Mac: How to Create a Basic Script With Automator

If you are one of the growing number of Apple users, you have likely come across a strange looking robot guy in your Applications folder. For a long time I ignored this application. It looks pretty confusing when you open it up. All that is on the screen 3 columns; one with application names, one with actions and the last is a big blank window to drag the scripts to.

This can be very intimidating if you have absolutely no idea what yo do next. Sure you can randomly drag actions into the window then hit run to see what happens. Odds are you will get an error or nothing will happen. After a few times of trying without success, most people give up and tell people on Twitter it sucks.

The first step in the process is to decide what you want automated. The example below is very simple. Batch Image Scale is something I use all the time. I have a couple different image scale scripts for different sizes. Setting multiple versions up may take you a few extra minutes initially, but it saves a lot of time in the future.

Create A Script

1. In your Applications folder, open Automator.app [Cmd + Shift + A]

app-folder-automator

2. In the first column on the left, choose the an application. When you select an application, the Actions in the second column change.

select-finder-automator

3. Select the Action you would like to perform. A good place to start is an action like Ask for Finder Item. When setting up a Workflow where there may be multiple files or folders involved, make sure to check Allow Multiple Selection.

ask-for-finder-item-automator

4. In some cases a warning box may appear. If this does happen, read it carefully. In this case, the pop up is asking if I want to copy the files and make the changes to the copies. Making the changes to the copies will preserved if anything were to go wrong.

warning-copy-window-automator

5. In the far left column, click the Preview app. Drag the Scale Images action to the window.

scale-images-description-automator

6. Select the pixel or percentage you would like the image scaled to. In this case I chose 500 pixels for this example. If you are taking really large pictures and want to send them via email, you may want to choose a percentage instead.

scale-images-automator

7. This is what your basic Scale Image workflow should look like.

scale-image-with-growl-automator

8. Here is a before and after of the information pane showing the change in dimensions.

before-scale-automator

after-scale-automator

9. Now that you know the Workflow does what you want it to, it’s time to save it. In the File menu you are presented with three options: Save, Save As and Save As Plug-in. The Save and Save As options are pretty much the same thing. Both ask you to name the file, choose a location to save it to and in what format you want to save it. The two format choices are Workflow or Application. The main difference is, a Workflow is like a draft which opens in Automator and can be edited. If you save it as an Application, no changes can be made.

The other choice is the Save As Plug-in option. The reason for saving the Workflow as a Finder Plug-in is when you need to resize images in a folder on my desktop, you can CTRL + Click to get the menu. In this menu highlight Automator and there is your Workflow.

Premade Scripts

For those of you who may not be comfortable with making a Workflow/Application in Automator, there are many sites and forums where people post them for free. Some of the people go as far as writing more advanced scripts and use Automator to run those scripts. A while back Damien posted 20+ Useful Automator Scripts. On these sites, there are many other scripts. If the 20+ in the post don’t do it for you, look around on those sites, there are many many more.

Have you used Automator to make any useful scripts?

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