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Never Forget Another Appointment Using Tiger's Automator

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In this synced-up, wireless world, keeping information at hand has never been easier. But having your calendar in your PDA doesn't mean that you won't forget to look at said calendar and notice that you're supposed to pick up your cousin's son from soccer practice! With a little help from Mac OS X Tiger's Automator, however, you'll never miss an appointment again. Jaemi Loeb shows you the ropes.
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In this synced-up, wireless world of ours, keeping information at hand has never been easier. But having your calendar in your PDA doesn’t mean that you won’t forget to look at said calendar and notice that you’re supposed to pick up your cousin’s son from soccer practice. With a little help from Mac OS X Tiger’s Automator, however, you’ll never miss an appointment again.

I created two handy workflows that you can use with Automator to help remind you of important events. The first workflow ("Reminder app"), which can be downloaded here, results in an email whose body text is a summary of your events for the day. The other workflow ("Reminder app 2"), which can be downloaded here, results in an email with that same information attached to the email as a text file. Which one you use, of course, depends on personal preference, how your email program handles attachments, etc.

Putting Workflows to Work

The basic process is quite short. Double-click the workflow to open it in Automator and replace the email address in the New Mail Message action with a real one. Use the drop-down menus to change the settings in the Find Events In iCal action so that they’re useful to you. Maybe you keep important events in your Blarg calendar, for example, or maybe you need to be reminded only of events that happen in a certain location. In any case, there are many ways to change the search criteria for this action, so feel free to experiment.

After you customize these settings, choose Save As from the File menu. From the File Format drop-down menu, choose Application instead of the default Workflow.

Here’s the drop box you need to change. It might clarify things to uncheck the Hide Extension box so that you always know what format you’re saving to.

You now have a free-standing application that can be run at any time. Its icon in a Finder window will look very much like the Automator icon, but it will run without opening Automator.

Once you have a stand-alone application, you might realize that simply having it doesn’t help. After all, if you could remember to run the application in the morning, you probably wouldn’t need it to remind you of certain events! Fortunately, there is a little-known but easy way to automate the application to run in your absence.

You probably know that you can set alarms for events in iCal. (The simple process can be learned through iCal help or the Apple support Web site.) What you may not have noticed, however, are all the options you have when setting an alarm. If you look at an event’s information in the information pane, you might see something like this:

Clicking the Alarm drop-down menu hidden beneath None brings up this window:

Notice the option Open File in this window. When you choose this option, a few more menus will appear in your iCal info pane. The default file for it to open is, of course, iCal. But you can choose Other instead and then locate and select your new application.

After all these choices and settings (which will quickly become second nature), you’ll have a fully automated application that will send you a reminder email when that iCal alarm goes off.

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