I've been using OS X for 3 generations of the OS already (Tiger --> Leopard --> SL) but haven't really ventured in using Automator much.

What are the best ways to use Automator? (Best uses, time savers, etc.)

  • 3
    Shouldn't this question be a wiki ?
    – Studer
    Aug 29, 2010 at 0:21
  • 1
    Should be a wiki, I'm going to upvote it though because I'd like to see more suggestions. Feb 2, 2011 at 21:52

7 Answers 7


Automator helps you automate (pun intended) repetitive actions without requiring programming knowledge.

The basic building blocks of Automator are Actions. Each Action does a sigle task, that may take an input and produce an output. Automator lets you create a sequence of Actions, called Workflow. If you are familiar with UNIX it's like a UI for pipes.

Here is an Automator Workflow I use a lot, especially for downloading lecture notes in PDF from my professors' sites:

Download PDFs in current page

Creating Services is another feature I find useful.

Also, you can combine the power of AppleScript with the simplicity of Automator with the "Run AppleScript" Action.

As an example of both techniques, you can check out this service that opens the source of the current Safari page in TextMate.

If you need more information about Automator check this Mac 101 article.

If you are a developer and want to create new Actions or need more insight into Automator, check out this guide and the Apple's developer documentation.


I made an automator script that mounted my encrypted sparsebundle and then displayed it in a Finder window.

I saved it as a service and then access it with a option + command + L.

Its a quick way to get access to my super sensitive files while still requiring a password.

alt text


I use it to turn the text of web pages, books, essays, etc. into audio files that I can listen to on my iPod.

Text to AIFF workflow

Just open the text file that you would like to have read to audio in TextEdit (making sure that it is frontmost in the application) and set this thing to running.

Here are two more related notes:

  1. The output is aiff (though the image above shows mp3), and at the point that I last read the Apple Mac OS X terms, and …
  2. The use of the text-to-speech feature is exclusively limited to personal use.
  • Can you please post/add some screenshots to show the Automator workflow you are using?
    – nohillside
    Dec 8, 2011 at 18:32

Use it to whip up a quick bulk file-renamer:

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See 2 Ways to Batch Rename Files in OS X for a complete walkthrough.


I use automator to convert graphics files to PNG format, a task I often need. I use Preview.app's action in automator to export file(s) in Finder to PNG. It doesn't require to open Preview and then save the files one-by-one.


My DSLR pictures get rejected by craigslist for being to big to upload. I created a task to easily scale down pictures prior to uploading. Saves me several minutes every once in a while...


I use it to automatically import photos from the camera uploads folder in dropbox into iPhoto then delete the photo from the dropbox folder.

Behing this I use appwolf to automatically copy files from my other halfs dropbox camera uploads folder into a shared dropbox photo folder, then have automator run the same iPhoto import script on this shared folder too.

Time Machine backs up , and added to this automator copies the iPhoto database file to a Windows folder inside parallels desktop, this folder then gets backed up by carbonate backup into the cloud.

The result is we never run out of space on dropbox and all our photos are automatically imported into iPhoto from both our phones and backed up by time machine locally, and, should the house burn down/get robbed to the cloud via carbonate. All this happens with complete autonomy.

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