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Since first appearing in Tiger, Automator has brought programming to the masses in a simple drag and drop interface. An entire ecosystem has sprung up around Automator, using its ability to create and distribute complex workflows and actions, and the ability for developers to provide Automator with actions specific to their application. If you are looking for a way to automate a repetitive task, chances are there may already be an action or workflow built to do what you need.
The best resource, and the first stop on the way to finding the perfect automation solution, is Apple’s own download page. One I found that was immediately useful was the attach2mail action, which gives the Finder a contextual menu to attach the selected Finder items in a new email in Mail. If nothing in the Apple site seems right, Automator.us, Automator World, and Automator Actions each offer collections of user-submitted actions and workflows.
I’d also suggest checking out the excellent packages available from Automator-Actions and Automated Workflows that give you quick access to bundles of actions revolving around certain needs (Productivity, Photoshop, FileMaker, etc.). Automated Workflows also offers a custom workflow development service, so if you truly cannot find what you are looking for, they’ll create it for you!
Finally, as an example of what can be done with Automator, there is the open source project OttoMate, a complete automated web testing system.
Automator may very well be one of the forgotten gems of OS X, but there are still plenty of resources out there to get started with your own personal automation system.
What are some tasks that you use Automator for? Do you use it regularly? What are some other Automator resources you’ve found useful?