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Troubleshooting Automator: Workflow Applications

By  Dec 12, 2008

Topics: Apple, Operating Systems

As you may know, Automator workflows can be saved as applications or plug-ins, to be run independently outside of Automator.  Unfortunately, troubleshooting these types of workflows is easier said than done.

As you may know, Automator workflows can be saved as applications or plug-ins, to be run independently outside of Automator.  Unfortunately, troubleshooting these types of workflows is easier said than done.  When a workflow is run outside of Automator, you don’t have access to all of the typical troubleshooting tools, such as the log, action descriptions, action results, and more.  Because of this, if you encounter a problem with a workflow that has been saved as an application or plug-in, it’s best to open the workflow in Automator to diagnose the problem.

Not sure where a workflow plug-in resides? Workflow plug-ins are saved workflow files or applications, and can usually be found in one of the following locations within your home folder: Library/PDF Services/, Library/Scripts/, or Library/Workflows/.

Workflow applications are often set up to process dropped files, and workflow plug-ins usually receive files as input for processing.  To reproduce this behavior in Automator, simply drag a file or two from the Finder to the top of your opened workflow. When you do this, a Get Specified Finder Items action will be inserted for you.


Now, when you run the workflow, the specified files will be passed to the first action in your workflow for processing, and you can use normal troubleshooting techniques to find the problem.  Once you’ve got things working, simply delete the Get Specified Finder Items action and re-save your workflow.

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.