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How To Easily Use MacBook’s Automator

Most of us who work on our Macs every day have several tasks we repeatedly perform, which are both time-consuming and tedious. So isn’t the whole point of using a computer is that it’s supposed to do the boring stuff for you? Of course, it is. And with a little preparation, you can make your Mac do exactly that as easily as dragging and dropping elements onto a window using Automator. In this tutorial, we will explain how to use MacBook’s Automator and learn what the meaning is.

One popular feature in MacBook’s Mountain Lion — Automator — can save you a tremendous amount of time behind the keyboard. You use Automator to create applications with a relative of AppleScript called AppleEvents.

If you’re not familiar with AppleScript, it’s the simple programming language that you can use to automate tasks and applications within Mountain Lion.

What is Automator?

Automator is a tool included with OS X which allows you to build custom workflows to perform both simple and complex tasks, such as renaming files in a folder, combining multiple PDF documents, or converting movies from one format to another using QuickTime.

What is an Automator Workflow?

Workflows are often described as ‘recipes’ and with good reason. Like food recipes, they take a defined list of inputs (the ingredients), perform a series of actions on them (the preparation and cooking), and then distribute the results. To create a recipe, all you need is to tell Automator what ingredients it needs, where to get them, and what to do at each stage. And most of the time, it’s done by dragging and dropping from a list of available options.

How To Use MacBook’s Automator

To create a simple application with Automator, launch the application and follow these steps:

  • Select Application and click Choose.
  • Click the desired application in the Library list.
  • Automator displays the actions available for that application.
  • Drag the desired action from the Library window to the workflow window.
  • Modify any specific settings provided for the action you chose.
  • Repeat Steps 2–4 to complete the workflow.
  • Click Run (in the upper right) to test your script.

Don’t miss:

Note: Use sample files while fine-tuning your application lest you accidentally do something harmful to an original (and irreplaceable) file!

  • When the application is working as you like, press cmd+Shift+S to save it.
  • Type a name for your new application in the Save dialog that appears.
  • Click the Where pop-up menu and specify a location where the file should be saved.
  • Click the File Format pop-up menu and choose Application.
  • Click Save.

Actions are performed sequentially, in the order they are arranged in the main window, with the output from one step passed as an input to the next. So you need to break your workflow down carefully and make sure you put the steps in the right order. You can test workflows by stepping through them one stage at a time using the Step button on the toolbar. To test a complete action, use the Run button. In many cases, you’ll need to add a step at the start of a workflow, Get Specified Finder Items, to test the workflow, but Automator will warn you of that when you click Run.

You can set up workflows to run without any input at all from you once they’ve been triggered and, if you want, to remain invisible as they run, or you can create a workflow that prompts you for input as it runs.

If you’re going to use your new Automator application often, don’t forget that you can make it more convenient to use by dragging the application icon to your Dock or your desktop.

If your Automator application should run every time you log in — for example, the application tracks your time on a project — follow these steps to set up the application as a login item:

  • Open System Preferences.
  • Display the Users & Groups pane.
  • Click the Login Items button.
  • Click the plus button at the bottom of the list.
  • Navigate to the location of your new Automator application.
  • Click Add.

Now your Automator application is automatic. Watch your significant other gapes in amazement as your MacBook begins to work without you touching the keyboard.

If you’ve added the application icon to your Dock, you can also right-click the icon and choose Options→Open at Login from the right-click menu that appears. Either way, your MacBook gets the message.

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