Your Favorite Automation

What automation have you set up that you just love? I need some more ideas!



My current favorite is one that I’m still trying to perfect. At work, the shared drive in our department is Windows-based, and when Windows users send me links to files on the shared drive, the links come forwarded as Windows paths, with backslashes, etc., which won’t work on a Mac. So I’d have to go into the Finder and navigate through the folder hierarchy manually. I’ve got an Automator service set up so that I can easily right-click on those links and open them automatically.

The easy part has been getting it to work most of the time. The two trickier parts are (1) being able to accommodate any kind of link formatting they throw at me (the links aren’t uniform – the style of them varies depending on the person who sent it and how they create those links in the first place) and (2) making the service simple and foolproof enough to use that I can share it with all of my Mac-using colleagues in the office. I don’t want to distribute it half-baked.


We often use an external audio recorder to record content and post to our website. Using Keyboard Maestro I have set up an automation that is triggered when I mount the external recorder to my iMac. The automation opens my audio processing software, arranges it in a window that spans the top half of my screen. It then opens a finder window to the folder on the recorder where the audio is located and sizes that window to half of the bottom of my screen of the left and then opens Safari to the URL where the audio will get posted. It sizes and places that Safari wind to the bottom half of the screen on the right side. After I process and post the audio I place the file in a folder where Hazel renames it and archives it on my Drobo. I unmount the recorder and that triggers a second automation in Keyboard Maestro that quits the audio processing software, closes the finder window and returns Safari to my default “home” page URL.


I wrote an Automator application that I added to my login items to run a short shell script to detect whether I am on the office network. If so, it gets a kerberos ticket using the password safely stored in my keychain and mounts all the network drives I need to use in the office.

If I am not on the office network, it does nothing. I like it because now I always have the network resources I need without any action on my part. I also wrote a complementary action in Keyboard Maestro that is triggered when I connect to my company’s guest Wi-Fi network. It destroys all kerberos tickets because they interfere with the “coffee shop” portal that we have to go through to get on the guest Wi-Fi.


My current favorite is

I put it together in response to someone’s request and now I can’t imagine using a Mac without it.

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I still get a little thrill when I receive a text message telling me a book is ready to pick up at the library.
An early IFTTT recipe I set up: IFTTT watches email for a “Library Notification” and then sends me a text message. It would be cool to parse the email so I could see which book… I haven’t looked recently to see if that might be possible now.


I haven’t used this recently due to being in Knoxville, but it was very useful in New York City. Lots of the cool Meetups there had a maximum number of slots, and they would fill up. So I would tell Meetup to send me a notification if a spot opened up. IFTTT would watch for that email, and if I received one it sent me a text message. Boom! Open up Meetup app on the iPhone and register within a minute or two. :sunglasses:


My favorite time (and brain) saver is a Keyboard Maestro macro called Increment Filename.

I’m a graphic designer, and I make frequent updates to InDesign files and other design files, export PDFs, and send the PDFs to the client for review. I’m very big on versioning files and keeping a history of every version made. Each time there’s a revision (and sometimes there are a lot of revisions), I move the PDF and InDesign file to a folder called “Ω old” (I use the omega character to sort the folder to the bottom), make a new copy of the InDesign file, and increment its version number. I did this manually for years, often dozens of times a day to different files for different clients. It’s one of those seemingly small repetitive sets of tasks that really wear on you over time. So I finally thought to make a macro.

I select the design file in the finder, type a keystroke, and the macro:

  • Looks for a PDF with the same name as the selected file (there may not be one if it’s a different kind of file, like a Word or PPT file)
  • Moves the PDF to the “Ω old” folder, creating the folder if it doesn’t exist yet
  • Places a copy of the design file into the “Ω old” folder
  • Increments the version number in the filename, or if none exists, adds “v2” to the end

Seems like a little thing to fix, but it sure gives me joy every time I use it!


One of my original automations, in the mid-2000s after I got Gmail and learned how to use “Filters” i.e. mail rules:

On FlyerTalk (for people into flying and FF travel miles and hotel points) you could – still can – subscribe to forums you’re interested in and have them automatically send you posts over email, choosing between every post / daily digest of posts / weekly digest of posts. I set my favorite forums to daily digest, and then made corresponding filters in Gmail to route the incoming emails: if they included my airline and airports I would fly from them, keep them in Inbox and star them; if not then delete.

When I moved to a different city I would update the filter.
In New York it looked like this:
Matches: (from:( subject:(Mileage Run Deals) ((UA) AND (LGA OR JFK OR EWR)))
meaning: from Flyertalk, threads from the Mileage Run forum, look for United Airlines + LaGuardia or JFK or Newark Airport.

Other filters like that would attach category labels such as Travel, Travel/Frequent Flyer, Travel/deals, Las Vegas, newsletters. All without lifting a finger to drag things into folders!

Let’s hear some more of these! More of your favorites, folks? It’s fun and probably inspirational too.

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One I use quite often is a workflow/shortcut that asks me for the name of a local business (my destination) then it grabs my position and calculates the travel time. Then it prompts me for who to notify. I have a preset menu with spouse, brother, business partner, etc. Then sends a text message to whomever I am going to meet with my ETA.

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Awesome! Share it over here and I’ll add it to our Gallery!

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There are some awesome responses in here, thanks all! It has been a crazy exhausting season in my family and I am just now getting some breathing room. Looking forward to see how I may implement these.

My favourite recent one is quite simple, but has made a significant difference for me. I’ve picked several good playlists in Apple Music and put them in a shortcut, each assigned to a different day.

When I run the Shortcut I get new music I like without having to think about what to play, reducing friction and getting me to enjoy music more.

My favourite automations are generally bigger projects. On the home side, one takes a series of PNGs my wife drew, joins them, reduces colours, splits them and compresses them to turn into animated stickers (using Automator, ImageMagick, ImageOptim and ImageAlpha, although I started doing the colours manually in the middle now I think of it).
On the work side I have a script in Google Apps Scripts that takes folders of images of multiple choice questions and turns them into Forms for students to do as homework.

Hard to choose just one.

Among the more recent… I recently went on a binge of shortcut creation using the Untappd API. Greatly improved my beer shopping and beer logging workflows shortcuts! :beers:


Hey I too am a big fan of Untappd. How are you using the API? Willing to share? Jack

I catch those emails from the library and automatically add a “Pick up library book!” task in Todoist. I was always forgetting to do it otherwise!

Here’s a bit (well, more than a bit…) of background. I have to start with a tip of the hat to Gabe Weatherhead, Jeff Hunsberger and the TapCellar app. That was such a great app… I hated to see it shut down. My simple iOS based beer log as described here, was certainly inspired by my experience using TapCellar.

My objectives are simple:

  • quick way to search for beer and review info about its brewery and the beer itself

  • optionally add to my local log

  • optionally checkin with Untappd

I maintain a simple text based log of beers I’ve enjoyed (or not enjoyed, as so happens at times…). I like having the log saved as a text file for portability and for ease of use for other things (see below). The layout of the file is super simple:


The Shortcut shortcuts incorporate the following:

  • enter beer and/or brewery to search

  • search Untappd

  • display detail brewery and beer info for selected beer

  • Untappd checkin (optional)

    • Beer rating

    • Foursquare location search (optional)

    • Comments (optional)

  • Update text log

In addition I have other related Shortcuts...

Beer Info - for use while either shopping or looking at a beer list at pub or restaurant

  • enter beer and/or brewery to search

  • search Untappd

  • display detail brewery and beer info for selected beer

  • optionally display history for selected beer from beer log (date and rating)

Map Beer Log In Google Earth… this is a fun one. Parses the text file and builds a KML file that is opened in Google Earth. Fun way to browse where a certain beer was enjoyed.

Note… The shortcuts have a couple of key API dependencies - Untappd and Foursquare. Untappd requires a simple registration and “application” process to get a key. They individually review new requests. Use of the Foursquare API is not required unless you want to add your location as part of the Untappd checkin.

I am happy to post the various Shortcuts that make up this solution set, but I have a bit of clean up to do to appropriately parameterize/mask my API keys for both Untappd and Foursquare.

cheers! — jay