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Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Tiger Edition by David Pogue

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Chapter 8. Automator and AppleScript

If you use your Mac long enough, you’re bound to start repeating certain jobs over and over again—renaming files, for example, or importing music files into iTunes. A Windows user would simply accept this tedium as a cost of using the computer, and move on. But you, time-starved Mac fan, know there has to be an easier way.

In fact, there are two.

  • Automator, new in Mac OS 10.4, is a program that lets you teach your Mac what to do, step by step, by assembling a series of visual building blocks called actions. Drag actions into the right order, click a big Run button, and your Mac faithfully runs each action one at a time (Figure 8-1, top).

    You have a list of preprogrammed actions at your fingertips, so you never have to go poking around reference files to find out, say, how to control TextEdit. So creating the little software robots (called workflows) is exceptionally easy.

    On the other hand, your selection of building blocks is limited to what other programmers have already written, so Automator workflows are limited in what they can do. You can’t automate a complex newspaper layout using Automator alone, for example, because nobody has written the building-block actions necessary to control all the stages of newspaper production.

  • AppleScript is the other, much older way of automating your Mac. You type out English-like commands in a text file called a script, one command per line, and click Run to have your Mac carry out the result (Figure 8-1, bottom). ...

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