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Five Automator Services Tips in Five Days: Apply Filter to Selected Images

If you’ve used Automator before, then you may know that it includes actions for performing basic image manipulation tasks, such as cropping and resizing. Today’s workflow uses one of these built-in actions to apply a filter to selected image files in the Mac OS X Finder.

PLEASE NOTE: Services are a new feature of Automator in Snow Leopard.  If you’re using an older version of Mac OS X, you can still try to follow along.  However, you’ll need to save your workflow as an application or plugin, rather than as a Service.

To build the workflow:

1. Launch Automator and create a new workflow.
2. Choose Service from the template selection panel and click Choose.
3. At the top of the workflow, configure the Service to receive selected image files in the Finder.

4. Click the Photos category in Automator’s action library, locate the Apply Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files action, and drag it to the workflow area.
5. Automator displays an alert indicating that this action will modify your images.  It asks if you’d like to add a Copy Finder Items action too, to preserve your originals.  This is a good idea, so click Add.

6. Automator inserts the Copy Finder Items and Apply Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files actions.
7. Click the Options button at the bottom of the Apply Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files action.  Then, select the Show this action when the workflow runs checkbox.  Enabling this option will allow you to specify the desired filter at the time you run the workflow.

8. Choose File > Save to display Automator’s Save panel.
9. Name the Service Apply Filter to Selected Images, and click Save.

To test the workflow:

1. Locate and select a few image files in the Finder.
2. While pressing the Control key, click on the selected images to display the Finder’s contextual menu.
3. From the bottom of the contextual menu, choose Apply Filter to Selected Images.

4. The workflow should begin running, and a window should appear, allowing you to choose the desired filter.

5. Select a filter, adjust the settings if desired, and click Continue.

Once the workflow is done running, copies of the selected images, with the specified filter applied, should now reside on your Desktop.

If you encounter any problems, you can download today's completed workflow here.  Just download it, decompress it, and copy it into the ~/Library/Services folder within your home folder.  If a Services folder doesn't exist in your ~/Library folder, go ahead and create it.

Don't forget to check back each day this week for a new Service workflow tip.  For more on Automator, check out my book  Automator for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide, as well as my video podcast series Mac Automation Made Simple.