alarm that did just this—it sent birthday greetings via email every evening.

Building, saving, and running an iCal Alarm workflow Figure 5.128 Creating an iCal Alarm workflow.

Actions used: Figure 5.129 An iCal Alarm workflow’s header lets you know that the workflow is run by an iCal event.



Get Specified iTunes Items



Play iTunes Playlist



Start iTunes Visuals

To build the workflow:

Add button Figure 5.130 The Get Specified iTunes Items action as it appears when first added to a workflow.

1. Create a new workflow in Automator. When the template selection panel appears, choose iCal Alarm. Then click Choose (Figure 5.128). A new workflow window appears, and its header area indicates that the iCal Alarm is run when triggered by an event in iCal (Figure 5.129). 2. From the Music category in the Library list, drag the Get Specified iTunes Items action to the workflow (Figure 5.130). continues on next page

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iCal Alarms

In this section, you’ll create another iCal Alarm workflow. This workflow wakes you up by playing a specified iTunes playlist at a scheduled time in the morning, complete with iTunes visuals.

Chapter 5 3. Click the Add button at the bottom of the Get Specified iTunes Items action. A panel is displayed, and you’re asked to select an iTunes item. 4. Select a playlist, such as Top 25 Most Played, and click Add (Figure 5.131). The selected playlist appears in the Get Specified iTunes Items action’s interface (Figure 5.132). 5. Locate the Play iTunes Playlist action in the Library list, and drag it to the workflow. You don’t need to change any settings in this action (Figure 5.133).

iCal Alarms

6. Add the Start iTunes Visuals action to the end of the workflow. 7. Select the “Full screen” checkbox in the Start iTunes Visuals action’s interface (Figure 5.134). This action displays some relaxing graphics to help you wake up when the playlist begins playing.

Figure 5.131 Choose an iTunes Playlist to be used by the workflow.

Playlist

Figure 5.132 The Get Specified iTunes Items action includes the chosen playlist.

The workflow is complete (Figure 5.135). Now, it’s time to save it.

Figure 5.133 The Play iTunes Playlist action plays the specified playlist when the workflow runs.

Figure 5.134 The Start iTunes Visuals action enables full-screen visuals to accompany the music.

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Figure 5.135 The complete iTunes Alarm Clock workflow.

Types of Workflows

To save the workflow:

Figure 5.136 Saving an iCal Alarm workflow.

1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing iCal Alarm using a new name in the future, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays a Save panel attached to the workflow window. 2. In the panel’s “Save iCal Alarm as” text field, type iTunes Alarm Clock (Figure 5.136).

4. Adjust the date, time, and repeat settings for the event within iCal. For example, set the alarm to repeat every weekday at 7:00 am (Figure 5.138). Repeating schedule

There’s no need to manually run the workflow. Each weekday when the iCal Alarm triggers, the workflow runs automatically, begins playing the specified iTunes playlist, and starts iTunes visuals (Figure 5.139).

Event alarm

Figure 5.138 iCal Alarm events can be adjusted to run the workflow on a schedule, such as every weekday at 7 am.

Figure 5.139 iTunes visuals display when the workflow begins playing the specified playlist.

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iCal Alarms

Figure 5.137 When an iCal Alarm is saved, iCal launches, and a new event is created, configured to trigger the workflow.

3. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as an iCal Alarm and installs it into the proper location on your machine. Next, iCal launches, and a new event is created at the current date and time in a calendar named Automator. The event is configured to an alarm, which is set to run the workflow (Figure 5.137).

Chapter 5

What you see when the workflow runs: ◆

Like the previous types of workflows, when an iCal Alarm workflow is running, icon. If the the menu bar displays a workflow runs quickly, this icon may only appear briefly, in some cases, even too briefly to see.

✔ Tip ■

For this example workflow, you won’t be able to see the menu, since iTunes visuals are displayed at full screen.

To stop the running iCal Alarm workflow:

iCal Alarms



While the iCal Alarm workflow is running, icon in the menu bar and click the choose Stop “iTunes Alarm Clock.”

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Types of Workflows

Editing an iCal Alarm workflow Automator saves iCal Alarms workflows as specially formatted workflow applications into the ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/ iCal folder on your Mac (Figure 5.140).

To open the workflow:

Figure 5.141 Opening an iCal Alarm workflow.

1. Within Automator, choose File > Open. or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel.

3. Locate the desired iCal Alarm workflow and click Open (Figure 5.141). The workflow opens in Automator and is ready for editing.

✔ Tips ■

When you set the Type pop-up menu in the Open dialog to iCal Alarm, Automator automatically displays the contents of the ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/iCal folder.



To delete an iCal Alarm, first launch iCal and delete any events that are configured to run the workflow. Next, navigate to the ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/iCal folder, locate the workflow, and move it to the trash or another folder.

Figure 5.140 iCal Alarm workflows are saved into ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/iCal.

153

iCal Alarms

2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to either iCal Alarm or All.

Chapter 5

Image Capture Plugins Another type of workflow that Automator supports is a plug-in for the Image Capture application, which is found in the Applications folder on your Mac. An Image Capture Plugin appears in Image Capture’s interface (Figure 5.142). When triggered, Image Capture downloads the photos from your camera and then passes them to the workflow for further processing.

Image Capture Plugins

Building and saving an Image Capture Plugin workflow

Image Capture Plugin Figure 5.142 Image Capture Plugin workflows can be run by the Image Capture application.

Image Capture Plugin button

Naturally, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to Image Capture Plugins. Any workflow that manipulates images makes a good candidate—resizing, renaming, converting images from one type to another, and so on. For this example, you’ll create a workflow that generates a multipage PDF of your images as you import them and attaches it to a new outgoing email message.

✔ Tip ■

If you create an Image Capture Plugin that manipulates your images, be sure that it makes a copy of them first, so your originals are preserved.

Figure 5.143 Creating an Image Capture Plugin workflow.

Actions used: ◆

New PDF from Images



New Mail Message

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new Automator workflow. When the template selection panel appears, choose to create an Image Capture Plugin, and then click Choose (Figure 5.143). A new workflow window appears, and its header area indicates that the Image Capture Plugin receives image files as input (Figure 5.144).

154

Figure 5.144 The header bar of an Image Capture Plugin workflow lets you know the workflow processes image files.

Types of Workflows 2. From the PDFs category, drag the New PDF from Images action to the workflow area.

Figure 5.145 The New PDF from Images action merges your downloaded images together into a multipage PDF.

3. Enter My Latest Photos in the Output File Name text field. The action should already be set to create the PDF on the Desktop, not to overwrite existing files, and to scale each page to fit. No additional configuration is necessary (Figure 5.145).

To save the workflow:

Figure 5.146 The New Mail Message action attaches the newly created PDF to an outgoing email message.

Figure 5.147 Saving an Image Capture Plugin workflow.

1. Choose File > Save or press $%S . or To save an existing Image Capture Plugin using a new name, choose File > Save As or press S$%S . Automator displays the Save panel. 2. In the “Save Image Capture Plugin as” field, type Send PDF Preview Email (Figure 5.147). 3. Click Save. Automator saves the workflow as an Image Capture Plugin and installs it into the proper location on your machine.

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Image Capture Plugins

4. From the Mail category, add the New Mail Message action to the end of the workflow. If desired, enter default values into the Subject and Message fields (Figure 5.146).

Chapter 5

Running an Image Capture Plugin workflow A saved Image Capture Plugin automatically appears in the Image Capture application and is accessible when a camera is connected.

To run the workflow: 1. Launch Image Capture.

Image Capture Plugins

2. Connect your digital camera to your Mac. Image Capture recognizes that your camera is connected and displays download options.

Image Capture Plugin Figure 5.148 Selecting an Image Capture Plugin to run after your images are downloaded.

3. From the Import To pop-up menu at the bottom of the Image Capture window, choose the workflow Send PDF Preview Email (Figure 5.148). 4. Click Import All to begin downloading the images (Figure 5.149). Image Capture downloads the images into the Pictures folder in your home folder.

156

Delete after Image Capture Import All import checkbox Plugin button Figure 5.149 Image Capture, ready to import images and run the workflow.

Types of Workflows After all images have been downloaded to your Mac (to the ~/Pictures folder, by default), Image Capture passes the paths to those images to the Send PDF Preview Email workflow for processing. Next, the workflow generates a PDF of the images on the desktop and attaches it to a new Mail message (Figures 5.150 and 5.151).

✔ Tip ■

What you see when the workflow runs: ◆

As an Image Capture Plugin workflow icon. If runs, the menu bar displays a the workflow runs quickly, this icon may only appear briefly, in some cases, even too briefly to see.

To stop the running Image Capture Plugin workflow: ◆

While the Image Capture Plugin workflow icon in the menu is running, click the bar and choose Stop “Send PDF Preview Email.”

Figure 5.151 A PDF of images generated by the Send PDF Preview Email Image Capture Plugin.

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Image Capture Plugins

PDF of images Figure 5.150 A Mail message generated by the Send PDF Preview Email Image Capture Plugin.

To ensure that your images aren’t permanently deleted from the camera after import, make sure the “Delete after import” checkbox is not selected in Image Capture (Figure 5.149).

Chapter 5

Editing an Image Capture Plugin workflow Image Capture Plugin workflows are saved as specially formatted workflow applications in the ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/ Image Capture folder on your Mac (Figure 5.152).

Image Capture Plugins

To open the workflow: 1. Within Automator, choose File > Open. or Press $%O . or Create a new workflow window, and click the Open an Existing Workflow button in the template selection panel.

Figure 5.153 Opening an Image Capture Plugin workflow.

✔ Tips ■

When you set the Type pop-up menu in the Open dialog to Image Capture Plugin, Automator automatically displays the contents of the ~/Library/Workflows/ Applications/Image Capture folder.



To delete or remove an Image Capture Plugin, navigate to the ~/Library/ Workflows/Applications/Image Capture folder, locate the workflow, and move it to the trash or another folder. When you do this, the workflow no longer appears in Image Capture.

2. In the Open dialog, set the Type pop-up menu to either Image Capture Plugin or All. 3. Locate the desired Image Capture Plugin and click Open (Figure 5.153). The Image Capture Plugin workflow opens in Automator and is ready for editing.

Figure 5.152 Image Capture Plugin workflows are saved into ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/Image Capture.

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Types of Workflows

Converting Workflow Types

Figure 5.154 A workflow Application opened in Automator.

You’ve learned that you can toggle between a Workflow file and an Application during the save process. For other types of workflows, however, it’s not quite as easy. Automator doesn’t provide a quick and straightforward path for converting workflows from one type to another—at least at the time this book was written—except with Workflows and Applications. Regardless, this is likely something you’ll need to do at some point. Fortunately, there is a workaround method.

To convert a workflow from one type to another: 1. Open the existing workflow in Automator. For example, you might open a workflow Application (Figure 5.154). 2. Create a new workflow of the desired type, such as a Service, and configure any options in its header area, if any. For example, if your Application processed files, you might configure your Service to process image files in the Finder (Figure 5.155). continues on next page

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Converting Workflow Types

Figure 5.155 A new, empty Service workflow, configured to process image files in the Finder.

Odds are that at some point you’ll build a workflow of a certain type and then decide you want it to be another type of workflow. For example, suppose you’ve created a useful workflow Application. After using it for a few weeks, you may decide that it would be much more efficient as a Service workflow, which you could run using a keyboard shortcut.

Chapter 5

Converting Workflow Types

3. Select all the actions in the existing workflow (press $%A ) and drag them to the new workflow (Figure 5.156). Automator copies the actions into the new workflow, retaining their settings (Figure 5.157). You’re now ready to finalize and save the new workflow. While this workaround method may work in most situations, please be aware that not everything will always come across as smoothly as you might expect. For example, disabled actions may become enabled in the new workflow. In addition, some workflow variables may not copy as expected. When converting workflows in this manner, take care. Be sure to double-check the actions and other aspects of the new workflow, and conduct thorough testing to ensure that the workflow behaves as expected.

Figure 5.157 A Service workflow containing actions copied from a workflow Application.

Figure 5.156 Copying actions from a workflow Application to a Service workflow.

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Types of Workflows Script menu

Figure 5.158 The system-wide Script menu in Mac OS X.

Script Menu Mac OS X has a system-wide Script menu that, when enabled, appears in the menu bar at all times (Figure 5.158). This Script menu provides quick access to AppleScripts, PERL scripts, Shell scripts, and Automator workflows from within any application. In Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard, Automator let you save workflows as Script Menu Plugins. Although this capability no longer exists, most likely due to Automator now allowing you to save workflows into the system-wide Services menu, you may still manually add workflows to the Script menu, if desired.

Option to show the Script menu in the menu bar Figure 5.159 The Script menu is enabled from AppleScript Editor’s Preferences window.

To enable the Script menu: 1. Launch AppleScript Editor, which is found in the /Applications/Utilities folder. 2. Choose AppleScript Editor > Preferences. A Preferences window appears. 3. Click General in the Preferences window’s toolbar, if it’s not already selected. 4. Select the “Show Script menu in menu bar” checkbox (Figure 5.159).

161

Script Menu

By default, the Script menu is disabled.

Chapter 5

To add Automator workflows to the Script menu:

Script Menu

1. Navigate to the ~/Library/Scripts folder. If this folder doesn’t exist, you can create it manually. or Select Open Scripts Folder > Open User Scripts Folder from the Script menu (Figure 5.160). If the folder doesn’t exist, it is created for you automatically.

Figure 5.160 Opening the ~/Library/Scripts folder via the Script menu.

2. Copy the desired Automator workflows into the ~/Library/Scripts folder (Figure 5.161). The workflows now appear in the Script menu. You can select them to run them (Figure 5.162).

✔ Tip ■

To remove an Automator workflow from the Script menu, go to ~/Library/Scripts, and delete the desired workflow.

Figure 5.161 The ~/Library/Scripts folder, which includes some Automator workflows.

Figure 5.162 The Script menu, displaying some Automator workflows, ready to be run.

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Recording Manual Events

6

The capability to record means that Automator can perform almost any task you can do manually on your Mac. Even if Automator actions aren’t available for a particular application, you may still be able to automate them through recording. This chapter covers what you need to know about recording and playing back manual tasks within a workflow.

163

Recording Manual Events

Perhaps one of Automator’s most useful features is its capability to record what you do manually and play it back as part of a workflow. When you record manual tasks, Automator watches your keystrokes, mouse movements, and clicks. Any individual task you perform with your keyboard or mouse is considered an event. When you’re done, Automator saves these events in an action, allowing you to play them back later when your workflow runs.

Chapter 6

Enabling Recording Before you can record manual events with Automator, you must enable Accessibility on your machine. Accessibility is a Mac OS X feature that allows applications and processes to watch your mouse clicks, text typing, and so on. Without Accessibility enabled, Automator can’t watch you do things and thus can’t record them in a workflow.

✔ Tip ■

Recording with Automator is not possible in Tiger (Mac OS X v10.4). It’s a feature that was introduced with Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5).

Figure 6.1 Opening System Preferences from the Apple menu.

Enabling Recording

To enable Accessibility: 1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences (Figure 6.1). The System Preferences application launches and displays the System Preferences window. 2. In the lower-right corner of Preferences, click the Universal Access icon (Figure 6.2). The system displays your current Universal Access preferences.

Universal Access

Figure 6.2 Locating the Universal Access system preference.

164

Recording Manual Events 3. Select the “Enable access for assistive devices” checkbox to enable Accessibility (Figure 6.3).

✔ Tips ■

You need administrator access to turn on Accessibility.



If you forget to enable Accessibility, don’t worry. If you try to start recording without it, Automator reminds you to turn it on.

Enabling Recording

Accessibility checkbox Figure 6.3 Enabling Accessibility from System Preferences.

165

Chapter 6

Recording Manual Tasks You can record manual events in an empty Automator workflow or in a workflow that contains existing actions. There’s no need to insert a new action; Automator takes care of this for you automatically when you stop recording.

To record manual events:

Figure 6.4 The menu method of beginning to record an Automator workflow.

Record button

Recording Manual Tasks

1. Create a new workflow or open a saved one. 2. Choose Workflow > Record (Figure 6.4). or Press o$%R . or Click the Record button in the Automator workflow toolbar (Figure 6.5). If you have not enabled Accessibility, you are prompted to do so now (Figure 6.6). To cancel recording, click the Cancel button. Or, to enable Accessibility, click the Open Universal Access button and follow the instructions in the previous section, “Enabling Recording.”

Figure 6.5 The icon method of beginning to record an Automator workflow.

Figure 6.6 A message indicating that Accessibility is not enabled on your machine.

Preparing for Recording Before you begin to record, think things through! Anticipate what steps you want to record, and prepare for them. For example, suppose your workflow uses the New TextEdit Document action to create a document in TextEdit. You then want the workflow to perform a series of recorded steps on that document. Before recording the steps, you’ll need to replicate the environment that will be encountered at runtime. In this case, make sure that a TextEdit document exists, and then begin recording.

166

Recording Manual Events

Figure 6.7 Automator in recording mode.

When you begin recording, Automator hides your workflow window and displays a small recording mode indicator (Figure 6.7). You can now bring the desired application to the front and begin your tasks. Automator watches you and keeps track of your key presses and mouse clicks. When you’ve finished your manual tasks, stop recording and return to your workflow.

✔ Tips For you to record manual events within an application, that application must support accessibility.



Automator may not record absolutely everything you do. You may encounter certain tasks that are simply not recordable.



Automator may sometimes record events that you don’t want or need in your workflow. If this happens, you can remove any unwanted events when you’re done recording.



When recording, go slowly. It may take Automator a second or two to recognize what you’ve clicked or typed. Giving Automator time to keep up is always a good idea.

Know When to Record Look for existing actions first. Before recording a manual task, see if an Automator action exists for that task. If it does, use it. It will probably run faster in your workflow, work more reliably, and give you more control over the task being performed.

167

Recording Manual Tasks



Chapter 6

To stop recording:

Stop button

Recording Manual Tasks

1. Select the Automator recording window. 2. Click the Stop button in the Automator recording window (Figure 6.8). or Press $%. or Bring Automator to the front by clicking its icon in the Dock. Then choose Workflow > Stop (Figure 6.9). Automator closes the recording window, and your workflow becomes visible, prefilled with a new Watch Me Do action at the end of the workflow. This action includes a list of all the manual events that were recorded. You can view additional information about an event, such as the application it targets, by clicking it (Figure 6.10).

Figure 6.8 The icon method of stopping Automator from recording.

Figure 6.9 The menu method of stopping Automator from recording.

Recorded manual tasks

Figure 6.10 Viewing the details of a recorded event.

168

Event details

Recording Manual Events

✔ Tips

Aside from Automator, there are some useful third-party macro utilities available for Mac OS X. QuicKeys (www.quickeys. com) and iKey (www.scriptsoftware.com/ ikey) are two popular commercial utilities that can perform mouse clicks and keystrokes. In some cases, these applications may even be able to perform tasks that Automator can’t. If you get into a bind recording in Automator, try one of these great tools. QuicKeys even includes an Automator action that allows you to trigger a macro from within an Automator workflow.

After you stop recording, if you realize that you need to record more, don’t panic. Simply begin recording again. Automator will record the additional events and insert a second Watch Me Do action into your workflow.



Recording may not always work as anticipated. When you’re finished recording, it’s always a good idea to play the recorded events. If they don’t do exactly what you expect, try recording them again. If they still don’t work, try doing them in a different way. For example, if creating a new document in an application is giving you trouble, instead of choosing File > New, try pressing $%N .



In some cases, you may need to try recording a set of manual tasks several times for Automator to get them right. Just be sure to take it slow.



Some applications need to be in the front for Automator to interact with them. If your recorded steps don’t bring an application to the front, try inserting the Launch Application action, found in the Utilities category, before the Watch Me Do action and telling it to launch the desired application.

169

Recording Manual Tasks

Third-party Macro Utilities



Chapter 6

Removing Recorded Events When recording manual tasks, keep in mind that Automator records what you do. This may not, however, always be what you want the workflow to do when run. Sometimes extra steps are recorded, or you may decide that a step is no longer necessary. In these cases, you can delete individual recorded events, leaving only the ones you need.

Figure 6.11 Selecting recorded events in the Watch Me Do action.

To remove a recorded event:

Removing Recorded Events

1. Select the events that you want to delete in the list of events on the left side of the Watch Me Do action (Figure 6.11). 2. Press D . Automator removes the selected events from the action (Figure 6.12).

✔ Tip ■

Once you remove an event from the Watch Me Do action, there’s no way to get it back. So, before deleting an event, make sure you really want to delete it.

170

Figure 6.12 The Watch Me Do action after deleting some events.

Recording Manual Events

Preparing to Play Recorded Events Recorded events are played when your workflow is run. Before this, however, you may want to make some adjustments to their behavior.

Event playback timeouts

To increase an event’s playback timeout: 1. In your workflow, select the desired event within the Watch Me Do action. 2. In the Timeout field, enter the maximum number of seconds you’d like Automator to allow for the event to complete (Figure 6.13). When your workflow is run, Automator will then allow the specified number of seconds for the event to execute. Selected event

Playback Timeout

Figure 6.13 Adjusting the playback timeout for a recorded event.

171

Preparing to Play Recorded Events

When an individual event plays, Automator gives it a limited amount of time to finish; this is called a timeout. For example, you wouldn’t want Automator to try selecting a checkbox in a window before that window has fully opened. By default, timeouts are two seconds. In rare circumstances, however, this may not be enough. The Watch Me Do action allows you to adjust the timeouts for individual events, if needed.

Chapter 6

Playback speed By default, Automator plays back recorded events at the speed you recorded them. When you need to get a job done quicker, you can increase the playback speed of the Watch Me Do action. This affects the speed of the events as a whole, not the speed of an individual event. You can also play events more slowly should the rare need arise.

Preparing to Play Recorded Events

To adjust the playback speed of recorded events: Set the Playback Speed slider in the Watch Me Do action within your workflow to the desired speed. To decrease playback speed, move the slider to the left. To increase playback speed, move the slider to the right (Figure 6.14).

✔ Tip ■

Don’t move a muscle. When playing recorded tasks, avoid moving the mouse or pressing keys. Doing so can interfere with the events being played, and in some cases, may cause them to produce an error.

Playback Speed

Figure 6.14 Adjusting the playback speed for recorded events to 10x normal speed.

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7 Workflow Looping

For example, suppose you want a workflow that takes a series of time-delayed screen shots for troubleshooting purposes, and then emails them to you for viewing on your iPhone. Sure, you could create this workflow without looping, but it would involve using the same actions over and over again and it would not continue running indefinitely. In cases like this, it’s generally much simpler to create a looping workflow that runs the same actions continually. This helps to keep your workflow manageable while providing the repeating functionality you need.

173

Workflow Looping

Until now, all of the Automator workflows you’ve created run in sequence from the first action in the workflow to the last—and then they’re done. One time through, and that’s it. In most cases, this type of workflow execution works just fine. In some cases, however, you may need something a bit more robust: a looping workflow that repeats a series of tasks over and over.

Chapter 7

About Looping

About Looping

One way to create a looping workflow is to save the workflow as an iCal Alarm plug-in and set it to run on a repeating schedule (see “iCal Alarms” in Chapter 5, “Types of Workflows”). For simple workflows, however, this technique may be overkill, or it may not meet your specific needs. For example, you may want to run the workflow from the Script menu or Image Capture, not from iCal. Or, you may want the workflow to loop only until you tell it to stop, to loop for a specific amount of time, and so forth. In these situations, Automator’s Loop action (located in the Utilities category) may be what you need. You can insert this action anywhere in your workflow to create a repeating workflow (Figure 7.1). When encountered at runtime, the Loop action causes your workflow to go back to the first action and start over again. This action has two main options—looping method and input handling.

174

Figure 7.1 Use the Loop action to create a repeating workflow.

Sorry Tiger Users The Loop action wasn’t released until Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5). It is, however, still possible to create a looping workflow in Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4). Here are some options: ◆

Run Workflow. Consider inserting this action, located in the Automator category in Tiger, at the end of your workflow. Configure it to run your workflow again, thus creating a neverending loop.



Automator Loop Utility. Google this little gem, and you should find an AppleScript-based application that you can use to create looping workflow applications.



iCal Alarm Plug-in. Consider saving your workflow as an iCal Alarm Plug-in and configuring it to run on a repeating schedule. In many cases, this may work just fine.

Workflow Looping

Looping method

Figure 7.2 The Loop action can be set to ask you to continue before starting a loop or to loop automatically.

The Loop action’s first pop-up menu allows you to specify the looping method: whether the workflow should ask to continue looping or loop automatically (Figure 7.2). It contains two choices: Ask to continue. Instructs the Loop action to display an alert asking if you’d like to continue looping. You can choose to continue looping or stop looping and run any remaining actions in the workflow (Figure 7.3). When you choose this option, the action disables the “Stop after” field and pop-up menu in the Loop action.



Loop automatically. Instructs the Loop action to loop a specified number of times or for a specified period of time. When you select this option, the action enables the “Stop after” text field and popup menu. You can now specify whether the workflow should stop after a certain number of times or a certain number of minutes (Figure 7.4).

Figure 7.3 If the Loop action is set to ask to continue, Automator displays an alert when the workflow runs.

Figure 7.4 When looping automatically, you can choose to loop a specified number of times or for a specified number of minutes.

✔ Tips ■

Unfortunately, the Loop action doesn’t include an option to loop indefinitely. To do this, one option is to set the workflow to loop a high number of times. You can set the Loop action to loop up to 1000 times. Another option is to add the Run Workflow action, found in the Utilities category, to the end of your workflow and set it to run your workflow again.



Need a break? Insert the Pause action, found in the Utilities category, to make your workflow delay for a specified amount of time between loops.

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About Looping



Chapter 7

Input handling The Loop action’s second pop-up menu lets you specify whether the original input or current results should be used in each loop (Figure 7.5). It contains two choices: ◆

Use the original input. Instructs the Loop action to pass the workflow’s original input back to the first action to be processed again.



Use the current results as input. Instructs the Loop action to pass the results of the previous action to the first action in the workflow.

About Looping

✔ Tips ■

If you add actions to your workflow after a Loop action, those actions run after Automator exits the loop.



When a loop exits, anything received as input by the Loop action is passed to the next action in the workflow for further processing.

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Figure 7.5 Setting the Loop action to use the original input rather than the current results as input during each loop.

Workflow Looping

Basic Looping Workflows Looping Through Files Unfortunately, Automator’s Loop action does not allow you to individually process files through a workflow. If you pass 700 files to the first action in the workflow, all 700 of those files are passed through the workflow as a group. Depending on the workflow, this may be problematic.

Naturally, it’s not practical to process files in this manner. For starters, most applications would not even allow you to open 700 files at one time. As a workaround, I have developed a freeware AppleScript application that you can use to individually send dropped files to an Automator workflow application. You can download the Automator Multi-Item Processing Utility from www.automatedworkflows. com/software/automator_actions/ automator_tools.html. Another third-party solution to this problem is the Dispense Items Incrementally action. This action works in combination with Automator’s Loop action. Simply add the action to a workflow and pass it some files and folders as input. During each loop, it releases one file or folder at a time for processing. You can download the Dispense Items Incrementally action from www.macosxautomation.com/ automator/examples/actions.html.

Building and running a basic looping workflow Applications such as iChat and iMovie allow you to put your Mac’s built-in iSight camera to good use—video chatting with friends, recording short movies, and more. There are lots of possibilities, and Automator gives you even more. In the “Processing Photos and Images” section of Bonus Chapter 13, “Workflow Starting Points,” available online (see Introduction), you learned how to use Automator to take photos when your workflow runs. You’ll put that technique to good use in this example. Here, you’ll create a looping workflow that takes a series of delayed photos and stitches them together into a QuickTime time-lapse movie. With this workflow, you’ll finally be able to see what your cat really does while you’re at work, make sure the kids are doing their homework after school, or watch the leaves fall outside your window.

✔ Tip ■

To run this workflow, you must have QuickTime 7 installed. This is an optional install on the Snow Leopard installation disk. Once installed, QuickTime 7 is found in your /Applications/Utilities folder.

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Basic Looping Workflows

For example, suppose your workflow consists of four actions that perform four separate tasks: open a file, modify the file, save the file, and close the file. If you send 700 files through the workflow for processing, the first action opens all 700 files, then the workflow modifies all 700 files, saves all 700, and closes all 700.

Most of the looping workflows you create are likely to be normal Automator workflows that are simply configured to run a specified number of times, for a specified amount of time, or until you tell the workflow to stop looping. Typically, these workflows start fresh with each new loop, processing their original input time and time again.

Chapter 7

Actions used: ◆

Take Video Snapshot



Pause



Loop



Get Specified Finder Items



Get Folder Contents



Rename Finder Items



New QuickTime Slideshow

To build the workflow:

Figure 7.6 The Snapshots folder is accessed when your workflow runs.

Figure 7.7 The Take Video Snapshot action takes a photo using your Mac’s built-in camera.

1. Create a new folder on the desktop and name it Snapshots (Figure 7.6).

Basic Looping Workflows

2. Bring Automator to the front and create a new Workflow file. 3. From the Photos category, drag the Take Video Snapshot action to the workflow area. From the Where pop-up in the action’s interface, select Other. Locate the Snapshots folder you created on the desktop. Then select the “Take picture automatically” checkbox. You can leave the Save as field set to its default value (Figure 7.7). 4. From the Utilities category, drag the Pause action to the workflow area. Type 1 into the action’s field, and set the following pop-up to “minutes.” This instructs the workflow to delay for one minute after each snapshot has been taken (Figure 7.8).

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Figure 7.8 Use the Pause action to delay a workflow for a specified amount of time.

Workflow Looping

Figure 7.9 The Loop action causes the workflow to run over and over again.

5. From the Utilities category, drag the Loop action to the workflow area. From the first pop-up menu in the Loop action, choose “Loop automatically.” Set the “Stop after” field to 120, and ensure that its pop-up menu is set to “minutes.” Choose “Use the original input” from the second pop-up menu (Figure 7.9). 6. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Get Specified Finder Items action to the workflow area. Click Add and choose the Snapshots folder (Figure 7.10).

Figure 7.10 The Get Specified Finder Items action locates the Snapshots folder after the loop exits.

8. Drag the Get Folder Contents action from the Library list to the end of the workflow. You can leave the “Repeat for each subfolder found” checkbox deselected (Figure 7.11). This action retrieves a list of photos in the Snapshots folder when the workflow runs. continues on next page

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Basic Looping Workflows

Figure 7.11 The Get Folder Contents action retrieves photos from the Snapshots folder.

7. With the Get Specified Finder Items action selected in the workflow area, choose Ignore Input from the Action menu. This is done so that the action doesn’t append the Loop action’s result to the Snapshots folder that is passed to the next action for processing.

Basic Looping Workflows

Chapter 7 9. Add the Rename Finder Items action to the workflow. Automator displays a warning indicating that this action changes the names of items passed to it. Click Don’t Add to continue placing the action without inserting an additional Copy Finder Items action (Figure 7.12). The action is added to the workflow, and its default title changes to Add Date or Time to Finder Item Names to reflect its current state. From the pop-up menu at the top of the action, choose Make Sequential. The name of the action again changes to reflect its state—Make Finder Item Names Sequential. Click the “new name” radio button, and enter the name Image. You can leave all other settings set to their default values (Figure 7.13). This action renames the images sequentially, so they can be merged together by QuickTime Player. 10. Select the Photos category in Automator’s Actions library, and add the New QuickTime Slideshow action to the workflow. Enter Time Lapse Movie into the Save As field. Next, set the Slide Duration pop-up to 1 seconds per image and the Default Playback pop-up to Movie, and deselect the Loop checkbox. You can leave the Format pop-up to Self-contained and the output folder set to the Desktop (Figure 7.14).

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Figure 7.12 Automator warns you that the Rename Finder Items action modifies the names of your files.

Figure 7.13 Rename Finder Items makes your images sequential, so they can be stitched together by QuickTime.

Figure 7.14 The New QuickTime Slideshow action creates a slide show movie from images it receives as input.

Workflow Looping The workflow is now complete and is ready to be run (Figures 7.15 and 7.16).

✔ Tips

Figure 7.15 The first part of the workflow takes a snapshot, delays, and then loops.



During testing, you may not want the workflow to delay for one minute in between loops or to wait 120 minutes before exiting the loop. Feel free to adjust these settings as needed. For example, you can set the workflow to pause for ten seconds and exit the repeat after one minute.



A faster way to insert and configure the Get Specified Finder Items action is to simply drag the Snapshots folder from your desktop directly into your Automator workflow.

Basic Looping Workflows

Figure 7.16 The second part of the workflow locates the snapshot images, renames them sequentially, and then merges them into a time-lapse movie.

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Chapter 7

To run the workflow:

Basic Looping Workflows

1. Launch QuickTime Player 7. 2. Click the Run button in Automator’s toolbar, or press $%R to run the workflow. The workflow begins running. A video snapshot is taken first and saved to the Snapshots folder on the desktop. The workflow pauses for one minute, and then loops back to the beginning. The workflow proceeds in this manner for 120 minutes, at which point it exits the loop and continues with the remainder of the workflow. The workflow locates the Snapshots folder, retrieves a list of images in that folder, renames them, and merges them together in a QuickTime movie slide show, which is saved to the desktop (Figure 7.17).

✔ Tips ■

To build a series of time-lapse movies, try creating this workflow as an iCal Alarm rather than a Workflow file. Then set it to run every day.



Going on a vacation? You could configure this workflow to email you time-lapse movies, so you can check in on your home or office while you’re away.



To clean up the images after they’ve been merged together as a QuickTime slide show movie, use another Get Specified Finder Items action (set to ignore its input) to get the Snapshots folder again. Then use the Move Finder Items action to move the snapshot images to the trash.

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Figure 7.17 The result of the workflow is a timelapse QuickTime movie of snapshot photos.

Workflow Looping

Advanced Looping Workflows Automator’s Loop action also enables you to create a more advanced type of looping workflow—one that passes the last looped action’s result as input to the first action in the workflow. For example, you might need to create a workflow application that accepts a dropped folder as input, renames the folder, gets a list of subfolders within the folder, and then performs the same process again on those subfolders. Workflows of this nature are likely to be pretty rare, but Automator is ready to help if you need to create one.

Building and running an advanced looping workflow

The workflow then loops, passing the resulting Scaled Image file back to the beginning of the workflow. Again, Automator copies the image to the desktop, scales it to 50 percent of its already diminished size, and renames it Scaled Image 2. The result is two images on the desktop: Scaled Image, which is 50 percent the size of the original dropped image, and Scaled Image 2, which is 50 percent the size of Scaled Image. A workflow of this nature might come in handy when preparing images for inclusion on a website.

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Advanced Looping Workflows

For this example, you’ll create a workflow application that accepts a dropped image file as input. Once triggered, the workflow copies the image to the desktop, scales it to 50 percent of its original size, and renames it to Scaled Image.

Chapter 7

Actions used: ◆

Copy Finder Items



Scale Images



Rename Finder Items



Loop

Figure 7.18 The Copy Finder Items action copies items passed to the workflow to the Desktop.

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new workflow Application.

Advanced Looping Workflows

2. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Copy Finder Items action to the workflow area. This action should be configured to copy items to the Desktop by default. No further adjustments are necessary (Figure 7.18). 3. From the Photos category, drag the Scale Images action to the workflow area. Choose By Percentage from the Scale Images action’s pop-up menu. Enter 50 into the Scale Images action’s field (Figure 7.19). 4. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Rename Finder Items action to the workflow area. 5. Automator displays an alert suggesting that you insert a Copy Finder Items action first to preserve the names of your original images. Because the first action in the workflow is already Copy Finder Items, this is unnecessary. Click Don’t Add. Automator adds the Rename Finder Items action to the workflow, displaying the default title Add Date or Time to Finder Item Names.

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Figure 7.19 Set the Scale Images action to resize images to 50 percent.

Workflow Looping

Figure 7.20 Configuring the Rename Finder Items action.

Figure 7.21 Configuring the Loop action to loop automatically twice and to use the current results as input.

Choose Name Single Item from the first pop-up menu in the Rename Finder Items action. The action’s title changes to Name Single Item in Finder Item Names, and its interface changes to display some new options.

7.

Choose “Basename only” from the Name pop-up menu, and enter a value of Scaled Image into the “to” text field (Figure 7.20).

8.

From the Utilities category, drag the Loop action to the workflow area.

9.

Choose “Loop automatically” from the first pop-up menu in the Loop action. Automator enables the “Stop after” field and pop-up menu.

10. Type 2 into the “Stop after” field, and choose “times” from the “Stop after” popup menu. 11. Choose “Use the current results as input” from the second pop-up menu (Figure 7.21). Your workflow is now complete and ready to be saved. It consists of four actions: Copy Finder Items, Scale Images, Rename Finder Items, and Loop (Figure 7.22).

✔ Tip ■

A basename is the name of a file minus its extension.

Figure 7.22 The completed workflow consists of four actions: Copy Finder Items, Scale Images, Rename Finder Items, and Loop.

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Advanced Looping Workflows

6.

Chapter 7

To save the workflow: 1. Choose File > Save (or press $%S ). The save panel appears. 2. Type Scale Image to 50-50 into the Save As text field. 3. Choose Desktop from the Where pop-up menu.

Figure 7.23 Save the workflow to your desktop as an application named Scale Image to 50-50.

4. Choose Application from the File Format pop-up menu. 5. Click Save (Figure 7.23). Automator saves the workflow as an application named Scale Image to 50-50 on your desktop. It’s now ready to run.

Advanced Looping Workflows

To run the workflow: ◆

Locate an image file and drag it onto the Scale Image to 50-50 workflow application on your desktop. The workflow begins running. As the workflow runs, it copies the dropped image file to the desktop, scales it to 50 percent, and renames it as Scaled Image. The Loop action then runs the workflow a second time. This time the first action receives the newly scaled image file as input, copies it to the desktop, and resizes it to 50 percent. Because there’s already a file on the desktop named Scaled Image, the Rename Finder Items action names the new image Scaled Image 2. You now have two scaled images on your desktop. The first, Scaled Image, is resized to 50 percent of the original dropped image. The second, Scaled Image 2, is resized to 50 percent of the first scaled image (Figures 7.24, 7.25, and 7.26).

Figure 7.24 The originally dropped image is at its full size.

Figure 7.25 The first resized image, named Scaled Image, is 50 percent of the original.

Figure 7.26 The second resized image, named Scaled Image 2, is 50 percent of the first resized image.

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8 Using Variables The way information passes through an Automator workflow is fairly simple: It passes in sequence from action to action. Sometimes, however, problems arise— actions don’t produce a result, or actions need information from an action much earlier in the workflow. Although such scenarios are less likely to occur in simple workflows, they can severely limit your ability to create complex workflows. Automator’s workflow variables can help tremendously.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to incorporate variables into your workflows, including storing and retrieving action results, using variables to reference dynamic content, and more. You’ll also create some example workflows that incorporate variables, including one that downloads images from a Safari webpage into a dated folder on your desktop.

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Using Variables

Variables allow you to store information (such as an action’s result) at one point in a workflow and then refer back to it at a later point. They also allow you to retrieve dynamic content (such as the current date or time, or the current user’s name) and use it when your workflow runs. In essence, a variable is nothing more than stored information; it can be a reference to a file or folder, some text, or almost anything else.

Chapter 8

Types of Variables Like actions, variables are organized into categories within Automator’s Library list (Figure 8.1). The available categories of variables are: Date & Time (Figure 8.2). These variables enable your workflow to retrieve and use information such as the current day, current month, and current time. For example, you could use a Date & Time variable to append the current time to the name of a file created by your workflow.



Locations (Figure 8.3). These variables enable your workflow to easily reference folders on your Mac, such as when saving a file, backing up files and folders, and more. Predefined variables exist for commonly accessed folders, including Applications, Documents, and Favorites. The category’s Path variable also enables you to create a custom location mapped to the folder of your choice.

Types of Variables



Figure 8.1 Displayed in Automator’s Library list, variables are organized into categories by type.

Figure 8.2 Automator’s Date & Time category of variables.

Figure 8.3 Automator’s Locations category of variables.

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Using Variables System (Figure 8.4). These variables enable your workflow to retrieve information about the current system configuration, including IP address, operating system version, and the amount of time the computer has been running. These variables could be useful in a workflow that emails troubleshooting information or status updates to a system administrator.



Text & Data (Figure 8.5). These variables enable your workflow to store and retrieve text values, as well as other types of data, such as file and folder paths, iPhoto items, and Mail messages. Generally, the variables in this category are likely to be used mostly for storing and retrieving action results.



User (Figure 8.6). These variables enable your workflow to retrieve information about the current user, such as the first name, last name, full name, or homepage. This information could be appended to an email message, added to a TextEdit document, and so forth.



Utilities (Figure 8.7). These variables enable your workflow to retrieve random numbers and text, which you can use, for example, to ensure that filenames do not conflict with one another. Also included in this category are AppleScript and UNIX variables, which can be used to execute code and produce some type of dynamic value at various points within a workflow. These particular variables are fairly advanced and are probably likely to be used only by advanced Automator users.

Figure 8.4 Automator’s System category of variables.

Figure 8.5 Automator’s Text & Data category of variables.

Figure 8.6 Automator’s User category of variables.

Figure 8.7 Automator’s Utilities category of variables.

Help for Tiger Users Workflow variables were introduced in Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5). In Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4), however, you can still store and retrieve information through the use of third-party actions. To find these actions, use Google to search for “Temporary Storage Actions for Automator.”

✔ Tip ■

For an introductory overview of variables, see “About Variables” in Chapter 1, “Getting Started.”

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Types of Variables



Chapter 8 Variables button

Adding Variables to Workflows Automator includes dozens of variables. To use one, you must first add it to your workflow, like an action. Unlike an action, however, a variable doesn’t immediately appear as part of the workflow. Rather, a variable initially appears in the workflow variables area. You can then insert the variable into different parts of your workflow whenever you want to retrieve its value. You’ll learn how to retrieve the value of a variable shortly.

To add a variable to your workflow:

Adding Variables to Workflows

1. At the top of the Library list within a workflow window, click the Variables button. The list of categories and variables appears (Figure 8.8). 2. Find the variable you want to add to your workflow, such as My name in the User category. You locate a variable in the same way you locate an action—by clicking through the categories or entering a keyword into the Library list’s search field (Figure 8.9).

Figure 8.8 To display a list of categories and variables, click Variables at the top of the Library list.

Categories

Search field

Figure 8.9 Click through the categories or enter a search term to find a variable to meet your needs.

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Using Variables 3. Double-click the desired variable. The workflow variables area, containing the variable, displays at the bottom of the workflow window (Figure 8.10).

✔ Tips ■

A variable has no value when initially added to a workflow. It gets its value when you run the workflow. For example, the My name variable gets the name of the current user when the workflow runs.



You can also drag variables from the Library list and drop them into the workflow variables area.



Remember, you can learn about a variable by selecting it in the Library list and viewing its description.

Adding Variables to Workflows

Added variable Figure 8.10 Double-click a variable in the Library list to add it to the Workflow Variables area of your workflow window.

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Chapter 8

Using Variables as Action Input Once a variable has been added to your workflow, its value can be passed as input to an action. To do this, you use the Get Value of Variable action, which is found in the Utilities category of actions. This action retrieves the value of the specified variable, and then passes it as input to the next action in the workflow. For example, you could create a workflow that uses a variable to retrieve the current user’s name and passes it to an action that inserts that name into a new TextEdit document or Mail message.

✔ Tip

Using Variables as Action Input



The Get Value of Variable action is also used to retrieve stored action results.

To pass a variable value to an action: 1. From the workflow variables area, drag the variable you want to the desired location within your workflow. Automator automatically inserts a Get Value of Variable action at that location. The action’s Variable pop-up menu is set to the specified variable. or 1. From the Utilities category of actions, drag the Get Value of Variable action to the desired location in the workflow area. 2. From the Variable pop-up menu, choose the desired variable (Figure 8.11). When you run the workflow, the Get Value of Variable action retrieves the value of the specified variable. That value is now reflected in the result area of the Get Value of Variable action (Figure 8.12).

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Variable pop-up menu

Figure 8.11 The Get Value of Variable action retrieves the value of the specified variable and passes it to the next action in the workflow.

Figure 8.12 When a workflow runs, the result area of the Get Value of Variable action displays the current value of the variable.

Using Variables

Figure 8.13 In this example, the Get Value of Variable action retrieves the value of the My name variable and passes it to the New TextEdit Document action for processing.

The variable’s value is then passed as input to the next action in the workflow for processing. In this example, the Get Value of Variable action retrieves the value of the My name variable and passes it to the New TextEdit Document action. This action then creates a new TextEdit document containing your name (Figures 8.13 and 8.14).

✔ Tips ■

When passing a variable to an action as input, be sure that the value of the variable matches the type of input the action accepts. Otherwise, you may get an error when you run your workflow.



Remember, Automator doesn’t know the name of the current user when the workflow is built. This value is determined when the workflow runs. Therefore, the result is different for every user.

Using Variables as Action Input

Figure 8.14 The New TextEdit Document action creates a new document in TextEdit and inserts the variable value passed as input, in this case, the name of the current user.

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Chapter 8

Inserting Variables in Action Fields Variables don’t just have to be passed as input to actions. They can also be inserted into text fields and path pop-up menus within actions. This gives you a lot more flexibility when creating workflows, and it can allow for some interesting possibilities.

Figure 8.15 You can insert variables into text fields and path pop-up menus, allowing actions to use dynamic content in their settings. This example uses the My name variable to add the current user’s name to the newly created archive’s name. It also uses the Shared Locations variable to create the archive in the current user’s Shared folder.

As an example, you could insert the My name variable in the Create Archive action’s “Save as” text field. Now when the action runs, it automatically appends your name to the name of the archive. You could also insert a Locations variable, such as a variable pointing to the current Mac’s Shared folder, to the action’s Where pop-up menu (Figure 8.15).

Inserting Variables in Action Fields

✔ Tip ■

Not every text field accepts variables. It’s up to the action’s developer to add this capability. If you drag a variable to a text field that doesn’t accept variables, the variable simply is not added to the field.

What’s a Path Pop-up Menu? Many Automator actions include pop-up menus that allow you to choose a file or folder. For example, an action that saves a file may let you choose an output folder. Typically, these types of pop-up menus include a list of default files or folders, such as the Desktop, your Documents folder, and so on. Often, these menus also include an Other option, allowing you to choose a custom file or folder (Figure 8.16). Path pop-up menu

Figure 8.16 The New Folder action contains a path pop-up menu, allowing you to choose an output location for the folder.

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Using Variables

To insert a variable in an action field:

Figure 8.17 Here, the My name variable is added along with some specified text to the Subject field of the New Mail Message action.

1. Drag the variable you want from the workflow variables area to the text field or path pop-up menu in the action’s interface. or Drag the desired variable from the Library list to the text field or path pop-up menu in the action’s interface. When you do this, the variable also appears in the workflow variables area. 2. If you added the variable to a text field, you can insert additional text around the variable, if desired. For this example, the My name variable is added along with some additional text to the Subject field of the New Mail Message action (Figure 8.17).

Figure 8.18 The New Mail Message action creates a new email message and inserts the value of the My name variable along with specified text into the Subject field.

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Inserting Variables in Action Fields

When the action runs within the workflow, the value of the variable is retrieved first, and then the action uses that value. In this example, your name is appended to the specified subject of the newly created Mail message (Figure 8.18).

Chapter 8

To view a variable’s value in an action field: ◆

For variables in text fields, click the small disclosure triangle to the right of the variable (Figure 8.19). or For variables in path pop-up menus, click the path pop-up menu, and then select the variable (Figure 8.20). The value of the variable is displayed. In this example, the Create Archive action creates a zip file of a folder it receives as input. The archive is named using a variable name and is created in a folder specified using a variable (Figure 8.21).

Figure 8.19 After running a workflow, click the disclosure triangle next to a text field variable to view its description.

Inserting Variables in Action Fields

Figure 8.20 After running a workflow, select a variable in a path pop-up menu to view its description.

Text field disclosure triangle Figure 8.21 This workflow uses variables for the name and location when creating an archive.

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Using Variables

Storing and Retrieving Action Results Variables are powerful because they enable you to store an action’s result and use it later in the workflow.

Figure 8.22 Found in the Locations category, the Path variable can be used to store files and folder output from an action.

Depending on the type of result being stored, you use one of the following variables: Path. Found in the Locations category, this variable stores a reference to a file or folder output by an action (Figure 8.22).



Storage. Found in the Text & Data category, this variable stores the result of an action regardless of its type. For example, it could be used to store references to iPhoto items, Mail messages, iCal events, multiple file or folder paths, and so forth (Figure 8.23).



Text. This variable, also located in the Text & Data category, stores text output from an action (Figure 8.23).

Figure 8.23 Found in the Text & Data category, the Storage variable can be used to store any action result, whereas the new Text variable stores text from an action.

To store an action’s result: 1. Determine the type of action result you want to store, such as text, files and folders, Mail messages, and so forth. To determine the type of result for an action, look at the action’s description area (Figure 8.24). Result type Figure 8.24 Check an action’s description to find out its result type.

2. Add a variable to your workflow for the result type you would like to store. For example, if the action’s result is files and folders, add a Path variable to your workflow (Figure 8.25). continues on next page

Figure 8.25 Add a variable, such as Path, to your workflow for the result you want to store.

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Storing and Retrieving Action Results



Chapter 8 3. From the Utilities category of actions, drag Set Value of Variable after the action whose result you want to store. 4. From the Variable pop-up menu, choose the variable you added to the workflow, in this case Path (Figure 8.26). When the workflow runs, the result of the action is passed to the Set Value of Variable action, which stores it in the specified variable. In this example, the Path variable stores the New Folder action’s result—the path to the newly created folder.

Figure 8.26 The Set Value of Variable sets a variable’s value to the preceding action’s result. In this example, the New Folder action’s result is the path to the newly created folder, which is then stored in the Path variable.

✔ Tip

Storing and Retrieving Action Results



You can create a new Storage variable by choosing New variable from the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu (Figure 8.27).

Figure 8.27 Create a Storage variable by choosing New variable from the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu.

To retrieve a stored action result: 1. Drag the variable to the desired location within the workflow. A Get Value of Variable action is inserted for you. 2. Choose the variable from the Variable pop-up menu (Figure 8.28). When you run the workflow, the Get Value of Variable action retrieves the value of the variable. The workflow variables area shows the variable’s value and passes it to the next action for processing. or Drag the variable to a text field or pop-up menu within an action’s interface (Figure 8.29). When you run the workflow, Automator retrieves the variable’s value and uses it in the action’s setting. In this example, the Path variable stores the result of the New Folder action, the newly created folder. This variable is then

198

Figure 8.28 Use the Get Value of Variable action to retrieve an action result stored in a variable and pass it to an action for processing.

Figure 8.29 You can use a variable containing a stored action result in action text fields and pop-up menus.

Using Variables referenced in the Where field of the New Text File action. When the workflow runs, Automator first creates a folder named My Folder on the desktop. Next, it creates a text file within that folder (Figure 8.30). To verify the value of the Path variable after the workflow runs, select the variable’s name in the New Text File action’s Where pop-up menu (Figure 8.31).

Figure 8.30 In this example, the result of the New Folder action is stored in the Path variable. It’s then later referenced in the Where pop-up menu of the New Text File action.

Storing and Retrieving Action Results

Edit variable option Variable value Figure 8.31 After the workflow runs, the New Text File’s path pop-up menu shows that the New Path variable contains the path to the newly created folder.

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Chapter 8

Adjusting Variable Options Some Automator variables are customizable, allowing you to change the variable’s name or behavior when run within a workflow. Current time is one such variable. When you add it to a workflow, you may want to specify the format in which the time is retrieved. For example, in some instances, you may want hours and minutes; in others, you may want hours, minutes, and seconds. Within the Library list and the workflow variables area, variables are color-coded to indicate whether they have modifiable options: Blue variables have modifiable options; purple ones do not. Within the Library list, icons are also used to denote whether a variable is customizable: The icon indicates a customizable variable, and the icon indicates a noncustomizable variable (Figures 8.32 and 8.33).

Figure 8.32 Within the Library list, customizable variables are denoted by blue icons, and noncustomizable variables are denoted by purple icons.

Figure 8.33 Within the workflow variables area at the bottom of the workflow window, customizable variables appear blue and noncustomizable variables appear purple.

Adjusting Variable Options

To adjust the options for a variable: 1. Double-click the desired variable in the workflow variables area at the bottom of the workflow window. A Variable Options window opens (Figure 8.34). 2. If you’d like, enter a new name for the variable.

Figure 8.34 Double-click a blue variable in the workflow variables area to display the Variable Options window.

3. Make any changes to the variable’s options (Figure 8.35). 4. Click Done. The Variable Options window closes. When you run the workflow, the variable retrieves its value using the options you specified.

✔ Tip ■

A variable’s options are different depending on the variable’s function. The Current time variable, for example, allows you to specify the format of the retrieved time. The Path variable, on the other hand, allows you to specify a custom file or folder path.

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Figure 8.35 In the Variable Options window, you can adjust how the variable behaves when the workflow runs.

Using Variables

Creating a Simple Variable Workflow Figure 8.36 From the Files & Folders category, drag the New Folder action to the workflow. Do not adjust any of its default settings.

A great way to become acquainted with variables is to create a workflow that uses one. This example walks you through creating a very simple workflow using a single predefined variable to create a dated folder on the desktop. The example also demonstrates adjusting the variable’s options to change the date formatting in the folder’s name.

Actions used: ◆ Figure 8.37 Click the Date & Time category to display a list of variables within that category.

New Folder

Variables used: ◆

Today’s date

To build the workflow: 2. From the Files & Folders category, drag the New Folder action to the workflow area. This action is configured to create a folder on your desktop. Do not enter a name into the action’s Name field (Figure 8.36). 3. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button. A categorized list of variables appears, replacing the categorized list of actions (Figure 8.37). continues on next page

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Creating a Simple Variable Workflow

1. Create a new custom workflow window.

Chapter 8 4. From the Date & Time category, drag the Today’s date variable into the New Folder action’s Name field (Figure 8.38). The variable appears in the Name field of the action, and the workflow variables list is displayed at the bottom of the workflow area (Figure 8.39).

Figure 8.38 From the Date & Time category, drag the Today’s date variable to the New Folder action’s Name field.

✔ Tip Due to an apparent bug in Snow Leopard, running the workflow now produces an error due to the Today’s date variable containing slash characters. Apparently, the New Folder action doesn’t like these. To resolve the problem, you can change the date’s format, as you’ll learn next.

Creating a Simple Variable Workflow



Figure 8.39 The Today’s date variable now appears in the Name field of the New Folder action as well as in the workflow variables area at the bottom of the workflow window.

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Using Variables

Changing the Today’s date variable format

Figure 8.40 Double-click the Today’s date variable in the workflow variables area to change its format.

As you’ve learned, you can modify the options of some variables. One such variable, Today’s date, lets you modify the format in which the date is retrieved.

To change the Today’s date variable format: 1. In the workflow variables area, doubleclick the Today’s date variable. The Variable Options window appears. Here you can configure the variable’s behavior. Figure 8.41 The New Folder action creates a folder named with the current date on the desktop.

Edit variable option

3. Choose the desired date format from the Format pop-up menu, such as Jan 5, 1999 (Figure 8.40). 4. Click Done. The Variable Options window closes.

Figure 8.42 When the workflow runs, the value of the Today’s date variable is indicated in the New Folder action’s path pop-up menu.

When you run the workflow, Automator applies your custom date format to the folder created by the New Folder action (Figure 8.41). The variable’s value may also be verified in the New Folder action’s disclosure triangle pop-up menu (Figure 8.42).

✔ Tip ■

After a workflow has been run, you can also modify an editable variable by clicking its disclosure triangle in a text field or by selecting the variable in a path pop-up menu. When you do this, an Edit option is displayed (Figures 8.31 and 8.42).

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Creating a Simple Variable Workflow

Variable value

2. If desired, enter a new name for the Today’s date variable.

Chapter 8

Customizing the Today’s date variable Although the Today’s date variable has several default formatting options available, you may prefer a more customized format. No problem. You can do that, too.

To customize the Today’s date variable: 1. In the workflow variables area, doubleclick the Today’s date variable. A Variable Options window opens.

Figure 8.43 To customize the Today’s date variable, choose “Custom format” from the Format pop-up menu in the Variable Options window.

Creating a Simple Variable Workflow

2. Choose “Custom format” from the Format pop-up menu. The Variable Options window expands to show some additional options, including a customization field and date elements (Figure 8.43). 3. Drag the desired date elements into the customization field (Figure 8.44). For example, to include the month, day, and year, drag the Month, Day of Month, and Year date elements into the customization field.

Figure 8.44 Drag the desired date elements to the customization field in the Variable Options window.

4. To customize a specific date element, click the triangle on its right within the customization field. A contextual menu appears containing several formatting options for the date element (Figure 8.45).

Figure 8.45 If desired, click the triangle to the right of each date element in the customization panel to customize its format.

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Using Variables 5. Choose the desired format from the menu. For example, for the Month date element, you could choose 01 to display the month as a two-digit month. 6. If desired, repeat steps 4 and 5 for any other date elements you’ve added to the customization panel. Figure 8.46 The customization field also allows you to enter text to be incorporated with the specified date elements.

7. If desired, enter into the customization field any text to appear as part of the formatted date, such as a delimiter. For example, you may want each date element to be separated by a period (Figure 8.46). 8. Click Done. The Variable Options window closes.

✔ Tip ■

When you customize a date element’s format in the customization field, you may need to click out of the field for the customization to appear onscreen.

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Creating a Simple Variable Workflow

Figure 8.47 When the workflow runs, Automator applies the custom format for the Today’s date variable to the name of the newly created folder.

Now when you run the workflow, Automator applies your custom date format to the newly created folder (Figure 8.47).

Chapter 8

Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow The following example workflow is a bit more advanced. It creates a dated folder on the desktop and then downloads any linked images from the currently opened Safari webpage into that folder. The workflow uses two variables: One retrieves a predefined variable value, and the other stores and retrieves the result of an action within the workflow.

Figure 8.48 From the Date & Time category, add the Today’s date variable to your workflow.

Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow

Actions used: ◆

New Folder



Set Value of Variable



Get Current Webpage from Safari



Get Image URLs from Webpage



Download URLs

Figure 8.49 Change the Today’s date variable’s format to Jan 5, 1999.

Variables used: ◆

Today’s date



Path

Figure 8.50 From the Locations category, add the New Path variable to your workflow.

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new Workflow file. 2. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button. The list of categories and variables displays. 3. In the Date & Time category, double-click the Today’s date variable. The workflow variables area, containing the Today’s date variable, displays at the bottom of the workflow window (Figure 8.48). 4. Double-click the Today’s date variable in the workflow variables area to display the Variable Options window. 5. Choose the format Jan 5, 1999 (Figure 8.49).

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Figure 8.51 Double-click the New Path variable in the workflow variables area to display the Variable Options window. Change the name of the variable to Output Folder.

Using Variables

Figure 8.52 The workflow variables area displays a list of the variables you’ve added to your workflow.

Figure 8.53 Click the Library list’s Actions button to display the list of categorized actions.

Figure 8.55 Drag the Today’s date variable to the beginning of the New Folder’s Name field.

Click Done.

7.

In the Locations category, double-click the Path variable. The Path variable appears in the workflow variables area (Figure 8.50).

8.

Double-click the Path variable in the workflow variables area. The Variable Options window appears.

9.

Enter Output Folder into the Name field (Figure 8.51).

10. Click Done. The Variable Options window closes, and the workflow variables area displays the variable’s new name (Figure 8.52). 11. At the top of the Library list, click the Actions button. The list of categories and actions displays (Figure 8.53). 12. From the Files & Folders category, drag the New Folder action to the workflow area. Enter –Website Photos into the action’s Name field. No additional configuration is necessary (Figure 8.54). 13. From the workflow variables area, drag the Today’s date variable to the beginning of the New Folder action’s Name field (Figure 8.55). 14. From the Utilities category, drag the Set Value of Variable action to the workflow area.

Figure 8.56 From the Utilities category, add the Set Value of Variable action to the workflow and choose Output Folder from the Variable pop-up menu.

15. From the action’s Variable pop-up menu, choose the Output Folder variable (Figure 8.56). continues on next page

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Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow

Figure 8.54 From the Files & Folders category, add a New Folder action to the workflow and enter –Website Photos into the Name field.

6.

Chapter 8 16. From the Internet category, drag the Get Current Webpage from Safari action to the workflow area (Figure 8.57).

Figure 8.57 From the Internet category, add the Get Current Webpage from Safari action to the workflow.

17. From the Internet category, drag the Get Image URLs from Webpage action to the workflow area. 18. From the “Get URLs of images” pop-up menu, choose “linked from these webpages” (Figure 8.58). 19. From the Internet category, drag the Download URLs action to the workflow area.

Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow

20. From the workflow variables area, drag the Output Folder variable to the beginning of the Download URLs action’s Where pop-up menu (Figure 8.59). The workflow is now complete and ready to be run. It should consist of two variables— Output Folder and Today’s date—and five actions—New Folder, Set Value of Variable, Get Current Webpage from Safari, Get Image URLs from Webpage, and Download URLs (Figure 8.60).

Figure 8.58 From the Internet category, add the Get Image URLs from Webpage action to the workflow and choose “linked from these webpages” from the “Get URLs of images” pop-up menu.

Figure 8.59 From the Internet category, add the Download URLs action to the workflow. Next, drag the Output Folder variable from the workflow variables area to the Where pop-up menu.

Figure 8.60 The completed workflow consists of five actions: New Folder, Set Value of Variable, Get Current Webpage from Safari, Get Image URLs from Webpage, and Download URLs. Two variables are used throughout this workflow.

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Using Variables

To run the workflow: 1. Launch Safari and go to a webpage containing linked images. For this example, you can use my test site at www.automatedworkflows.com/ demos/photos/ (Figure 8.61).

Figure 8.62 The value of the Today’s date variable appears in the variable’s contextual menu in the New Folder action.

Figure 8.63 The value of the Output Folder variable appears in the Download URLs path pop-up menu.

Figure 8.64 In this example, a dated Website Photos folder is created on the desktop and contains any downloaded images.

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Creating an Advanced Variable Workflow

Figure 8.61 Open a webpage in Safari containing linked images.

2. Click the Run button in Automator’s toolbar, or press $%R . The workflow runs. When it’s done, the Today’s date contextual menu in the New Folder action’s Name field shows the value of the Today’s date variable (Figure 8.62). The Where pop-up menu in the Download URLs action shows the value of the Output Folder variable (Figure 8.63). A dated Website Photos folder appears on your desktop containing the downloaded photos (Figure 8.64).

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9 Troubleshooting Automator workflows are huge time-savers when they run properly; however, getting them to that point is sometimes easier said than done. Whether you’re trying to run an existing workflow or create a new one, at some point you’re likely to encounter a problem. Most problems occur when running workflows, and you usually can resolve them by adjusting action settings. Occasionally, though, you’ll encounter problems when opening workflows or even with the Automator application.

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Troubleshooting

Finding and fixing a problem can be a challenge, but this chapter identifies some common problems and walks you through practical steps to help resolve them.

Chapter 9

Problems Running Workflows In general, creating Automator workflows involves a lot of trial and error: configure actions one way, see if the workflow runs, make adjustments, and try the workflow again. Along the way, problems sometimes occur, but when they do, you don’t need to panic. Work through each issue slowly, and gradually you’ll get the workflow to do what you want.

Step through your workflow

Problems Running Workflows

Automator offers the ability to step through your workflow one action at a time rather than running it all at once. In other words, Automator runs an action, and then pauses. While it waits, you are free to check the result of the actions that have run so far, view Automator’s log, and more. When you’re ready to proceed, Automator runs the next action, and then pauses again. This is an excellent method of troubleshooting workflow problems! Using this technique, you can move slowly through your workflow, one action at a time, and make sure everything works properly at each step. If you find a problem, stop, fix it, and try again. After you identify and resolve any problems, run the workflow as a whole. If you proceed in this manner, your workflows have a much higher likelihood of running successfully and reliably.

Help for Tiger Users If you’re still using Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4), you can’t step through your workflows like a Leopard or Snow Leopard (10.5 or 10.6) user can. You can, however, configure your actions to display when run. Every time an action is displayed, the workflow pauses, allowing you to make sure that the previous action ran successfully.

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Troubleshooting

To step through your workflow:

Figure 9.1 Begin stepping through a workflow by choosing Step from the Workflow menu. Step button

Figure 9.2 Click the Step button in the toolbar to begin stepping through a workflow.

Action results

1. With a workflow open, choose Workflow > Step (Figure 9.1). or Click the Step button in the workflow window’s toolbar (Figure 9.2). Automator runs the first action in the workflow, and then pauses. While it’s paused, check the results of the action and view the log to see if any problems occurred (Figure 9.3). Make sure the results are correct, and that the action did what it was supposed to do. For example, if the action creates a folder on the desktop, make sure that the folder was actually created. If the action searches for files, make sure that files were found. Once you determine that the action was successful, you’re ready to proceed to the next action.

✔ Tips ■

While a workflow is paused, you can change settings in actions that haven’t yet run.



When stepping through a workflow, you can run all remaining actions by choosing Workflow > Run, clicking Run in the toolbar, or pressing $%R .



For Tiger users, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. The ability to step through a workflow wasn’t added to Automator until Leopard.



For Leopard users, the Step button wasn’t included in Automator’s toolbar by default. You can add it by customizing the toolbar.

Log details Figure 9.3 When stepping through a workflow, view the current action’s results and the log to see if problems occurred.

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Problems Running Workflows

2. Choose Workflow > Step. or Click the Step button in the workflow window’s toolbar. Automator runs the next action, and then pauses again. You can stop stepping through a workflow at any time by choosing Workflow > Stop, clicking Stop in the toolbar, or pressing $%. .

Chapter 9

Troubleshooting a workflow problem A great way to learn to troubleshoot is to walk through a problem workflow. In this section, you’ll create a controlled problematic workflow. You’ll then learn how to troubleshoot it by checking action results, checking Automator’s log, and more. You can apply these same techniques to troubleshooting real-world workflows.

To create a broken workflow for troubleshooting: 1. Launch iTunes, and choose File > New Playlist to create a new music playlist. Name the playlist My Favorite Songs (Figure 9.4).

Figure 9.4 Create a playlist named My Favorite Songs in iTunes.

2. Bring Automator to the front, and create a new Workflow file (Figure 9.5).

Problems Running Workflows

3. From the Music category, drag the Get Specified iTunes Items action to your workflow. 4. Click the Add button. A panel that contains your iTunes songs and playlists appears. 5. When prompted, select the My Favorite Songs playlist and click Add (Figure 9.6). The My Favorite Songs playlist is added to the Get Specified iTunes Items action.

Figure 9.5 Choose to build a new Workflow file in the template selection panel.

Figure 9.6 Choose the My Favorite Songs playlist when prompted, and click the Add button.

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Troubleshooting 6. In the Music category of the Library list, click the Play iTunes Playlist action, and drag it to the end of the workflow. You now have a complete workflow that gets the My Favorite Songs playlist from iTunes and plays it (Figure 9.7). If you run the workflow now, it should run successfully. The purpose of this exercise, however, is to simulate a problem. Figure 9.7 A workflow that retrieves a specified playlist from iTunes and plays it.

Figure 9.8 Rename the My Favorite Songs playlist to My Old Favorite Songs in iTunes.

Troubleshooting Different Types of Workflows If you encounter a problem with a workflow Application, Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, iCal Alarm, or Image Capture Plugin, open and run it in Automator. You can then step through the workflow, monitor action results, view the log, and more. These capabilities are not available outside of Automator.

8. Run the erroneous workflow. Automator returns an error. Because the playlist My Favorite Songs was renamed, the Get Specified iTunes Items action can’t find it and displays an error message. The message tells you the Get Specified iTunes Items action encountered a problem and suggests checking the action’s properties (Figure 9.9). Unfortunately, Automator’s error message isn’t much help. Therefore, you need to employ some other troubleshooting techniques to find the real source of the problem, specifically: ◆

Check the workflow status.



Check the workflow log.



Check the action results.

✔ Tip ■

When Automator refers to an action’s properties, it means the action’s modifiable settings.

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Problems Running Workflows

Figure 9.9 Automator displays an error message when an action encounters a problem.

7. To create a problem, go back into iTunes, and rename the My Favorite Songs playlist to My Old Favorite Songs (Figure 9.8).

Chapter 9

Check the workflow status: ◆

The first place you should check when troubleshooting a workflow is the status area at the bottom of the workflow window. You won’t find much information here, but it will tell you if an error occurred (Figure 9.10).

Figure 9.10 The status bar at the bottom of a workflow window indicates when Automator encounters an error.

Check the workflow log:

Problems Running Workflows



Perhaps the most useful way to troubleshoot a problem is to consult Automator’s log (choose View > Log or press o$%L ). Here you can find detailed information about any problems that may have occurred. For the example, the log specifies that iTunes could not locate the My Favorite Songs playlist (Figure 9.11). To resolve this problem, you can rename or re-create the playlist in iTunes. Or, you can reconfigure the Get Specified iTunes Items action to retrieve a different playlist. Either way, you can get the information you need to solve the problem by looking at the log.

Figure 9.11 The log is an excellent place to find detailed information about workflow problems. Here the log indicates that iTunes can’t locate a playlist named My Favorite Songs.

Check action results: ◆

To view an action’s results, click the Results button at the bottom of the action. The results area for an action that encounters an error appears (Figure 9.12). If the action accepts input, however, you may find some clues to what went awry by checking the results of the previous action. You want to make sure that the correct information is passed from the previous action to the action that encountered the error. If it isn’t, that may be what’s causing the error. In the example workflow, no actions run before Get Specified iTunes Items, so the results aren’t much help.

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What’s in the Log? Automator’s log provides important information about your workflow, including: ◆

Actions that have run successfully and their durations



Actions that have failed with detailed error messages



Conversion actions that may have run in the background

Refer to the log often, even if you don’t receive an error. It may help to shed more light on what’s going on as your workflow runs.

Troubleshooting

Other troubleshooting techniques If you can’t solve a workflow problem with the techniques just described, try these: Make action adjustments. Consider changing the way the action behaves. Sometimes, a simple adjustment to an action’s settings may fix the problem. In the example workflow, you might consider configuring the Get Specified iTunes Items action to display when run, allowing you to choose the playlist at runtime.



Consider alternate actions. Some Automator actions do similar tasks, such as Get Specified iTunes Items and Get Selected iTunes Items. Although these actions sound very similar, they work just a bit differently. One allows you to specify iTunes items when you build the workflow. The other gets any selected iTunes items when you run the workflow. If you’re encountering a problem with one action, try using another that works in a similar way.



Disable actions. Don’t forget; you can also disable an action in a workflow. If an action is causing a problem, try disabling it (select the action and choose Action > Disable). See how the workflow runs without the action or with a different action in its place. You can gather some clues from the way the workflow performs at this point. If necessary, you can always enable it again.

Figure 9.12 Check the results of actions in your workflow to help identify potential problems. An action that encounters an error will have no results, but checking the results of previous actions may indicate a problem.

Locating the Culprit Action When a workflow encounters an error, a red X appears at the bottom of the problematic action. Use this clue to identify where the workflow stopped, and start troubleshooting there.

Checking Action Results in Tiger Tiger users can check action results by using the View Results action, located under Automator in the Library list. Insert this action throughout your workflow to view the results of any action.

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Problems Running Workflows



Chapter 9

Problems Opening Workflows Not all problems occur when running a workflow: Sometimes just opening one can be problematic. These sorts of issues, however, are generally a bit simpler to diagnose. For the most part, Automator tells you what the problem is.

Figure 9.13 Automator notifies you when opening a workflow that uses an action not installed on your machine. For the workflow to run, you must install the missing action.

Missing workflow actions

Problems Opening Workflows

To open and run a workflow, you must have all actions used by that workflow installed on your machine. Otherwise, Automator displays an error when the workflow is opened (Figure 9.13). You’re likely to encounter this problem if you’re downloading a lot of workflows or getting them from friends. When this type of error occurs, you can still open the workflow. Any missing actions, however, are dimmed, and their settings are not visible (Figure 9.14). In addition, if you try to run the workflow, Automator displays an error message indicating that some actions were not loaded (Figure 9.15).

To troubleshoot this problem: ◆

Locate and install the missing action. If you downloaded the workflow, see if the action is available for download, too. Or, if you received the workflow from a friend, ask where you can get the action.

Or ◆

Search the actions you see in Automator’s Library list. Perhaps you can locate a similar substitute for the missing one. The workflow might behave slightly differently, but it may still meet your needs.

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Figure 9.14 A missing workflow action is displayed in Automator, but it’s dimmed and its settings are not visible.

Figure 9.15 Automator displays an error message if you try to run a workflow with missing actions.

Troubleshooting

Action version changes When an action is upgraded—a new version of the action is released—its behavior or settings may change. For this reason, Automator alerts you when opening a workflow that uses an older version of an action that you have installed. You may need to make some changes to the action’s settings so your workflow continues to run successfully (Figure 9.16). When this problem occurs, you can still try running the workflow. In some cases, it may work just fine; in others, however, it may produce an error or not perform as intended. You’re likely to encounter this error when opening Tiger workflows in Leopard or Leopard workflows in Snow Leopard, because developers typically upgrade actions when a new operating system is released.

To troubleshoot this problem: Try running the workflow. If it runs successfully, you’re home free!



If the workflow produces an error at runtime, you’ll need to configure the action’s settings for the newer version. In fact, it’s probably best to delete the action from the workflow entirely and insert the new version of the action. This clears any of the action’s previously saved settings from the workflow. Once the newer version of the action is inserted, configure it to meet your needs. continues on next page

Figure 9.16 Automator notifies you when opening a workflow containing an older version of an action. This is your cue to test the workflow to make sure it still runs smoothly.

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Problems Opening Workflows



Chapter 9

✔ Tips ■

If you’re unsure of the latest version available for an action, check the developer’s website. If the action has documentation, search it for a version history.



In Leopard and Snow Leopard, you can view the version of an action in its description area (Figure 9.17). The Finder’s information window also displays the version number of an action (Figure 9.18). Locate and click the action file in the Finder, and choose File > Get Info.



In Tiger, some developers include version numbers in the action’s description area. For others, you’ll need to view the action’s information window in the Finder.

Action version Figure 9.17 In Leopard, an action’s version number is shown in its description.

Problems Opening Workflows

Action version

Figure 9.18 The information window in the Finder can also be used to view an action’s description.

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Troubleshooting

General Problems Most Automator problems are likely to involve opening or running workflows. Occasionally, however, you may encounter some general application-level problems.

Missing actions Looking for an action in Automator, but just can’t seem to find it? Perhaps you saw the action on a friend’s machine, but don’t see it on yours. There are times when actions may be installed on your system, but don’t show up in Automator. Figure 9.19 Automator doesn’t always display installed actions. Here, the Photos category lists no iPhoto actions, because iPhoto is not installed.

Generally, this problem occurs if you’re missing an application required for the action to work. For example, although iPhoto actions may be installed on your machine, if iPhoto isn’t installed, Automator won’t display the actions (Figure 9.19).

To troubleshoot this problem: 1. Make sure that any applications required for the action to work are installed. For example, if the action works with iPhoto, make sure iPhoto is installed.

continues on next page

Still Not Seeing an Action? To be visible in Automator, an action sometimes may need a specific version of an application. For example, Automator may not display an action written for Photoshop CS4 if you have Photoshop CS3 installed. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to tell which version of an application an action may need. If the action has documentation, check there. If not, try contacting the action’s developer.

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General Problems

Figure 9.20 The /System/Library/Automator folder contains Automator actions for Apple applications. This example shows that the Add Photos to Album iPhoto action is installed.

2. Verify that the action is installed. To do this, look for the action in one of the following folders: ▲ /System/Library/Automator This folder contains actions for Apple applications that are installed with Mac OS X (Figure 9.20). You probably won’t find any other actions here.

Chapter 9 ▲



/Library/Automator This folder may contain third-party actions. Actions here are available to all users on your Mac (Figure 9.21). /Users/YourUserName/Library/ Automator This folder may also contain third-party actions. Actions here are available to you only, not to other users of your Mac (Figure 9.22).

If the problematic action and its required applications are installed on your Mac, the action should be listed in Automator (Figure 9.23).

Figure 9.21 Automator actions from third-party developers are sometimes installed in the /Library/Automator folder. Actions in this folder are available to all users of your Mac.

General Problems

✔ Tips ■

Need help troubleshooting a problem? Check out Chapter 12, “Automator Resources.” Here, you’ll find links to Automator websites and mailing lists that can be valuable troubleshooting resources.



Sometimes, an application may be installed on your machine, but its actions aren’t visible in Automator. When this happens, try quitting Automator, launching the application, quitting the application, and relaunching Automator.



Automator tries to keep track of the actions installed on your Mac. Sometimes, it can get “stuck,” and not show new actions. To resolve the problem, look for variations of files named com.apple.Automator.ActionCache.plist in the ~/Library/Caches folder within your home folder, and delete them. This will clear Automator’s cache and cause it to rescan your machine for actions.

Figure 9.22 Automator actions from third-party developers are also sometimes installed in the /Users/YourUserName/Library/Automator folder. These actions are available to you only, not to other users of your machine.

Figure 9.23 If an action and its required applications are installed on your Mac, you should see the action in Automator.

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Customizing Automator

10

Automator is supposed to be easy to use, and as you’ve seen, most features are easily accessible with a key command or a few mouse clicks. By now you should feel pretty comfortable getting around the interface. You can, however, change the interface’s look and feel a bit if you prefer. As with many other Mac OS X applications, you can reconfigure Automator’s toolbar. You can reorder or remove the buttons and add new buttons for frequently accessed features.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to adjust Automator’s interface to your liking, including adding and removing buttons in the toolbar, resizing the Library list, creating your own custom groups of actions, and more.

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Customizing Automator

Many aspects of the workflow window are also customizable, including whether the Library list is visible, whether the description area is visible, and more. You can even create your own custom groupings of actions and variables. For example, if you frequently use the same actions, you can group them together for quick and easy access, so you don’t have to click through different categories to find them.

Chapter 10

Customizing the Toolbar Even if you’re perfectly comfortable using Automator’s default toolbar configuration, you may want to consider some customizations. For example, if you regularly print workflows, you can add a button for this task to the toolbar. Or, if you never step through workflows, you might want to remove the Step button from the toolbar. There’s a lot to see in an Automator workflow window; perhaps you’d prefer to reduce the size of the toolbar buttons to gain more screen area to edit your workflows. In this section, you’ll learn several ways of customizing Automator’s toolbar.

To customize the toolbar:

Customizing the Toolbar

1. Open a workflow window. 2. Choose View > Customize Toolbar (Figure 10.1). or While holding down the C key, click the toolbar to display the contextual menu, and then choose Customize Toolbar (Figure 10.2). A customization panel drops down from the toolbar, containing a variety of options, including new buttons, sizing choices, and more (Figure 10.3). 3. Make your desired changes to the toolbar, such as adding or removing a button (see the following section for how to do this). 4. Click Done. The customization panel closes. Automator remembers your toolbar customizations and displays them in workflow windows from now on.

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Figure 10.1 Choose View > Customize Toolbar from the menu bar to customize Automator’s toolbar.

Figure 10.2 You can also customize the toolbar by holding down the C key and clicking on the toolbar. Choose Customize Toolbar from the resulting contextual menu.

Figure 10.3 When you customize Automator’s toolbar, a panel appears, giving you access to new buttons and resizing options.

Customizing Automator

Adding and removing toolbar buttons

Figure 10.4 To add a button to the toolbar, drag a button from the customization panel to the desired location in the toolbar.

Automator makes it easy to add or remove buttons in the toolbar and even provides a way to reset the toolbar to its default buttons.

To add a toolbar button: 1. Follow the steps in the previous section to display the toolbar customization panel.

Figure 10.5 When adding a new button to the toolbar, existing buttons move out of the way, if necessary, to make room.

2. Drag the desired button from the customization panel to the toolbar (Figure 10.4). Automator moves any existing buttons out of the way by shifting them to the left or right and adds the new button to the toolbar. Now the button is available for you to use whenever you need it (Figure 10.5).

✔ Tip ■

Need to change the location of a button in the toolbar? No problem. With the toolbar customization panel visible, simply click the button and drag it to the desired location. Without the customization panel visible, press $% , click the button, and drag it to the desired location.

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To remove a toolbar button: ◆

With the customization panel displayed, drag the button you want to remove off the toolbar. With a puff of smoke, the button disappears (Figure 10.6). or Without the customization panel displayed, hold down $% , and drag the button off the toolbar. Again, one puff of smoke, and the button is gone. or Without the customization panel displayed, hold down the C key, and click the button within the toolbar to display a contextual menu. Then choose Remove Item from the menu (Figure 10.7). Automator removes the button.

Figure 10.6 When customizing the toolbar, remove a button by simply dragging it off the toolbar.

To reset the toolbar buttons: 1. Display the toolbar customization panel.

Customizing the Toolbar

2. Drag the default set of buttons to the toolbar (Figure 10.8). Any buttons you’ve added are removed, and the default buttons are displayed again (Figure 10.9).

Figure 10.7 A toolbar button can also be removed by choosing Remove Item from the contextual menu. To display the contextual menu, hold down C and click the toolbar.

Figure 10.8 To reset the toolbar, simply drag the default set of buttons from the customization panel to the toolbar.

Figure 10.9 When you drag the default set of buttons to the toolbar, any buttons you’ve added disappear and the original buttons are displayed.

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Customizing Automator

Resizing toolbar buttons Figure 10.10 The toolbar buttons at their normal, large size.

Figure 10.11 The toolbar buttons at their reduced size.

The buttons in Automator’s toolbar can be viewed in two sizes: small and large (Figures 10.10 and 10.11). Unless you have a lot of buttons in the toolbar, the default size of large is probably just fine. You can, however, change the size if you prefer.

To change the size of toolbar buttons: 1. Display the toolbar customization panel. 2. Click the “Use small size” checkbox (Figure 10.12). Or 1. Hold down C and click the toolbar to display the contextual menu (Figure 10.13).

Icon size checkbox Figure 10.12 Click the Use Small Size checkbox to reduce the size of the buttons in the toolbar and gain slightly more space to build your workflows.

2. Choose Use Small Size from the menu. To enlarge the buttons, deselect the “Use small size” checkbox in the customization panel, or deselect the Use Small Size menu item in the contextual menu.

Customizing the Toolbar

Figure 10.13 Reduce the size of toolbar buttons by choosing Use Small Size from the contextual menu. To display this menu, hold down C and click the toolbar.

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Chapter 10

Changing the style of toolbar buttons By default, toolbar buttons are displayed as icons with text below them. If you want to maximize the amount of space available for creating workflows, you can display them as icons only or, even better, as text only. You won’t gain a huge amount of extra space, but every little bit can help (Figures 10.14, 10.15, and 10.16).

To change the style of the toolbar buttons:

Figure 10.14 By default, toolbar buttons are displayed as icons and text.

Figure 10.15 To reduce the size of the toolbar ever so slightly, display toolbar buttons as icons only.

Figure 10.16 For the most screen real estate, display toolbar buttons as text only.

1. Display the toolbar customization panel. 2. From the pop-up menu at the bottom of the customization panel, choose Icon and Text, Icon Only, or Text Only (Figure 10.17). Or 1. Hold down C and click the toolbar to display the contextual menu.

Customizing the Toolbar

2. Choose Icon and Text, Icon Only, or Text Only (Figure 10.18). Automator updates the buttons in the toolbar to reflect the chosen style. Congratulations! You now have a few millimeters of extra space to build your workflows.

Figure 10.17 To change the style of buttons, choose from the pop-up menu at the bottom of the customization panel.

Figure 10.18 You can also change the button style using the toolbar’s contextual menu. Hold down C and click the toolbar to display the contextual menu.

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Customizing Automator Show/ hide toolbar button

Hiding the toolbar Figure 10.19 To hide the toolbar, click the ovalshaped button in its upper-right corner.

Because many of the buttons in the toolbar have corresponding keyboard shortcuts, you may not need to see the toolbar all the time. As you get more comfortable with Automator, you may start relying on keyboard shortcuts more and more. If you find you are not using the toolbar much, you can hide it from view entirely.

To hide the toolbar: ◆ Figure 10.20 Hiding the toolbar from Automator’s menu bar.

Click the oval-shaped button in the upper right of the toolbar (Figure 10.19). or Choose View > Hide Toolbar (Figure 10.20). The toolbar disappears, giving you more room to edit your workflow (Figure 10.21).

To display the toolbar again, click the ovalshaped button in the upper right of the workflow window, or choose View > Show Toolbar.

Customizing the Toolbar

Figure 10.21 With the toolbar hidden, only the title of the workflow is visible at the top of the window. Now there’s more room to edit your workflow.

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Chapter 10

Customizing the Workflow Window The toolbar isn’t the only interface element that’s customizable in Automator. You can also change how the workflow window appears and functions. For example, you can resize the Library list or hide it entirely, hide the description area, show the log, and more.

✔ Tip ■

When you make changes to a new workflow window, Automator automatically applies those changes to future windows. For example, resizing a new workflow window causes future windows to be created at the new size.

Resizing the Library list Action names are sometimes lengthy, causing them to appear cropped in the Library list. This can make it tough to find the action you’re looking for. To reduce cropping, you can expand the size of the Library list.

Customizing the Workflow Window

To resize the Library list: ◆

Click the handle in the lower right of the Library list, beneath the description area, and drag it to the left or right to the desired width. or Click and drag the divider line between the Library list and the workflow area to the left or the right to the desired width. or Click and drag the divider line between the columns of the Library list to the left or right to change the width of the individual columns. or Click and drag the divider line between the Library list and the description area to the desired height (Figure 10.22).

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Resize dividers Resize handle Figure 10.22 To prevent action names from appearing cropped, you can adjust the size of the Library list.

Customizing Automator

Hiding the Library list When you finish adding actions to a workflow, you may not need to use the Library list again for a while. To give yourself more room to edit the actions in the workflow, you can hide the Library list (Figure 10.23).

To hide the Library list: ◆

Figure 10.23 Automator enables you to hide the Library list entirely, giving you more room to view and edit your workflow.

Click the Hide Library button in the toolbar (Figure 10.24). or Choose View > Hide Library (Figure 10.25). The workflow area expands to the left, hiding the Library list. Now you can focus your attention on the actions in your workflow without getting distracted by unneeded interface elements.

You can make the Library list visible by clicking Show Library in the toolbar or by choosing View > Show Library (Figure 10.26).

Figure 10.25 Choosing View > Hide Library to hide the Library list.

Customizing the Workflow Window

Figure 10.24 Click the Hide Library button in the toolbar to hide the Library list.

Figure 10.26 Choosing View > Show Library to view the Library list again.

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Hiding the description area As you become more familiar with Automator actions, you may not need the description area as often. You may want to hide it.

To hide the description area: ◆

Click the button in the bottom left of the workflow window. The description area disappears, and the Library list now takes up the entire left side of the workflow window (Figure 10.27).

To redisplay the description area, click the button in the bottom left of the workflow window.

✔ Tip ■

Hide/show description button Figure 10.27 The description area beneath the Library list can be hidden from view to gain more room for the list of available actions.

With the description area hidden, you can still view the description of an individual action within your workflow by clicking the Description button at the bottom of the action.

Customizing the Workflow Window

Showing the log area As you know, the log is a valuable tool for troubleshooting workflow problems. It’s wise to make it visible, so you can identify any problems right away.

To show the log area: ◆

Click the button beneath the workflow area (Figure 10.28). or Choose View > Log (Figure 10.29). or Press o$%L . The log area appears, allowing you to monitor the progress of your workflow as it runs within Automator.

✔ Tip ■

For more on using the log, see Chapter 9, “Troubleshooting.”

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Show/ hide log button Figure 10.28 The log is a valuable troubleshooting tool. Consider keeping it visible at the bottom of your workflow window at all times.

Figure 10.29 To display the log choose View > Log or press o$%L .

Customizing Automator

Showing the workflow variables area If your workflow uses variables, you may want to view them in a list. To do this, you can display a workflow variables area beneath the main workflow area (Figure 10.30).

To show the workflow variables area: ◆

Show/ hide workflow variables button Figure 10.30 The workflow variables area allows you to monitor the values of variables used throughout your workflow.

Click the button at the bottom of the workflow area. or Choose View > Variables (Figure 10.31). The workflow variables area appears, allowing you to monitor the values of the variables used in your workflow as it runs within Automator.

✔ Tip Figure 10.31 Choose View > Variables to display the workflow variables area.



For more on creating, using, and monitoring variables, see Chapter 8, “Using Variables.”

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Chapter 10

Grouping Actions The Library list’s categories and search field make it easy to locate an action with only a few mouse clicks. If you find you are using the same actions repeatedly, however, you may want to avoid having to click through these categories or enter a search term. Instead, you may want an easier way to access the actions and to differentiate them from other actions you don’t use as often.

Grouping Actions

In Mac OS X, many applications allow you to customize how you organize items. In the Finder, you can store files in folders. In iPhoto, you can add photos to albums. In iTunes, you can create playlists of songs. Automator is no different: In it, you can create custom action groups. For example, you might want to create a group for any third-party actions you’ve installed or for the actions you use most often (Figure 10.32).

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Figure 10.32 To easily find the actions you use most often, organize them into custom groups.

Customizing Automator Figure 10.33 To create a custom group of actions, choose New Group from the pop-up menu in the bottom left of the workflow window.

To create a custom group of actions: 1. In the bottom left of the workflow winbutton to display a dow, click the pop-up menu. 2. From the pop-up menu, choose New Group (Figure 10.33). Automator creates an empty group at the bottom of the Library list, leaving the group’s name selected. 3. Enter a name for the group, such as My Favorite Actions (Figure 10.34). 4. Find the actions you want to add and drag them to your custom group (Figure 10.35).

Figure 10.34 A newly created custom group, ready to be renamed to identify the actions it contains.

You now have a grouping of custom actions, which you can quickly access when creating workflows. In addition to residing within the group, the actions still reside within their original categories.

✔ Tip ■

You can create groups of variables in the same way you can group actions.

Grouping Actions

Figure 10.35 To add actions to a custom group, find them and drag them to the group.

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Chapter 10

To remove a custom group: 1. Select the custom group in the Library list. 2. Press D . or From the pop-up menu in the lower left of the workflow window, choose Remove Groups (Figure 10.36). Automator asks if you really want to remove the group. 3. Click OK to remove the group, or click Cancel to retain the group (Figure 10.37).

✔ Tip ■

Removing a group deletes the group only, not the actions within it. The actions remain listed in their original locations as well.

Grouping Actions

Creating smart groups of actions Many Mac OS X applications enable you to create smart groups, which are essentially saved searches matching criteria that you specify. For example, iPhoto allows you to create smart albums of photos, such as any photo assigned the keyword “Vacation.” In iTunes, you can create smart playlists of songs, such as any song recorded in the 1960s. In the Finder, you can create smart folders of items, such as any item whose modification date is in the current week. In Automator, you can create smart groups, too—smart groups of actions. Unlike with custom groups of actions, you don’t need to add anything into a smart group. Rather, you enter the desired search criteria, and then Automator automatically finds all actions matching those criteria. For example, you might create a smart group that finds all actions that accept text as input.

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Figure 10.36 To remove a group, select the group and choose Remove Groups from the pop-up menu in the lower right of the workflow area.

Figure 10.37 Automator makes sure you don’t accidentally remove a group by displaying an alert asking for confirmation.

Customizing Automator Several smart groups already exist in Automator’s Library list (Figure 10.38):

Figure 10.38 Smart groups display actions that meet specific criteria. The Most Used smart group displays the 25 actions you use most often.

Figure 10.39 To create a smart group, choose New Smart Group from the pop-up menu in the lower left of the workflow window.



Most Relevant. Displays a list of actions that are most relevant to the actions within your workflow. As you add more actions to your workflow, the list of relevant actions is updated.



Most Used. Displays a list of the 25 actions you use most often.



Recently Added. Displays a list of the 25 most recently added actions within the last 14 days. If you haven’t installed new actions on your machine, this list is empty.

To add a smart group: 1. From the pop-up menu at the bottom-left corner of the workflow window, choose New Smart Group (Figure 10.39). Automator displays a panel in which you can specify the desired search criteria. 2. In the Name field, enter a name for the smart group.

4. To reduce the number of actions that fill the smart group, click the “Limit number of items to” checkbox and enter a limit value in the text field. continues on next page

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Grouping Actions

3. In the criteria area, choose the search criteria you want to use to fill the smart group. For example, suppose you use Mail and iCal to create most of your workflows. You can configure the smart group to display any actions that interact with those applications.

Chapter 10 5. From the “Sort by” pop-up menu, choose how you’d like the actions to be sorted within the smart group. By default, actions are sorted by name. 6. Click OK (Figure 10.40). Automator creates a smart group at the bottom of the Library list. Click the group to display any actions matching the criteria you specified (Figure 10.41). When you create a smart group, you’re not locked in. You can change it in the future, if necessary, by modifying its search criteria or adding new criteria.

Figure 10.40 When configuring a smart group, specify the desired search criteria.

✔ Tips ■

You cannot create a smart group for variables.



To remove a smart group, follow the instructions earlier in this chapter for removing a custom group. The same steps apply to smart groups.

To edit a smart group:

Grouping Actions

1. Click the smart group in the Library list. 2. Choose Edit Group from the pop-up menu in the bottom left of the workflow window. Automator displays the smart group configuration panel again; you can then make any desired changes (Figure 10.42).

Figure 10.41 Click a smart group to display the actions matching the group’s specified search criteria.

Figure 10.42 To edit a smart group, select the group in the Library list. Then choose Edit Group from the pop-up menu in the bottom left of the Library list.

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Sharing Actions and Workflows

11

This chapter explores various ways of sharing actions and workflows with friends and colleagues, including emailing workflows, locating action files in the Finder, importing actions on your own machine, and printing workflows.

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Sharing Actions and Workflows

Automator is a truly amazing technology that can benefit virtually every Mac user. Unfortunately, people are often intimidated by it and are unsure of how to get started. But you can help spread the good word about Automator by showing others what it can do and how easy it is to use. If you’ve created a useful workflow, send it to friends so they can use it too. Once they’ve seen the benefits of Automator firsthand, they’re sure to begin adopting it.

Chapter 11

Distributing Workflows Automator workflows that have been saved as Applications or Workflow files are just like any other file on the Mac. They can be moved or copied anywhere on your machine, and they can also be sent to other users.

Distributing Workflows

Other types of workflows You can also send Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, iCal Alarm, and Image Capture Plugin workflows to others. You just need to know where to find them, and the other person needs to know where to install them for use. ◆

Service workflows are in ~/Library/ Services.



Folder Action workflows are in ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/ Folder Actions.



Print Plugin workflows are in ~/Library/ PDF Services.



iCal Alarm workflows are in ~/Library/ Workflows/Applications/iCal.



Image Capture Plugin workflows are in ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/ Image Capture.

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Sharing Actions and Workflows

✔ Tips When you send one of these types of workflows to others, be sure to let them know the type of workflow and where to install it.



When you send a Folder Action workflow to others, they need to attach it to a folder on their machine. They should open the workflow in Automator and attach it to a folder. Or, press C and click on the folder to display the Finder’s contextual menu. Then use Folder Actions Setup to attach the workflow to the folder.



When you send an iCal Alarm workflow to others, they need to create an event in iCal and add an Open File alarm to the event. They should direct the Open File alarm to the installed workflow.



Remember, ~ means the folder resides within your home folder.

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Distributing Workflows



Chapter 11

Emailing workflows Probably the simplest way to distribute workflows is to send them as email attachments. Just be sure that the recipients have installed the correct versions of the actions required by the workflow. Otherwise, as mentioned in Chapter 9, “Troubleshooting,” they will get an error message when opening or running the workflow indicating that required actions cannot be found. If a user doesn’t have the required actions, consider sending them as well.

Distributing Workflows

✔ Tip ■

To minimize file size and reduce the possibility of corruption, archive workflows when emailing them to friends. To archive a workflow as a zip file, select it in the Finder and choose File > Compress , or press C , click on the file, and choose Compress .

Publicly distributing workflows If you’ve created a really useful workflow, you may want to make it available to a larger audience. As you’ll learn in Chapter 12, “Automator Resources,” there are a number of websites that cater to hosting user-contributed workflows, including Apple’s own Mac OS X Downloads site (www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ automator/) and MacScripter (http:// macscripter.net). Feel free to submit your workflow for inclusion on one of these sites.

Action distribution limitations Treat Automator actions like any software application. Although many third-party actions are available as freeware, some may be commercial. Keep this in mind, and before sending an action to a friend or colleague, consult the action’s documentation. If a license is included, make sure you won’t violate it by distributing the action. If the license restricts distribution or is unclear, consider sending the recipient a URL to the developer’s website instead.

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Locating Action Files If you intend to send an action to a friend or colleague, you need to find it first. Because actions can be located within an application’s bundle or within one of several folders on your Mac, this can sometimes be a challenge.

Where action files reside As mentioned previously, an action can reside in one of several locations on your machine: Application bundle. Some applications don’t store their actions in a folder. Rather, the actions are included within the application. When Automator launches, it scans the bundled applications on your Mac and looks for actions like these. Some third-party Automator action packs are applications containing embedded actions.



/System/Library/Automator. This folder contains actions for applications installed with Mac OS X, such as iCal, Mail, and TextEdit. It’s highly unlikely that third-party actions would ever be in this folder.



/Library/Automator. This folder is the most likely location to hold third-party actions that you installed. Any actions contained within this folder are available to all user accounts on your machine.



~/Library/Automator. This folder may also contain third-party actions. Any actions in this folder are available to you only, not to other user accounts.

What’s a Bundle? A bundle is a directory in Mac OS X that contains a group of related files and folders. Often, bundles are “packaged” to look like a single file to the user. Many applications in Mac OS X are packaged bundles, containing components necessary for the application to function. When you doubleclick a bundled application, executable code within the bundle runs and the application launches.

Although you can certainly spend time scanning these locations for an action, Automator provides a much easier way to find the one you’re looking for.

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Locating Action Files



Chapter 11

To locate an action file using Automator:

Locating Action Files

1. In an opened workflow, select an action in the workflow area. 2. Choose Action > Show in Finder (Figure 11.1). or Press C , and click the title bar of the action. From the resulting contextual menu, choose Show in Finder (Figure 11.2). The Finder comes to the front and a new window opens, displaying the selected action (Figure 11.3).

Figure 11.1 To locate an action’s file in the Finder, select the action in your workflow and then choose Action > Show in Finder.

✔ Tip ■

This procedure works even for actions embedded within an application’s bundle.

Figure 11.2 To locate an action’s file in the Finder, choose Show in Finder from the contextual menu.

Figure 11.3 When you choose to show an action in the Finder, a new window opens, displaying the selected action.

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Sharing Actions and Workflows

To manually locate actions within an application’s bundle: 1. Find the application that may contain the action you want. This example uses Keynote, which contains embedded actions within its bundle. 2. Press C , and click the application in the Finder to display the contextual menu.

Figure 11.4 To display the contents of a bundled application, choose Show Package Contents from the application’s contextual menu.

✔ Tip ■

This example is meant only to show you where actions reside within an application’s bundle. It’s not recommended to remove actions, or any other components for that matter, from an application’s bundle.

Figure 11.5 Actions stored within an application’s bundle are in the bundle’s /Contents/Library/ Automator folder. This example shows the actions within Keynote’s bundle.

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Locating Action Files

3. Choose Show Package Contents from the menu (Figure 11.4). A new Finder window opens and displays the contents of the application’s bundle. If the application contains Automator actions, they can be found in the bundle’s /Contents/Library/Automator folder (Figure 11.5).

Chapter 11

Importing Actions Sharing Automator workflows is a two-way street. In addition to distributing workflows you’ve created, you may also receive workflows from others or download them from the Web. To run workflows that you’ve acquired, you must first install any required third-party actions.

Importing Actions

As you’ve learned, some actions are installed within applications. For these, you just need to install the required application; you’ll need it anyway for the workflow to function. Some third-party actions may come with a stand-alone action installer. Simply run it to automatically install the actions into the correct location on your machine. Of course, you can also manually install actions by moving them into one of the /Library/Automator folders on your machine—at the root level of your hard drive for all users on your machine or within your user folder for you only. Actions can also be installed from within Automator. If you’re installing actions that don’t have an installer of their own, use this method.

✔ Tips ■

You may need to relaunch Automator to see third-party actions you’ve installed.



Remember, you may also need to configure a workflow someone sends you or install it in a specific location.

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Sharing Actions and Workflows

To import third-party action files from within Automator: 1. Choose File > Import Actions (Figure 11.6). An Import Automator Action window appears. 2. Locate and choose the actions you want to import.

Figure 11.6 To import third-party actions into Automator, choose File > Import Actions.

3. Click Import (Figure 11.7). The chosen actions are imported into the ~/Library/Automator folder within your home folder (Figure 11.8).

Figure 11.7 When prompted, locate the actions you want to import and click Import.

Figure 11.8 Imported actions are added to the ~/Library/Automator folder. They are available only for you, not in other user accounts on your machine.

Figure 11.9 Imported actions appear in Automator right away, assuming any required applications are installed.

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Importing Actions

There’s no need to relaunch Automator this time. Assuming you have any applications and other resources required by the imported actions, you should see the new actions in Automator’s Library list immediately. Go ahead and begin adding them to your workflows (Figure 11.9).

Chapter 11

Printing a Workflow

Printing a Workflow

Another way to share workflows with others is in print format. One advantage of sharing a printed workflow is that it doesn’t require recipients to have the workflow’s actions installed. In fact, they don’t even need to have a Mac! You may just want to show off to some of your PC buddies at work. Printing a workflow can also be helpful when you are creating a workflow. It allows you to place the entire workflow on paper right in front of you, which may be useful when working with lengthy workflows. You can then review the actions and their settings simultaneously to ensure that all are configured properly. You can also consider potential areas for improvement or additional actions that you may want to add to the workflow.

Figure 11.10 To print an open workflow in Automator, choose File > Print or press $%P .

To print a workflow: 1. Open the workflow. 2. Choose File > Print (Figure 11.10). or Press $%P . A print panel appears attached to the workflow window (Figure 11.11).

Figure 11.11 When printing a workflow, a print panel is displayed attached to the workflow. Here, you can specify the target printer and adjust other print options.

3. Click Print. The workflow prints. A printed workflow shows what you see onscreen when viewing the workflow in Automator—previews of all the workflow’s actions, including their settings (Figure 11.12).

✔ Tips ■

To modify the page setup prior to printing, choose File > Page Setup or press S$%P .



To save the workflow as a PDF, choose Save as PDF from the PDF menu at the bottom of the print panel.

248

Figure 11.12 A printed workflow shows previews of all the actions within the workflow.

Automator Resources

12

Numerous websites provide detailed Automator information, such as tutorials, tips, and example workflows. Hundreds of third-party actions are available for download, enabling you to expand the list of actions installed on your machine. Mailing lists and forums provide an excellent opportunity to meet other Automator users, ask questions, and find answers. This chapter provides a comprehensive list of these and other valuable Automator resources. Of course, be sure to keep this book handy, too, and use it regularly as a quick reference guide for creating workflows, looping, using variables, and more.

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Automator Resources

You’re now ready to begin using Automator on your own. Along the way, you may encounter obstacles or questions. Remain calm. Loads of available resources can help you through tough situations and take you to the next level with Automator.

Chapter 12

Automator’s Help Like many applications in Mac OS X, Automator contains built-in help documentation. You can use it while building your workflows to find basic information about actions, variables, workflows, and other important topics.

Figure 12.1 Choose Help > Automator Help to display Automator’s help documentation.

To access Automator’s help documentation:

Automator’s Help

1. Choose Help > Automator Help (Figure 12.1). A window appears, displaying Automator’s help documentation. 2. Browse the topics listed, or enter a query into the search field in the window’s toolbar (Figure 12.2).

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Figure 12.2 Automator’s help documentation provides quick access to basic information about workflows, actions, and more.

Automator Resources

Automator’s Example Workflows

Figure 12.3 Choose Help > Open Examples Folder to display the example workflows that are installed with Mac OS X.

An excellent way to learn Automator is to look at examples of completed workflows. Although you can find numerous example workflows online, Apple includes a few with Automator to get you started. You’re encouraged to open these workflows and study them to see how they work. Use them to get ideas for your own workflows, and don’t be afraid to adjust them to meet your needs.

Figure 12.4 Automator’s example workflows provide a good starting point for working with Automator. Open them, see how they work, and adjust them to meet your needs.

1. Choose Help > Open Examples Folder (Figure 12.3). or Open /Library/Application Support/ Apple/Automator/Workflows/. The Workflows folder opens to display several example workflows (Figure 12.4). 2. Double-click the desired workflow to open it in Automator. You can study the workflow, modify it, or run it.

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Automator’s Example Workflows

To view Automator’s example workflows:

Websites

Chapter 12

Websites

Mac OS X Automation

Although Mac OS X includes hundreds of actions, and even more are bundled with Apple and third-party applications, these actions don’t do everything. Fortunately, hundreds of additional actions—and the list is constantly growing—are available for download from third-party developers. Although some of these actions are available commercially, you can download many for free.

www.macosxautomation.com

For an excellent way to jump-start your adoption of Automator, check out the loads of prebuilt workflows online. Before building a workflow, consider looking for an existing one to use as is or modify to meet your needs.

www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ automator/

The following websites are excellent resources for learning more about Automator, as well as expanding your library of actions and workflows.

This website is the definitive resource for all things Automator. Here, you’ll find Automator tips, tricks, tutorials, and videos, as well as downloadable actions, workflows, and much more. This website is updated often, so be sure to check it regularly.

Apple’s Mac OS X Downloads

Apple’s Mac OS X Downloads website is an excellent resource that contains an entire category specifically for third-party Automator actions and workflows. Of course, you’ll find lots of other great downloads here as well, including Mac applications, Dashboard widgets, and much more.

The Companion Website www.peachpit.com/vqs/automatorsnow-leopard Visit the companion website for this book to access downloadable versions of the example workflows, as well as any errata information that may be provided in the future. See page 258 for details.

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Automator Resources

MacScripter http://macscripter.net

Peachpit Press Articles, Blogs, and Podcasts

Although the primary focus of this website is AppleScript, you’ll also find a wealth of information here about Automator, such as articles and links. An Automator Actions section also includes hundreds of downloadable actions and workflows.

www.peachpit.com/benwaldie

Mac OS X Automator Video Training

www.peachpit.com/macautomation

By Jesse Feiler www.vtc.com/products/Mac-OS-X-Automator -tutorials.htm

✔ Tip ■

VTC’s Online University gives you unlimited access to hundreds of video tutorials, making it an excellent way to get low cost video-based training.

My video podcast series, Mac Automation Made Simple, provides step-by-step video tutorials on Automator and AppleScript. You can also find the series on the Peachpit website above or in the podcast section of the iTunes Music Store.

Automated Workflows, LLC www.automatedworkflows.com/tips/tips.html This is the Tips section of my website. Here, you’ll find links to numerous Automator tutorials and articles that I’ve written for Apple. com, Macworld magazine, Peachpit Press, and more. If you’re interested in expanding your automation skills, be sure to check out some of my AppleScript articles for MacTech, MacScripter, and others while you’re there. www.automatedworkflows.com/software/ automator_actions.html I have released hundreds of shareware Automator actions for such applications as FileMaker Pro, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and QuarkXPress, among others. Visit my website to download trial versions of these actions, access example workflows, and more.

253

Websites

VTC (Virtual Training Company) offers a ton of high-quality Mac-related video tutorials, including a course on Automator. The first three chapters of this course are available online for free viewing, or you can purchase the complete course as a CD or via VTC’s Online University.

I’ve written dozens of articles and blog entries about Automator for Peachpit Press, and they’re all available online for free. Simply visit my author page on the Peachpit website for a comprehensive list.

Chapter 12

Mailing Lists and Forums

Mailing Lists and Forums

User-to-user support is perhaps the best way to receive quick Automator assistance when you need it, and several mailing lists and forums are available to help. Typically, these resources are host to hundreds if not thousands of other users who are usually more than happy to provide a quick answer to any question you may have. Participant skill level varies from extreme novice to super geek, so don’t be afraid to ask a question, no matter how simple or complex it may seem. As you become an expert on Automator, don’t forget to share your expertise, too.

Figure 12.5 Choose Help > Join Automator Mailing List to open a subscription page in your web browser.

Apple’s Automator Users Mailing List http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ automator-users Many people may be unaware that Apple provides mailing lists for dozens of applications and Mac-related topics, including Aperture, QuickTime, and—you guessed it—Automator. These mailing lists provide an excellent opportunity to network with other Mac users, as well as get quick answers to your burning questions. Automator even includes menu items to aid you in signing up and sending messages to others on this valuable list.

To join the Automator Users Mailing List: 1. Choose Help > Join Automator Mailing List (Figure 12.5). The Automator Users Mailing List webpage opens in your web browser. 2. Enter your name, email address, and a password, and follow the instructions to subscribe (Figure 12.6). You are sent an email requesting confirmation of your subscription.

254

Figure 12.6 Apple’s website allows you to subscribe to dozens of Mac-related mailing lists, including the Automator Users Mailing list.

Automator Resources After confirming your subscription, you will receive regular emails from other users subscribed to the list. Feel free to email your own Automator-related questions to the list, and be sure to answer questions from others if you are able to do so.

✔ Tips To reduce the number of emails you receive, subscribe to the list as a daily digest.



Consider setting up a mail rule to autofilter mailing list emails into a specific mailbox, allowing you to review them at your leisure.



You can manage your mailing list subscription or unsubscribe from the Automator Users Mailing List webpage at http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ automator-users.

To email the Automator User’s Mailing List: 1. Choose Help > Send Mail to Automator Mailing List. A new email message is created, addressed to the mailing list. 2. Type a subject and your question, and send the email. Now, just sit back and wait for a response.

✔ Tip ■

For help with other Apple technologies, check out the other mailing lists available at http://lists.apple.com/.

255

Mailing Lists and Forums



Chapter 12

Apple’s Automator discussion boards http://discussions.apple.com If you prefer not to clutter your inbox with email from a mailing list, Apple also offers dozens of online discussion forums. If you’re stuck on something, search the Apple discussion boards for advice. If you can’t find an existing post that helps with your problem, go ahead and post a question.

MacScripter BBS

Mailing Lists and Forums

http://macscripter.net/ Although the MacScripter BBS is primarily an AppleScript forum, it does have an Automator category, which can be an excellent resource for getting expert Automator advice.

256

Automator Resources

Sending Feedback to Apple

Figure 12.7 Choose Automator > Provide Automator Feedback to send Apple your input about Automator.

Apple values customer input and takes it into consideration when updating its software. Please let Apple know if you encounter any problems with Automator or if you have suggestions for features or actions you’d like to see. You never know; your suggestions just might make it into a future Automator release.

To provide Automator feedback:

2. Enter your comments, and click Send Feedback (Figure 12.8). Apple won’t respond to your input directly. Rest assured, however, that your input is entered safely into Apple’s database and will be taken into consideration.

✔ Tip ■

You can provide feedback about most Apple products via Apple’s website at www.apple.com/feedback.

Figure 12.8 Use Apple’s feedback webpage to let Apple know about bugs you encounter and features you’d like to see.

257

Sending Feedback to Apple

1. Choose Automator > Provide Automator Feedback (Figure 12.7). Automator’s feedback webpage opens in your web browser.

Chapter 12

Automator for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide Companion Website and Bonus Content

Companion Website and Bonus Content

www.peachpit.com/vqs/automatorsnow-leopard Remember, there’s even more to learn. Don’t forget to visit this book’s companion Website to register your book (see instructions in the Introduction) and gain access to the following bonus chapters: ◆

Bonus Chapter 13, Workflow Starting Points: Learn how to get started building workflows that process files and folders, music and audio, photos and images, movies, text, and more.



Bonus Chapter 14, Building Advanced Workflows: Find out how AppleScript and UNIX can be used to create more robust and powerful Automator workflows.



Bonus Appendix B, Example Workflows: Step-by-step instructions walk you through the creation of workflows that backup your Safari data, make dated subfolders, and clean up your desktop.



Bonus Appendix C, Developer Resources: Learn where to go next if you want to begin writing your own custom Automator actions.

There’s even more great content available online. You can find downloadable versions of the example workflows discussed throughout the book, as well as any extra information that may be added in the future.

258

Glossary This glossary serves as a quick reference guide for many key Automator terms. Additional terms are explained within the text of Automator for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide. Please consult the Index if you are unable to locate a specific term. ◆



Application. A workflow that is saved as an Application behaves like any other Mac OS X application. Double-click the Application to launch and run it, add it to your Dock, configure it as a login item, and more. Applications are drag and droppable. They pass any dropped items as input to the first action in the workflow for processing. Folder Action. An Automator workflow can be saved as a Folder Action and attached to a specified folder. When items are placed in the attached folder, the workflow runs and the newly added items are passed to the workflow for processing.

iCal Alarm. A workflow saved as an iCal Alarm is attached to an iCal event and runs using an Open File alarm. Workflows of this nature can be scheduled to run during downtime or on a repeating schedule.



Image Capture Plugin. An Image Capture Plugin is a workflow that can be run by the Image Capture application as photos are downloaded from a digital camera.



Input. Most actions in Automator accept information from the previous action in the workflow as input. This information is generally processed by the action when the workflow runs. The type of input accepted by an action depends on the task the action performs. In some actions, input can be ignored.



Library. The list of installed actions and variables, organized into categories, is known as Automator’s Library. The Library is displayed along the left side of every workflow window, although it may be hidden from view, if desired.



Log. Automator’s log can be displayed at the bottom of a workflow window. When a workflow runs, the log provides a list of the events performed by the workflow, including any actions that have run, their duration, and a list of any errors that may have occurred.

259

Glossary



Action. An action is a building block within Automator. Each action is responsible for performing a single, specific automated task, and actions are placed together in sequence to form a workflow. Most actions have modifiable settings, allowing you to specify how they should behave when run within a workflow.



Glossary Output. Information that an action passes to the next phase of a workflow is known as the action’s output (see Result).



Plugin. Automator workflows can be built and saved as plugins for certain applications and processes in Mac OS X, including iCal, Image Capture, the Print system, and the system-wide Services architecture. Plugins offer a way to more tightly integrate Automator workflows into a daily routine without launching Automator.



Print Plugin. Print Plugins appear in the PDF pop-up menu at the bottom of the Mac OS X Print window. While printing in any application, choose the workflow to print the current document to PDF format and pass it as input to the workflow for processing.



Recording. Automator offers the ability to record manual tasks, such as mouse clicks and key presses. Recorded events are inserted into a workflow in the form of a Watch Me Do action. When the workflow runs, the recorded events are played back as part of the workflow.

Glossary







Result. Information an action passes to the next phase of a workflow is known as the action’s result or output. The type of result an action produces varies depending on the function of the action. Typically, an action’s result is passed to the next action in the workflow (which receives it as input) for further processing. Script menu. Mac OS X includes a system-wide script menu, which provides quick access to AppleScripts and Automator workflows from within any application. By default, the Script menu is disabled. It can be enabled via the AppleScript Editor application found in /Applications/Utilities.

260



Service. Mac OS X’s Services architecture offers a way for applications to share useful features with other applications. Automator workflows can be saved as Services, allowing them to be run within specified applications via the menu bar and sometimes from contextual menus and other locations. Service workflows can be configured to process selected input, such as text, URLs, image files, and more. When processing selected text, they can also be set to replace the text with processed text output by the workflow.



Timeout. The amount of time allowed for a recorded manual event (within the Watch Me Do action) to be performed when run within an Automator workflow is known as a timeout. By default, recorded events are given a timeout of two seconds. This can be increased or decreased for recorded events on an individual basis, if desired.



Variable. Variables provide a way to store and retrieve values as a workflow runs. A number of predefined variables are available, allowing a workflow to retrieve and use such dynamic information as the current time, current date, current user, system version, and more. Custom variables can also be used to store and retrieve action results, text, and more. Variables are new to Automator in Leopard.



Workflow. A series of Automator actions that run in sequence to perform a set of automated tasks.



Workflow file. A workflow saved as a file that can be opened and run within Automator. Some applications and processes, such as the Script menu, also provide mechanisms for running Automator workflow files.



Watch Me Do. Used to insert recorded events into a workflow (see Recording).

A

Workflow Creation Step-by-Step Guide

1. Determine the job you want to automate. Look for repetitive and time-consuming tasks you do on a regular basis.

3. Determine how you want to run the workflow. For example, do you want to run it within Automator, externally as an application, within another application to process selected text, and so forth? 4. Based on how you want to run the workflow, use Automator’s template selection panel to create a new Workflow, Application, Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, iCal Alarm, or Image Capture Plugin. 5. Certain types of workflows, such as Services and Folder Actions, provide configuration options in a header above the workflow area. Configure these workflow options, if applicable. continues on next page

261

Workflow Creation Step-by-Step Guide

2. List the steps needed to accomplish the job. You can do this in your head or as a written outline. Try to associate each step with an action in Automator.

Appendix A 6. Locate the necessary actions in the Library list, and drag them to your workflow. To locate actions, try clicking through the different categories or entering keywords into the Library list’s search field. If you can’t find an action to accomplish a task, look online for a third-party action that can help. 7. Configure any action settings. To configure an action’s settings at runtime, enable the “Show this action when the workflow runs” option (if available). 8. Determine whether any variables are necessary for your workflow to function. If so, insert them into the workflow and configure them.

Workflow Creation Step-by-Step Guide

9. Test the workflow by running it within Automator. 10. Check the status area and workflow log for errors. If errors occurred, troubleshoot and resolve them. Check action results to make sure the correct information is being passed through the workflow. 11. Save the workflow. 12. Run the workflow and become more efficient.

262

i

Index

Index – (minus button), 140 + (plus button), 141 ~ (tilde), 127

A

263

Index

about this book, xviii Accessibility, 164–165 action fields inserting variables in, 194–195 viewing value of variables in, 196 Action menu, 115 actions, 3–8, 69–95 alternate, 217 arranging, 23 categories of, 20–21, 72 checking results of, 94–95, 216–217 choosing for tasks, 70 collapsing/expanding, 88 configuring, 33, 41, 81 conversion, 6 copying, 85–86 defined, 259 deleting, 82 descriptions of, 25, 76 determining use of, 3 disabling/enabling, 83, 217 displaying list of, 22, 23, 221 distribution limits on, 242 error messages for, 215 finding, 57, 58, 70–72, 244 grouping, 234–238 importing, 246–247 improved in Snow Leopard, xvii inputs and outputs, 4–5, 89–93 inserting into workflows, 73–75 interpreting results of, 94

Library of, 19–23, 76, 221–222 missing, 218, 221–222 moving, 84 options for, 8, 79–81 passing variable values to, 192–193 properties of, 215 renaming, 87 retrieving results of, 198–199 running individual, 212–213 settings for, 7–8, 77–81 smart groups of, 236–238 storage locations for, 243 storing results of, 197–198 third-party, 12, 71, 222, 246 troubleshooting, 217 variables and, 9–10 version changes, 219–220 See also specific actions Actions button, 20 Add Spotlight Comments to Photos workflow, 29, 38–46, 55 Address Book, 35 Apple.com website, 257 AppleScript, xiii, 12 applications arranging actions by, 22–23 bundled, 243, 245 compatible with Automator, 11–12 locating actions for, 72, 243, 245 saving workflows as, 46, 102, 108, 186 viewing actions by, 23, 221 See also workflow Applications archiving workflows, 242 Ask for Finder Items action, 4, 42–43, 80, 105–106, 111 Ask for Photos action, 48 audio-related tasks, xii

Index Automated Workflows website, 253 automatic looping, 175, 185 Automator AppleScript and, xiii application compatibility, 11–12 benefits of using, x–xi customizing, 223–238 discussion forums, 256 example workflows, 251 help documentation, 250 interface components, 13–28 limitations of, xiii mailing list, 254–255 providing feedback on, 257 running workflows within, 61–63, 107 system requirements, xiv tasks performed by, xii troubleshooting, 221–222 website resources, 252–253 Automator Loop Utility, 174 Automator Multi-Item Processing Utility, xiii, 177 Automator Users Mailing List, 254–255

B bonus chapters, xviii, 258 bundled applications, 243, 245 Burn a Disc action, 77, 89 buttons customizing on toolbar, 225–228 See also specific buttons

Index

C Calendar actions, 20 categories of actions, 20–21, 72 of variables, 24, 188–189 Change Type of Images action, 122 collapsing/expanding actions, 88 companion website, 252, 258 compressing files/folders, 104–105 Connect to Servers action, 70, 87 contextual menus, 115 conversion actions, 6 converting workflow types, 159–160 Copy Finder Items action, 6, 74, 122, 125, 134, 184 copying actions, 85–86 copyright symbol, 144 Create Archive action, 4, 7, 8, 77, 106, 112 Create Thumbnail Images action, 49 Current time variable, 200 Current weekday variable, 10

264

Customize Toolbar option, 224 customized variables, 200, 204–205 customizing Automator, 223–238 grouping actions, 234–238 toolbar, 224–229 workflow window, 230–233

D Daily Birthday Greetings workflow, 29, 30–37 Date & Time variables, 24, 188 default toolbar buttons, 226 Delete iCal Events action, 74 deleting actions, 82 Folder Actions, 140 iCal Alarms, 153 Image Capture Plugins, 158 Print Plugins, 148 Service workflows, 129 See also removing deletion actions, 75 description area, 25, 232 disabling/enabling. See enabling/disabling discussion forums, 256 Dispense Items Incrementally action, 177 displaying actions, 22, 23, 221 description area, 25, 232 Library list, 231 log area, 27, 232 toolbar, 229 variables area, 28, 233 See also hiding distributing workflows, 240–242 Download URLs action, 5, 10, 208

E editing Folder Action workflows, 138 iCal Alarm workflows, 153 Service workflows, 126–127 smart groups, 238 workflow Applications, 113 Email Daily Birthday Greetings workflow, 29, 30–37 Email Photo Thumbnails workflow, 29, 47–54 emailing workflows, 242 enabling/disabling Accessibility, 164–165 actions, 83, 217 Folder Actions, 140

Index Script menu, 161 Service workflows, 128–129 error messages, 215 example workflows, 251

F

G Get Contact Information action, 99 Get Current Webpage from Safari action, 10, 208 Get Folder Contents action, 4, 40, 57, 134, 179 Get Image URLs from Webpage action, 10, 208 Get Selected Address Book Items action, 99 Get Selected Finder Items action, 78

H help documentation, 250 hiding description area, 232 Library list, 231 toolbar, 229 See also displaying

I iCal Alarm workflows, 16, 149–153, 259 building, 149–150 deleting, 153 display when running, 152 editing, 153 looping with, 174 opening, 153 saving, 37, 151 stopping, 152 iKey utility, 169 Image Capture Plugin workflows, 16, 154–158, 259 building, 154–155 editing, 158 opening, 158 removing, 158 running, 156–157 saving, 155 stopping, 157 Import Automator Action window, 247 importing actions, 246–247 input, 4–5, 89–93, 259 accepting for actions, 93 ignoring for actions, 91–92 Loop action handling of, 176 matching with output, 89–90 insertion warnings, 74–75 interface components, 13–28 customizing, 223–238 Internet actions, 20 Internet-related tasks, xii

265

Index

feedback webpage, 257 file manipulation actions, 75 file processing with Service workflows, 122–125 with workflow Applications, 111–112 files compressing, 104–105 looping through, 177 processing using workflows, 111–112, 122–125 saving workflows as, 64–65, 101–102 See also workflow files Files & Folders actions, 20, 40, 70 Filter Finder Items action, 70 Find Address Book Items action, 32–33 Find Finder Items action, 70 Find People with Birthdays action, 33 Finder plugins, 126 finding actions, 57, 58, 70–72, 244 Folder Action workflows, xvii, 15, 131–141, 259 AppleScript and, 137 attaching to folders, 141 building, 132–135 disabling/enabling, 140 editing, 138 managing, 139–141 opening, 138 removing, 140 running, 136–137 saving, 135 stopping, 137 Folder Actions Setup application, 139–141 folders attaching Folder Actions to, 141 processing with workflow Applications, 111–112 removing Folder Actions from, 140 See also files

Get Selected iTunes Items action, 6 Get Specified Finder Items action, 179, 181 Get Specified iTunes Items action, 149, 150 Get Value of Variable action, 73, 192–193, 198 glossary, 259–260 groups of actions, 234–238 creating, 235 removing, 236 smart groups, 236–238

Index interpreting action results, 94 iPhoto application, 221 iTunes, 214–215

K keyboard shortcuts, 115, 130 keywords, 57, 58, 71

L Library, 19–24, 259 actions, 19–23, 76, 221–222 hiding the Library list, 231 resizing the Library list, 230 variables, 19, 24, 190–191 /Library/Automator folders, 243 /Library/Scripts folder, 162 Locations variables, 24, 188 log area, 27, 216, 232 Loop action, 3, 73, 174, 179, 185 looping workflows, 173–186 advanced, 183–186 automatically, 175, 185 building, 177–181, 183–185 iCal Alarm plugin for, 174 limitations of, xiii methods used for, 175 processing files with, 177 running, 182, 186 saving, 186 when to use, 173

Index

M Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), xiv checking action results in, 217 displaying running actions in, 212 Finder plugins in, 126 looping workflows in, 174 third-party actions for, 189 Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), xiv Automator enhancements in, xv Finder plugins in, 126 Loop action in, 174 viewing action versions in, 220 workflow variables in, 189 Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), xiv Automator enhancements in, xvi Services in, 116, 126 viewing action versions in, 220 workflow templates in, 14–15 Mac OS X Automation website, 252

266

Mac OS X Automator Video Training, 253 Mac OS X Downloads website, 242, 252 macro utilities, 169 MacScripter website, 242, 253, 256 Mail account, 52 Mail actions, 20 mailing lists, 254–255 Media Browser, xv, 18 minus (–) button, 140 missing actions, 218, 221–222 Most Relevant smart group, 237 Most Used smart group, 237 Move Finder Items action, 50, 144 Movies actions, 20 moving actions in workflows, 84 Music actions, 20 music-related tasks, xii

N naming/renaming actions, 87 workflows, 64–65 New Folder action, 9, 201, 203, 207 New iCal Events action, 77 New Mail Message action, 4, 51–52, 78, 81, 91, 107, 155, 195 New Path variable, 206 New PDF from Images action, 155 New QuickTime Slideshow action, 180 New TextEdit Document action, 99, 193

O Open dialog, 67, 103, 113 opening workflows, 66–67 Options button, 79, 80 outlining workflows, 56–57 output, 4–5, 89, 260 matching with input, 89–90 See also input Output Folder variable, 208, 209

P path pop-up menus, 194 Path variable, 197, 198, 199, 200, 207 Pause action, 175, 178 PDF processing, xii, 142–144 Peachpit Press resources, 252, 253 photo conversion/manipulation, xii Photo Thumbnails workflow, 29, 47–54 Photos actions, 20

Index

Q

help documentation, 250 mailing lists, 254–255 websites, 252–253 Results button, 94 results of actions, 260 checking, 94–95, 216–217 interpreting, 94 retrieving, 198–199 storing, 197–198 Run AppleScript action, 73 Run button, 61 Run Shell Script action, 73 Run Workflow action, 174 running workflows Application workflows, 109 Automator display for, 61–63 Folder Action workflows, 136–137 looping workflows, 182, 186 Print Plugin workflows, 146–147 Service workflows, 120–121, 124–125 simple examples of, 36, 44, 53 variables displayed on, 203, 209 viewing action results on, 94–95 workflow files, 100

QuicKeys utility, 169 QuickTime 7 program, 177 Quit NewApplication option, 110

S

planning workflows, 56–57 Play iTunes Playlist action, 150 playback speed of, 172 timeout, 171 plugins, 260 Finder, 126 Image Capture, 154–158 Print, 16, 142–148 plus (+) button, 141 pop-up menus, 194 Print Plugin workflows, 16, 142–148, 260 building, 143–144 editing, 148 opening, 148 removing, 148 running, 146–147 saving, 145 stopping, 147 printing workflows, 248 publicly distributing workflows, 242

R

Index

Recently Added smart group, 237 Record button, 17, 166 recording, xv, 163–172, 260 enabling, 164–165 manual events, 166–167 playback of, 171–172 preparing for, 166 removing events from, 170 stopping, 168–169 removing custom groups, 236 recorded events, 170 toolbar buttons, 226 See also deleting Rename Finder Items action, 79, 143, 180, 184–185 renaming. See naming/renaming resizing. See sizing/resizing resources, 249–258 bonus chapters, 258 companion website, 252, 258 discussion forums, 256 example workflows, 251

Save panel, 101 saving Application workflows, 46, 108, 186 Folder Action workflows, 135 iCal Alarm workflows, 37, 151 Image Capture Plugin workflows, 155 looping workflows, 186 Print Plugin workflows, 145 Service workflows, 54, 119, 123 workflow files, 64–65, 101–102 Scale Image to 50-50 application, 186 Scale Images action, 74, 184 scheduled workflows, xii, 31, 37 Script menu, 161–162, 260 searching for actions, 57, 58, 70–72 Send Birthday Greetings action, 34–35 Send Outgoing Messages action, 36 Service workflows, 15, 117–130, 260 building, 47, 117–118, 122 configuring, 125, 128–129 deleting, 129 disabling/enabling, 128–129 downloadable, 125 editing, 126–127 file processing, 122–125 keyboard shortcuts for, 130

267

Index

Index Service workflows (continued) opening, 126 running, 120–121, 124–125 saving, 54, 119, 123 stopping, 121 text processing, 117–121 Services, xvi, 114–117, 260 accessing, 115–116 creating, 117 managing, 130 types of, 125 Services Manager, 130 Services submenu, 115 Set PDF Metadata action, 144 Set Spotlight Comments for Finder Items action, 41, 70 Set Value of Variable action, 9, 73, 198, 207 sharing actions/workflows, 239–248 distributing workflows, 240–242 importing actions, 246–247 locating action files, 243–245 printing workflows, 248 Show in Finder option, 244 Show Results option, 94 showing. See displaying sizing/resizing Library list, 230 toolbar buttons, 227 smart groups, 236–238 built-in, 237 creating, 237–238 editing, 238 Sort Finder Items action, 70 speed of playback, 172 Spotlight action, 38, 89 Spotlight Comments to Photos workflow, 29, 38–46 Start iTunes Visuals action, 150 status area, 26, 216 Step button, 213 stepping through workflows, 212–213 Stop button, 168 Storage variable, 197, 198 storing action results, 197–198 System Preferences, 128, 164–165 System variables, 24, 189 system-wide processing, xii

T Take Video Snapshot action, 178 template selection panel, 59, 60, 103 templates, workflow, xvi, 14–16 testing workflows, 36, 44, 53

268

Text & Data variables, 24, 189 text fields, 194 text processing workflow, 117–121 building, 117–118 running, 120–121 saving, 119 selective processing, 118 Text to Audio File action, 89 Text variable, 197 third-party actions, 12, 71, 222, 246 third-party macro utilities, 169 tilde (~), 127 timeout, 171, 260 Today’s Date variable, 202, 203–205, 206, 209 toolbar, 17, 224–229 adding buttons to, 225 changing button style on, 228 customizing, 224 hiding, 229 removing buttons from, 226 resetting buttons on, 226 resizing buttons on, 227 troubleshooting workflows, 211–222 action results and, 216–217 missing actions and, 218, 221–222 status area info and, 216 stepping through workflows, 212–213 using broken workflows, 214–215 version changes and, 219–220 workflow log and, 216

U Universal Access icon, 164 Update iPod action, 7 User variables, 24, 189 Utilities variables, 24, 189

V Variable Options window, 200, 203, 204–205, 206 variables, xv, 9–10, 187–209 adding to workflows, 190–191 advanced workflow example, 206–209 building workflows with, 201–202, 206–208 categories of, 24, 188–189 customizing, 200, 204–205 defined, 260 descriptions of, 25 displaying list of, 24 explained, 187 format changes to, 203–205 inserting in action fields, 194–195 Library of, 19, 24, 190–191

Index options for, 200, 203–205 passed as input to actions, 192–193 preexisting, 10 retrieving action results, 198–199 running workflows with, 209 smart groups and, 238 storing action results, 197 viewing value of, 196 variables area, 28, 233 Variables button, 24 versions of actions, 219–220 View Log button, 27 viewing. See displaying VTC (Virtual Training Company), 253

W

Index

warnings, insertion, 74–75 Watch Me Do action, 168, 169, 170, 171–172, 260 website resources, 252–253 workflow Applications, 15, 104–113, 259 building, 105–107 editing, 113 opening, 113 processing files/folders with, 111–112 quitting, 110 running, 109 saving, 108 workflow area, 26 workflow files, 15, 98–103, 260 building, 98–99 opening, 103 running, 100 saving, 64–65, 101–102 workflow plugins, 97 Image Capture, 154–158 Print, 16, 142–148 workflow templates, xvi, 14–16 workflow window, 14–28, 230–233 customizing, 230–233 description area, 25, 232 Library list, 19, 230–231 log area, 27, 216, 232 status area, 26, 216 templates panel, 14–16 toolbar, 17 variables area, 28, 233 workflow area, 26

workflows, 2–3, 29–54, 55–67, 97–162 Application, 15, 46, 104–113, 259 archiving, 242 building, 29–54 configuring actions for, 33, 41, 81 converting types of, 159–160 creating, 58, 59–60, 261–262 defined, 260 deleting actions from, 82 disabling actions in, 83 distributing, 240–242 emailing, 242 error messages, 215 Folder Action, xvii, 15, 131–141, 259 iCal Alarm, 16, 149–153, 259 Image Capture Plugin, 16, 154–158, 259 inserting actions into, 73–75 looping, 173–186 missing actions in, 218 moving actions in, 84 naming, 64–65 opening, 66–67, 218–220 outlining, 56–57 PDFs from, 248 planning, 56–57 Print Plugin, 16, 142–148, 260 printing, 248 running, 61–63 saving, 37, 46, 54, 64–65 scheduling, 31, 37 Script menu and, 162 Service, 15, 117–130, 260 step-by-step guide, 261–262 stepping through, 212–213 storage locations for, 240 templates for, 14–16 testing, 36, 44, 53 troubleshooting, 211–222 types of, 15–16, 97 variables added to, 190–191 verifying, 45 See also specific workflows Workflows folder, 251

X Xcode, 12

269

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13

Workflow Starting Points

In Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Automator worked a bit differently than it does in Snow Leopard. Rather than asking you to specify the desired type of workflow up front, Automator displayed a Starting Points panel, which asked you what type of content you wanted the workflow to process. You could

set the workflow to process files and folders on your Mac, music and audio in iTunes, photos and images in iPhoto, and more. Based on your choices in this panel, Automator inserted some initial actions into the workflow to point you in the right direction. You could then build onto the workflow by inserting additional actions to actually process the content. Knowing how to start building a workflow is important to understand. This chapter assists you with that task. It tells you which actions to use at the beginning of a workflow if you want to process files and folders, music and audio, photos and images, video, text, or content from the web. You can then build on these simple beginnings by adding more actions to do the real work and process the content.

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Workflow Starting Points

Automator’s template selection panel, which appears whenever a new workflow is created, allows you to choose the type of workflow you want to build. The choice you make here affects how the workflow is saved later. But there are many steps in between creating and saving a workflow. You need to find the correct actions, add them to the workflow, configure them, test them, and so forth. Figuring out where to start in an empty workflow window is not always easy.

Chapter 13

Processing Files and Folders Some of the most common tasks on any system involve processing files or folders. This section provides several ways to begin an Automator workflow of this nature. You can specify the files and folders to be processed at the outset when you create the workflow. Or, you can have your workflow locate files and folders at runtime.

File and folder list

Add button Figure 13.1 The Get Specified Finder Items action retrieves files and folders from your Mac.

Processing Files and Folders

Locating files and folders in a workflow The following actions retrieve files and folders, and pass them down through your workflow for processing. You can find these actions in the Files & Folders category in Automator’s Library list. u

Get Specified Finder Items (Figure 13.1). This action retrieves one or more files or folders in the Finder. Click the Add button in the action’s interface to choose the desired files and folders, or drag files and folders directly to the action’s list from the Finder (Figure 13.2). This action can also be configured to show its interface when the workflow runs. Click Options at the bottom of the action, and select “Show this action when the workflow runs” (Figures 13.3 and 13.4).

Figure 13.2 The Get Specified Finder Items action, configured to get a number of image files.

Show when run option Figure 13.3 Configuring the Get Specified Finder Items action to show when the workflow runs.

Figure 13.4 The Get Specified Finder Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

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Workflow Starting Points Ask for Finder Items (Figure 13.5). This action prompts the user to choose files and folders when the workflow runs (Figure 13.6). This action can be set to display a custom prompt, start at a default folder on your Mac, and allow the user to choose multiple items. It can also be configured to allow the user to choose only files, only folders, or both files and folders.

u

Find Finder Items (Figure 13.7). This action searches your Mac for files and folders when the workflow runs. When you build your workflow, specify the desired search criteria, such as files whose names contain some value or files whose modification date is after some date. You can also set the action to search your entire computer or a specific folder (Figure 13.8).

Figure 13.5 The Ask for Finder Items action prompts the user to choose files and folders.

Figure 13.6 A prompt asking the user to choose a Finder Item.

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Search criteria

Figure 13.7 The Find Finder Items action searches for files and folders matching specific criteria.

Figure 13.8 The Find Finder Items action, configured to find items on the desktop whose name contains Arizona.

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Processing Files and Folders

u

Chapter 13 You can also set this action’s options to display the action at runtime, so the user can enter search criteria at that time (Figure 13.9). u

Get Selected Finder Items (Figure 13.10). This action retrieves any files and folders selected in the Finder at the time the workflow runs.

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Processing Files and Folders

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When you drag files and folders from the Finder to an empty workflow or to a specific place in an existing workflow, Automator automatically inserts a Get Specified Finder Items action for you.

Figure 13.9 The Find Finder Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

Figure 13.10 The Get Selected Finder Items action retrieves items selected in the Finder.

Filtering Files and Folders Often, you may only want your workflow to process certain kinds of files or folders. For example, a workflow that scales images should only process image files; a workflow that uploads files or folders to a web server might only upload items under a certain size. To help ensure that your workflow processes the expected kinds of files and folders, add the Filter Finder Items action to your workflow and specify the desired criteria (Figure 13.11). When your workflow runs, the action automatically filters out any invalid items.

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Figure 13.11 The Filter Finder Items action can filter out invalid files and folders.

Workflow Starting Points

Some workflows locate files and folders automatically Most of the time, Applications, Services, Folder Actions, Print Plugins, and Image Capture Plugins don’t need to locate files and folders at the beginning of the workflow. Instead, files and folders are passed to these types of workflows as input automatically when the workflow runs. Just be sure that the first action in the workflow accepts files and folders as input. Otherwise, anything passed to the workflow won’t be processed.

4 Tip n

To test an Application, Service, Folder Action, Print Plugin, and Image Capture Plugin within Automator, your workflow does need to begin with an action that locates input to process. Just be sure to disable this action or remove it once testing is complete and before saving the workflow.

5

Processing Files and Folders

In rare circumstances, you may not want to process items passed to a workflow. Instead, you may want the workflow to locate different files and folders for processing. In these situations, it’s usually a good idea to set the first action in the workflow to ignore its input (choose Action > Ignore Input). This way, any items passed to the workflow are ignored. Forgetting to do this could cause items passed to the workflow to be appended to the located items. In some cases, if your workflow locates the same content it’s receiving as input, the same items could be processed twice!

Chapter 13

Processing Music and Audio Automator isn’t just for files and folders. It also works with music and audio. Actions exist for retrieving content right from your iTunes library, allowing you to build workflows that create new playlists, update options and metadata of tracks, play tracks, add tracks to iPods, and more.

Figure 13.12 The Get Specified iTunes Items action retrieves tracks or playlists from iTunes.

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Processing Music and Audio

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You can process audio files on your Mac using the techniques discussed earlier in this chapter. See “Processing Files and Folders.”

Locating songs and playlists with your workflow The following actions retrieve songs and playlists from iTunes, and pass them down through your workflow for processing. These actions can be found in the Music category of Automator’s action library. u

Get Specified iTunes Items (Figure 13.12). This action retrieves one or more specified iTunes items. Click the Add button in the action’s interface. A panel appears, allowing you to choose the desired tracks or playlists (Figure 13.13). After making your selection, the chosen tracks or playlists are added to the action’s list (Figure 13.14). You can also drag tracks or playlists directly from iTunes into the action’s list. This action is flexible. You can configure its options to display the action when the workflow runs, allowing tracks or playlists to be chosen at that time (Figure 13.15).

Figure 13.13 When you click Add in the Get Specified iTunes Items action, you’re prompted to choose the desired tracks or playlists.

Figure 13.14 Tracks and playlists added to the Get Specified iTunes Items action appear in a list area.

Figure 13.15 The Get Specified iTunes Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

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Workflow Starting Points Ask for Songs (Figure 13.16). This action displays a window, allowing you to choose specific songs to process when the workflow runs (Figure 13.17). You can specify a custom prompt, and you can even choose whether it should allow multiple songs or a single song to be chosen.

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Find iTunes Items (Figure 13.18). This action searches iTunes for tracks, playlists, or sources (e.g., iPods) when the workflow runs. You choose the type of content you want to find and specify the desired search criteria, such as tracks whose album is equal to some album, or playlists with shuffle enabled (Figure 13.19). This action can also be shown at runtime (Figure 13.20).

Figure 13.16 The Ask for Songs action asks the user to choose iTunes tracks for processing.

Figure 13.17 A song selection window appears when the Ask for Songs action runs.

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Action’s heading reflects the specified type of content

Figure 13.18 The Find iTunes Items action searches for tracks, playlists, or sources matching specific criteria.

Figure 13.19 The Find iTunes Items action set to search for tracks on a specific album.

Figure 13.20 The Find iTunes Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

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Processing Music and Audio

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Chapter 13 u

Get Selected iTunes Items (Figure 13.21). This action gets any items currently selected in iTunes when the workflow runs. You tell the action to look for a specific type of content—tracks, playlists, or sources. You can also tell it to show itself at runtime (Figure 13.22).

Figure 13.21 The Get Selected iTunes Items action can be set to get tracks, playlists, or sources.

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Processing Music and Audio

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The Ask for Songs action actually provides files (the paths to the songs you choose) as its result. Thanks to a conversion action that runs in the background, you can pass these files to actions that accept iTunes Songs as input. When the Find iTunes Items action is added to a workflow, its title changes to reflect the item being searched for, such as Find iTunes Tracks, Find iTunes Playlists, or Find iTunes Sources. You may see this behavior in other actions as well, such as Get Selected iTunes Items.

Figure 13.22 The Get Selected iTunes Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

Media button

Figure 13.23 The Media button in Automator’s toolbar displays the Media Browser.

You can build workflows that download music and audio from the Internet. Learn how in “Processing Web Content,” later in this chapter. Figure 13.24 Displaying the Media Browser via the Window menu.

8

Workflow Starting Points

Adding songs and playlists to an opened workflow Automator’s Media Browser makes it easy to process your music and audio. Use this feature to browse your existing iTunes content, preview it, and insert it into your workflow.

To add songs or playlists to a workflow:

Figure 13.25 Selecting iTunes tracks in Automator’s Media Browser.

1. Display Automator’s Media Browser. Click the Media button in the toolbar of your workflow window (Figure 13.23). or Choose Window > Media Browser (Figure 13.24).

Figure 13.26 Automator inserts a Get Specified iTunes Items action when adding tracks from the Media Browser.

3. Select the desired songs or playlists, and drag them to your workflow. Automator automatically inserts a Get Specified Get Specified iTunes Items action containing the dropped content into your workflow (Figure 13.26).

Filtering Music and Audio In some cases, you may want to ensure that your workflow processes tracks, playlists, or sources that match certain criteria. For example, your workflow may ask the user to choose tracks at runtime, but you only want to process chosen tracks with a rating of four stars or higher. To accomplish this, you can add the Filter iTunes Figure 13.27 The Filter iTunes Items action helps to Items action to your workflow (Figure 13.27). ensure that only appropriate content is processed Tell it the type of content you want to filter for by your workflow. and the criteria, and it filters out anything that doesn’t match.

9

Processing Music and Audio

2. Click the Audio tab at the top of the Media Browser window to choose the type of content you want to add (Figure 13.25).

Chapter 13

Processing Photos and Images

Processing Photos and Images

The age of the digital camera has brought with it the daunting task of maintaining countless digital photos. Applications such as iPhoto can help, but they can’t do everything. Automator gives you control. Whether you need to organize a stack of personal ­photos or prepare your images for a graphic design project, dozens of image-related actions are at the ready. Actions built into Automator let you build workflows that perform time-consuming, repetitive, image-related tasks, including resizing, rotating, and cropping. Additional actions installed with iPhoto or available from third-party developers expand your possibilities, enabling you to import photos into an iPhoto album, create a Photoshop workflow to manipulate your photos, and more.

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You can process image files on your Mac using the techniques discussed earlier in this chapter. See “Processing Files and Folders.”

Workflow Starting Points

Locating photos and images with your workflow The following actions retrieve files and folders, and pass them down through your workflow for processing. These actions are found in the Photos category. Figure 13.28 The Get Specified iPhoto Items action gets photos from iPhoto or Photo Booth.

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Figure 13.29 A special browser window makes it easy to navigate and choose the desired photos.

Figure 13.30 Photos added to the Get Specified iPhoto Items action appear in a list area.

Figure 13.31 The Get Specified iPhoto Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

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Processing Photos and Images

Get Specified iPhoto Items (Figure 13.28). This action gets references to specified iPhoto items. Click the Add button to display a photo selection panel. Here, you can choose albums or photos from your iPhoto or Photo Booth library (Figure 13.29). The chosen items are then inserted into the action’s interface (Figure 13.30). This action can also be configured to display at runtime (Figure 13.31).

Chapter 13 u

Processing Photos and Images

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Ask for Photos (Figure 13.32). This action displays a photo selection window, allowing you to choose one or more desired iPhoto or Photo Booth images (Figure 13.33). You can configure this action to display a custom prompt in the photo selection window. You can set the action to allow a single image or multiple images to be chosen.

Figure 13.32 The Ask for Photos action allows photos to be chosen at runtime.

Find iPhoto Items (Figure 13.34). This action searches iPhoto for images matching the desired criteria. For example, you could configure the action to find any images with a specific keyword and rating assigned (Figure 13.35). This action can also be configured to show at runtime (Figure 13.36). Figure 13.33 A special photo selection panel makes it easy to navigate and choose iPhoto or Photo Booth images.

Figure 13.34 The Find iPhoto Items action lets you search for specific images.

Figure 13.35 Here, the Find iPhoto Items action is set to find photos with the keyword Arizona and a rating of at least three stars.

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Figure 13.36 The Find iPhoto Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

Workflow Starting Points u

Figure 13.37 The Get Selected iPhoto Items action retrieves selected albums or photos when the workflow runs.

Get Selected iPhoto Items (Figure 13.37). This action retrieves any currently selected photos or albums (whichever type you prefer) at the time the workflow runs. You can set this action to run automatically or to display at runtime, letting you choose whether to retrieve photos or albums on the fly (Figure 13.38).

4 Tips The Ask for Photos action actually provides files (the paths to the photos you choose) as its result. A conversion action that runs in the background allows you to pass these files to actions that accept iPhoto photos as input.

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When added to a workflow, the title of the Find Items and Get Selected iPhoto Items actions change to reflect the specified type of item. For example, Find iPhoto Items may be retitled as Find iPhoto Photos.

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Workflows can download images from the Web too. Check out “Processing Web Content,” later in this chapter to learn how.

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In Automator, although several actions allow you to choose Photo Booth images, there’s technically no such thing as a “Photo Booth photo” or “Photo Booth image.” When you choose an image from your Photo Booth library, it’s simply treated as a file in Automator. A conversion action ensures that it integrates seamlessly with photo-related actions.

Figure 13.38 The Get Selected iPhoto Items action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

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Processing Photos and Images

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Chapter 13

For Aperture Users If you have Aperture installed on your Mac, you see Aperture actions in Automator in addition to your iPhoto and other photo-related actions. Several of these actions are used to locate images in your Aperture library: Choose Albums (Figure 13.39). This action retrieves one or more specified Aperture albums.

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Choose Projects (Figure 13.40). This action retrieves one or more specified Aperture ­ rojects. p

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Get Selected Images (Figure 13.41). This action retrieves any images that are selected in Aperture at the time the workflow runs.

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Get Specified Aperture Items (Figure 13.42). This action retrieves one or more specified albums, projects, or images. You choose the desired items in an Aperture photo selection window (Figure 13.43).

Processing Photos and Images

u

Figure 13.39 The Choose Albums action allows you to select Aperture albums to process.

Figure 13.42 Get Specified Aperture Items does what you expect: It lets you specify albums, projects, or images to process.

Figure 13.40 Choose Projects lets you choose Aperture projects.

Figure 13.41 The Get Selected Images action gets currently selected Aperture images when the workflow runs. Figure 13.43 A special photo selection window lets you choose the desired Aperture items.

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Workflow Starting Points

Using your Mac’s built-in camera to take a photo Figure 13.44 The Take Video Snapshot action uses your built-in camera to take a photo.

An Automator workflow doesn’t have to process your existing photos. It can also create brand-new photos at runtime using your Mac’s built-in iSight camera. This capability makes for some unique and fun workflow possibilities. For example, you could build a looping workflow that takes photos of friends at a party or one that sends photo greetings out by email. Taking a photo with Automator is easy. Just use the following action: u

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The Take Video Snapshot action also works with some USB cameras. So, if you don’t have a built-in iSight, plug in another webcam or digital camera and give it a try.

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If your digital camera doesn’t work with the Take Video Snapshot action, try using the Take Picture action, also found in the Photos category. This action uses Image Capture to take a photo using an attached camera with proper support.

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Want to take a photo of your Mac’s screen instead? If so, check out the Take Screenshot action found in the Utilities category.

Figure 13.46 Effects can be applied when manually taking video snapshots.

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Processing Photos and Images

Figure 13.45 A photo window appears and counts down when the Take Video Snapshot action runs.

Take Video Snapshot (Figure 13.44). This action displays a window allowing you to take a photo with your Mac’s camera (Figure 13.45). You can set the action to take a photo manually or automatically. In manual mode, you can even choose to apply an effect to your photo (Figure 13.46).

Chapter 13

Adding photos to an opened workflow As with music and audio, you can use Automator’s Media Browser to quickly add photos to your workflow. Use this feature to browse your Aperture, iPhoto, and even Photo Booth libraries without ever launching the actual applications.

To add photos to a workflow:

Processing Photos and Images

1. Display Automator’s Media Browser. Click the Media button in the toolbar of your workflow window. or Choose Window > Media Browser. 2. Click the Photos tab at the top of the Media Browser window to locate the photos you want to add (Figure 13.47). 3. Select the desired photos, and drag them to the desired location in your workflow. Based on the source of the photos, Automator automatically inserts a Get Specified Aperture Items, Get Specified iPhoto Items, or Get Specified Finder Items action ( for Photo Booth) into your workflow. The action contains the dropped photos (Figure 13.48).

Figure 13.47 Choosing photo content in Automator’s Media Browser.

Figure 13.48 iPhoto content added from the Media Browser is inserted in a new Get Specified iPhoto Items action.

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Workflow Starting Points

Filtering Photos and Images Aperture and iPhoto provide actions that allow you to filter for specific types of photos: u

u

Filter for Picks (Figure 13.49). This action allows your workflow to scan a set of Aperture images, returning only the picks or nonpicks, whichever you specify in the action’s settings.

Figure 13.49 The Filter for Picks action helps you filter out undesirable Aperture photos.

Filter iPhoto Items (Figure 13.50). This action can be used to filter iPhoto albums and photos for certain criteria. For example, set it to filter for albums matching a certain name or photos with a specific rating, size, keywords, or even shutter speed. Figure 13.50 Filter iPhoto Items only allows “approved” images to be processed by your workflow.

Processing Photos and Images

Remember, photos from Photo Booth are simply treated as files in Automator. So, you can use the Filter Finder Items action to filter them, if necessary.

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Chapter 13

Processing Movies and Video With built-in insights, iDVD, iMovie, QuickTime, and more, video is quickly becoming a part of daily life on the Mac. Unfortunately, video-related tasks are often quite time-consuming. Automator can help a bit with some useful actions for DVD Player, iDVD, and QuickTime. Using these actions, you can build workflows that automate processes such as exporting movies for iPhone or Apple TV, adding slide shows to iDVD projects, and more.

Figure 13.51 The Ask for Movies action is used to locate movies at runtime.

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Processing Movies and Video

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As with music and photos, Automator can process video files on your Mac. Just use the techniques covered in “Processing Files and Folders,” earlier in this chapter.

Locating movies with your workflow A couple of useful actions, which are built into Automator, can help you quickly and easily locate movies on your Mac. As you might expect, these actions are found in the Movies category in Automator’s Library list. u

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Ask for Movies (Figure 13.51). This action displays a window that allows you to choose movies located in your iMovie, iPhoto, or Photo Booth library, and more (Figure 13.52). You can configure this action with a custom prompt, and you can specify whether to allow the selection of a single movie or multiple movies.

Figure 13.52 A special movie selection window lets you choose movies to be processed.

Workflow Starting Points u

Figure 13.53 The Get Specified Movies action offers another way to choose movies for processing.

Get Specified Movies (Figure 13.53). This action allows you to choose one or more movies to be passed down to the next action for processing. Click the Add button to display a movie selection panel (Figure 13.54). Choose the desired movies; they are then automatically added to the action’s interface (Figure 13.55). You can also set this action to display when the workflow runs (Figure 13.56).

Processing Movies and Video

Figure 13.54 When adding movies to the Get Specified Movies action, a movie selection panel appears.

Figure 13.55 Chosen movies appear in the Get Specified Movies action’s list area.

Figure 13.56 The Get Specified Movies action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

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Chapter 13

Using your Mac’s built-in camera to record a video You learned that Automator can take photos with your Mac’s iSight camera. With the help of QuickTime Player and its built-in actions, Automator can also record videos.

To record a movie with QuickTime:

Processing Movies and Video

1. From the Movies category, drag the New Video Capture action to your workflow (Figure 13.57). When your workflow runs, this action creates a new movie recording in QuickTime Player. 2. Drag the Start Capture action to your workflow. This action is responsible for starting the recording. Be sure to select the “Wait for capture to complete” checkbox. Otherwise, the workflow continues on while the video is being captured. Selecting this checkbox causes the workflow to wait until you stop recording before proceeding with the next action (Figure 13.58). 3. Drag the Stop Capture action to your workflow. This action stops the video capture and saves the file. Select the “Close movie after stopping” checkbox to close the movie (Figure 13.59). All of these actions work together to make a new movie (Figure 13.60). When you run the workflow, a new movie window is created in QuickTime Player (Figure 13.61). When you’re done recording, click the Stop button, and the workflow resumes.

Figure 13.57 The New Video Capture action creates a new movie recording window in QuickTime Player.

Figure 13.58 The Start Capture action tells QuickTime Player to begin capturing video.

Figure 13.59 Stop Capture stops recording and closes the currently recording movie in QuickTime Player.

Figure 13.60 Several QuickTime Player actions work together to provide a unified movie recording experience.

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The result of capturing a movie using this method is a movie file, which is saved into your Movies folder. You can process it using any action that accepts files and folders as input.

Figure 13.61 A movie recording window appears in QuickTime Player when your workflow runs.

Workflow Starting Points

Adding movies to an opened workflow As you know, Automator’s Media Browser offers a quick and easy way to add music and photos to a workflow for processing. It works with movies too.

To add movies to a workflow:

Figure 13.62 Automator’s Media Browser lets you peruse your video files.

1. Display Automator’s Media Browser. Click the Media button in the toolbar of your workflow window. or Choose Window > Media Browser. 2. Click the Movies tab at the top of the Media Browser window to locate the movies you want to add (Figure 13.62).

Figure 13.63 Dragging movies from the Media Browser to a workflow automatically inserts an action contain­ ing the dropped movies. In this case, movies from the Movies folder appear in a Get Specified Movies action.

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Movies from the Movies folder typically appear in a Get Specified Finder Items or Get Specified Movies action.

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Movies from the iPhoto library typically appear in a Get Specified iPhoto Items action.

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Movies from iTunes typically appear in a Get Specified iTunes Items action.

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Movies from Photo Booth typically appear in a Get Specified Movies action.

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Processing Movies and Video

3. Select the desired movies, and drag them to the desired location in your workflow. Depending on the location and type of the movies, Automator automatically inserts an action containing the dropped movies (Figure 13.63).

Chapter 13

Processing Text Automator isn’t just for processing files, music, photos, and videos. It can also perform text-based functions, such as getting text from a TextEdit document and inserting it into an email message, creating an iPod note, or creating a new to do item in iCal.

Figure 13.64 Use the Get Specified Text action to process specific text that you identify when you build a workflow.

Locating text with your workflow

Processing Text

Several actions are built into Automator for retrieving text. You’ll find them in the Text category of Automator’s action Library. u

Get Specified Text (Figure 13.64). This action allows you to specify text to be passed to another action as input. The action only allows you to specify the text when you build the workflow, and there’s no way to specify the text when the workflow runs.

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Ask for Text (Figure 13.65). This action displays a window when the workflow runs, allowing text to be entered at that time (Figure 13.66). This action allows you to specify a prompt, if desired, as well as some default text to be displayed in the window at runtime (Figure 13.67).

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Get Contents of TextEdit Document (Figure 13.68). This action can be used to retrieve the contents of the front currently opened TextEdit document when the workflow runs.

Figure 13.65 The Ask for Text action allows text to be entered when the workflow runs.

Figure 13.66 The Ask for Text action’s runtime prompt with no heading or default text.

Figure 13.67 The Ask for Text action’s runtime prompt with a heading and default text.

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When using the Get Contents of TextEdit Document action, be sure that a document is opened in TextEdit. Otherwise, the action will retrieve nothing. Many third-party actions are available that offer greater text processing capabilities. Visit www.apple.com/downloads/ macosx/automator/ to find some.

Figure 13.68 The Get Contents of TextEdit Document action retrieves content from an opened text document.

Workflow Starting Points

Reading Text Files Presently, there’s not an action built into Automator for retrieving text content from a saved file. Go figure. But there are some third-party actions available for doing this. To do this using built-in actions, you’ll first need to open the document in TextEdit, and then retrieve the document’s contents (Figure 13.69). Another way of reading a text file is to use the Combine Text Files action, whose result is text, and pass it only a single text file (Figure 13.70).

Figure 13.69 This workflow opens a text file in TextEdit and then retrieves its content. 

Figure 13.70 The Combine Text Files action allows you to read the contents of a single text file too.

Processing Text

Filtering Text When processing text in Automator, you can use the Filter Paragraphs action to filter for specific paragraphs (Figure 13.71). For example, you may only want your workflow to process paragraphs that aren’t empty. When you build your workflow, first insert an action that retrieves text from somewhere, such as the front opened TextEdit document. Next, insert the Filter Paragraphs action. When the workflow runs, only paragraphs matching the specified criteria are passed down for further processing.

Figure 13.71 The Filter Paragraphs action can be used to ignore irrelevant lines of text.

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Chapter 13

Processing Web Content Automator works great with content on your Mac, but it also works with content on the Web. Using a variety of actions included with Automator, it’s easy to build workflows that download audio files, images, and more from websites, and process them locally on your machine. Create a workflow that downloads images from a family member’s online photo album and imports them into your iPhoto catalog. Or, build one that downloads music files from your favorite indie band’s website and adds them to iTunes. The possibilities are endless.

Processing Web Content

Locating web content with your workflow The following actions, all found in the Internet category, offer methods of providing URLs to your workflow for processing. u

Get Specified URLs (Figure 13.72). This action lets you specify one or more URLs to be passed to the next action in your workflow. Click Add to enter a new URL. Or, click Current Safari Page to insert the URL of the front opened Safari window. The action also allows you to enable or disable URLs and open URLs. You can also set the action to show when the workflow runs, providing a way to enter URLs, or enable or disable URLs on the fly (Figure 13.73).

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Get Current Webpage from Safari (Figure 13.74). This action gets the URL of the front opened Safari window.

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Get Image URLs from Webpages (Figure 13.75). This action is a bit different than the previous two in that it requires URLs to be passed to it as input. When the action runs, it reads the webpages of the URLs received as input. It then extracts the URLs of any images contained on

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Figure 13.72 The Get Specified URLs action lets you identify URLs for your workflows to process.

Figure 13.73 The Get Specified URLs action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

Figure 13.74 The Get Current Webpage from Safari action retrieves the URL of the currently opened website.

Figure 13.75 Get Image URLs from Webpage extracts image URLs from any URLs received as input.

Workflow Starting Points those pages or linked to on those pages, whichever you specify in the action’s settings. The retrieved image URLs are then passed to the next action in the workflow for processing. This action can be configured to show when the workflow runs (Figure 13.76).

Figure 13.76 The Get Image URLs from Webpage action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs. u

Figure 13.77 The Get Link URLs from Webpages action extracts links from webpage URLs received as input.

Get Link URLs from Webpages (Figure 13.77). This action is similar to the Get Image URLs from Webpages action. It requires URLs as input. It then reads the webpages of those URLs and extracts the URLs of any links on those webpages. This action can also be shown at runtime (Figure 13.78).

4 Tips The Ask for Servers action, located in the Files & Folders category, can be configured to allow the user to enter a URL at runtime.

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In addition to providing actions that retrieve URLs from webpages, Automator includes a number of actions for retrieving URLs from RSS Feeds (Figure 13.79).

Figure 13.79 Automator includes numerous useful RSS-related actions.

25

Processing Web Content

Figure 13.78 The Get Link URLs from Webpages action’s interface as it appears when the workflow runs.

n

Chapter 13

Retrieving web content from webpages

Processing Web Content

Retrieving URLs is great, but you most likely want your workflow to retrieve content from those URLs, not just retrieve the URLs. Automator provides some actions that do just this. u

Get Text from Webpage (Figure 13.80). This action extracts the text content of the webpage URLs it receives as input. You can then pass this text to any action that accepts text as input for further ­processing.

u

Download URLs (Figure 13.81). This action downloads any URLs it receives as input. Use this action to download images, webpages, audio files, and more. The action produces files as its result, so you can follow it with any action that accepts files as its input type.

4 Tip n

The Get Text from Webpage action works best with webpages that are “printer friendly.” Other webpages may cause extraneous information to be included in the extracted text.

Figure 13.80 Use the Get Text from Webpage action to retrieve text content from webpage URLs.

Figure 13.81 Use the Download URLs action to download webpages, images, and more to your Mac.

Filtering URLs Throughout this chapter, you’ve learned that it’s possible to use filtering to ensure that your workflow receives the expected types of files and folders, music, photos, videos, and text. Well, Automator also includes an action for filtering URLs. This action, aptly named Filter URLs, allows you to make sure you aren’t downloading unintended items. For example, configure it to ignore URLs without a specific prefix. If your workflow processes audio files, use this action to look for URLs ending with a specific file extension, such as .aif or .mp3. Consider using this action whenever downloading content (Figure 13.82).

Figure 13.82 Filter URLs helps to make sure the URLs your workflow processes are valid.

26

Building Advanced Workflows

14

You now know how to create some pretty powerful workflows using a combination of actions and variables. You can, however, take your workflows even further by implementing some advanced techniques that leverage the power of AppleScript, UNIX, and more.

Don’t let needing to understand AppleScript and shell scripting discourage you; learning these techniques will give you insight into ways of building more complex workflows and expanding Automator’s capabilities— two results well worth the effort.

1

Building Advanced Workflows

In this chapter, you’ll learn about actions and variables that allow you to execute AppleScript and shell script code as part of a workflow, giving you direct access from within a workflow to countless scriptable applications and processes that may not otherwise be directly accessible in Automator. You’ll also learn how to write AppleScripts to automate repetitive tasks within Automator.

Chapter 14

Running AppleScript Commands

Running AppleScript Commands

Although many Automator actions are available, they don’t exist for everything. In situations where an action to do what you need isn’t available, you may be able to write an AppleScript to do the job and run it within your workflow. For example, suppose you want your workflow to change your iChat status message. Currently, Automator doesn’t include an action for this. You could try looking for a third-party action to do the job, or you could use AppleScript.

Figure 14.1 The Run AppleScript action allows you to execute AppleScript code as part of an Automator workflow.

Built into Mac OS X, AppleScript is a scripting language that you can use to control applications on your machine—much like Automator does—as long as they are scriptable. Although not every Mac application is scriptable, many are. Even if an application doesn’t have Automator actions available, it may still be AppleScriptable. Generally, you write AppleScripts in a script editing application, and then save and run them as applications. Using the Run AppleScript action ( from the Utilities category), you can also run scripts from within Automator workflows, meaning you can control any scriptable application from directly within your workflow (Figure 14.1). The Run AppleScript action can even accept input from a previous action in the workflow. If you’d like, you can write your AppleScript code to process that input and pass a new value to the next action in the workflow.

4 Tip n

2

AppleScript may seem like a pretty complex topic, but it can be self-taught. Appendix C, “Developer Resources,” lists websites, books, and other aids to get you started.

Figure 14.2 Insert the Run AppleScript action into your workflow, and enter the specified AppleScript code into the code field.

Figure 14.3 Add the Speak Text action to the workflow. Leave the Voice pop-up menu set to Alex.

Building Advanced Workflows

Using the Run AppleScript action This example workflow runs AppleScript code to change the status message in iChat. A message indicating that the status has been changed is then spoken for you to hear.

Actions used: u

Run AppleScript

u

Speak Text

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new Automator Workflow file. 2. From the Utilities category in the Library list, drag the Run AppleScript action to the workflow area. 3. Within the Run AppleScript action’s code area, enter (Figure 14.2): set theNewStatus to "Using Automator" tell application "iChat"  set status message to

Updated status message

➥ theNewStatus

end tell return "Your iChat status has been ➥ changed to: " & theNewStatus

4. From the Text category in the Library list, drag the Speak Text action to the workflow area.

Figure 14.5 Your status message in iChat is now set to Using Automator.

4 Tip n

Be sure to launch iChat and go online prior to running this workflow. Otherwise, the workflow opens iChat in offline mode.

5. Leave the Speak Text action’s Voice popup menu set to Alex (Figure 14.3). When you run the workflow, the Run AppleScript action executes your specified AppleScript code. In this example, your iChat status message changes to Using Automator. Next, the text “Your iChat status has been changed to: Using Automator” is passed to the Speak Text action, which uses Mac OS X’s speech synthesizer to read it aloud (Figures 14.4 and 14.5).

3

Running AppleScript Commands

Figure 14.4 This example workflow uses AppleScript to change your iChat status to Using Automator. A message indicating that the status was changed is returned as the result of the action and is read aloud by the Speak Text action.

Chapter 14

Testing the Run AppleScript action’s code

Run button

Before running the entire workflow, you can test just the AppleScript code by using the Run AppleScript action. This is a good idea, because you can ensure that the code works properly before running it as part of the overall workflow.

To test your Run AppleScript code: 1. Click the Run button at the top of the action. 2. Drag the divider bullet at the bottom of the action up to reveal a script result area. Here, you can view the result of your script code and make sure it worked as expected (Figure 14.6).

Running AppleScript Commands

4 Tip n

4

For complex scripts, it’s a good idea to use AppleScript Editor (found in /Applications/ Utilities) to write the code you intend to run within the Run AppleScript action. Doing so gives you access to more robust AppleScript development and troubleshooting features, such as code completion, an event log, and more. When your code is working, you can then copy and paste it into the Run AppleScript action within your workflow.

Divider bullet Result area Figure 14.6 To test the AppleScript code within the Run AppleScript action, click the green Run button. You can drag the divider bullet at the bottom of the action to view the action’s result.

Building Advanced Workflows

Using the Run AppleScript action to process input

Figure 14.7 From the Text category, drag the Ask for Text action to your workflow. In the first text field, type Enter the desired iChat status message:. In the second text field, enter Automator Rocks!.

This example workflow prompts the user to enter a new iChat status message. It then runs AppleScript code to change iChat’s status to the specified message. Text indicating that the status has been changed is then spoken by the workflow.

Actions used: u

Ask for Text

u

Run AppleScript

u

Speak Text

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new Workflow file.

3. In the Ask for Text action’s first text field, type Enter the desired iChat status message:. 4. In the Ask for Text action’s second text field, enter Automator Rocks! (Figure 14.7). 5. From the Utilities category in the Library list, drag the Run AppleScript action to the workflow area. 6. In the Run AppleScript action’s code area, enter the following demonstration code (Figure 14.8): on run {input, parameters} tell application "iChat" set status message to input end tell  return "Your iChat status has ➥ been changed to: " & input

end run

continues on next page

5

Running AppleScript Commands

Figure 14.8 Insert the Run AppleScript action into your workflow, and then enter the specified AppleScript code into the code field.

2. From the Text category in the Library list, drag the Ask for Text action to the workflow area.

Chapter 14 When your workflow runs, this code instructs iChat to change its status to the text entered in the Ask for Text action. 7. From the Text category in the Library list, drag the Speak Text action to the workflow area.

Figure 14.9 Add the Speak Text action to the workflow and leave the Voice pop-up menu set to Alex.

8. Leave the Speak Text action’s Voice pop-up menu set to Alex (Figure 14.9).

Figure 14.10 The Ask for Text action prompts you to enter the desired iChat status message. Enter a message, and click OK.

Running AppleScript Commands

When you run the workflow, the Ask for Text action prompts you to enter the desired iChat status message. Enter your message and click OK. The workflow passes the specified text to the Run AppleScript action, which changes the status message in iChat. Finally, the Speak Text action reads a completion message aloud (Figures 14.10 and 14.11).

Figure 14.11 This example workflow uses AppleScript to change your iChat status to the text passed from the Ask for Text action. A message indicating that the status was changed is returned as the result of the action and is read aloud by the Speak Text action.

6

Building Advanced Workflows

Running UNIX Commands

Figure 14.12 The Run Shell Script action allows you to execute shell scripts as part of an Automator workflow. This example uses curl to download the Apple homepage to a file named apple.html on your desktop.

Changing the Shell

By default, the Run Shell Script action runs your code in the bash shell. If desired, you can change this by selecting a different shell from the Shell pop-up menu. Other options include csh and tcsh. You can even use the Run Shell Script action to execute Perl, Python, or Ruby scripts (Figure 14.13).

Figure 14.13 The Run Shell Script action uses the bash shell by default. Other shells, as well as Perl, Python, or Ruby, are also available.

If you’re interested in integrating UNIX with Automator, the news is even better. Automator’s Run Shell Script action (in the Utilities category) enables you to execute UNIX commands as part of a workflow. Of course, the use of this action goes beyond the regular Automator skill set, requiring at least a minimal understanding of UNIX (Figure 14.12). Like the Run AppleScript action, the Run Shell Script action can accept information as input from a previous action. This information can then be passed as arguments to your shell script code for further processing. Because the action’s input type is Text, you’ll need to ensure that the preceding action out­ puts text or something that can be changed to text by a conversion action, such as file or folder paths. The result of the shell script code, if any, is returned as the result of the Run Shell Script action.

4 Tips n

A shell script is a script that is written for the Mac OS X command line. It can consist of a single command or multiple commands strung together to perform a larger function.

n

A Shell Scripting Primer is available from Apple at http://developer.apple. com/documentation/OpenSource/ Conceptual/ShellScripting/index.html.

7

Running UNIX Commands

A shell is a command-line environment in which you can execute commands. Several shells are available for you to use each of which has its own syntax.

One of the great features about Mac OS X is that it is built on UNIX. Although the UNIX underpinnings in Mac OS X are hidden from the casual user, you can use them if you want to. Mac OS X offers a command-line environment in which you can run command-line utilities, shell scripts, and more.

Chapter 14

Using the Run Shell Script action This simple example workflow uses the ls command to retrieve a list of items within your Applications folder. The workflow then inserts the list of items into a new TextEdit document.

Actions used: u

Run Shell Script

u

New TextEdit Document

To build the workflow:

Figure 14.14 Insert the Run Shell Script action in your workflow, and enter /Applications in the code field.

Figure 14.15 Add the New TextEdit Document to the workflow.

1. Create a new custom workflow window. 2. From the Utilities category in the Library list, drag the Run Shell Script action to the workflow area.

Running UNIX Commands

3. Leave the Run Shell Script action’s Shell pop-up menu set to /bin/bash and the “Pass input” pop-up menu set to “to stdin” (aka standard input). 4. In the Run Shell Script action’s code area, enter ls /Applications (Figure 14.14). 5. From the Text category, drag the New TextEdit Document action to the workflow area (Figure 14.15).

Figure 14.16 This simple example uses the ls com­ mand to retrieve a list of items in your Applications folder. The list of items is then passed to the New TextEdit Document for further processing.

When you run the workflow, the Run Shell Script action executes the specified code. In this example, a list of items in the Applications folder is retrieved. The workflow then passes this information as input to the New TextEdit Document action, which creates a new document in TextEdit and inserts the list of items (Figures 14.16 and 14.17).

4 Tip n ls is a UNIX command that is used to list

the contents of a directory. Figure 14.17 The New TextEdit Document action creates a document in TextEdit and inserts the list of items retrieved by the Run Shell Script action.

8

Building Advanced Workflows

Using the Run Shell Script action to process input

Figure 14.18 Add the Get Specified Finder Items action to your workflow and configure it to get the Applications folder on your machine. Input pop-up menu

This example workflow uses the ls command to retrieve a list of items in a folder from the previous action. The workflow then inserts the list of items into a new TextEdit document.

Actions used: u

Get Specified Finder Items

u

Run Shell Script

u

New TextEdit Document

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new custom workflow window. Figure 14.19 Insert the Run Shell Script action into your workflow and enter ls $@ in the code field. Choose “as arguments” from the “Pass input” pop-up menu, and leave the Shell pop-up menu set to /bin/bash.

2. From the Files & Folders category in the Library list, drag the Get Specified Finder Items action to the workflow area.

Figure 14.20 Add the New TextEdit Document to the workflow.

4. From the Utilities category in the Library list, drag the Run Shell Script action to the workflow area.

3. Click Add, then add a folder, such as your Applications folder, to the Get Specified Finder Items action (Figure 14.18).

6. From the Run Shell Script action’s “Pass input” pop-up menu, choose “as arguments.” 7. In the Run Shell Script action’s code area, enter ls $@ (Figure 14.19). 8. From the Text category, drag the New TextEdit Document action to the workflow area (Figure 14.20).

Figure 14.21 In this example, the Run Shell Script action uses the folder passed as input as an argument for the ls command. The result is a list that’s passed to a New TextEdit Document.

When you run the workflow, the Get Specified Finder Items action passes a folder to the Run Shell Script action as input. The specified shell script code retrieves a list of items in the input folder and then passes the list to the New TextEdit Document action, which inserts it into a new TextEdit document (Figure 14.21).

9

Running UNIX Commands

5. Leave the Run Shell Script action’s Shell pop-up menu set to /bin/bash.

Chapter 14

Using AppleScript Variables AppleScript code doesn’t have to run just within the Run AppleScript action. You can insert it into the AppleScript variable as well, causing the code to run whenever the variable is used within your workflow. The result of the AppleScript code then serves as the variable’s value. Although Automator includes numerous built-in variables for dates, times, user data, and such, it doesn’t include variables for everything. This is where the AppleScript variable can come into play. You could, for example, use it to retrieve a list of opened InDesign documents, get your current iChat status, create and return a reference to a new folder, and much more.

Using AppleScript Variables

Using the AppleScript variable This example workflow uses an AppleScript variable to check for the existence of a folder on the desktop named My Video Snapshots. If the folder doesn’t exist, the script creates it. The result of this code is a reference to the folder, which is used as the output folder for the Take Video Snapshot action. This action uses your built-in iSight camera to take a video snapshot of you and saves it in the folder.

Actions used: u

Take Video Snapshot

Variables used: u

10

AppleScript

Building Advanced Workflows

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new Workflow file.

Figure 14.22 Double-click the AppleScript variable in the Utilities category to add it to the workflow variables area.

2. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button. The list of categories and variables is displayed. 3. In the Utilities category, double-click the AppleScript variable. The workflow variables area, containing the AppleScript variable, is displayed at the bottom of the workflow window (Figure 14.22). 4. Double-click the AppleScript variable in the workflow variables area. The Variable Options window opens. 5. Enter Output

Figure 14.23 In the Variable Options window, rename the AppleScript variable to Output Folder, and enter the specified AppleScript code.

Folder into the Name field.

6. In the Script field, enter (Figure 14.23): tell application "Finder" ➥ exists) = false then

 make new folder with properties ➥ {name:"My Video Snapshots"}

end if  return folder "My Video ➥ Snapshots" as alias

end tell

7. Click Done. The Workflow Variables window closes. 8. At the top of the Library list, click the Actions button to display the list of categories and actions. 9. From the Photos category, drag the Take Video Snapshot action to the workflow area. continues on next page

11

Using AppleScript Variables

 if (folder "My Video Snapshots"

Chapter 14 10. Leave the Take Video Snapshot action’s “Save as” field set to Video Snapshot.tiff. 11. From the workflow variables area, drag the Output Folder variable to the Take Video Snapshot action’s Where pop-up menu. 12. Select the “Take picture automatically” checkbox (Figure 14.24).

Figure 14.24 In the Take Video Snapshot action, leave the “Save as” text field set to Video Snapshot.tiff, drag the Output Folder variable to the Where pop-up menu, and select the “Take picture automatically” checkbox.

Using AppleScript Variables

When you run the workflow, the AppleScript code of the Output Folder variable executes, checking for a folder named My Video Snapshots and creating it if it does not already exist. The Take Video Snapshot action then takes a snapshot with your built-in iSight camera and saves it in the My Video Snapshots folder (Figures 14.25 and 14.26).

Figure 14.25 The Take Video Snapshot action automatically takes a snapshot of you when the workflow runs.

Figure 14.26 The workflow saves the new snapshot in the My Video Snapshots folder.

12

Building Advanced Workflows

Using UNIX Variables Shell script code can also be executed from a variable using the Shell Script variable ( found in the Utilities category). Like the AppleScript variable, the Shell Script variable runs shell script code whenever your work­flow uses the variable. The result of the shell script code is returned as the variable’s value.

Using the Run Shell Script variable Remember the days of dot matrix printers and large ASCII banners that said “Happy Birthday!” and the like? If you thought those days were over, think again. This example workflow uses the Shell Script variable to create ASCII banner text that reads Automator Rocks!. The workflow then writes the text to a file and opens it for you to view. If you like, you can print it and hang it in your office to remind yourself that Automator rocks!

u

Get Value of Variable

u

New Text File

u

Open Finder Items

Using UNIX Variables

Actions used:

Variables used: u

Shell Script

13

Chapter 14

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new custom workflow window. 2. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button to display the list of categories and variables. 3. In the Utilities category, double-click the Shell Script variable. The workflow variables area, containing the Shell Script variable, displays at the bottom of the workflow window (Figure 14.27).

Figure 14.27 Double-click the Shell Script variable in the Utilities category to add it to the workflow variables area.

4. Double-click the Shell Script variable in the workflow variables area. The Variable Options window opens. 5. Enter Banner

Text in the Name field.

6. In the Script field, enter banner 'Automator Rocks!' (Figure 14.28).

Using UNIX Variables

7. Click Done to close the Variable Options window. 8. From the workflow variables area, drag the Banner Text variable to the workflow area. Automator adds a Get Value of Variable action to the workflow and sets the action’s Variable pop-up menu to Banner Text (Figure 14.29). 9. At the top of the Library list, click the Actions button to display the list of categories and actions.

14

Figure 14.28 In the Variable Options window, rename the Shell Script variable to Banner Text, and enter banner ‘Automator Rocks!’ in the Script field.

Figure 14.29 When you drag the Banner Text variable into your workflow, Automator automatically adds a Get Value of Variable action that is configured to retrieve the variable’s value.

Building Advanced Workflows 10. From the Text category, drag the New Text File action to the workflow area.

Figure 14.30 From the Text category of actions, drag the New Text File action to your workflow and enter Banner.txt into the “Save as” field.

Figure 14.31 Add an Open Finder Items action to the workflow.

11. Enter Banner.txt into the New Text File’s “Save as” field. You should not need to adjust any other settings for this action (Figure 14.30). 12. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Open Finder Items action to the workflow area. You should not need to configure any settings for this action (Figure 14.31). When you run the workflow, the Banner Text variable executes the specified shell script code, creating Automator Rocks! as ASCII banner text. This information is then passed to the New Text File action where it is written to a text file named Banner.txt. The Open Finder Items action opens the resulting file (Figures 14.32 and 14.33).

Using UNIX Variables

Figure 14.32 The completed workflow runs the shell script code of the Banner Text variable and passes the result to the New Text File action.

Figure 14.33 The resulting file contains an ASCII banner that reads Automator Rocks!

15

Chapter 14

Watch Me Do and AppleScript As you may recall from Chapter 6, Automator can record manual events, such as mouse clicks and key presses, and insert them into your workflow in the form of a Watch Me Do action. When the workflow runs, the Watch Me Do action plays these events as part of the workflow.

Watch Me Do and AppleScript

Did you know, however, that AppleScript is a major driving force behind the playback of these recorded sequences? Every recorded event within the Watch Me Do action is nothing more than AppleScript code, which runs as part of the workflow. Automator even allows you to view the AppleScript code of a recorded event, which can be a great way to gain some insight into how recorded events function.

16

Building Advanced Workflows

To view the AppleScript code behind a recorded event: Figure 14.34 When you begin recording, your workflow disappears and a small recording window displays.

1. Within an opened workflow, click Record in the toolbar. Automator enters recording mode (Figure 14.34). 2. Begin performing some manual events; for example, go to the Finder, press S$%N to create a new folder, and name it. Any recorded events will do.

Figure 14.35 Drag a recorded event from the Watch Me Do action to the end of your workflow.

3. Go back to Automator and click the Stop button. Recording stops, and you return to your workflow. Automator inserts a Watch Me Do action containing the recorded events into your workflow.

You can now explore the AppleScript code to learn how it works, use it as part of the workflow, insert it into another AppleScript, and so forth.

Figure 14.36 When you drag an event from the Watch Me Do action to your workflow, Automator inserts a Run AppleScript action that contains the AppleScript code behind the event.

17

Watch Me Do and AppleScript

4. Select an event in the Watch Me Do action and drag it to the end of your workflow (Figure 14.35). Automator inserts a Run AppleScript action into your workflow. It contains the AppleScript code behind the recorded event (Figure 14.36).

Chapter 14

AppleScripting Automator Automator is a scriptable application, meaning you can control it with AppleScript. It has a comprehensive AppleScript dic­tionary, allowing you to write code to perform almost any task you can do manually, including building, saving, and running workflows, configuring actions, and more (Figure 14.37). If you know AppleScript, you can use the dictionary’s terminology to automate repetitive tasks you do within Automator. For example, suppose you frequently save workflows to your desktop as applications. Rather than doing this manually each time, you could create an AppleScript script to do it. You could then run the script whenever you want to save a workflow (Figure 14.38).

Figure 14.37 Automator’s AppleScript dictionary is extensive, enabling you to write scripts to automate repetitive tasks within Automator.

AppleScripting Automator

Developer-related Actions For Mac OS X application developers, a number of Automator actions are installed with Xcode. These actions allow you to automate time-consuming tasks typically involved in the application development process. For example, you can use the Build Xcode Project action to batch build and install specified Xcode projects. The Create Package action enables you to batch create installation packages, using a number of custom default settings. Look for these actions and more in the Developer category of Automator’s Library list (Figure 14.39).

Figure 14.38 This example script saves an opened workflow to your desktop as an application named My Workflow.app.

Figure 14.39 Actions are installed with Xcode to help with developer-related tasks, such as batch building Xcode projects, creating installation packages, and more.

18

Example Workflows

B

To supplement the numerous examples throughout the book, this appendix provides three additional workflows that demonstrate creation techniques, using variables, and more: Backup Safari Data. This iCal Alarm workflow finds items named Safari in your user folder and archives them as a zip file into a dated Safari Backups folder in your Documents folder.

u

Make Dated Subfolder. This Service workflow creates a subfolder—named with the current date—within a currently selected folder.

u

Clean Up Desktop. This Application workflow moves all files and folders from your desktop to a dated subfolder within your Documents folder.

These workflows are slightly longer than most of the ones you’ve seen so far. If you have trouble following along, remember that all the workflows in this book are included in this book’s companion files. Visit www. peachpit.com/vqs/automator-snow-leopard to access them.

1

Example Workflows

u

Appendix B

Backup Safari Data This workflow is designed to be created as an iCal Alarm and to be run on a repeating schedule, such as once per week. When it runs, it creates a folder named Safari Backups in your Documents folder. It then finds all the Safari data in your user folder and archives it into the Safari Backups folder, naming it with the current date (Figure B.1).

Building the workflow Actions used: u

New Folder

u

Set Value of Variable

u

Find Finder Items

u

Create Archive

Variables used: u

Path

u

Today’s date

Figure B.1 The Backup Safari Data workflow.

Backup Safari Data

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new iCal Alarm workflow (Figure B.2). 2. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button. The list of categories and variables ­displays. 3. In the Locations category, double-click the Path variable. The workflow variables area, containing the Path variable, displays at the bottom of the workflow window (Figure B.3).

Figure B.2 Creating an iCal Alarm workflow.

4. Double-click the Path variable in the workflow variables area to open the Variable Options window. Figure B.3 Double-click the Path variable in the Locations category to add it to the workflow variables area.

2

Example Workflows

Figure B.4 In the Variable Options window, rename the Path variable to Backup Folder.

  5. Enter Backup Folder in the Name field (Figure B.4). Leave the Path pop-up menu set to Desktop. This folder won’t be used when the workflow runs. Rather, the variable will receive a new value: a backup folder that the first action in the workflow will create.   6. Click Done. The Variable Options window closes.

Figure B.5 Double-click the Today’s date variable in the Date & Time category to add it to the workflow variables area.

  7. In the Date & Time category, doubleclick the Today’s date variable. Automator adds the variable to the workflow variables list (Figure B.5).   8. Double-click the Today’s date variable in the workflow variables area to display the Variable Options window.   9. Set the Format pop-up menu to January 5, 1999 (Figure B.6). 10. Click Done.

Figure B.6 Change the Today’s date variable options to format the date as January 5, 1999.

11. At the top of the Library list, click the Actions button to display the list of categories and actions.

Figure B.7 From the Files & Folders category, add a New Folder action to the workflow and enter Safari Backups in the Name field.

13. Enter Safari Backups in the New Folder action’s Name field. 14. Choose Documents from the New Folder action’s Where pop-up menu (Figure B.7). 15. From the Utilities category, drag the Set Value of Variable action to the workflow area.

Figure B.8 From the Utilities category, add the Set Value of Variable action to the workflow and choose Backup Folder from the Variable pop-up menu.

16. Verify that the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu is set to Backup Folder (Figure B.8). continues on next page

3

Backup Safari Data

12. From the Files & Folders category, drag the New Folder action to the workflow area.

Appendix B 17. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Find Finder Items action to the workflow area. 18. From the Find Finder Items action’s Search pop-up menu, choose your user folder. 19. Configure the action’s search criteria to find items whose Name is Safari (Figure B.9).

Figure B.9 Configure the Find Finder Items action to search your user folder for any items whose name is equal to Safari.

20. While holding down C , click the title of the Find Finder Items action in the workflow area and choose Ignore Input from the resulting contextual menu (Figure B.10). 21. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Create Archive action to the workflow area. 22. From the workflow variables area, drag the Today’s date variable to the beginning of the Create Archive action’s “Save as” text field.

Figure B.10 Press C , click the Find Finder Items action’s title bar to display the contextual menu, and choose Ignore Input.

Backup Safari Data

23. Enter -Safari Backup into the Create Archive action’s “Save as” text field, following the Today’s date variable. 24. From the workflow variables area, drag the Backup Folder variable to the Create Archive action’s Where pop-up menu. 25. Select the Create Archive action’s “Ignore unreadable items” checkbox (Figure B.11).

4

Figure B.11 Add the Today’s date variable and the text -Safari Backup to the Create Archive action’s “Save as” text field. Add the Backup Folder variable to the Where pop-up menu.

Example Workflows

Saving the workflow 1. Choose File > Save, or press $%S to open the save panel. Figure B.12 Saving the workflow as an iCal Alarm.

2. Enter Backup Safari Data in the Save iCal Alarm as text field (Figure B.12). 3. Click Save. iCal launches and creates a new event. 4. Adjust the date, time, and repeat settings for the event. For example, set the alarm to repeat every Saturday at 8:00 am (Figure B.13).

Running the workflow

Figure B.13 Adjust the date, time, and repeat settings for the event.

There’s no need to lift a finger. This workflow runs automatically according to the alarm’s schedule in iCal, backing up all the Safari data in your user folder (Figure B.14).

Backup Safari Data

Figure B.14 The workflow runs automatically at the scheduled times, backing up your Safari data to a Safari Backups folder in your Documents folder.

5

Appendix B

Make Dated Subfolder Designed to be built as a Service, this workflow can be run from the Finder’s contextual menu to create a subfolder in the currently selected folder. The new folder is named with the current date (Figure B.15).

Building the workflow Actions used: u

Set Value of Variable

u

New Folder

Variables used: u

Path

u

Today’s date

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new Service workflow (Figure B.16).

Make Dated Subfolder

2. In the header above the workflow area, set the “Service receives selected” pop-up menu to “folders” and the “in” pop-up menu to Finder (Figure B.17).

Figure B.15 The Make Dated Subfolder example workflow.

3. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button to display the list of categories and variables. 4. In the Locations category, double-click the Path variable. The workflow variables area, containing the Path variable, displays at the bottom of the workflow window. 5. Double-click the Path variable in the workflow variables area to open the Variable Options window. 6. Enter Main Folder in the Name field. Leave the Path pop-up menu set to Desktop. This folder won’t be used when the workflow runs. Rather, the variable will receive a new value: the folder on which the workflow is run.

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Figure B.16 Creating a Service workflow.

Figure B.17 Configuring the workflow to receive folders in the Finder.

Example Workflows   7. Click Done to close the Variable Options window.   8. In the Date & Time category, doubleclick the Today’s date variable to add it to the workflow variables list (Figure B.18). Figure B.18 The workflow variables area now contains two variables: Main Folder (originally Path) and Today’s date.

  9. Double-click the Today’s date variable in the workflow variables area to display the Variable Options window. 10. Set the Format pop-up menu to January 5, 1999.

Figure B.19 From the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu, choose Main Folder.

11. Click Done to close the Variable Options window. 12. At the top of the Library list, click the Actions button to display the list of categories and actions. 13. From the Utilities category, drag the Set Value of Variable action to the workflow area.

Figure B.20 From the workflow variables area, drag the Today’s date variable to the New Folder action’s Name field and the Main Folder variable to the Where pop-up menu.

15. From the Files & Folders category, drag the New Folder action to the workflow area. 16. From the workflow variables area, drag the Today’s date variable to the New Folder action’s Name text field. 17. From the workflow variables area, drag the Main Folder variable to the New Folder action’s Where pop-up menu (Figure B.20). 18. While holding down C , click the title of the New Folder action in the workflow area and choose Ignore Input from the resulting contextual menu.

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Make Dated Subfolder

14. From the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu, choose Main Folder (Figure B.19). Because this workflow is a Service, the selected folder in the Finder will be passed to this action as input when the workflow runs.

Appendix B

Saving the workflow 1. Choose File > Save, or press $%S to display the save panel. 2. Enter Make Dated Subfolder in the “Save Service as” text field (Figure B.21).

Figure B.21 Saving the workflow as a Service.

3. Click Save.

Running the workflow 1. Select a folder in the Finder. 2. Hold down C and click the folder to display the Finder’s contextual menu. 3. Choose Make Dated Subfolder (Figure B.22). The workflow runs and creates a subfolder in the selected folder, naming it with the current date (Figure B.23).

Make Dated Subfolder

Figure B.22 Hold down C , click a folder, and choose Make Dated Subfolder from the Finder’s contextual menu.

Figure B.23 The workflow runs and creates a dated subfolder in the selected folder.

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Example Workflows

Clean Up Desktop Saved as an Application, this workflow can be run at any time by double-clicking on it. When you run it, any files and folders on your desktop will be moved automatically to a dated subfolder in your Documents folder (Figure B.24).

Building the workflow Actions used: u

New Folder

u

Set Value of Variable

u

Get Specified Finder Items

u

Get Folder Contents

u

Move Finder Items

Variables used:

Figure B.24 The Clean Up Desktop example workflow.

u

Path

u

Today’s date

To build the workflow: 1. Create a new workflow Application (Figure B.25).

Clean Up Desktop

2. At the top of the Library list, click the Variables button to display the list of categories and variables. 3. In the Locations category, double-click the Path variable. The workflow variables area, containing the Path variable, displays at the bottom of the workflow window. 4. Double-click the Path variable in the workflow variables area to open the Variable Options window. Figure B.25 Creating a workflow Application.

continues on next page

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Appendix B   5. Enter Output Folder in the Name field. Leave the Path pop-up menu set to Desktop. The variable will receive a new value when the workflow runs.   6. Click Done to close the Variable Options window.   7. In the Date & Time category, doubleclick the Today’s date variable. Automator adds the variable to the workflow variables list (Figure B.26).   8. Double-click the Today’s date variable in the workflow variables area to display the Variable Options window.   9. Set the Format pop-up menu to January 5, 1999. 10. Click Done to close the Variable Options window. 11. At the top of the Library list, click the Actions button to display the list of categories and actions.

Clean Up Desktop

12. From the Files & Folders category, drag the New Folder action to the workflow area. 13. From the workflow variables area, drag the Today’s date variable to the New Folder action’s Name text field. 14. Enter -Cleanup in the New Folder action’s Name text field, following the Today’s date variable. 15. From the New Folder action’s Where pop-up menu, choose Documents (Figure B.27). 16. While holding down C , click the title of the New Folder action in the workflow area. A contextual menu displays. 17. Choose Ignore Input from the contextual menu.

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Figure B.26 The workflow variables area now contains two variables: Output Folder (originally Path) and Today’s date.

Figure B.27 From the workflow variables area, drag the Today’s date variable to the New Folder action’s Name field and enter the text -Cleanup. Choose Documents from the Where pop-up menu.

Example Workflows 18. From the Utilities category, drag the Set Value of Variable action to the workflow area. Figure B.28 From the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu, choose Output Folder.

19. From the Set Value of Variable action’s Variable pop-up menu, choose the Output Folder variable (Figure B.28). 20. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Get Specified Finder Items action to the workflow area. 21. Click the Get Specified Finder Items action’s Add button. A folder selection window opens. 22. Locate and choose the Desktop folder (Figure B.29).

Figure B.29 Locate and choose the Desktop folder.

23. Click Add. Automator adds the Desktop folder to the Get Specified Finder Items action (Figure B.30). 24. While holding down C , click the title of the Get Specified Finder Items action in the workflow area. A contextual menu displays.

Figure B.31 Make sure the Get Folder Contents action’s “Repeat for each subfolder found” checkbox is deselected.

Figure B.32 From the workflow variables area, drag the Output Folder variable to the Move Finder Items action’s To field and verify that the “Replacing existing files” checkbox is deselected.

26. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Get Folder Contents action to the workflow area. 27. Verify that the Get Folder Contents action’s “Repeat for each subfolder found” check­box is deselected (Figure B.31). 28. From the Files & Folders category, drag the Move Finder Items action to the workflow area. 29. From the workflow variables area, drag the Output Folder variable to the Move Finder Items action’s To pop-up menu. 30. Verify that the Move Finder Items action’s “Replacing existing files” checkbox is deselected (Figure B.32).

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Clean Up Desktop

Figure B.30 Configure the Get Specified Finder Items action to get the Desktop folder.

25. Choose Ignore Input from the contextual menu.

Appendix B

Saving the workflow 1. Choose File > Save, or press $%S . The save panel appears. 2. Enter Clean text field.

Up Desktop in the Save As

3. Choose an output folder and verify that the File Format pop-up menu is set to Application (Figure B.33).

Figure B.33 Saving the workflow as an Application.

4. Click Save.

Running the workflow Double-click the Clean Up Desktop application to run the workflow. The workflow moves all files and folders on your desktop into a dated subfolder in your Documents folder (Figure B.34).

Clean Up Desktop

Figure B.34 The workflow runs and moves all files and folders from your desktop to a dated subfolder in the Documents folder.

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Developer Resources

C

Are you interested in creating your own custom Automator actions? If so, you’re in luck. Mac OS X includes the tools you need to get started, and websites, books, and forums are available to help, too. Automator involves a number of technologies, including AppleScript, Cocoa, Interface Builder, Objective-C, and Xcode. You’ll need to become familiar with these to begin developing actions of your own. Once you understand these, however, building actions is a snap. This appendix outlines some valuable resources to put you on the right course.

Developer Resources 1

Appendix C

Apple Developer Connection

u

Cocoa Fundamentals Guide. This document provides a solid introduction to the features, concepts, and terminology of Cocoa, the primary set of application frameworks in Mac OS X.

u

The Objective-C 2.0 Programming Language. This document provides a comprehensive introduction to the Objective-C programming language, an essential for anyone developing Cocoabased applications or projects. Also covered in detail is an introduction to object-oriented programming.

http://developer.apple.com/mac/ The Mac Dev Center section of the Apple Developer Connection website is the best resource around for information about development in Mac OS X. Here, you can find extensive documentation and lots of examples for developing virtually anything for Mac OS X. Detailed documentation is available for developers interested in creating Automator actions in AppleScript, Objective-C, and more, including: Automator Programming Guide. This document provides a fairly comprehensive walkthrough of the development process for AppleScript, Objective-C, and Shell Script Automator actions.

u

Automator AppleScript Actions Tutorial. This document walks developers through the steps involved in the ­creation of AppleScript-based actions for Automator.

Apple Developer Connection

u

2

This list is just a taste of the documentation you’ll find in Apple’s Mac OS X Developer Reference Library, which is installed with the Xcode developer tools and is also available online. To ensure access to the latest documentation and developer resources, consider joining the Apple Developer Connection. An online membership is free!

4 Tip n

Some of the Automator developer documentation described above was a bit outdated at the time this book was written. Apple regularly updates its documentation, though. So, check back regularly for updates.

Developer Resources

Websites

MacScripter

Although Apple’s Developer Connection provides much of what you need to know to learn how to develop for Automator, it doesn’t tell you everything. Don’t worry; numerous third-party websites are also available to help with Automator development, AppleScript, and Objective-C. Here are some good places to get started.

http://macscripter.net/

Mac OS X Automation www.macosxautomation.com Primarily geared toward Automator users, this website contains some gems for developers, too, including links to Automator developer resources and tools to aid with action development. The site is updated ­regularly, so be sure to check it often. This website is also an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning AppleScript. Here, you’ll find AppleScript documentation, links to third-party resources, and other important information. In addition, you’ll find countless downloadable scripts that are fully editable for you to view, modify, and even incor­porate into your own AppleScript projects.

This is perhaps the most comprehensive AppleScript resource available on the Web. Maintained by a handful of experienced scripters as well as the overall AppleScript community, this site serves as a repository for AppleScript articles, tips, links, forums, and much more. You’ll also find thousands— and I mean thousands—of user-contributed scripts here. Although some of these are commercial and contain locked code, many are freeware and fully editable.

Objective-C Beginner’s Guide www.otierney.net/objective-c.html This website offers a useful tutorial of the Objective-C programming language, complete with practical example code.

Automated Workflows, LLC http://www.automatedworkflows.com/tips/ tips.html

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Websites

My website provides lots of great information for anyone interested in AppleScript or Automator development. In the Tips section, you’ll find numerous developer resources, including links to dozens of my MacScripter, MacTech, and Peachpit columns on AppleScript and Automator. You’ll also find my popular video podcast series Mac Automation Made Simple.

Appendix C

Apple Mailing Lists http://lists.apple.com

Third-party Mailing Lists and Forums

Offering a way to ask questions and network directly with other developers, mailing lists and online forums provide an unparalleled learning experience for developers. Apple hosts a variety of developer mailing lists that may be of interest to Automator developers, including:

You’re not just limited to Apple’s mailing lists. Many third-party options are available, too. Here are a few that should prove beneficial to Automator developers.

u

http://listserv.dartmouth.edu/archives/ macscrpt.html

Automator Developer’s List http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ automator-dev

u

AppleScript User’s List http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ applescript-users

u

Cocoa Developer’s List http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ cocoa-dev Objective-C Language List http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ objc-language

u

Xcode User’s List http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/ xcode-users

Apple Mailing Lists

u

4

Macintosh Scripting Systems Mailing List

This email list, which is hosted by Dartmouth, is host to thousands of AppleScript developers who can provide answers to virtually any AppleScript-related question you may have.

MacScripter’s AppleScript BBS http://macscripter.net/ This online forum provides yet another excel­lent resource for asking questions about AppleScript and Finder scripting. Much like the email lists, this forum is frequented by thousands of developers who are always willing to share their scripting knowledge.

Developer Resources

Books and Tutorials Numerous books and tutorials can help you in your quest to develop Automator actions. Here are some good places to start.

AppleScript 1-2-3 Sal Soghoian, Bill Cheeseman Peachpit Press www.peachpit.com Written by the AppleScript product manager for Apple Inc., this book is an excellent study guide for anyone interested in learning AppleScript. Great for beginners, the book is also a useful reference guide for experienced scripters.

AppleScript: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition Matt Neuburg O’Reilly www.oreilly.com Sure to be found on the bookshelf of many AppleScript developers, this book provides a truly comprehensive guide to AppleScript in Mac OS X. It covers all the ins and outs of AppleScript, from core language principles to developing applications with AppleScript Studio.

AppleScript 2006 Video Training Course Ben Waldie VTC, Virtual Training Company www.vtc.com This AppleScript course, authored by yours truly, provides a solid introduction and foundation for anyone looking to learn AppleScript. Each video-based lesson allows you to follow along onscreen at your own pace. The first few chapters are available for free online viewing, and the complete course is available on CD or through VTC’s Online University.

AppleScripting the Finder and Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator Ben Waldie Automated Workflows, LLC http://www.automatedworkflows.com/books/ books.html

Stephen G. Kochan

4 Tip

Addison Wesley http://www.informit.com/ store/product.aspx?isbn=0321566157

n

This book offers an in-depth look at programming with Objective-C, including inheritance, composition, and memory management, to name a few topics. It also includes an introduction to object-oriented programming. All in all, it’s an excellent way to become acquainted with Objective-C.

My August 2005 MacTech column, ­available in the Tips section of my website, explains how to build Automator actions with AppleScript in Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5.

5

Books and Tutorials

Programming in Objective-C 2.0, 2nd Edition

Visit the books section for a list of all my books, including AppleScripting the Finder and my previous Automator book, the Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator, which covers the process of developing AppleScriptand Objective-C-based Automator actions in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

Appendix C

Action Templates and Example Code Action templates included with Xcode provide an excellent way to get started constructing your own actions. When you create a new Xcode project, you’ll see the option to create an Automator action under Application Plug-in in the project creation window. You can choose whether to create a Cocoa-, Shell Script-, or Cocoa-AppleScriptbased action (Figure C.1).

Action Templates and Example Code

Figure C.1 Xcode includes prebuilt template projects ready to get you started developing custom Automator actions of your own.

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