This article is for beginning and intermediate Mac users who are not taking advantage of Mac automation tools, which are powerfully useful for performing repetitive tasks, and getting things done more efficiently.
Though nearly every article published for the site is an example of why Mac automation is important, I want to use this blog post to explain in a more direct why and how Mac automation is useful for anyone who works at his or her Mac on a daily basis.
I’m sure veteran Mac automators can also chime in with other reasons or examples, so please do so by adding comments below.
Save Clicking and Mouse Movements
Though I don’t have the stats to prove it, I think a considerable amount of time is waisted the more you have to move your hand back and forth from the keyboard to the mouse or trackpad, or vice versa. Mac automation tools can’t totally alleviate cursor and hand movements, but they can certainly reduce them.
For example, if my hand is already on my trackpad, I can use BetterTouchTool finger gesture to tap and hide the top most application or window, instead of dragging the mouse to the red button of a window to hide the application, or having to press the keyboard shortcut, Command+H.
I can also simply issue a Dragon Dictate voice command (“Hide this app”) and save hand movements all together.
[Tweet “I automate tasks my Mac to save clicking and mouse movements.”]
Saving time using Mac automation is often hard to measure, because the automated actions occur so quickly. But if you have tasks like resizing hundreds of image files, clicking a series of buttons, forwarding a bunch of emails, you will notice how much time you save by automating those tasks. Even if they only save you a minute or two each day, that time grows exponentially the more you use the automations.
For example, one of my most used Keyboard Maestro macros is one that deletes the last word or letter I type by simply typing two string letters, “jk”, instead of using the delete key which requires moving my right hand to the delete key in order to press it. When you type as much as I do throughout the day, such and movements get very tiring.
So according to Keyboard Maestro, I have triggered my Backspace Delete Single Word macro 793 times as of this writing, which has saved me 155 minutes since I started using the macro back in July of 2015. It’s difficult to verify the accuracy of that time, but there’s no doubt that it greatly reduces the effort of hitting the delete each time I want to delete a word.
Simplify a Process or Workflow
Automations work great for simplifying the number of steps it takes to accomplish a process or workflow.
For example, I do a BlogTalk show every Monday which requires opening and closing several applications to get set up. Instead of doing those steps manually, Keyboard Maestro performs those actions for me, and it does it using a day and time trigger so the automation takes place at the exact time I need it to.
It’s difficult to avoid errors especially when you have to perform dozens of tasks per day on your Mac. But automated tasks can often help reduce the number of errors you make.
For example, I count on TextExpander (Affiliate Link) and the built-in spelling correction feature in OS X to catch and correct my misspelled words and typos. When I use voice-to-text dictation, Dragon Dictate never misspells a word, though it can misunderstand what I’m saying and type the wrong word. So it’s not perfect, but it does reduce spelling errors and speeds up typing.
Automating a process means that that a task will be accurately performed the way you set it up to do. And if you’re using automation tools that don’t require coding, you can easily make changes to the automation to fit what you need.
All writers should should be using TextExpander or some similar text expansion tools. Keyboard Maestro also includes text expansion actions.
Most Mac automators automate because we simply think and expect the computer and software to do things for us, instead of us doing it all. If you’re old enough to have typed on a manual typewriter, you can appreciate the power and time saved using a computer to type.
Whenever I perform a tasks more than three times, I immediately stop and try to figure out a way to automate that task.
I get a kick out of using Keyboard Maestro’s Recorder feature to replay temporary automations for tasks that don’t necessarily need permanent dedicated macro. The Recorder records my manual steps in a process, and I simply hit an assigned hotkey to play the process back as many times as I need it.
Here’s a video to explain that process.
Creating automation workflows in Keyboard Maestro, Automator, or even TextExpander can help refine, simplify, and often automate all or parts of your workflows.
A workflow is a series of steps that you take to accomplish a task or project. The more you use the workflow, the more efficient your work becomes.
I document my workflows in the form of a checklists, particularly tasks and projects that I don’t perform on a daily or weekly basis. And I constantly look for ways to automate my workflows, even if it just setting up an automated recurring reminders in my 2Do application. The more I can automate, the more efficient I can be in the work I do.
I create a new automation nearly everyday, and though I realize that not all Mac users get a kick of out taking the time to create geeky automations, creating and running an automation, especially for tasks that you previously performed manually, is very fun and pleasing to watch. You’ll be amazed how an automation can perform an action in a second or less, when it took you several clicks and hand movements.
My wife for example finally tried voice dictation in order to produce a PowerPoint presentation that required lots of typing. Her eyes lit up the first time she voice dictated a couple of paragraphs into a text box. She ended up completing the presentation in half the time because she didn’t have to manually type all the text.
If you use your Mac for business purposes, automating tasks may actually save money – particularly if the work you do is tied directly to the task you have to perform on your computer.
The key to using automations is to make them a part of your workflows.
[Tweet “Here’s 8 powerful reasons you should be automating tasks on your Mac.”]
Automation is not always perfect, and unfortunately no automation tool can telepathically read your mind. Automation does require some preparation time, and you may have to revise an automation until it works the way you want.
However, you will find the automation applications I write about for this site can be learned and applied for nearly the Mac tasks you do on a daily basis.
I hope this article helps you to see why Mac automation is important. I invite you to check out my other introductory article, 20 Questions Mac Users Should Ask While at Their Computer to get some more ideas of the type of tasks you could be automating on your Mac.
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