Every task – no matter how enjoyable – becomes a burden if it needs to be performed tons of times in a short period of time. Think of resizing images: it might be a simple task and unbothersome once or twice, but how about resizing 300 images to the same size? Instead of downloading a third party app for this specific task, try using Automator, a powerful utility designed to handle such repetitive processes.
Automator is a part of every macOS, and when you discover how powerful this utility is and how much brainpower it is able to save, you'll likely use it as part of your daily routine for such tasks as resizing image batches, combining multiple PDFs into one document, saving text as audio, and much more.
Automator allows users to choose from eight different templates, which dictates how the workflow derives its input. Workflows are like recipes: they are the result of a customized set of actions that act as ingredients. Each action is a single step in the task, and the order of tasks is from top to bottom.
Building a workflow in Automator is pretty easy, as it has hundreds of presets. Just select the action from the Library and drag it to the right into the workflow area. The actions in this area are linked, with the output of one becoming the input for the next. As such, there are some scripts you can create for yourself to optimize your workflow on the Mac.
Resize Multiple Photos in an Instant
This “application” will automate image resizing and place the resized images in a dedicated folder, keeping the originals untouched.
- Select “Application” from the template selection, and hit “Choose”.
- Select the “Files and Folders” to display the actions included in this set.
- Drag the “Copy Finder Items” action into the workflow area.
- In the dropdown menu besides “To”, click on “Other”, select Command + Shift + N to create a new folder, and give it a name. In our example, we used “500px”.
- Drag the Rename Finder Items actions in the workflow area.
- From the dropdown menu select “Add Text”.
- Type “-small” in the text field.
- Now click on “Photos” in the Library.
- Drag “Scale Images” into the workflow area.
- A prompt for adding “Copy Finder Items” will appear. Select “Don't Add”, because this action is already in the workflow.
- Enter the desired pixel size into the field located next to the dropdown menu, or enter a percentage if you want to resize each image by a particular percentage.
- Save the workflow on the desktop, and this will resize the images dropped onto it and place them in the “Small” folder.
Combine Multiple PDF Files Into One File
- Select “Application” from the template chooser.
- From the PDFs set, drag the “Combine PDF Pages” as the next step into the workflow.
- Leave “Appendix Pages” selected.
- From the “Files and Folders” set of actions, drag the “Rename Finder Items” underneath the “Combine PDF Pages” action.
- A prompt for adding “Copy Finder Items” will appear. Select “Don't Add” if you don't want to keep the original files.
- Select “Make Sequential” from the dropdown menu, and type the desired name into the new name field.
- Add “Reveal Finder Items” to the end of the workflow if you want Finder to open a new window showing the newly created document.
- Save the Application and give it a name you are happy with. Remember, you'll need to drop the files into the application for Automator to run the workflow scripts.
Convert Text to Audio
Have you ever asked Siri to read your unread emails or text messages? It's a neat feature, and with Automator you can have a similar experience for text files at a click of a button, as well. Here's how.
- Select the “Service” option when creating a new Automator workflow.
- Click on “Music” in “Library” and drag “Text to Audio File” into the workflow area.
- You'll see a name next to the “System Voice” option. Select any of the names from the dropdown menu, and listen to the voice by hitting the play button.
- Choose a name for the saved file type, and type it in the “Save As” field.
- Create a new folder, or choose where you’d like the desired folder.
- Name the service by choosing “Save As”. In our example we've named it “Audio from Text”.
- Add a “Rename Finder Items” from the “Files and Folders” set of actions.
- Customize the “Add Date or Time” option if you like; if not, leave that part untouched.
- Select the text in any application, then right click to select “Services” and then the “Audio” option from “Text”.
- Find the folder and add the audio files to iTunes in a new playlist.
This service is for scenarios when you are driving, for example, and want to have the selected text in an audio format so you can listen to it when the situation doesn't allow reading.
Move Big Files to Trash in an Instant
This Automator workflow will help you identify big files, and either move them to trash or to a folder where they can be more easily reviewed. This could easily become an addictive Automator workflow, because every time you double-click on the application, Automator will scan the selected folders and move all relevant items that comply with the specified rules into trash. Hence, you'll free up space on your Mac in an instant. The only thing that needs your input then is emptying the trash.
- Select “Application” from the workflow options.
- From the “Files & Folders” library select and drag the “Find Finder Items” into the workflow working area.
- Select the folder you want Automator to scan.
- Define the rules for this script: in our example, we targeted file sizes greater than 100MB.
- You will need to repeat steps 2-4 for as many times as folders you want Automator to scan.
- Drag the “Move Finder Items to Trash”.
- Save the application in the desired location with a custom name.
If you don't want your files to end up in trash directly, you can always replace step six with “Move Finder Items” and choose a folder to move the files into. This will act as a file collector and give you the opportunity to review them before moving them into trash.
Advanced Mac users with basic programming knowledge can take this Automator utility to the next level by writing custom scripts. For example, it is possible to automatically clean the Safari cache, history and cookies, or delete .DMG files that are ejected just by using a custom script and the very powerful Automator utility.
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