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One of the most under-appreciated tools on your Mac is Automator. It can take a while to get the hang of, but once you have an idea of how to use it, you can automate all kinds of useful tasks, from cleaning folders Automatically Clean Up Your Mac OS X Downloads (or Any) Folder Automatically Clean Up Your Mac OS X Downloads (or Any) Folder The Downloads folder is often one of the most cluttered and disorganised places to be, so let your computer take a share of the burden and have it clean your Downloads folder automatically. Read More to creating voice commands Create Powerful Custom Mac Voice Commands With Yosemite & Automator Create Powerful Custom Mac Voice Commands With Yosemite & Automator Here's a Yosemite feature you might have missed: Apple has made it easier to create custom voice commands using Automator. Read More . One of my personal favorite ways to use Automator is with its browser commands, which can help you save a lot of time with regular actions in Safari or any other browser.

We’ll take a look at six ways you can use Automator with your browser here, and we’d love to hear how you’ve taken advantage of it for yourself!

Open a Webpage at a Specific Time Every Day

This is one that I use myself; I have a Pinterest board that contains motivational images and quotes Hack Your Day And Stay Motivated With Pinterest Hack Your Day And Stay Motivated With Pinterest Pinterest is an online pinboard which allows you to share images by ‘pining’ them to your profile. I am sure you will while away a few hours playing around creating pretty image boards or pinboards.... Read More , and Automator opens it every day at the same time so it’s the first thing I see when I log onto my computer.

For this, we’ll need to create a Calendar Alarm. Open up Automator and fire up a new project, then select Calendar Alarm.

new-automator-calendar-alarm

Now, select Internet from the left sidebar and drag the Get Specified URLs action to the workflow on the right. Remove the default URL and add the page that you’d like to open (in this example, we’ve used http://www.makeuseof.com/).

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automator-get-urls

This will get the correct URL into the workflow, and now we’ll need to do something with it. Drag the Display Webpages action into the workflow and place it below the previous action. You’ll see that one produces output and the other takes input, so they’re connected.

automator-display-pages

To test the alarm, hit the Run button in the top-left corner. It should open the webpage you entered. If it doesn’t, double-check that you followed the instructions listed above. When you save the project, Calendar will open with a new event (in this case, it’s called “Display MakeUseOf”). You can now edit the event so that it repeats whenever you want it to.

automator-calendar-event

In the example above, MakeUseOf will open every Tuesday at 08:38. Just make the changes here so your page displays at your preferred days and times.

Open a Specific Set of Webpages

Maybe you use the same pages every morning, but you don’t want to have them open manually. Why not create a small application that opens them all in your default web browser? Or maybe you want an application that opens up a bunch of different pages that have to do with your favorite game. That can be done, too. Let’s set up a quick app that’ll open a number of Hearthstone-related pages.

This time, you’ll want to select Application as the document type when you open a new project. Again, go to Internet and drag Get Specified URLs into the workflow, then add your links:

automator-hearthstone-sites

Next add the Display Webpages action below the previous one, and you’re set. I’ve saved this application as “hearthstone-read,” and when I launch it, it opens all four URLs in different tabs in the default browser.

automator-hearthstone-tabs

Launch it with Spotlight Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Spotlight has been a killer Mac feature for years, with Cupertino regularly schooling Redmond in the art of desktop search. Here are a few tips to help you find more on your Mac. Read More , and you can open up a huge number of tabs in just a few keystrokes!

Download All Images on a Page

This automation will be created as a workflow, which means you need to run it from within Automator; even though it might seem like it would take a long time, this can be a great way to get things done.

Let’s create a new workflow; open a new document and select the Workflow option:

new-automator-workflow

Again, go to the Internet category; this time, add Get Current Webpage from Safari  to the workflow (unfortunately, this means this workflow will only work with Safari but that’s not such a bad thing, considering it’s such a solid choice for a browser Safari vs. Chrome on OS X: Which Browser Is Right For You? Safari vs. Chrome on OS X: Which Browser Is Right For You? Chrome or Safari? It's not a clear-cut answer. Truth is, brand loyalty is counter-productive. You should revisit your options regularly to see if maybe something better exists. Read More on the Mac anyway). Add Get Image URLs from Webpage below that.

automator-get-image-urls

Set the Get URLS of imagedropdown to linked from these webpages, and add the Download URLs action to the workflow. Set the download location to wherever you’d like the images to download to (in this case, I’ll be using the Downloads folder).

automator-download-images

Now, to download all of the images from a specific page in Safari, you just need to open that page in Safari and run the workflow from Automator. If you know of a way to get this to run in another browser, let us know in the comments!

Download All Audio or Video Files from a Page

You can accomplish something similar with specific filetypes by using a slightly more complicated workflow. We’ll create another workflow here and start it in the same way, with the Get Current Webpage from Safari action. This time, we’ll grab all of the linked URLs with Get Link URLs from Webpages.

automator-get-links-urls

Whether you select Only returns URLs in the same domain as the starting page is up to you; if you select it, you’ll only get audio or video files that are hosted on the same domain as the page you’re starting on. If you don’t select it, you’ll get all of the audio or video files linked from the page, no matter where they are. Now, add the Filter URLs action to the workflow.

automator-filter-urls

Exactly how you set up the filter depends on what you want to download. For example, if you only want MP3 files, you can set the Path to contain “.mp3”; if you want MP4 videos, you can set Path to “.mp4,” and so on. You can also choose a number of criteria and choose Any of the following are true, as I’ve done here:

automator-filter-rules

Now that you have the URLs chosen, you’ll need to add the Download URLs action and select a download folder.

automator-download-urls

Once you’ve done this, just run the workflow from within Automator and you’ll download your chosen media from any page you have open in Safari.

Launch a Website as a Standalone App

If you’ve ever wished that a website would release an app, or you tend to use multiple browsers Better Manage Multiple Browsers on Mac OS X With These Apps Better Manage Multiple Browsers on Mac OS X With These Apps You can have multiple browsers and set up rules that always open links in the right one — all you need are some smart apps. Read More just so you can keep a single site from cluttering up the tabs in your main browser, this is a great way to use Automator.

Fire up a new Automator session and choose Application. The first action will be Get Specified URLs, where you’ll need to enter the URL of the site that you want to turn into an app. Again, as an example, we’ll use MakeUseOf.

automator-get-specified-urls

Now we’ll use the Website Popup action, which will create the app wrapper for the site. You can choose from a number of different user agents, which will let you see a website as it would appear on an iPad or iPhone, or just stick with the standard Safari view. You can also adjust the size.

automator-website-popup

Now save it as an application and launch it.

muo-app

And you have your own app version of a website!

Open Articles that Contain Specific Phrases

RSS feeds are super useful, even in 2016 Is RSS Dead? A Look At The Numbers Is RSS Dead? A Look At The Numbers RSS isn't dead: millions of people still use it. Let's look at a few numbers. Read More , but some feeds are absolutely overrun with articles, and that can make it hard to find the ones you want to read. If you’re looking for specific topics or phrases , you can create an app that will open up articles that match a search query in a specific feed.

First, make a workflow and add a Get Specified URLs action. Add the URL of the feed or feeds that you want to search. As an example, I’ll be using the RSS feed of Dirt Rag magazine.

automator-rss-feed

Now, we’ll set up the filter with the Filter Articles action. Let’s say we want to pull out any article about Colorado or all-mountain cycling. We’ll set up the filter so that it pulls any article with “Colorado” in the title or “all-mountain” in the summary, just as an example. Add the Get Link URLs from Articles and Display Webpages actions as well.

automator-feed-searcher

Now run the workflow, and you should get a lot of tabs with articles that match your search criteria. You may want to be careful with this one, as it can result in an absolutely huge number of new tabs. But it can also be extremely helpful if you want to pull a lot of information from an RSS feed.

How Do You Automate?

It’s a bit esoteric at first, but Automator can be a hugely useful tool 9 Useful In-Built Mac OS X Utilities You've Probably Never Used 9 Useful In-Built Mac OS X Utilities You've Probably Never Used While you're not forced to become familiar with them, there are a handful of useful utilities included with Mac OS X. Read More for making your Mac more efficient. It takes a while to get used to the app, but after spending some time with it, you should be able to create all sorts of useful workflows, services, and apps for helping you do the things you need to accomplish every day.

Have you used Automator to improve your browsing experience? Share your best tips in the comments below!

  1. Javier
    July 22, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I get an error message after executing Get Link URLs from Articles, in Spanish: "No se han proporcionado los datos necesarios para la acción 'Obtener direcciones URL de enlaces de los artículos". In English: "Not provided data needed for action 'Get Link URLs from Articles'".

    Help!

    • Dann Albright
      July 25, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Do you have an input action before Get Link URLs from Articles? If not, that's probably the issue here. I've had that happen a few times, and making sure that an action is providing an article usually clears it up.

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