Every installation of OS X, whether on a desktop or laptop computer, has a built-in architecture for executing automation “recipes” called “workflows.” Automation workflows are created using the Automator application and can be saved in a variety of formats, including as service plugins that appear as menu items on contextual menus in applications and the Finder.
When a contextual system service is selected by the user, its related workflow file is executed by the operating system, using the current selection (often selected text or files) as the source material to be processed by the service workflow.
Workflows are composed of a series of one or more individual steps called “actions.” Like the individual steps in a kitchen recipe, each action in the workflow processes the material passed to it by the previous action, and then passes the results of it processes to the action that follows it, until all steps (actions) of the automation recipe have been completed.
Many of the Automator actions that are used to create workflows have interfaces containing user-settable controls that determine the parameters for how the individual action processes the data passed to it. To provide maximum flexibility in workflow design, these actions may be set to display their interfaces when their parent workflow is run, in order to allow the user to dynamically provide input or set parameter values.
The Automator action used by the provided system service in this tutorial is designed to display its interface when its parent system service workflow is run. The following describes each of the controls or input fields of the action, and how they are used.
The interface for the Create Multi-Column Article Web App action is divided into four sections:
4 Document Metadata:
NOTE: all of the text input fields in the action view accept Automator workflow variables as input
In the next segment, you’ll use the Create Article with Selected Text service to generate an example multi-column project.