5 OSX Automator Actions for Bloggers & Developers
Blogging can, at times, be quite tedious. There are repetitive tasks that need to be completed and some things that just aren’t enjoyable. So what we all really need are some simple tools that allow us to get on with the actual writing of content and streamlining the more arduous tasks. Unfortunately, there are such a wide variety of tasks we have to perform, an entire suite of applications would be needed.
Thankfully, Automator, which is built right into OSX, provides a whole bunch of tools that can take the chore out of some of the boring aspects of blogging. So if you want to save some time, and possibly money, read on for five of my favourites. If you want to use the same workflows I’ve used, just copy the images throughout the post. Automator is all drag and drop, so that’s really the best way to describe these things.
Images can make a blog post leap into life. They can illustrate points or just provide a bit of decoration. Generally, a well placed and conceived image can really help a blog post or web page. For a while I’ve been keen to make better use of image on this blog but it always seems like quite a lot of work. So, after realising there were a handfull of workflow I would be using over and over again I fired up Automator to see what was on offer. The first action that leapt out at me is the ability to resize images. The layout of this blog is fixed to a certain width, which means I can resize images to match the layout and provide a more consistent, elegant feel.
The only thing is, resizing an image can be a pain. You either have to fire up fully blown image editing application, like Photoshop, or use a typically under-developed smaller app or widget. Net result, a pain. So what I’ve come up with is a very simple Automator application that simply resizes an image to fit in my layout. Any image I drag onto the app is automatically resized to a maximum of 580 pixels (the largest edge will be 580 pixels, I mostly use screen shots from my widescreen laptop so that usually translates to 580 pixels wide). Of course, you can control the size an image is displayed on screen through the HTML or the CSS, but this leads the scaling up to the individual browser and will result in the full size image being downloaded every time, which is an awfull lot of bandwidth. A word of warning, this automator application will resize the file you give it, so if you need to keep the original size, take a copy (you can add another action to automatically do this for you, if you wish).
I mentioned the importance of images in the section above, so why not get a little creative with it. Of course, with Automator you only have to get creative once and then repeat it every time you need it. There are limits to what you can do, but this is one of my favourites. In addition to resizing images, as demonstrated above, you can also crop images. If you use this in conjunction with the rotate action, some interesting results are possible.
The image to the right demonstrates how this action is constructed. Unfortunately there are fairly limited options for rotating the image, personally I’d like to be able to pick and angle it gets rotated to. Alas, you’ll need a photoshop action or something similar to do this. However, depending on what you want to do with the images, this Automator Application can be very, very usefull. One thing to bear in mind though, this crops the image, not resizes is. That means you will lose parts of the image around the edges. I think it adds to the effect but if you need the whole image, use resize instead.
Upload Files Very Quickly
Sometimes, I’m amazed by the complexity you can achieve using just the handfull of actions available in Automator. For this particular task, however, you’ll need to stretch outside the confines of the default Automator actions. This site contains an action which can be downloaded and installed easily which allows for files to be uploaded to an ftp site quickly. Just create an app containing the action and drop files onto it. Of course, with this being an automator action you can do things to the files before that are sent to the server, such as resizing images. See the image to the left on how to construct this Automator App.
Backup Your Site
It’s a sad fact that data gets lost. Servers crash (or burn or flood) and sometimes the backup regime of web hosts isn’t as hot as it should be. So really, you need to get on top of backups yourself. The only problem is, this can get rather tiresome if you do it regularly. It’s much better to have a quick and easy way to do it yourself. Unfortunately you’ll need to go outside Automator’s default actions to do this, but it’s not difficult. You can get an FTP transfer action here, which you can set up to download the entire contents of your site via FTP.
Run a Mailing List
I wouldn’t recommend this for a massive mailing list, there are specialist applications and services out there for that, but for keeping your customers up to date or small promotional runs, it works a treat. Essentially Automator allows you to get a list of contacts from your address book and then send an email to all of them. This relies on two things, the most important is that you use Address Book to store all your contacts and sort them into groups. In the example I’ve given, Automator gets all Address Book entries in the group “BlogReaders”. You also have to have Mail set up to use whatever account you want to send the emails from. This may sound stupid, but so many people use web mail clients, like Gmail, that Mail sometimes doesn’t get a look in.