Saturday, July 2, 2022

Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide

by Ben Waldie
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Peachpit Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0321539354
ISBN-13: 978-0321539359

Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide uses a combination of task-based instruction and strong visuals to teach Macintosh users how to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks with the Automator application that is included with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Automator comes with many useful automations (called actions) preinstalled, for lots of popular applications, that do things like remove empty playlists from iTunes or add attachments to Mac Mail messages. The real power of Automator lies in mixing and matching these actions to have them do exactly the job you need them to, in a string of actions known as a workflow.

Author Ben Waldie introduces readers to how Automator works, and then helps them assemble and use Automator workflows. This book covers the major updates to Automator in Macintosh OS X 10.5 (Leopard). The updated Automator works with any Mac application thanks to a new feature called looping, and is more versatile thanks to variables. These features make Automator more flexible and powerful than ever before, and greatly increase its appeal and interest to Mac users.

Both beginning users who want a thorough introduction to Automator and more advanced users looking for a convenient reference will find what they need here in straightforward language, clear steps, and practical tips.

Ben Waldie is president of Automated Workflows, LLC, a company offering AppleScript and workflow automation consulting services to Mac-based businesses. For years, Ben has developed professional automated solutions for companies such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, CNN, NASA, PC World, andTime Magazine.  Ben is the author of Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press) and AppleScripting the Finder (SpiderWorks, LLC). He has also written numerous Automator and AppleScript columns for, Macworld Magazine,, MacTech magazine, and X-ray Magazine, and is the author of an AppleScript training CD (Virtual Training Company). Ben is a frequent presenter at Macworld Conference & Expo and other events, and is president of The Philadelphia Area AppleScript Users Group.

    Posted on 2007-12-19 06:16:19 pm

#1 2008-02-08 12:16:40 am

Craig Smith
From:: Tacoma, WA
Registered: 2005-05-16
Posts: 1027

Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide

I want Ben Waldie to write more programming books!  Visual Quickstart Guides have become a favorite of mine over the last few years, and this latest text on Automator is no exception, rather, it strengthens my affection for this style of programming textbook.  Specifically, Mr. Waldie is a highly skilled writer and is able to lead the reader through the steps needed to learn a new way of doing things, without confusing said reader.

I never used Automator in the Tiger days, when it was first introduced to OS X.  I was focusing on learning AppleScript and UNIX, and was simply not interested in throwing one more thing onto the stack.  So, when I got this book (intending to learn Automator), it was truly the first attempt for me to get into the application and see what it could do.  I had no plans for any specific project, rather, I wanted to just go through it and see if anything came to mind. 

Right off, I went to the companion web site, as directed, and downloaded the sample workflow files.  Although it was smooth, this is the first time that I recall actually having to create an account to get the files.  (It was only slightly irritating.)  On the plus side, all of the author's workflows I tested operated flawlessly, as advertised.  (I randomly tested about half the provided workflows.)

The chapters flow logically through all the basic necessities of describing the interface, finding actions, developing workflows, etc., etc.  The attention to detail and description of each individual step (as well as discussing available options) made everything crystal clear for a newbie.  The only thing I found a bit strange was the author's choice of not mentioning anything about saving your work until chapter 6; roughly halfway through the book.  Of course, there was a reason for it, but I would have appreciated a mention earlier on, since I had been dutifully following instructions, and had a rather large number of workflows open and was wondering what to do with them.

Once the groundwork is covered, Mr. Waldie wastes no time jumping right into the intermediate and advanced topics, yet he retains the concise step by step descriptions that help the reader progress painlessly into more interesting and powerful territories.  For instance, Folder Actions are one of the more frustrating aspects of Mac OS X for people to get their heads around, especially those that want to use AppleScript.  Automator certainly simplifies that, and Mr. Waldie does an absolutely tremendous job of CLEARLY explaining the steps involved to get a custom workflow attached to the folder of your choice to do whatever you want when that folder is updated.  (For those of you interested, go directly to pages 160 through 162.)

I should mention that although this is a Leopard (OS X 10.5) based manual, there are a large number of sidebars for Tiger (OS X 10.4) users scattered throughout all the chapters to assist users in obtaining similar functionality that is not inherently present in the previous version of Automator.

Although short, the chapter on linking Automator with AppleScript and/or UNIX is certainly sufficient to show an interested person how it is done, and I was completely satisfied with it.  My only frustration was that the supplied example workflows for AppleScript involved iChat, which I never use, so now I have to come up with something all by myself to play with it.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the world of AppleScript meets Automator.  The Appendices are quite useful, up to date, and provide a wide variety of other sources for more information, actions, workflows, and how you can learn to create your own custom actions.  The index is the best that I have seen in a computer programming book.  I looked up all of the obscure terms and topics I could think of, and found all of them accurately referenced.

As I said before, the style of the Visual QuickStart Guide series of programming books is one that I personally enjoy, and over the years, it is refreshing to see the publisher improve on the method.  That philosophy, together with Mr. Waldie's excellent writing ability make this the perfect text for someone who not only wants to learn how to use Automator, but learn it thoroughly and well.

Craig Smith



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