Key Differences Between AppleScript and Automator
AppleScript and Automator are really two completely different tools. Here are the primary ways to tell them apart:
- AppleScript is a scripting language. Automator is an application and requires no scripting. With AppleScript, you have to write a script to perform the desired tasks. With Automator, all of the work has already been done for you; simply find an appropriate action, add it to your workflow, and configure its settings.
- With a finite number of actions available, Automator is significantly less functional than AppleScript. If you can't find an Automator action to do what you need, you may be out of luck. With AppleScript, you have the ability to perform a much wider variety of tasks, in a much wider variety of applications.
- Automator workflows run sequentially from start to finish. AppleScript can analyze a situation and take different courses of action based on the outcome. Automator doesn't have the capability to include branching logic (if x happens, do this; if y happens, do that) within workflows.
- You can learn Automator quickly; AppleScript will take significantly longer. Within only a few minutes, you should be able to create some simple workflows in Automator. A few hours of practice will practically make you an Automator expert. By contrast, although you may be able to put together some simple AppleScript scripts in a few hours, more robust scripts take much more time (weeks or even months) and a lot of practice.
AppleScript and Automator are also closely related in a couple of ways:
- Automator actions can be written in AppleScript. (But you don't need to care about that unless you intend to develop your own Automator actions.)
- Automator includes a Run AppleScript action, which can be used to run an AppleScript as part of a workflow.
When learning AppleScript and/or Automator, a reference book may be helpful. For AppleScript, check out Apple Training Series: AppleScript 1-2-3, by Sal Soghoian and Bill Cheeseman. For Automator, don't miss my Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide.