The OS X Yosemite Automator App - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

Yosemite features Automator, and he’s your own personal robotic automation assistant. Automator can help you create custom applications that can handle your repetitive tasks. You’re creating workflows here, which are sequential (and repeatable) operations that are performed on the same files or data.

The Automator app on a Mac.

Your Automator application can automatically launch whatever applications are necessary to get the job done.

Here’s a great example: You work with a service bureau that sends you a CD every week with new product shots for your company’s Marketing department. Unfortunately, these images are flat-out huge — taken with a 16-megapixel camera — and they’re always in the wrong orientation. Before you move them to the Marketing folder on your server, you must laboriously resize each image and rotate it, and then save the smaller version.

With Automator’s help, you can build a custom application that automatically reads each image in the folder, resizes it, rotates it, and even generates a thumbnail image or prints the image, and then moves the massaged images to the proper folder.

You’d normally have to manually launch Preview to perform the image operations and then use a Finder window to move the new files to the right location. But now, with Automator, double-clicking your custom application icon does the trick.

You can run Automator from Launchpad, of course. Open the Utilities/Other folder, and click the Automator icon — it’s also located in your Applications folder. Currently, Automator can handle specific tasks in more than 80 applications (including Finder), but both Apple and third-party developers can add new Automator task support to both new and existing applications.

Like other Yosemite applications, you’ll initially see the Open dialog. (Don’t forget, if you have Automator projects you want to store in your iCloud Drive, you can simply drag them into this Open dialog.) If you’re creating a new Automator application from scratch, however, click the New Document button to display the Automator window.

To create a simple application using Automator, follow these steps:

  1. Select Application, and click Choose.

  2. Click the desired application in the Library list.

    Automator displays the actions available in that application.

  3. Drag the desired action from the Library pane to the workflow pane.

  4. Modify any specific settings provided for the action you chose.

  5. Repeat Steps 1 to 3 to complete the workflow.

  6. Click the Run button (on the upper right) to test your script.

    Use sample files (copies) while you’re fine-tuning your application lest you accidentally do something deleterious to an original (and irreplaceable) file!

    The figure illustrates a workflow that takes care of the earlier example — resizing and rotating a folder full of images, and moving them to the Pictures folder.

    Using the Automator app to create a photo album on Mac.

  7. When the application is working as you like, press Command+Shift+S to save it.

  8. In the Save dialog that appears, type a name for your new workflow.

  9. Click the Where pop-up menu, and specify a location where the file should be saved.

  10. Click Save.

To find all the actions of a certain type in the Library list, click in the Search box at the top of the Library list and type a keyword, such as save or burn. You don’t even need to press Return!