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 geek 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 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 through the list of steps you’ve given it (Figure 7-1, top).
You have a list of preprogrammed actions at your fingertips, so you never have to do any coding or learn any programming language. 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.
Apple made some big changes to Automator in 10.5, including revamping the interface to make it more modern, more usable—and more logical. It also added a helpful Starting Points menu (Toolbar), variables (Library), and a bunch of new actions (including ...