Let me introduce you to Automator.

Mar 01

robotThe line " If you use a Mac , It just works " might sound saturated with fan-boy-ism to you, yet my own personal feelings about this little part of the Mac OSx operating system, are far from those of a die hard fan-boy. One of the tag lines I have always used is 'Let technology work for you" and that is exactly what "automator" is all about.

When I was first introduced to "automator" it was by its mention on the final pages of my very first " OSX for Dummies" book that I bought about 2 years ago. Delighted with the fact that I had gone from Apple-newbie to somebody who could do his daily duties on the brand new Mac, I left well enough alone an decided I would not need to venture down the advanced user lane just yet.

However some months later, my buddy Kevin re-introduced me to "automator" by giving some kick ass examples as how this little program, that allowed you to write "little scripts" had boosted his productivity. So carefully I dipped into that pond, hit spotlight, queried for the little cool robot and opened it up.

Expecting a blank window filled with all kinds of codes and queries, I was surprised to see a smooth interface filled with possible "actions" you could let your computer preform. All of these specific 'actions' where organized according to the application they referred to. For example there where several "finder" actions : Open this, Close that, Get file, Delete file etc. But also some more specific actions for Itunes, Email etc.  In the right pane one could "drag" these actions into a field where they then formed a logical chain of actions to preform. An easy one was " Open folder , Get file , Email File " Consisting of 3 actions that gave me the ability to add my own data ( What file, to WHO do you want to email it ) I had fairly quickly gobbled up a little script that would get my daily logfile from my backup and email it to me.

Now here came the kicker, I could save this "program" as a work flow, giving me the ability to run it in "Automator", and tinker with it if needed, BUT i could also export it as an application !! So i would just double click that and the script would run. In no time I had set up some great little scripts to preform the most tedious tasks. Renaming a batch of pictures, Moving files, Connecting to network drives. Stuff you normaly have to click through over and over again where now as easy as pie. But .. there was more.

If I had been delusional and had thought that the "automator actions" provided by OSx by default where the horizon of my automated universe, I was duly mistaken. The site : AUTOMATORWORLD  boasted more content then i could ever throw a stick at. One can choose do download a variety of ACTIONS that are not available by default in OSX, Actions for for example Photoshop, Flickr, or to (for example) download a url and convert it to a PDF file. These actions could be imported and then used to build your own work flow giving you the combination to add more possibilities to your homebrew-automator scirpt.

But if you are lazy or very much aware that other people are probably better at this then you are, there where some ready-and-cooked killer scripts to be downloaded. Like one of this weeks top picks : EXPORT MOVIES TO ITUNES. The script will sit in the content menu when you click any movie, Just 'right click' and choose "convert to Itunes" : Select some movie files, right click on one of them, and select the workflow from the Automator menu. Quicktime Player will each movie, export it to an iPod-friendly video format, import it into your iTunes Library (and Videos playlist), and play it for you. Next time you sync your video-capable iPod, your movies will be viewable on the iPod!  But this also means that you can now batch-process all your non-mp4 movies and convert them to your ipod or if it ever comes out, your Apple TV. So you see , with automator , Time is saved. 

And finaly : If you are even too lazy to click your own script, just make a new alert in Calendar, In the Alert tab tell calendar to run and application, select your script and your Mac will run it for you on the time you tell it to.

Conclusion ? I love this. Although I'm no coder and hate programming, I love tinkering around with automator. Building workflows ,thinking logically, debugging the whole thing to see if it works, its all good fun. And of course : Sitting in the sofa and watching the clock… knowing that although i'm lazy as hell , my mac is at this very moment running 2 of my scripts (all by himself) doing chores that would have cost me the better part of an hour.  In essence : Automator lets technology.. Work for you. 

More info :

Automatorworld : http://automatorworld.com/ 

Wiki : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automator_%28software%29 

Apple :  http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/automator/

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