Automate Mundane Tasks With Automator

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Waltzing through our digital lives, we tend to use our computers for hundreds of tasks on a daily basis. But even using a computer can get tedious, with routine daily tasks taking hours to accomplish.

How you wish there’s a way to automate things on your Mac. However, unless you know of an app that can let you set up a proper workflow to do exactly what you want or you are a master programmer; then automation is easier said than done.

Apple steps in to take control and provides the means to do this. It gives the Mac power to automate by incorporating an application called “Automator”, an application that takes the hard work out of automating workflows, thanks to its drag-and-drop interface.

Automator comes with a list of pre-defined “Actions” that each perform a specific role:

  • Popping up a dialog box for a user input
  • Creating a new document in an application
  • Recording a sequence of mouse and keyboard actions

These “Actions” can be dragged into order, for the workflow to be executed within Automator as a script, which gets triggered when a file is moved to a particular folder or even saved as a standalone application. Of course, since the nature of these Actions is fixed, you may have to put your thinking cap on before putting them together.

But the beauty of the Automator is that it can handle a lot, and anything that is truly out of its league can be handled with the help of an external AppleScript script included in a workflow.

The real advantage of the Automator lies in automating the mundane tasks that Mac users routinely perform throughout each day, including the following tasks:

  • Create a family directory and print it with the Contacts in the Address Book
  • Find images from your favorite websites and add them to iPhoto.
  • Convert any images dropped on to its Finder icon into JPEGs.
  • Handle scheduled backups of important information.
  • Batch convert .doc to .pdf.

Let’s take a simple example to demonstrate how Automator makes lives easier.

If you’re like me, you have hundreds of business and financial files stashed away on your computer, and you end up searching all folders for one file as you don’t remember the file name you saved it under. Admit it; being organized is not everybody’s cup of tea. Here’s how you can set up Automator to help you:

  • Start Automator in your Applications folder
  • Choose Application
  • Go to the Library pane and Select Files & Folders
  • Select “Set Spotlight Comments For Finder Items” in the Actions pane on the right and then drag and drop the action in the workflow area
  • In the Action, you will have to give a name so that you find your files easily later, for example: salaries2012
  • Enable “Keep the Append To Existing Comments” (By doing this you are making sure you are not replacing the Spotlight comments)
  • Save the workflow you created on the desktop

By doing this, you can add Spotlight comments to any of your files or even folders on your Mac. You will now be able to search for files by using the Spotlight comment you’ve used for the file.

There are hundreds of such tasks that can be automated. Automator can be a highly efficient personal assistant that makes life easy for you. You can get more done in a day. Work that takes hours manually, can be performed within minutes. It’s very simple – you just create “automation recipes” that perform both simple and complex jobs for you whenever you need.

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