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Mac Automation: Birthday greetings

Cory Bohon

I am sure that everyone has forgotten other peoples birthday's from time-to-time (*raises hand*). Luckily, with Mac OS X's built-in Address Book and Automator, you can automate the remembering and sending of greeting cards by e-mail -- thus eliminating the awkwardness of forgetting. In this how-to I will show you how to create a birthday field in your Address Book contacts, and how to send an e-mail birthday greeting when the time is right.

To learn how to do this, read on.

Setting up Address Book

Before we start building the Automator workflow, let's make sure that your Address Book contacts are set up properly. By default, Mac OS X's Address Book doesn't include a field to fill in the birthdays; so let's set up the default template to automatically include this:

  1. Open Address Book
  2. Go to Preferences (Address Book > Preferences or use command + , )
  3. Click Template
  4. Then in the "Add Field" drop-down box, select "Birthday"
Once you have done that, all new cards created will show the Birthday field for you to add your contact's birth date. If you have not entered any birthdays in your contacts, then you can now go through and edit the cards and add the birthdays to the newly added field.

Setting up the Automator workflow

Now let's set up the Automator workflow that will make the "magic" happen. You will need the following Automator actions in the same order as they are listed:
  1. "Find People with Birthdays"
  2. "Send Birthday Greetings"
Let's tweak some settings so we can save this as a reusable application. Under the options of both of the actions, select the "Show this action when the workflow runs" check-box. This will allow you to reuse this workflow and change options each time it runs.

Saving the workflow
Now let's save this workflow as an application. Click File > Save. Specify a name, and chose "Application" from the "Format:" drop-down box. This will save your workflow as a Mac OS X application.

Running the workflow
Double-click on the application you just saved to run the workflow. The workflow will prompt you for a search interval. Use the drop-down box to specify how far ahead to search for the birthdays. I chose "This week" to search for birthdays occurring this week.

The workflow will then search for all birthdays that are occurring this week. If it finds more than one person, it will pass it through the workflow as well -- so you can have more than one birthday greeting when it is finished running. Once it has finish searching, another dialog will prompt you to chose a birthday greeting image, and write a short message. Notice that if you have more than one recipient, this message will be copied to all of the messages; so if you want to personalize the message, it's best to wait until the workflow sends it to Mail. Notice that you can also choose to send a random image to each recipient and have the computer randomly pick images.

Once you have completed the workflow, an already addressed mail message will be created in Mail; your picture and message will be automatically added to it.

If you encounter many birthdays each week, consider placing this application in your dock and setting it to run on startup -- then you will be sure to never miss a birthday!

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