The work of writing and producing blog posts consists of numerous and repetitive computer tasks that you might not realize can be automated on your Mac.
There are several Mac applications you can use to reduce the amount of mouse clicking, manual launching of applications and windows, and the work of keeping your desktop and other Finder folders organized. There are even ways to automate tasks in any Mac application, including WordPress, Mail, Photoshop, Safari and Google Chrome.
The purpose of Mac Automation Tips is to introduce Mac users to automation actions and workflows that require no coding skills or huge financial investments in programs. Mac Automation only requires your time to set up actions, which in turn will, over the long run, save you hours of time, and the boredom of performing redundant tasks.
The following is an overview of some of the automation tools you as a blogger could or should be using. These are tools are I use in my blogging workflow everyday, and they help me to get around using keyboard shortcuts, clicking on menu items and buttons, manually downloading webpages, and doing less typing.
If you’re a blogger, you should be using the automatic text expansion program, TextExpander, or an application similar to it. This program will automatically type snippets of text (words, phrases, whole paragraphs, and letters) based on assigned abbreviations.
For example, when I type “mct”, TextExpander will quickly replace that abbreviation with the assigned snippet, “Mac Automation Tips.” That’s three words I don’t have to repeatedly type. I use hundreds of similar text expansions, which have resulted in saving me over 16 hours of typing.
TextExpander can also help you correct common misspelled words, so that they don’t show up in your blog posts.
As a Mac user and blogger, you should also be using OS X smart folders. With smart folders, you can set up rules in your Mac Finder, Mail, iPhoto, and iTunes for filtering and organizing files.
For example, you can set up a smart folder to capture all your recently created screenshots and other images in the last specified days. Those images will be filtered and collected no matter where they are in your Mac. You can keep the folder in the sidebar of the Finder for easy access.
Taking advantage of smart folders will help you find files a lot faster. Here’s an article about using smart Mailboxes to help filter your incoming mail. My Mac Automation Guide, though somewhat dated, provides an overview of smart folders.
BetterTouchTool is a much underused program that will can definitely reduce the need to using keyboard shortcuts. BTT is similar to finger gesture features that come installed with OS X Yosemite, but this third-party program has tons more finger gesture options, and actions for nearly every task you perform on your Mac.
With BTT, you can activate keyboard shortcuts, application menu items, and Applescript scripts just using your finger. For blogging, here’s a just a few examples what BTT can do:
- Activate a screenshot
- Lower or raise the audio volume
- Delete the last word you type
- Open one or more dedicated websites
- Pause/play Rdio and iTunes
- Quit signed applications
- Resize windows
- Switch between applications
- Quickly hide applications
- Open/close notifications
- Start a new tweet
- Put your computer to sleep
- Insert snippets of text
These and many more actions can be performed literally at your fingertips, and they’re not difficult to setup. If you prefer using your trackpad or mouse instead of keyboard shortcuts, BTT is the solution for you.
Hazel is a classic third-party Mac application that performs actions in the background on assigned folders. Hazel installs in your the System Preferences of your Mac. It allows for applying rules to any selected folder, including the desktop, on your Mac.
For example, you can have Hazel automatically empty your Mac’s trash after it reaches a certain megabyte or higher of content. Another rule can clean off your desktop after files have been on it for a specified amount of time. And you can also have Hazel automatically open your Downloads folder when a new file is added to it.
If you free up some typing, Dragon Dictate is the classic Mac voice dictation program. You can also use it to send voice commands for almost task you perform on your Mac.
Dragon Dictate (see my demo) is the program that I use to open, hide, and quit applications, download webpages, edit texts, activate menu application menu items, perform Internet searches, and lots more. Because I work in quiet all day, I enable and mute DD throughout the day.
While voice dictation and commands with DD have a relatively significant learning curve, it’s well worth the time using the program. While I don’t think DD is hundred percent accurate when it comes to voice-to-text dictation, is nevertheless a powerful tool to reduce manual typing.
When you’re ready to take Mac automation to the highest level, Keyboard Maestro is the grandaddy of all automation programs. It’s a hundred times better than Apple’s own Automator. Like BetterTouchTool, Keyboard Maestro can perform almost any action or task that you perform on your Mac.
KM can automatically activate applications, open assigned URLs, paste passwords, convert words to title case, copy and save selected text to special clipboards, perform actions when an application is opened or closed, and activate actions based on specified times and dates.
KM also has a significant learning curve, but it requires no coding skills, and when you take the time to put together automation workflows, you will get that time back tenfold and then some.
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The above is just a brief introduction to Mac automation for blogging. These third-party applications all come with a free trial download, and except for Dragon Dictate, their relatively inexpensive. Don’t allow the user interface of these applications to scare you off. Once you learn how to create actions in each of these applications, you will find yourself automating tasks nearly everyday.
I invite you to subscribe to this site so that you can learn more about these and other Mac programs.
In the coming weeks and months, I will be hosting webinars and posting videos to help fellow bloggers and other readers of this site see how Mac automation can be used in their daily workflow.
Let me know which of the above applications you already use, and which ones you’re curious about as a blogger.