How to automate repetitive macOS tasks with Automator

Do you find yourself doing the same monotonous tasks over and over again? In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use automator to automate 5 of those frustrating and repetitive tasks that take way too long in macOS.

1. Convert PDF to plain text

PDFs are basically images of text, but what if you need to separate the text from the image? Don’t waste time and effort manually copy / paste each paragraph into a separate text document! You can create an application that automatically extracts each line of text from a PDF, and then saves that text in a separate file.

1. Launch Automator, by opening the Finder on your Mac, going to “Applications”, then selecting the Automator application.

2. We are creating an application, so select “Application -> Choose”.

When you launch the Automator app, you have the option to create different types of documents, including workflows, apps, and services.

3. You should now see the main Automator editor, where we will create all of our applications. Make sure the “Actions” tab is selected.

4. In the “Library” column, select “PDF”.

In Automator's left menu, select the "PDF" action.In Automator's left menu, select the "PDF" action.

5. Find “Extract PDF Text” and drag and drop this item into the editor. The “Check Out…” action will now be added to the editor, ready to be customized.

Drag and drop the PDF action into Automator's edit box.Drag and drop the PDF action into Automator's edit box.

6. You can now specify whether Automator should save the extracted text as a rich text document or a plain text document.

7. Open the “Save output to” drop-down list and choose the location to store the resulting text file.

8. Indicate whether the resulting text file should have the same name as the original PDF or you can give it a unique name using “Output file name: Custom name”.

9. In the Automator toolbar, select “File -> Save…” and give your application a name.

That’s it! Now, you can extract all the text from a PDF, simply by dropping that PDF on the application you just created.

2. Create a “Quit all” switch

If you are used to leaving multiple apps running in the background, this can have a noticeable impact on your Mac’s performance.

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While you can close each app manually, why not save yourself some time and effort and create a dedicated “Quit All” app?

1. Start Automator or select “File -> New” from the Automator toolbar.

2. Select “Application -> Choose”.

3. In the “Library” column, select “Utilities”.

4. Find the item “Quit all applications” and drag it into the editor.

You can create a "quit everything" application, in macOS Automator. You can create a "quit everything" application, in macOS Automator.

5. Are there any apps you want to exclude from your “Quit All” switch? To make an application immune, click “Add”, then select that application from the list.

6. When you are ready to create your “exit all” application, select “File -> Save…” and give this application a name.

Now the next time you want to “quit everything” just run that app and it will close all running apps for you!

3. Rename hundreds of files

There are many situations where you will need to rename multiple files, but my least favorite is renaming a group of photos that I just downloaded to my Mac, following a big event such as a vacation, wedding, or birthday party. birthday party.

In these situations, you will want to use a similar name for each file.

1. From the Automator toolbar, select “File -> New”.

2. Select “Application> Choose”.

3. In the “Library” column, select “Files and Folder”.

4. Once launched, this app should ask you what files you want to rename, so find “Request items from Finder” and drop it in the editor section.

5. Since we want to rename the files in bulk, check the “Add multiple selection” box.

6. In the left menu, find “Rename Finder Items” and drop it into the editor.

You can rename files in bulk, with this simple Automator app.You can rename files in bulk, with this simple Automator app.

7. At this point, a pop-up will warn you that this action may modify the original files and you will have the option to apply those changes to a copy of the original file. Since we are only changing the name of the file, I will not be creating a copy.

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8. Next, check the “New name” box and tell Automator how it should rename your files. You can use any naming structure you want, but I want to add a sequential number to each file. So I select “Make sequential” followed by “Add a number to: name of the existing element”.

9. When you are satisfied with the information you have entered, click on “File -> Save…”

Now every time you launch this app, a new Finder window will open where you can specify all the files you want to rename.

4. Rotate any image from landscape to portrait

If you have a large number of photos, screenshots, PDFs, or any other file that you want to rotate, you can use Automator to rotate those files without having to open each file, have to do so. manually rotate, then exit the file.

1. Start Automator or select “File -> New” from the Automator toolbar.

2. Select “Application> Choose”.

3. In the “Library” column, select “Photos”.

4. Find “Rotate Images” and drop it in the edit box.

5. At this point, you will see a warning pop-up stating that this action may modify the original files. Since we’re just changing the angle, I’ll apply this change to the original file.

6. Tell Automator how to rotate the file in question – left, right, or 180 degrees.

7. You can now create this application, by selecting “File -> Save …”

Now, whenever you want to rotate a file, just drag and drop that file onto your app. Note that unless you tell us otherwise, the file will remain in its original location.

5. Text-to-audio: turn any text into narration

Sometimes it is easier to listen than to read. You can use Automator to create a service that converts text to audio. To give you the flexibility to convert any text to audio, I am implementing this workflow as a service which you can access directly from the context menu in macOS.

Automator can create services that you can access directly from the macOS context menu.Automator can create services that you can access directly from the macOS context menu.

1. From the Automator toolbar, select “File -> New”.

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2. Select “Service -> Choose”.

3. In the “Library” column, select “Text”.

4. Select “Text to audio file” and drag it into the editor section.

5. Open the “System voice” drop-down list and choose your narrator. You can preview any system voice, by selecting it from the list, then clicking “Play”.

6. In “Save as”, enter the name that the generated audio file should use.

7. In the Automator toolbar, select “File -> Save…” then give this service a name, which will represent this service in the context menu of macOS.

You can now use this service to convert any piece of text to an audio file:

  • Drag to highlight the text in question.
  • Control-click on the highlighted text and select “Services …” followed by the name of the service you just created.

Automator will now generate an audio file from this text.

Using this service, you can convert any word, phrase, paragraph or document into an audio file, with the system voice of your choice! Using this service, you can convert any word, phrase, paragraph or document into an audio file, with the system voice of your choice!

To play this file, click on it and macOS will start playing audio in your default media player.

In addition to the controller, you can also add custom options to the Services menu. You might also want to know how to make the app window ‘always on top’ in macOS.

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