Automator: Creating Services in Snow Leopard

September 9, 2009 in How-To, Tips & Tricks by Bob Faulhaber

One of the most exciting improvements in Snow Leopard is Automator. Automator lets you create services, workflows, applications and folder actions to help automate tasks and activities. Using OS X’s extensive library of built-in actions you can create just about any type of service, workflow or action.

To show how simple creating a service in Snow Leopard is, we will create a  service that will display the current stock market conditions and allow you to get quotes on any stock.

This example will utilize one of Apple’s pre-defined actions that is available on their Automation website (macosxautomation.com). Download and install the Website Popup action on your computer before continuing.

Start Automator from the Applications folder.

Automator01

Select Service, click Choose

In the search field, begin typing “Get Specified URL”. When visible, select “Get Specified URL” and drag the action into the main window.

Automator02

This Automator action makes use of the underlying Webkit engine that Safari utilizes. You can customize the actual website to anything desired, in our case we’ll change it to http://www.yahoo.com

Now, we will use the Apple-developed action, Website Popup, that was downloaded and installed earlier. Begin typing the word “Website” in the search field. When displayed, drag the Website Popup action into the main window.

Automator03

Once these two actions are ready, you can test the service, by clicking Run button in the upper right-hand corner of the Automator window.

When you run the service you should get a large window, centered on the screen that contains the webpage of the URL that you defined in the Get Specified URL action.

Automator04

Website Popup allows you to customize the output size and even the user agent (browser type). Using the pull-down options, change the Site Size and User Agent both to iPhone.

Now, when you re-run the service, the mobile (or iPhone) version of the website will be displayed in an iPhone-sized window.

Automator05

To modify the service to display the Yahoo Finance page we can utilize the features of the Website Popup action to get the appropriate webpage. Using the Output pulldown, select the Current URL option and click on Results to open the results window.

Automator06

Re-run the service and navigate the the Yahoo Finance page, clicking on All Sites and then clicking on Finance. When the correct page is displayed, click OK and the URL will be displayed in the results window. Copy and paste that URL into the Get Specified URL action.

Automator07

Now when you re-run the service, the window will display the Yahoo Finance page showing the current market conditions, plus allowing you to enter any stock symbol to get that specific quote.

Automator08

Save the Service by giving it a unique, appropriate name and exit Automator.

From the Finder menu, select Services and click Service Preferences

Automator09

Scroll down through the list and find your newly created service. Click on the area to the right of service name and you can define a keyboard shortcut allowing you to call the service at any time.Automator10-1

This is just a simple example of the power of Automator allowing you to create services that can do just about anything using the underlying OS X technologies and features.

Have you created any services using the new features in Snow Leopard? Let us know by leaving a comment below.