Ten Awesome Automator Tricks

Do you do the same tasks over and over again during the course of your day? Or do you have some project in OS X that you’ve been putting off because it involves doing some menial task over and over again?

After a while, repetitive tasks can get.. repetitive. Fortunately OS X includes the brilliant Automator which lets you automate pretty much any menial task you can think of. Here are ten awesome pre-written tricks you can do with Automator.


The following ten tricks and tons more can be found at AutomatorWorld. A user contributed site dedicated to the Automator application, it contains hundreds of useful pre-written Automator Workflows and Actions.

Workflows and Actions:

In Automator, a completed and ready to go task is called a Workflow. Workflows are made up of Actions. Some of the following Automator scripts are Actions and others are Workflows. If it’s a Workflow, it will run right out of the box. If it’s an Action, you will need to build your own Workflow using it.

1. Copy Spotlight Items: (Workflow)

Do a Spotlight search and Copy Spotlight Items will copy those files to a folder of your choosing. Great for hunting through a folder containing thousands of pictures.

2. Dashboarder: (Workflow)

In the quest for more speed and using less resources in OS X, a recommended tip is to turn off Dashboard and it’s RAM gobbling widgets. Dashboarder makes turning Dashboard off and on easy.

3. Batch Rename: (Workflow)

At least once a week someone will ask me if there’s a way to rename more than one file at a time. If you’ve ever had to do this manually, you know what a pain this is. Batch Rename makes this painless on selected files and everything within selected folders.

4. Convert images to combined PDF: (Workflow)

Need to combine a bunch of images into a PDF file? That’s exactly what Convert images to combined PDF does. Select the images and they will be combined into a single PDF in ascending name order. This is awesome if you’ve just manually scanned in about 100 pages of something and want to turn a folder of .JPGs into a .PDF. Just remember that the resulting PDF needs to be saved manually.

5. Download URLs as PDFs: (Action)

The internet has so many incredible resources, I like to save as much as I can for further reading or to archive for later use. Download URLs as PDFs makes this simple to do.

6. iTunes Ringtone: (Workflow)

Creating your own ringtones is a nice way to customize your phone for free. iTunes Ringtone will take a song from iTunes and convert it to .mp3, mono and 64kbps then restore it to AIFF and the full song duration. You’ll have to either mark the start / stop times under Get Info in iTunes or just create a custom edited version.

Note: Just to be on the safe side with this one, I’d make a backup copy of the iTunes song you want to use so nothing happens to the original.

7. Bluetooth File Transfer Suite: (Workflow)

Once you have created a custom ringtone and want to send it and other files to your phone, you can do it manually.. or you can automate the process with Bluetooth File Transfer Suite. You’ll need the Bluetooth Object Push Action installed for this to work.

8. Movie to iPhone: (Workflow)

Movie to iPhone will convert movies into iPhone format for use on your iPhone (or iPod Touch). There’s a few files in this one, the easiest one to use is the standalone app. It asks you for the movie, converts it and drops it into your iTunes library for syncing to you iPhone or iPod Touch.

9. Attach to Mail: (Workflow)

Attaching files to emails is incredibly easy with Attach to Mail. Just select the file(s) and run the Workflow. A new email will be created with those files pre-attached.

10. Create Disk Image from Files: (Action)

The Create Disk Image from Files Action allows you to build Workflows that let you select files and instantly create a Disk Image with them inside. You can also set compression and encryption options. Add a copy Action to this and you can build a workflow that will take files, sew them up into an encrypted disk image and copy that image on to a USB drive or upload it to a server.

Automator isn’t easy:

I’ll admit, while Automator is great, it has a bit of a learning curve. Once you get how it works, it’s pretty useful though. Here are some resources for you if you want to learn more about how Automator works and using it.

– Ben Waldie’s Mac Automation Podcast.

– Mac 101: Automator.

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