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Mac Automation: Automator for Leopard

Cory Bohon

A few people commented on my first Mac Automation post that they didn't understand Automator. This post will clear that all up.

AppleScript is very powerful, but it has a learning curve. When Apple set out to make Automator, they tried to make an automation environment that not only gave the user flexibility, but also power. Apple includes several actions that programs can use; they also include a plug-in type model for developers of Mac software to add even more actions.

With the introduction of Leopard, Apple completely re-invented Automator; giving it a better user interface and even more actions. Let's take a look at the Automator application:

The area in red is where the actions are located. These actions are what you link together to make a workflow. The area in blue is the workflow area. This area allows you to place your actions in the correct order to make a useful workflow. The yellow area gives you the information about the currently selected action; such as what it will accomplish and what action is needed before or after it.

Now let's try making a work flow of our own. Launch Automator and find the following actions:
  • Take Video Snapshot
  • Import Files into iPhoto
Drag the Take Video Snapshot action onto the work flow area. You'll notice that each action has certain things you can select. Pick "Desktop" or another common place for the "Where" drop-down selector (this is where the video will be saved to) and then click "Take picture automatically."

Next, drag the "Import Files into iPhoto" action into the work flow. Notice how the two actions are joined together by a little tab in the center (this means they are compatible actions). Select "New Album" from the drop-down box and name the label using the adjacent text box.

Once you have all the actions in place, click the Run button in the top right corner of the application window. The actions will run, producing a new iPhoto album with a snapshot from your iSight camera. And you've just created your very first Automator workflow.

This small workflow shows you the true potential of Automator -- whether for work (or play).

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