Automator is one of the coolest parts of OSX. It enables us to create complicated workflows and automate tasks. Think of Automator as a ‘recipe’ to get something done. Using a simple, visual interface - you build a step-by-step process by picking common tasks from a list and stacking them in a predictable manner. These can be a single action program to a multi-step sequence that performs a very comprehensive set of instructions
I believe the average Mac user doesn't dabble much in Automator because we don’t need to. The operating system provides much of everything we need. But where Automator shines is being able to automate workflows for application specific tasks.
Maybe you have the need to target a bunch of documents, convert them to pdf’s, copy them to a back-up drive and email them to someone else. You could create the steps in Automator and run the workflow whenever you want. With one click - it can do all of those steps automatically. Once you build it, its a tool ready to be used at any time.
Let's try an easy one
Like many photographers, I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for my Raw conversions and image organization. But I also use iPhoto for an important purpose - the tight integration to other Apple devices and services. iPhoto is the portal to iPods, iPhones, AppleTV and Mobile Me galleries. These are very good reasons to have your Lightroom images also live in iPhoto.
So this is where automator can help. We build a simple automator application, along with an export preset in Lightroom to do it all for us.
Step 1 - Automator
Launch Automator and choose Application from template chooser
- select Photos from the Library modules to display the image related tasks
- double click import Files into iPhoto
- check the delete source images after importing them option
- Select the File menu and save as "import to iPhoto" to your applications folder
- Close Automator
Step 2 - Lightroom
While in the library module select the Export... button. This will open the export dialog box.
Start at the top and select the file settings of your choice.
Choose your desktop for the export to folder, but you will soon see this part does not really matter.
But consider where the images will ultimately go from iPhoto. If it is an iPhone, you could easily down size. If it’s an AppleTV connected to a large HD TV you may want the full size file.
Now here is the trick
- In the Post-Processing section, select the drop down and select Open in Other Application...
- Click the Choose button and select the “import to iPhoto” app you just saved in your Application foler
- Once all options are set as desired, click the Add button in the export dialog box.
- Name it “import to iPhoto” and save. You just created a Lightroom preset export.
- Now Cancel out of the export dialog box
Step 3 - Try it Out
Browse your catalog and select the desired image(s), choose the Export button and select the newly created preset “import to iPhoto” and click Export and watch the magic.
Your images will be exported from LR, then imported to iPhoto and the exported files on the desktop will get trashed.
We could have created this Lightroom-to-iPhoto export preset just as easily without the automator application. However, by using it, we were able to have those files we exported to the desktop automatically deleted.
Pretty cool, right?
This is just the small taste of what Automator could bring to your workflow. Think about the tasks you routinely do and it's very likely you can build a workflow in Automator to simplify your life.
For more information using Automator check out http://www.macosxautomation.com/automator/index.html.