Video Transcript

A transcription of the Introduction to Automator video.


Welcome, to an overview of Automator, in Mac OS X.

In this presentation, we’ll examine how Automator, Mac OS X’s powerful automation application, is designed to help you do more with your computer.

Allow me to introduce “Otto,” the automation robot.

Otto is the icon, of a powerful utility included with Mac OS X, called Automator.

Automator was created to be your “Personal Automation Assistant,” making it easier for you to accomplish the tasks you perform with the computer.

For example, let’s say you receive a request from a friend, to send her copies of a group of astronomy pictures you recently acquired.

The steps, required to fulfill the request, are to:

  1. First, select the image files.
  2. Then, place duplicates of the files into a folder.
  3. Next, resize each of the duplicated image files, to a smaller size for sending in email.
  4. And finally, add the scaled image files to an out-going mail message.

Automator can be used to perform each of these steps, by creating a document, using a simple drag and drop process, to locate and add pre-defined automation routines, that correspond to each step of the task.

The automation routines are called “Actions” and the automation documents are called “Workflows.”

Most workflows are designed to incorporate a basic set of steps:

  1. First, the items to be processed by the workflow, are acquired or identified.
  2. Next, one or more processing routines are applied to the identified items, with the results of each processing step, being passed to the next.
  3. And finally, distributing the workflow results to applications or locations on the computer.

This flow design can be summarized as: Acquire, Process, and Distribute.

It is similar to the flow design, used in creating and following kitchen recipes, where the first step is to acquire all of the ingredients listed in the recipe, and is followed by the next step, which is to process the ingredients using one or more procedures.

With the results of each processing step, being passed to the next step.

Until the processing is completed, and the resulting items are distributed for use.

A workflow is simply an “automation recipe.” If you can describe how to make a sandwich, or a pot of soup, you can create a workflow.

It’s simply a matter of figuring out the steps required to achieve the desired results.

And then, locating and adding the Automator actions that correspond to each step of the automation recipe.

After you’ve constructed a workflow, it can be executed by pressing the Run button, located at the top right of the workflow window.

Workflows can be saved and activated in a variety of ways.

To save a workflow in standard formats, select Save, from Automator’s File menu.

And in the drop-down save dialog, click on the format popup menu, to select either “Workflow,” or “Application,” as the desired format for the saved document.

Automation documents saved in “Workflow” format, are editable files that can be re-opened, and run from within Automator.

Automation documents saved in “Application” format, create self-running applications, that can be double-clicked to launch, or will respond when files or folders are dragged onto their icons.

An additional feature of Automator, is the ability to save its workflows, as plug-ins to other applications and services. Workflow plug-ins provide access to automation, where, and when you require it.

To save a workflow as a plug-in, choose “Save As Plug-in…”, from the File menu. In the drop-down dialog, click the popup menu, to reveal the various plug-in options.

Here they are, described in order:

The Finder workflow plug-in, will provide contextual menu access, to saved workflows, that can be executed on selected items in the Finder.

The Folder Actions workflow plug-in, will attach a workflow to a folder. When disk items are added to the attached folder, the workflow will be run, using the added items.

The iCal workflow plug-in, will save a workflow as an alarm for a calendar event. And using standard iCal controls, you can adjust its time and date of execution.

The Image Capture workflow plug-in, will add the saved workflow to the list of automatic tasks that can be performed using photos imported by the Image Capture application, when a camara is connected to your computer.

The Print workflow plug-in, will save a workflow as an extension to the print to PDF menu, found in the standard Mac OS X print dialog.

These workflows, will accept the printed PDF file, as their input. In addition, you can edit the menu, to add or remove workflows from the list of available Print to PDF options.

And lastly, the Script Menu workflow plug-in, will add the saved workflow to the system-wide script menu, so that the workflow can be available for use, from within any application.

Automator works with most data and media formats, and is integrated with many system services and applications. It is the center of automation on your computer, and it's easy, and fun to use. Give it a try today!

This concludes an introduction to Automator, Mac OS X’s powerful automation application. Thank you!