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Automator Multi-Item Processing Utility

Prior to the release of the Dispense Items Incrementally action, I developed the freeware Multi-Item Processing Utility to provide a method for creating looping Automator workflow applications. This utility actually works entirely externally of Automator itself, and doesn't even use the Loop action.

When you create an Automator workflow and save it as an application, you can drag-and-drop files onto that application. Any files dropped onto the workflow are passed to the first action in the workflow as input. As previously discussed, since Automator doesn't provide a built-in mechanism for looping through files individually, dropped files are processed all at once through each action in the workflow. The Automator Multi-Item Processing Utility provides a unique workaround for this situation.

You begin by creating an Automator workflow that simply processes an individual file. Since the workflow will be saved as an application onto which files can be dropped, there's no need to insert an action at the beginning of the workflow to retrieve the file. Therefore, your workflow should simply begin with an action that will accept a file as input. Figure 2 shows an example of how a workflow of this nature might be constructed. This workflow consists of the following actions:

  1. Open Word Documents. This action receives one of the dropped files as input and opens it in Microsoft Word.
  2. Set Security Options for Word Documents. This action sets the Word document to require an open password.
  3. Save Word Documents. This action saves the Word document in its original location.
  4. Close Word Documents. This action closes the Word document.
Figure 2

Figure 2 The workflow begins with an action that will accept a file as input.

Once your workflow has been created, save it as an application, and then drag the saved application onto the Automator Multi-Item Processing Utility. When you do this, the utility creates a brand-new application (alongside your existing application) containing an embedded copy of your workflow (see Figure 3). Then you can drag-and-drop multiple files onto the newly created application for processing. This application will pass the dropped files to your workflow, one at a time.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Example of a workflow prepared with the Automator Multi-Item Processing Utility.

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