Automator workflow of the month: From PDF to iBooks

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If you like to review documents on your way to and from work, you likely know that you can use Apple's free iBooks app to read PDF files on an iOS device running iOS 3.2 or later. What you may not know is that with an easy-to-assemble Automator workflow, you can move a PDF directly from Apple's Preview to an attached iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. This workflow demonstrates the power of the Print plug-in.

Launch Snow Leopard's version of Automator and in the template sheet that appears, select Print Plugin and click the Choose button. In the resulting workflow add these actions in order: Rename Finder Items, Open Finder Items (both under Files & Folders), and Update iPod (under Music).

In the Rename Finder Items action choose Name Single Item from the first pop-up menu, click the Options button, enter 'untitled' in the Name field, and enable the Show This Action When the Workflow Runs option. The name of the action will change to Name Single Item In Finder Item Names.

PDF to iBooks workflow
Here you can see all the actions that make up the workflow.

In the Open Finder Items action, click on the Open With pop-up menu and select iTunes from the list of applications. Save (File -> Save) and name your workflow.

Now, jack your iOS device into your Mac and launch iTunes (if it doesn’t launch automatically). Select the device in iTunes’ Source list and click the Books tab at the top of the window. Make sure that Sync Books is enabled and that the All Books option is also enabled. (If you choose Selected Books the workflow won’t work.)

Open a PDF file in Preview (Adobe Acrobat doesn’t support this workflow) and choose File -> Print. In the Print dialog box that appears, click on the PDF pop-up menu at the bottom of the window. From that menu choose the workflow you just created. In a short time a Rename Finder Items window will appear in which you’ll be prompted for a name for the PDF. After entering a name in the Name field, click the Continue button. The workflow will launch iTunes if it’s not already open and add the PDF file to iTunes’ Books area. It will then initiate a sync of your attached iOS device and copy the PDF to the device.

The workflow initiates a sync of your attached iOS device and copies the PDF to the device for easy reading.

Worth noting: If you delete an e-book or PDF file directly on your iOS device—by tapping iBooks’ Edit button, selecting one or more books or PDF files, and tapping the red Delete button—and then sync your iOS device, the Sync Books option within iTunes’ Books tab will change to Selected Books from All Books. When this happens your workflow will no longer function because the PDF file you’ve “sent” from Preview isn’t among the books you’ve selected in iTunes. For it to start working again you must enable the All Books option and click the Apply button at the bottom of the iTunes window.

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