When it comes to Mac automation, there are several powerful and relatively easy to use applications to choose from, and they don't require any coding and scripting skills on the part of users.
If you want to get the most out of Mac automation, I encourage you, if you haven't already done so, to download and try out the following programs. All the applications include a free trial download.
This post provides just a brief overview of the applications I will be reviewing and covering for this site. I will provide video tutorials, workflow tips and strategies for getting the most out Mac automation. I also encourage you to share you own tips and strategies for using these programs.
OS X Smart Technology
The best place to get started with smart automation is using the smart folder features in OS X. Apple's Finder, Mail, iTunes, iPhoto, and Aperture all make use of smart technology, in which files are filtered based on the rules you set. For example, iTunes allows for creating smart playlists which can consists of your favored songs in your iTunes library. In Mail, you can create a smart mailbox that collects new mail from your previous recipients.
Keyboard Maestro is the program I will write the most about for this site. It's because I think Keyboard Maestro is the most powerful automation application for general Mac users. Keyboard Maestro allows for creating what are called macros, that can automate the manual steps and actions you take to complete tasks, from downloading a webpage to copying and pasting text. Keyboard Maestro provides several ways to trigger automations, and it can greatly reduce redundant tasks you manually perform.
Hazel is a folder action application that 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.
TextExpander is a word processing program that automatically expands words, phrases, or larger snippets of text based on abbreviated text you assign to a snippet of text. So for example, when I want type the word, “Hazel,”, I simply type “hz” and it will replace those two letters with the word. You can create abbreviations for form letters, URL addresses, email signatures, etc. TextExpander also can correct common misspelled words, or you can add words you frequently misspell and have TextExpander correct them for you.
Dragon Dictate is a program well know for voice dictation of text, but it also includes a powerful feature for issuing voice commands on the Mac. For example, you can have Dragon Dictate launch and quit applications, download web pages, insert snippets of text, run Keyboard Maestro macros and AppleScript scripts, and active menu shortcuts in applications. Dragon Dictate requires lots of practice to learn how to use, but if you work in a quiet space throughout the day, you definitely should give it a try.
Automator is a program that comes installed with Mac OS X. It is similar to Keyboard Maestro, but in my view is not as powerful. However, if you've never used Automator, I do suggest giving it a try. I will be writing how-to articles about this program in the coming months.
BetterTouchTool is a finger gesture application that allows for assigning hundreds of different finger gestures to trigger menu bar shortcuts, open or delete files, applications and folders, move windows, and pause and play iTunes, etc. BetterTouchTool is not per se an automation program, but the finger gesture features actions make BTT a very powerful and time-saving program, especially if you don't like remembering and using keyboard shortcuts.
I don't have AppleScript scripting skills, but this classic Mac program, located in the Mac Utilities folder, can also be used to automate tasks. There are plenty of resources for learning how to use AppleScript, and many developers posts scripts on the Internet. Keyboard Maestro also automatically creates an AppleScript script for each of each macro created in the program.
SuperTab is similar the Mac Dock, but it is one of few applications that will automatically quit or hide selected applications when they are in the background. There are similar programs that have the same function, but SuperTab, in my view, does it best.
There are other Mac applications for general users that are not automation programs, but they are very useful for executing tasks and reducing manual steps. These programs include Alfred, LaunchBar, PopClip, and several clipboard management programs, including iClip and Copy 'em Paste which are very useful. I will be sharing tips about these program in the coming weeks and months.
Your Favorite Automation Applications?
As I build this site, it will be helpful to learn which applications visitors and readers of this site already use on their Mac. Which are you most used applications, or which ones are you most curious about? Please leave me some feedback so I can get to know my audience.
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