Apple Automator

Apple Automator is a new technology for scripting applications, first implemented in Mac OS X v10.4 “Tiger”, the new version of Mac OS X that was released on April 29, 2005.

Ease of use
Automator allows point-and-click (or drag-and-drop) ease for automating repetitive tasks. Automator enables the repetition of tasks across a wide variety of programs, including the Finder, the Safari web browser, iCal, Address Book and others. It can also work with third-party applications such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop.
Although Automator uses AppleScript and/or Cocoa, it requires no expertise in these languages whatsoever. However, the concept would be familiar to those used to Unix pipelines: the output of the last action becomes the input of the next (though you can optionally choose for an action to ignore the input from the previous action). Unlike Unix pipelines, however, Automator workflows are sequential: each action is completed before the next action in the workflow begins.

How to use it
Automator comes with a library of many Actions (file renaming, finding linked images, creating a new mail message, etc.), all of which act as individual steps in a Workflow document. A Workflow document then can be used to carry out repetitive tasks. A user can also save these Workflows so that it can be used over and over again, whenever it is needed. Unix command line scripts and AppleScripts can also be invoked as Actions. The actions are linked together in a “workflow.” The workflow can be saved as an application, workflow file or a contextual menu item.

There is an ‘Options’ disclosure icon at the bottom of each action that shows a checkbox, allowing the action to be shown when run. This means that a task that may require slight tweaks every time it is run can present the same dialog to the user when the workflow runs as the options available in the action ” in other words, setting parameters at runtime.

Included are these example workflows:

  • Copy Unread Mail to iPod Notes
  • Import .Mac Photos
  • Process Images

And for developers, the project code is provided for these workflows:

  • Adjust Gamma
  • Get Process Information
  • Randomizer
  • Translate Text.

The workflow below, for example, can be used to upload a screenshot to a web server. Note that the ‘Upload to FTP’ action is not included by default, but plenty of extra Automator actions can be downloaded from Apple’s Automator download page.