In Praise of OS X Automator

Recently, my comrade-in-arms at, eric Farris, was completing his port of the various contacts forms for the letter and A4 sizes of the D*I*Y Planner. There was a problem, however. Normally, I take the various templates, designed in Adobe Illustrator, and copy and paste each one into Adobe InDesign so I can produce the PDF booklets. This time, though, my InDesign refused to launch for some reason.

The other option was to produce his templates as individual PDF files (exported from Illustrator), but I have several problems with this: 1) it makes it very difficult to flip through the forms; 2) printing multiple forms in one print run is impossible; and 3) the combined file size of all the individual files is many, many times greater than one master PDF file.

So eric decided to jump into Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger’s new Automator. For those folks here who aren’t Mac geeks, Automator is a tool whereby you choose applications and a series of actions to automate certain tasks. Although it certainly looked intriguing, I’ve haven’t tripped across anything since getting Tiger that needed this sort of thing. eric suspected that it would be perfect for combining multiple PDFs, and he was right.

OS X Automator

It’s basically four clicks: get the Finder Items; sort them in ascending order; combine PDF pages by appending,; and open the Finder Items in Acrobat, where one can “Save As…”. Save the Automator workflow in ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/Finder, and when you select some PDFS in the Finder, you can run this Automator script on them. Beautiful. eric points out that a relevant hint is here: 10.4: Use Automator to combine PDFs.

This means, of course, that I won’t have to slog all his AI templates through InDesign, thus saving me a tonne of work.

(In case you’re interested, Adobe InDesign eventually started working again for no known reason about a week later. Hmph.)

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