Saturday, January 13, 2007

OS X Automator: abandonware or a great future?

HyperTalk is the leading example of an abandoned Macintosh technology, but there are many lesser examples. AppleTalk has been on the edge intermittently, OS X services have been abandoned, OS X Java is gone, and, of course, there's Sherlock. Widgets and Automator are relatively new; the former appears to have a future (note the iPhone examples), and I'm cautiously optimistic about Automator.

Most recently I've been trying to use Automator to deal with the worse OS X application ever; my search for solutions led me to a page I'd blogged on before. This time, I read the comments. Sal Soghoian was the PM for Aperture last summer...
ATPM 12.07 - How To: Maybe You Ought To Be Using Automator
.... Sal Soghoian · July 03, 2006 - 16:21 EST #17
Thanks to all for their input and suggestions.

The Automator team is hard at work developing the next version of Automator for Leopard. We're examing all of the issues raised here and I think you'll be pleased with the results.

Meanwhile, there is much you can do with Automator right now in Tiger that you may or may not be aware of. For example:

1) You can run workflows within workflows by adding the Run Workflow action to your workflow.

2) Automator is not limited to AppleScript. Automator actions are written in Xcode and as such can use any language or frameworks supported by the OS. Xcode comes with three Action templates: AppleScript, Cocoa, and Shell. These templates can expose any available OS tools, such as PDF Kit, Core Image, Core Data, or Core Video.

3) Automator includes actions for easily adding your own custom code to a workflow. If there's not a action for what you want, you can use Run AppleScript, Run Shell Script, or Run Webservice to create your own action to fill the gap.

4) New Action collections are being released all the time. There are Action Packs for MS OFfice, Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, FileMaker, ARD, and more.

For a thorough overview of what Automator is, how it works, and how to expand it's abilities -- along with sample workflows and downloads -- vist AUTOMATOR.US...
Sal Soghoian · July 05, 2006 - 12:44 EST #22

RE: controlling FireFox Automator relies on an application's published frameworks or scripting hooks to control it. If there are none then your options are limited. However, you can use other means to open URLs in Firefox.

  1. Set Firefox to be the default browser. This is done in the Safari preferences pane.
  2. Add a Get Specified URLs action to a new workflow. Enter the URLs you want to open
  3. Add a Run AppleScript action to the end of the workflow and enter this code:
on run {input, parameters}

if the class of input is not list then set input to input as list
repeat with i from 1 to the count of input
set this_URL to item i of input
open location this_URL
end repeat

return input
end run
Run the worflow! If you want to be able to enter URLs when the workflow runs, save it as a plugin to the Script Menu and set the Get Specified URLs action to display when the workflow runs by clicking the disclosure triangle at the bottom of its action view and choosing "Show action when run" checkbox...

MOST IMPORTANT: send feedback to the Firefox team that AppleScript support is something you want.
The article and comments point to some good references. The existence of is curious. On the downside some of the most developed Automator websites have had very little activity in the past year.

Update 1/13/07: I'll see if anyone answers my Automator question ...!
Update 1/13/07b: Hmm. This might help ...

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