Introduction to Automator Programming Guide

Automator is an application from Apple that automates repetitive procedures performed on a computer. With Automator users can construct arbitrarily complex workflows from modular units called actions. An action performs a discrete task, such as opening a file, cropping an image, or sending a message. A workflow is a number of actions in a particular sequence; when the workflow executes, data is piped from one action to the next until the desired result is achieved.

Apple includes a suite of ready-made actions with Automator, but developers are encouraged to contribute their own actions. You can create actions—which are implemented as loadable bundles—using either AppleScript, Objective-C, or a combination of the two languages. You can also create actions using shell scripts or other scripting languages such as Perl and Python.

Automator was introduced in OS X version 10.4. It does not run on earlier systems. The development features of Automator were introduced with Xcode 2.0. Additional development features have been added in Xcode 2.1. This document notes these newer features when it mentions them.

Who Should Read This Document

Any developer can create actions for Automator, as indeed can system administrators or “power users” who are familiar with AppleScript. But application developers have a particular motivation for developing actions. They can create actions that access the features of their applications, and then install these actions along with their applications. Users of Automator can then become aware of the applications and what they have to offer.

Developers can also contribute to Automator by making their applications scriptable or by providing a programmatic interface (via a framework) that developers use to create their actions.

Organization of This Document

Automator Programming Guide consists of the following articles:

See Also