Automate me

I’m no geek by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve acquired a real appreciation for Automator.

I didn’t mean to get involved with this AppleScript simplifier, starting off with an action that was purely productive. I wrote an action (based on Rob Griffiths’ Mac OS X hint ) that opened, renamed and saved a daily text file for all the blurbs and links I posted on the Macworld site). I saved it as an application and run it first right after I start up my PowerBook. It took a few tries to get it ironed out, but I’m happy to report that it works like a charm and I now have a complete archive of my daily production files sorted by date.

I also downloaded and used Jesse Hogue’s Maintenance action. It repairs permissions and updates bindings. No tweaking required. It ran fine right out of the box.

Now with productivity out of the way, I moved on to what I like to call the “pretty picture” phase.

If you read the December issue of Macworld , you no doubt saw the feature package on Automator. An element of that package which you’ll only find in the print edition of Macworld is an excerpt from Andy Ihnatko’s The Mac OS X Tiger Book . There’s a great Automator action Andy talks about that details how to snag a picture from NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Web site and have it set as your desktop background. The action—while by no means a critical function of my own daily workflow—was simple and fun. If you could see my desktop right how you’d be treated to a detailed shot of NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula.

Daily archive files? Check. System maintenance run on a regular basis? Check. Stunning shot of deep space right in front of me? You know it.

What’s next on my Automator plate? Probably something to do with scheduling. I know you can save Automator workflows as application plug-ins, which makes the Maintenance action perfect for iCal. Something like “run that action Sunday mornings while I’m snoozing away and agree to the default selections.”

Even though I was skeptical of Automator when Tiger first came out, it has since won me over. I’m starting to see daily tasks in a new light and plotting ways get Automator to do the work. So maybe we should take a page from Dr. Strangelove and call this blog entry, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Robot.”

If you’re interested in learning about Automator, you can find a couple of columns about the automation tool in the December 2005 issue. We’ve also set up a brand-new Automator topic page to house any and all articles on Automator, from feature stories to how-tos.

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