Automate tasks in Mac OS with Automator



This one is about an incredible application that comes with Mac OS X. Its name is Automator.

Jesus Christ, this is a life saver app!

This is the description of Automator:Automator Apple Mac OS application icon

With Automator, you can accomplish time-consuming, repetitive manual tasks quickly, efficiently, and effortlessly. Automator lets you skip the complex programming and scripting that is normally required to create automations. Instead, you assemble individual steps into a complete task by dragging these actions into an Automator workflow. Automator comes with a library of hundreds of actions. And with the Watch Me Do action, you can record an action — such as pressing a button or controlling an application without built-in Automator support — and replay it as an action in a workflow.

I have lots of MP3 files that I need to go through analyzing if I really want to keep them in my media library. During the last year I stored all those MP3 in a folder and such a folder is now 55.56 GB and contains 11840 files to be precise. That’s a lot of MP3! I keep postponing this open/listen to task but today I thought I’d start. That’s where Automator fits the job.

In this post I’ll show you how to create a simple workflow that helps moving the MP3 files to iTunes folder /Users/leniel/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Automatically Add to iTunes. The folder Automatically Add to iTunes is a special folder that iTunes keeps watching for new files added to it. When a file is added in this folder, iTunes automatically adds it to the media library using MP3 metadata to organize the library. When added files will reside in /Users/leniel/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Music.

Let’s create the workflow:

1 - Go to the Applications folder and select Automator.

2 - You’ll be presented with the following screen to choose a template for your workflow. Select Service as the template.

Types of templates available to create an Automator workflow
Figure 1 - Types of templates available to create an Automator workflow

3 - In Service receives selected, select audio files. “In” select Finder.

4 - Now select Files & Folders in Library list and then select Move Finder Items under the Actions list. Drag this action to the workflow area in the right.

5 - In Move Finder Items select the folder where you want the files to be moved to. You also have the option of showing the action when the workflow runs.

6 - Go to the File menu and select Save. Give it an appropriate name as Add to iTunes and you’re done.

The following screenshot shows the Service workflow configured:

Add to iTunes.workflow configured according to the six steps described above 
Figure 2 - Add to iTunes.workflow configured according to the six steps described above

Now, let’s use this service workflow. To do this, go to Finder and open any folder that contains audio files such as MP3. Right click the MP3 file and voila. Now there’s an extra context menu option called Add to iTunes. What a marvelous thing.

Add to iTunes context menu option in Finder when right clicking MP3 file(s)
Figure 3 - Add to iTunes context menu option in Finder when right clicking MP3 file(s)

What happens when Add to iTunes is clicked? The workflow we created will be executed and the selected file(s) will be moved to the folder specified in the workflow, in this case /Users/leniel/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Automatically Add to iTunes.

As you see this is totally life saver.

I can play the MP3 in iTunes and if I decide that I want to keep it in my media library I just have to select Add to iTunes.

The possibilities with Automator are endless given the amount of options in its Library and Actions lists and workflow template types.

I hope you could get an idea of what Automator can do.

Updated on 12/16/2010

If you make a slight change in step 3 above you can have this workflow add not only audio files but even entire folders to iTunes and better yet, iTunes will ask if you want to replace existing files so that you don’t end up with duplicate files in your iTunes library. This is great.

So what do you have to do? Instead of audio files, select files or folders. Just this. Save the workflow. Now right click over any folder in Finder and you’ll see that you get a new menu option under Services called Add to iTunes.

Add to iTunes context menu option in Finder when right clicking a folderFigure 4 - Add to iTunes context menu option in Finder when right clicking a folder

Notes
Service workflows are saved in /Users/YourUserName/Library/Services.

In prior versions of Mac OS, there was an option to save the workflow as a plug-in. This was necessary so that you could have a context menu option (right-click) in Finder to run the workflow. I tried to go this way but this option isn’t available in Mac OS X 10.6.4. I realized that I had to create a Service workflow when I read this question at Apple’s Support site: No Automator plug-in in 10.6?

Download
You can download this workflow at:
https://sites.google.com/site/leniel/blog/AddtoiTunes.workflow.zip

References
Automator - Your Personal Automation Assistant

Automator - Learn by example

Automator at Apple’s Mac OS – All Applications and Utilities

Automator article at Wikipedia