If you spend a lot of time doing things like splitting PDFs, converting images, or creating ZIP files, there’s a way to speed up each process. Using Automator on Mac, you can set up automations that save you time.
Using Automator on Mac
For each of the processes below, you’ll create a new document in Automator. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll create either an Application or Quick Action.
Note: An Application is a self-contained tool that uses an icon you can place on your desktop. A Quick Action is a service you can access by right-clicking or opening the More menu below the Finder Preview.
To get started, open Automator from Finder > Go > Applications. Select “New Document” and then pick “Application” or “Quick Action” per the automation you plan to set up and click “Choose.”
Then, select “Actions” on the top left and expand the Library beneath if necessary.
Follow the remaining steps to create each automation as described below. Then, save the automation using File > Save from the menu bar. Give it a name, optionally choose a specific location, and click “Save.”
1. Split PDFs
For this, we’ll create an Application in Automator that lets us simply drag and drop our file into it. Select “PDFs” in the Library and then drag Split PDF into the workflow window on the right.
In the Split PDF action box, choose the folder where you want to save the split files. Then, pick the Output File Name. You can make it the same as the input or enter a Custom Name. Optionally check the box to Replace Existing Files.
Save the application using the File menu as described earlier. To split a PDF, just drag it into the application or onto its icon.
You’ll then see each of your pages as separate files.
2. Watermark PDFs
Another task you may perform with PDF files is to watermark them. Rather than spend time adding that logo or image manually, you can have Automator do it for you.
For this, we’ll create a Quick Action in Automator but you can create an Application if you prefer. Select “PDFs” in the Library and then drag Watermark PDF Documents into the workflow window on the right.
Click “Add” to select the image watermark. You’ll then see a preview at the bottom where you can make adjustments to it.
You can place the watermark over or under the PDF content, use the X and Y fields for an offset, scale the watermark, angle it, or adjust the opacity.
Next, you can select a location to place the watermarked PDF or immediately open it with an app on your Mac. For our example, we’ll add the action to open the file in Preview.
Select “Files & Folders” in the Library and drag Open Finder Items below the watermark box in the workflow. Choose an application in the Open With drop-down list.
Save the Quick Action using the File menu and then choose a PDF to try it out. Right-click the file and pick the Quick Action or use More below the Preview on the right to choose it.
You should then see your watermarked PDF open in the application you set up.
3. Convert Images
Another tedious task that Automator can help with is converting images from one file type to another. This is handy for batches of images that you need to change from PNG to JPG or vice versa, for instance.
For this process, we’ll also use a Quick Action. Select “Photos” in the Library and then drag the Change Type of Images action to the right.
You’ll be asked if you want to create a copy of the image before converting it. Choose “Add” to do so or “Don’t Add” to continue without making a copy of the original.
Next, select the file format you want to convert your images to in the To Type drop-down list.
Save the Quick Action using the File menu and then give it a try. Access and select the action by right-clicking a file or using More at the bottom of the Preview on the right.
4. Crop Images
Maybe it’s cropping images to the same exact size you need to do often. You can do this with Automator by selecting the size you want to use upfront.
We’ll also use a Quick Action for this so we can crop the image with a simple click. Select “Photos” in the Library and drag Crop Images to the workflow.
Like converting images, you’ll be asked if you’d like to retain a copy of the original. Pick “Add” or “Don’t Add” for the copy action per your preference.
Use the To Dimensions drop-down list in the Crop Images box to pick “By Percentages” or “To Dimensions.” Then enter the numbers in the Width and Height fields.
If you choose To Dimensions, you also have the option to scale the image before cropping it. Use the Scale Before Crop drop-down to pick an option if you like.
Save the Quick Action using the File menu and then select an image in Finder that you’d like to crop. Either right-click the image or use More below the Preview on the right and choose the name of your cropping Quick Action.
5. Store Files in a ZIP Archive
You can easily create an archive (ZIP file) on Mac using the shortcut menu. But when you do, this places the file within the current folder. Maybe you want to compress several files and create an archive elsewhere, like a certain folder on your Desktop. You can set up an Automator action for this in under a minute.
Once again, we’ll use a Quick Action for this process. Select “Files & Folders” in the Library and drag Create Archive to the workflow.
You can assign a specific name to the output or let the default name apply which is either the same name as a single input file or “Archive” for multiple files.
Next, choose the location for the archive folder like Desktop, Pictures, Documents, or another folder. Optionally check the box to Ignore Unreadable Items.
Save the Quick Action using the File menu and you’re ready to create your archive. Use the shortcut menu by right-clicking or the More menu below the Preview to pick your action.
6. Start a Keynote Presentation
While you may not think about it, it takes a few minutes to get a Keynote slideshow ready and rolling. To shorten this time, you can set up an automation to begin a presentation from a specific slide in just seconds. This is convenient if you present Keynote slideshows often, especially various ones to different audiences.
Because drag-and-drop works great for Applications, we’ll use that type this time. Select “Presentations” in the Library and drag Start Keynote Slideshow to the right.
Choose a specific slide number in the Start Keynote Slideshow action box. Remember, each presentation will start with this slide. If you simply want to start from the beginning, enter a 1 in the From Slide Number box.
Save the Application using the File menu and then test it out. First, open a file in Keynote. This does not have to be the slideshow you want to present; it can be any Keynote file. Then, drag the presentation you want to start into the application or onto its icon.
You should then see your presentation begin immediately and with the slide number you set up.
Automator on Mac is a terrific tool for automating tedious tasks so you can spend more time on others. For additional ways to use it, take a look at how to resize images or how to quit applications using Automator actions.