There's more to major OS X updates than introducing entirely new features such as Time Machine. Apple also takes the opportunity to freshen up existing applications, adding new capabilities or improving the way things get done. When Apple introduces a new OS X, it often takes the opportunity to freshen up existing applications, adding capabilities or improving the way things get done.

Such is the case in Leopard with two OS X mainstays - Safari and Automator. Let's examine what's new with Mac OS X 10.5 Automator.


Introduced as part of Tiger, Automator exists to help you you create useful little programs to accomplish routine tasks, even if you know nothing about programming. The first version of the scripting tool was relatively successful, making the creation of basic contextual menu plug-ins for the Finder and standalone applications a drag-and-drop affair.

With the release of OS X 10.5, Automator has taken steps to make it even easier to create your own useful little utilities. In fact, Automator 2.0 makes it more likely that you'll find the courage to launch the program and take it for a spin.

The big changes

New look Perhaps the most noticeable change in Automator can be seen as soon as you launch the program. In Tiger, you were immediately dumped into the work area, where you could start building your workflow. In Leopard, you're instead presented with a Pages- and Keynote-like sheet called Starting Points that displays a number of categories - Custom, Files & Folders, Music & Audio, Photos & Images, and Text.

Choose a starting point based on the task you're automating, and several pop-up menus appear, asking from where Automator should get content, and how you'd like to get that content. Make your selections and click on Choose, and Automator will open with a couple of actions already showing in the workflow area.

Recording In the top right corner of Automator's interface, there's a new Record button next to the existing Stop and Run buttons. Click on it, and Automator activates the Finder while displaying a small Recording dialog box. The recorder then captures your keystrokes - opening System Preferences and activating a specific pane, for example.

This ability to record actions in Automator is a long-awaited addition. While recording won't allow you to do everything, it will let you work around any limitations you run into with Automator's built-in actions.

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