Automator (macOS)

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Developer(s)Apple Inc.
Initial releaseApril 29, 2005 (2005-04-29)
Stable release
2.10 / December 2, 2022; 60 days ago (2022-12-02)
Operating systemmacOS

Automator is an application developed by Apple Inc. for macOS used to create workflows for automating repetitive tasks into batches for quicker alteration via point-and-click (or drag and drop). This saves time and effort over human intervention to manually change each file separately. Automator enables the repetition of tasks across a wide variety of programs, including Finder, Safari, Calendar, Contacts and others. It can also work with third-party applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator. The icon features a robot holding a pipe, a reference to pipelines, a computer science term for connected data workflows. Automator was first released with Mac OS X Tiger (10.4).[1][2]


Automator provides a graphical user interface for automating tasks without knowledge of programming or scripting languages. Tasks can be recorded as they are performed by the user or can be selected from a list. The output of the previous action can become the input to the next action.[3]

The icon for Automator features a robot, known as Otto the Automator.[4]


Automator comes with a library of Actions (file renaming, finding linked images, creating a new mail message, etc.) that act as individual steps in a Workflow document.[3][5] A Workflow document is used to carry out repetitive tasks. Workflows can be saved and reused. Unix command line scripts and AppleScripts can also be invoked as Actions. The actions are linked together in a Workflow. The Workflow can be saved as an application, Workflow file or a contextual menu item. Options can be set when the Workflow is created or when the Workflow is run. A workflow file created in Automator is saved in /Users/{User Name}/Library/Services.[6][7][8]

Automator workflows are run sequentially, with each action being given the previous action's output, which it can then process or act upon. Variables can be specified, which can be modified or processed by subsequent actions.[9] Workflows can also incorporate loops and variables.[10]

As of 2015, Microsoft bundled Automator actions with Microsoft Office, which could be used to automate Outlook, Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.[9]

The following is a non-exhaustive list of Automator's features:

  • General
    • Hold down certain keyboard keys at specified intervals[11]
    • Run AppleScript, Python, Ruby scripts,[12] or shell scripts[13]
    • Create Folder Actions, a Finder feature that applies certain workflows to all files in a folder[14]
    • Create Services, which can be started in the Services menu[14]
    • Automator can integrate with iCal, to launch workflows at an iCal event's specified time and date (and the event can be set to repeat automatically)[10]
    • Automator can also launch workflows with programmable voice commands (called Dictation Commands, added in OS X Yosemite)[14]
  • Internet
    • Download webpages as PDF[12]
    • Extract an RSS feed from a given URL, and extract article text contents from that feed[10]
    • Compose new emails, with specified subject line and attachments (which can be an output from a previous Action)[10]
    • Upload files to FTP servers[12]
  • Multimedia
    • Control USB-connected cameras to take pictures at regular intervals[11]
    • Perform Finder actions on images, including rotation, applying Quartz filters (like black & white), and converting audio and video files to different formats[15]
    • Batch resize photos[14]
    • Import audio files to iTunes, and add them to playlists[10]
    • Play an iTunes playlist[14]
  • Text and documents
    • Turn text files to audio files, using the Mac's built-in text-to-speech feature[10]
    • Extract text from PDF files[10]
    • Combine PDF documents[16]
    • Extract annotations from PDFs[16]
    • Move files across folders, into folders, or out of subfolders[17]
    • Process strings text, including adding quotations around text or outputting word count[18]
    • Print files; and when combined with the "Get Folder Contents" action, it can print all files in a "drop box" folder[19]


Starting in macOS Monterey, Automator exists alongside Shortcuts.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Waldie, Ben (December 27, 2007). Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide. Pearson Education. ISBN 978-0-13-271234-7.
  2. ^ Waldie, Ben (May 2005). Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator. Spiderworks. ISBN 978-0-9744344-6-9.
  3. ^ a b Siracusa, John (April 28, 2005). "Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger". Ars Technica. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  4. ^ Pogue, David (July 12, 2005). Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Tiger Edition: The Missing Manual. "O'Reilly Media, Inc.". p. 231. ISBN 978-1-4493-7907-0.
  5. ^ Waldie, Ben (December 9, 2009). Automator for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide. Pearson Education. ISBN 978-0-321-70299-9.
  6. ^ Myer, Thomas (October 29, 2009). Apple Automator with AppleScript Bible. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-60431-1.
  7. ^ Paul, Ryan (March 21, 2011). "How to build Mac OS X services with Automator and shell scripting". Ars Technica. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  8. ^ Kissell, Joe (July 22, 2022). Take Control of Automating Your Mac, 4th Edition. alt concepts. ISBN 978-1-990783-10-4.
  9. ^ a b "How to make your Mac do your work for you with Automator". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Waldie, Ben (January 7, 2008). "Automator Power: Variables and looping". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Breen, Christopher (May 3, 2011). "Use Automator to shoot a time-lapse movie". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c "8 great Automator downloads". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  13. ^ Paul, Ryan (March 21, 2011). "How to build Mac OS X services with Automator and shell scripting". Ars Technica. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Here are some really useful Automator workflows". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  15. ^ Breen, Christopher (April 30, 2013). "Automator workflow of the month: Quick media manipulation". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  16. ^ a b "Automator workflow of the month: Powerful PDF tricks". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  17. ^ "Automator workflow of the month: Move files from subfolders". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  18. ^ Waldie, Ben (May 9, 2013). "5 Automator workflows everyone should have". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  19. ^ Arko, Craig (November 2, 2010). "Use Automator to simplify printing tasks". Macworld. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  20. ^ Cunningham, Andrew (October 25, 2021). "macOS 12 Monterey: The Ars Technica review". Ars Technica. Retrieved January 23, 2023.

External links[edit]