How to create custom quick actions with Automator in macOS

Using the macOS Automator tool can simplify your mobile workflow.

How to create custom quick actions with Automator in macOS Jack Wallen shows you how to use the macOS Automator tool to simplify your mobile workflow.

When you're on the go, you need to have an efficient workflow. To make this happen, you might make some of your more mundane, repetitive tasks quicker by adding suitable actions to the Finder right-click context menu. If you happen to use macOS on your mobile devices, there's an incredibly handy tool that you can use to make this a reality. The tool is called Automator. Automator is installed, by default, in macOS (starting with Lion) and makes the process of making tasks (such as resizing images) quite simple.

I'm going to walk you through how to automate that task of resizing images. This can come in very handy if you do a lot of image uploading to your company website, and it needs to be a specific size. Instead of having to open that image in a graphics application (which can slow your flow), you simply resize images from the Finder right-click context menu.

Let's see how this is done.

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Opening Automator

To open the Automator app, click the Launchpad app in your Dock and type automator. You should see the Automator launcher in the results (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A: The Automator launcher in macOS.

Once you launch Automator, the open file window will appear (Figure B). Click New Document in the lower left corner.

Figure B

Figure B: The open file window allows you to either open an existing Automator file or create a new one.

Creating a new service

In the resulting window (Figure C), Select Quick Action and then click Choose.

Figure C

Figure C Selecting the action type.

From the center pane, scroll down and select Scale Images. You can also run a search for images to make the selection easier (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D: Selecting the Scale Images variable.

  1. Drag Scale Images to the right pane and, when prompted, click Add.
  2. At the top of the right pane, select files or folders from the Workflow receives current dropdown. If you want your newly resized images to be saved somewhere other than the Desktop folder, make that change in the Copy Finder Items section. In the Scale images section, select either pixels or percentage from the To Size dropdown.
  3. Once you configured the action, click File | Save, name your action Resize Images, and click Save.

Using your action

  1. Open Finder and navigate to an image.
  2. Right-click (or two-finger tap) the image and then, from the menu, select Services | Resize Images (Figure E). Your original image will be resized (according to how you configured your Quick Action) and saved to the desktop (leaving the original intact).
Figure E

Figure E: Using your newly-created Quick Action.

Updating your action

If you want to add more variables to your action, (say, you find you also need all resized images to be saved as a specific file type) you can always open that action and drag more variables into it. Do be careful, however, as every time you add a new variable to the action, it automatically adds another Copy Finder Items section. Make sure to leave only one instance of Copy Finder Items and move it to the bottom of the variable list, otherwise, you could wind up with multiple copies of the file (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F: Adding another variable to our action.

Creating actions to fit your needs

You now know how to create a Quick Action with Automator. By using this as a sample, you should be able to create just about any type of action to fit your needs. Play around with this powerful tool to help simplify your mobile workflow.

Also see

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Image: Apple

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.