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Automator workflow of the month: Quick media manipulation

Christopher Breen | May 2, 2013
Much as we depend on text, a lot of us deal with images, audio files, and movies as part of our workaday world. And it's not unusual that when working with such files you need to perform a minor tweak--rotate a picture, convert a music track to something that better harmonizes with iTunes and your iPod, or trim a movie that won't fit through an email gateway. All these tasks are possible, but it's a bother to launch an application, import the media, and do the deed for such seemingly minor tweaks. Thanks to Automator, you needn't. All this and more can be performed in the Finder. Let's see how.

Much as we depend on text, a lot of us deal with images, audio files, and movies as part of our workaday world. And it's not unusual that when working with such files you need to perform a minor tweak--rotate a picture, convert a music track to something that better harmonizes with iTunes and your iPod, or trim a movie that won't fit through an email gateway. All these tasks are possible, but it's a bother to launch an application, import the media, and do the deed for such seemingly minor tweaks. Thanks to Automator, you needn't. All this and more can be performed in the Finder. Let's see how.

Rapidly rotate an image

In the Windows OS, you can right-click on an image and choose a Rotate command. The Mac OS lacks such a feature, but you can produce something darned close with Automator.

Launch Automator (in your /Applications folder) and in the template chooser that appears choose Service. Click Choose. In the resulting workflow window, configure the pop-up menus at the top of the window to read Service receives no input in any application.

Select the Files & Folders library and drag the Get Selected Finder Items and Copy Finder Items actions into the workflow area (in that order). Now select the Photos library and add the Rotate Images action to the workflow. Create a new folder on the desktop and call it Rotated Images. Drag that folder to the Copy Finder Items pop-up menu. In the Rotate Images action, choose the kind of rotation you want the workflow to perform--left, right, or 180 degrees. Save the workflow (File > Save) and give it an intuitive name such as Rotate.

Launch System Preferences, choose the Keyboard preference, click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, select Services from the pane on the left, and scroll the right pane to the bottom of the list where you'll find your Rotate service. Click the Add Shortcut button and press the keyboard shortcut you'd like to use to run the workflow.

Now, when you need to rotate an image, just select it and press this shortcut. The resulting image will appear in the Rotated Images folder you created.

Convert images to black and white

Sometimes black and white images are more appropriate for the project you're working with. They're easy to create with Automator--easier still because this workflow is almost exactly like the one I just described. Do everything I outlined in the previous workflow with these exceptions.

The folder you create on the desktop should have a more appropriate name--Black & White, for example. Remove the third action from the last workflow (the Rotate Images action). In Automator select the Photos library and drag into the workflow the Apply Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files action. From its list of effects choose Black and White. As with the previous action, assign a keyboard shortcut to it. Done.

 

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