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Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide

by Ben Waldie. 288 pp. Peachpit Press, 2008. $29.99 ISBN 978-0-321-53935-9

How would you like to be able to streamline repetitive tasks on your Mac? Make it so with Automator expert Ben Waldie’s excellent Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide and Apple’s Automator, which is included with Mac OS 10.5. With the Automator application, mere mortals can create automated workflows (combinations of automated tasks), a job that previously called for AppleScript and some serious programming chops.

Waldie starts out by explaining what Automator can and cannot do, then gives step-by-step instructions for creating a couple of simple workflows (emailing birthday greetings, adding Spotlight comments to Photos and emailing photo thumbnails) so beginners can get their feet wet.

Once the basics have been introduced, he goes into detail on creating workflows that work with files and folders, music and audio, photos and images, as well as custom workflows and using the Starting Points feature.

The book then explores specifics of working with actions (actions are single automated tasks, like opening a folder, and are the basic building blocks of Automator), recording manual events, running, saving and opening workflows, and troubleshooting workflows that are acting funky.

More sophisticated topics, such as saving workflow plug-ins, creating workflows that loop, using variables within a workflow, building advanced workflows and downloading and sharing actions and workflows by email or on websites, are also covered. The book concludes with example workflows, Automator and developer resources and a step-by-step workflow creation guide.

The writing style is admirably clear, conversational and non-intimidating, and illustrations are ample and well-chosen. Most highly recommended for anyone working with Automator.

– Elsa Travisano

Copyright ©2008 by Elsa Travisano. This review appeared in the May 2008 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.