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 to creating voice commands. 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, 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.
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 //www.makeuseof.com/).
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.
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.
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:
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.
Launch it with Spotlight, 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:
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 on the Mac anyway). Add Get Image URLs from Webpage below that.
Set the Get URLS of images dropdown 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).
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.
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.
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:
Now that you have the URLs chosen, you’ll need to add the Download URLs action and select a download folder.
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 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.
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.
Now save it as an application and launch it.
And you have your own app version of a website!
Open Articles that Contain Specific Phrases
RSS feeds are super useful, even in 2016, 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.
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.
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 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.
If you’re comfortable with bash scripting, you can use AppleScript to create clickable automation apps that achieve similar results as Automator!