ex­plained… How to use Au­toma­tor

Mac Format - - APPLE SKILLS -

will ap­pear as a new com­mand in the Print dia­log’s PDF menu. This route gives you full con­trol over how your saved PDFs are named and where they are saved. So, for ex­am­ple, you may want to cre­ate sep­a­rate com­mands that save your busi­ness and per­sonal re­ceipts in dif­fer­ent fold­ers.

In­tro­duc­ing Au­toma­tor

We’ll do this us­ing an Au­toma­tor work­flow, specif­i­cally in the app’s Print Plugin tem­plate. Of course, you can use this to process many more things than just web re­ceipts – you could adapt the tech­nique shown here to save any other kind of print­able doc­u­ment, en­crypt your PDF file, email it, and so on.

Tech­ni­cally, work­ing with Au­toma­tor is pro­gram­ming, just not in the tra­di­tional sense of writ­ing code. While Ap­ple has a ded­i­cated method for writ­ing apps for iOS and OS X, called Xcode, Au­toma­tor is its pro­gram­ming tool for the rest of us. Think of it as a dig­i­tal game of Jenga, only in re­verse. Rather than pulling the Jenga tower to bits, you’ll be stack­ing it up, with each brick that you add be­ing a spe­cific ac­tion that you’re ask­ing your Mac to per­form. Like a Jenga tower, though, get one ac­tion wrong and the whole work­flow will fail to pro­duce your in­tended re­sult. Think of each ac­tion as a macro, just like the step-by-step rou­tines you may have used to ac­com­plish the same task on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions in Pho­to­shop or Mi­crosoft Word.

Au­toma­tor work­flows are smarter than reg­u­lar macros, as they’re not re­stricted to run­ning inside par­tic­u­lar apps. Al­though we’ll build one that pro­cesses out­put from OS X’s print­ing sys­tem, turn­ing it into a PDF and then per­form­ing ad­di­tional tasks on the re­sul­tant file, you can also cre­ate work­flows that act like a stand­alone app, or that keep an eye on a par­tic­u­lar folder and per­form ac­tions on any files dropped into it. Work­flows can also process images im­ported from a cam­era us­ing the Im­age Cap­ture util­ity, per­form a task when you give a par­tic­u­lar in­struc­tion to OS X’s dic­ta­tion sys­tem, or run when a calendar event’s alarm goes off.

Ap­ple has al­ready done a lot of the grunt work for you by pro­vid­ing a li­brary of use­ful ac­tions. Each one calls upon the ser­vices of an app, such as Finder, Calendar or Mail, to give you di­rect ac­cess to its core fea­tures, such as re­nam­ing a file, set­ting up an event, or send­ing a new mes­sage.

Each ac­tion in your work­flow takes some in­put, which could be a web ad­dress, a name or, in our case, a PDF of a re­ceipt we’ve re­ceived by email or been pre­sented with in a web page, per­forms some ac­tions on it, and




Ac­tions are grouped by app or by cat­e­gory. Switch be­tween

the two us­ing View > Ar­range

Ac­tions By. 3

Work­flow Drag ac­tions into this area to build your work­flow. Each ac­tion au­to­mat­i­cally feeds its out­put to the next.


1 2

Ac­tions With an ac­tion se­lected in the sec­ond col­umn, a de­scrip­tion of it is given be­low. If not, click the sec­ond icon at

the bot­tom. 4

Record Add man­ual in­ter­ac­tions to your work­flow, such as click­ing menus and press­ing keys, by click­ing the Record but­ton.


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