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Troubleshooting Automator: Opening Workflows

By  Dec 8, 2008

Topics: Apple, Operating Systems

Although Automator is designed for ease of use, it takes some practice and patience to master.  One area that is particularly difficult for beginners to work through is workflow errors. Today, I’ll focus on problems that occur when opening workflows.

Automator is a great tool for performing time consuming and repetitive tasks in Mac OS X.  Although Automator is designed for ease of use, it takes some practice and patience to master.  One area that is particularly difficult for beginners to work through is workflow errors.  Inevitably, Automator users will encounter occasional problems when opening or running their workflows.  But, there are some practical techniques for alleviating such errors.  Over the next five days, I’ll be providing some quick tips to help troubleshoot some common workflow problems in Mac OS X 10.5.x Leopard.  Today, I’ll focus on problems that occur when opening workflows.

If you’ve used Automator, then the odds are that you’ve encountered one of these scenarios: a) You’ve created a workflow in Tiger, but have now upgraded to Leopard, b) You’ve gotten a workflow from a friend, c) You’ve downloaded a workflow online.  All of these scenarios have one thing in common – they are often likely to produce an error when opening the workflow in Leopard.


Open errors usually occur in one of two situations:

  1. The workflow was saved with an older version of an action. This means that one of the actions used by the workflow has been upgraded.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the workflow will fail when the workflow runs.  But, it does indicate the possibility that the workflow will fail.  To troubleshoot this problem, simply try running the workflow.  In many cases, although the installed action is newer, it will still work just fine.  If you do encounter an error, then it’s best to remove the action from the workflow, re-insert it, and configure it from scratch.

  2. An action used within the workflow can’t be found. Many workflows use third-party actions, which aren’t installed on your machine by default. To troubleshoot this error, first scan through the actions that are installed on your machine.  It’s possible that the action has been upgraded and renamed, and that’s why it appears to be missing. If you still can’t find the action, then it’s possible that the action is a third-party action.  Google the missing action, and try to locate it online.  Once you find it, download it, install it, and try your workflow again.

Check back tomorrow for another Automator troubleshooting tip!

For more on Automator, check out my book Automator for Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide, as well as my video podcast series Mac Automation Made Simple.