Concerned about a tool I love and use often and who's output is in my workflow everyday. I speak of Automator. If you don't know what Automator is then good luck finding out.
It used to have a feature level page on Apple's website in the (Mac) OS X section.
It used to have a section of it's listing workflows and scripts to download and links to third-party websites. And this page was accessible from the App itself, using the Display Automator Website option in the Automator menu....
But this link now goes to http://macosxautomation.com/automator/ a website that, while it looks like an Apple built site, plainly states it is not. It's a good resource but why did Apple trash there own support page?
OK, a brief aside if you truly don't know what Automator, the cognoscenti may skip a paragraph...
Apple has long had a scripting language embedded in Mac OS, all the way back to System 7 (citation needed). An application could include support for AppleScript by providing a dictionary of accessible commands. The OS has them, Apple's own apps have* them and many many third party apps have them too.
I've occasionally tried using and creating scripts to automate common tasks, and found like many, that syntax is a bit odd and while it deserves time and attention, I've enough to handle with Obj-C.
Lucky for us, then, that in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple released a new app called Automator which lets you build up steps of operations using drag and drop of blocks, backed by AppleScript, C, Obj-C etc... to build up Services (the unsung hero of OS X), workflows or actual bundled applications. There was a small flurry of third party activity and many apps provide Automator actions as well as AppleScript support so users can stop performing repetitive tasks.
Recent OS updates have brought expanded workflows, objects, variables, better system integration and a host of other lovely things to Automator.
Here's an example of a workflow I made and added as a Service to the Finder:
We've recently been scanning negatives. The terrible Canon software puts them in a folder with names in the format IMG_XXXX.tiff by date of scan.
• The service takes a selected folder and checks it contains image files.
• It then asks the user for a name to use for the photos it finds, as each roll of film is from a particular event generally and also for a location to save them to.
• It then gets on with the business of resizing, renaming, producing a PNG version and saving them to an appropriately named folder and then optionally sending then into iPhoto.
• As a last touch I have it regenerate all the thumbnails of the images in the Finder to get rid of the white -Polaroid-style border that gets applied by default, just my taste.
TL;DR it's a very useful app.
Which is why I find it sad to see that it's been massively de-emphasised. In these times where encouraging people to learn to code or at least understand programming is such a hot topic, it seems a waste of a great entry tool that also can provide genuine utility and customisation of the OS to the professional.
My hope: there's a change coming and a large scale reboot.
My fear? that's it's heading for obsolescence in the next version or next reboot of the Mac OS.
*as of today they returned to Numbers after their notable absence in the recent round of upgrades.