Exploring Automator is well worth doing. Besides making life easier by quickly processing common tasks, Automator can also open up your productivity in interesting ways. You can easily create a workflow that loads a text document, converts it into an AIFF audio file using the TextEdit actions, and then encodes that audio file as an MP3 via the iTunes actions. Doing this makes your documents and web pages much more accessible to people with visual disabilities, which is always a good thing.
In many ways Automator lives up to the promise that AppleScript never quite managed to fulfill: it is truly programming (of a sort) for the rest of us. But a little time spent searching the Internet can help you find the Automator workflows and AppleScript scripts put together by other Mac users just sitting there waiting to be downloaded. Of course, the flip side to this is that both workflows and scripts have the potential to be malicious, dangerous, or both, so some level of caution is required. After all, these are effectively applications, and while unlikely to carry a computer virus, a badly written workflow or script could trash some files or worse. It’s probably a good idea to start with the sites that Apple has listed on its Automator web pages. The site is also a good place to learn more about Automator.
What OS X "Leopard" holds for Automator and AppleScript remains to be seen, but with third-party applications such as BBEdit and Photoshop already coming with built-in Automator functions, the future looks rosy for Mac users keen on automating repetitive tasks. So next time you find yourself doing the same thing again and again, fire up Automator and see if your Mac’s built-in robot might be able to help you out!
Figure 9 By using Automator to convert text documents into audio files via iTunes, you have an effective and easy way to make your web site and other materials more accessible to people with disabilities.