What is Automator on Mac, and how to use it?⏱️ 3 min read

how to use Automator on Mac

Gone are the days when all things were done laboriously. Now, we have machines, tools, and software to make life easier. Alongside many features, macOS comes with an application known as Automator. So, if you have accidentally encountered this app or want to know what Automator is on Mac and how to use it, this article should have you covered.

What is Automator on Mac?

Automator is a native application on Mac that lets you create activities called “workflows.” These workflows can do automated tasks you assign on your computer.

For example, let’s say you want to rename a bunch of files on your computer. You could use Automator to create a workflow that would rename all of the files instead of having to do it manually one by one.

Similarly, you can use Automator to do all sorts of things, like resizing photos, creating PDFs, and even sending emails.

Automator has been introduced to help you save time while making it easier to do things on your computer. It’s like having a little helper that does things for you.

The best part about this application is that you are not required to have any coding knowledge to create tasks. The UI is intended to help everyday users reap benefits from this application.

What does Automator do on Mac?

  • Let your Mac do repetitive tasks for you: You can use Automator to automate tasks requiring users to do the same repeatedly. These include renaming files, resizing images, or creating backups of important files.
  • Script your own actions: If the task you want to automate is not included in the predefined actions, you can add your own scripts from AppleScript and JavaScript or even shell commands in your workflow. 
  • Use Automator workflows with the Shortcuts app: If you have learned about Automator, you might think it is similar to the Shortcuts app. Yes, but no. Automator is more helpful than Shortcuts since it has a lot more features. Still, you can import some of them to the Shortcut app.

Types of Workflows on Automator

As I have mentioned, Automator can be used to perform many tasks. You may wonder what these tasks are. So let us look at them:

  • Workflow: These are activities that can only run within Automator.
  • Application: If you don’t want to open Automator to access the Workflow every time, you should try Application. You can use the workflows created under Application outside of the app.
  • Quick Action: It can be added to Finder, Touch Bar, and the Services menu. This Workflow is mainly helpful for doing small actions. You will be able to manage these Quick Actions from System Settings.
  • Print Plugin: As the name suggests, you can use this Workflow regarding printing.
  • Folder Action: For any folder-related workflows, always choose Folder Action workflow.
  • Calendar Alarm: This workflow is based on the events in the Calendar app.
  • Image Capture Plugin: As the name suggests, this Workflow works with the Image Capture app on Mac. It works based on the images you give it as input.
  • Dictation Command: This Workflow can work best when you trigger the dictation app. Like the calendar app, there is no option for input, as these Workflows depend on the actions of their dependent application.

How to use Automator to open apps on Mac

Using Automator on Mac is easy just follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Launch Spotlight search (cmd + space) → find and launch Automator.
  2. Select Application → click Choose.
  3. Next, select Utilities.
  4. Drag and drop Launch Application from the Library at the right dialog box.
  5. Select an application from the drop-down menu and choose an application.
    If you don’t see the app you are looking for, select Other and choose one.
  6. Select Files & Folders from the Actions pane on the left.
  7. Click Run on the top right corner to see if the workflow works.
  8. Once done, click File and choose Save.
  9. Choose the location.
  10. Next, choose whether to save it as a Workflow or an Application from the dropper menu.

That’s it! You have now made sure to add an application to Automator. From my testing, system apps worked better than third-party apps. You can use this where you need. But if you want to use this as a keyboard shortcut, then read along.

Setup keyboard shortcut to access the Automator shortcut

Now that you have created Automator Workflow on your Mac, you can access it using macOS keyboard shortcuts. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Click the Apple logo on the top right corner.
  2. Select System Settings.
  3. For macOS Monterey or below, it will be System Preferences.
  4. Click Keyboard.
  5. Select Keyboard Shortcuts.
  6. Select App Shortcuts if you have saved Automator as an Application.
    Services if you have saved the files as Workflow.
  7. Click the plus icon and select the app you want from the dropper menu.
  8. Use the option Other and choose the application if you don’t find it.
  9. Choose the application and click Open.
  10. Give a name next to the Menu Title.
  11. Add a Keyboard Shortcut.
  12. Note: You must combine alphabetic, numeric, Shift, and special character keys with the Control, Option, or Command keys to create a keyboard shortcut.
  13. Now, click Done.

How to use Automator to open Folders on Mac

To make a new folder using Automator on Mac, adhere to the steps outlined below:

  1. Open the Automator app.
  2. Select Folder Action → click Choose.
  3. Now, click the Choose folder dropper menu above the workspace.
  4. Choose the folder you want to use as an Automator function to open Folders on Mac.
    If you can’t find your folder, click Other and locate it → select Choose.
  5. Select Files & Folders from the left pane.
  6. Drag and drop Get Specified Finder items to the Library on the right.
  7. Additionally, you can also double-click on the feature.
  8. Click the Add button → locate your folder to be used as an Automator function → select Add.
  9. Next, drag and drop Reveal Finder items.
  10. Check if it’s working by clicking Run.
  11. Select OK on the prompt that appears.
  12. Once you have made sure everything is working fine, click File.
  13. Choose Save.
  14. Name the folder action.
  15. Click Save to give folder action access to the specified folder.
  16. Enter the app name → choose Save.

To use this feature, simply drag and drop any file or folder into your created folder to serve as an Automator function.

How to open URLs in Automator

Apart from opening apps and folders on Mac, you can also use Automator to open certain links. By this, you won’t be required to enter the web address every time you visit the webpage or check bookmarks whenever needed. Here’s how to open URLs with Automator on Mac:

Note: You can use the Application and URL on the same Automator Workflow.

  1. Open Automator.
  2. Choose Application and click Choose.
  3. Select Internet.
  4. Drag and drop Get Specified URLs to the Library panel.
  5. By default, there will be a URL to Apple’s homepage. You can remove it by selecting the URL and clicking Remove.
  6. Click Add and paste the URL.
  7. Hit Return.
  8. Now, drag and drop Display Web Pages from the Internet pane.
  9. Click Run and see if it’s working.
  10. Once confirmed, it’s working fine; click File and select Save.

To quickly navigate to the webpage, go to the folder where you saved the Automator application and double-click on it.

Other tasks you can do with Automator

The possibilities of Automator don’t end here. We have only explored drops of the things it is capable of from the ocean of possibilities. While there is a learning curve that requires you to do multiple trials and tests, once you get the hang of it, you can make a lot of workflows out of it.  

How to add the script to create a custom workflow on Automator

Automator doesn’t have a predefined Workflow for your need? No worries; if you know how to program, you can load your custom script to the application. Here’s how:

  1. Open Automator.
  2. Select any one of the following form below:
    • Workflow
    • Application
    • Quick Action
    • Print Plugin
    • Folder Action
    • Calendar Alarm
    • Image Capture Plugin
    • Dictation Command
  3. Choose Utilities from the leftmost pane of the window.
  4. Now, select one of the script types listed below that best suits your needs:
    • Run AppleScript
    • Run JavaScript
    • Run Shell Script
  5. Write the code in the designated area.
  6. Click Run to test the feature.
  7. Navigate to the File section in the Menu Bar.
  8. Hit Save.

You can now use the Automator function with the new touches you’ve added to the particular functionality. However, if you are having problems, I recommend that you recheck your line code.

How to edit the script to create a custom workflow on Automator

If you want to edit an existing Automator function to run with a particular code set, follow the steps below.

  1. Open Automator.
  2. Select Open an Existing Document
  3. Choose Utilities from the leftmost pane.
  4. Depending on your need, pick one from the below-mentioned:
    • Run AppleScript
    • Run JavaScript
    • Run Shell Script 
  5. Write the script
  6. Click Run to check the feature.
  7. Go to File→ give the action a name → hit Save.

Note: To import the script to Automator, follow steps 1 – 5, copy-paste any supported script of your choice, and follow the rest.

Import Automator workflow to Shortcut app on Mac

While Automator has many features, in the end, it still has a learning curve. Since Mac now also has a Shortcuts app, it is much easier to create tasks like these. So, if you have created some Workflows on Automator but want to switch to shortcuts while taking the Workflow you have created, Do any one of the following:

  • Double-click a workflow file in Finder.
  • Drag and drop a workflow file into the main window of the Shortcuts app.
  • Drag and drop a workflow file onto the Shortcuts app in the Dock.
  • Control-click a workflow file and choose Open With → Shortcuts.

By doing any of the above methods, you can convert any Automator workflow to a shortcut and add it to the Shortcuts app.

Make things easier with Automator

With this guide, I hope you understand what Automator is and how to use it on your Mac to create tasks to enhance productivity. However, if you still have doubts or queries, please drop them in the comments.

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Content Writer at The Writing Paradigm | Website

Nutan is a BCA graduate with a keen interest in the world of consumer technology. A fan of both the Apple and Google ecosystems, he enjoys exploring the latest gadgets and how they can enhance our daily lives. Nutan specializes in crafting clear and informative how-to guides and comprehensive buying advice. His insightful reviews offer an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the newest tech products, helping readers make the best decisions for their needs.

We're a diverse and dedicated group of professionals with a shared passion for words and a commitment to excellence in the written word. We're here to help you and simplify things for you. With a collective experience of over a decade, our team is one of the best in the business when it comes to explaining how-to's, reviews, and sharp insights on topics related to interviews, technology, marketing, buyers guide, comparisons and more

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