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Five Automator Services Tips in Five Days: Merge Selected PDFs

Today's Automator Service workflow tip involves something that I do fairly frequently, merging multiple PDF files together.  Fortunately, with Automator Service workflows in Snow Leopard, this is now much easier for me than it used to be.

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 PDF files in the Finder.

4. Click the PDF category in Automator's action library, locate the Combine PDF Pages action, and drag it to the workflow area.  When this action runs, it will generate a merged PDF in a temporary folder, using a temporary name.  For this reason, the merged PDF must be renamed and moved elsewhere.

5. From the Files & Folders category in the action library, drag the Rename Finder Items action to the workflow.  Automator displays a warning message, indicating that this action will modify your images.  It suggests inserting a Copy Finder Items action first.  This is unnecessary, so click Don't Add to insert only the Rename Finder Items action without the additional Copy Finder Items action.
6. From the popup at the top of the Rename Finder Items action, select Name Single Item.  Notice that the action's title bar changes to reflect the chosen item in this popup.  Configure the action to change the Basename only to Merged Pages

7. Select the Move Finder Items action in the action library and add it to the end of the workflow.  You can leave it configured to move the item to the desktop.

8. Choose File > Save to display Automator's Save panel.
9. Name the Service Merge Selected PDFs, and click Save.

To test the workflow:

1. Locate and select a few PDF files in the Finder.
2. While pressing the Control key, click on the selected PDF files to display the Finder's contextual menu.
3. From the bottom of the contextual menu, choose Merge Selected PDFs.

The workflow should run, generate a merged PDF, rename it as Merged Pages, and move it to 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.