Automator is Apple's application for creating and automating workflows. You can think of it as a way to perform the same repetitive tasks over and over.
Automator is often overlooked, especially by new Mac users, but it has some very powerful capabilities that can make using your Mac even easier than it already is.
Automator and Workflow Automation
In this guide, we'll introduce new Mac users to the Automator application, and then use it to create a workflow that renames files or folders. Why this particular workflow? Well, it's an easy task for Automator to perform. In addition, my wife recently asked me how she can rename folders full of hundreds of scanned images quickly and easily. Automator is just the application for that task.
Automator can create multiple types of workflows; it includes built-in templates for the most common workflows. In this guide, we'll use the most basic template: the Workflow template. This template allows you to create any type of automation and then run that automation from within the Automator application. We'll use this template for our first Automator process because by running the workflow from within the application, we can more easily see how the process works.
The complete list of available templates includes:
Workflow. The workflows you create using this template must be run from within the Automator application.
Application. These are self-running applications that accept input by dropping a file or folder on the application's icon.
Service. These are workflows that are available from within OS X, using the Finder's Services submenu. Services use the currently selected file, folder, text, or other item from the currently active application and send that data to the selected workflow.
Folder Action. These are workflows attached to a folder. When you drop something into the folder, the associated workflow is executed.
Printer Plug-in. These are workflows that are available from the Printer dialog box.
iCal Alarm. These are workflows that are triggered by an iCal alarm.
Image Capture. These are workflows available within the Image Capture application. They capture the image file and send it along to your workflow for processing.