First, let’s get to know Automator, Apple’s excellent automation tool. Automator let’s you build workflows in a “Lego” fashion using simple actions, which you can chain together to create really complex applications without having to learn how to code. For example you can use it to resize, rename and upload pictures to your blog or to automatically sort files using Folder Actions. In this example we’re going to do something relatively simple to show how easy it is to interact with Cocktail and other applications to create fast and powerful workflows.
First, a little bit of background knowledge about what we are trying to do. Have you ever used a USB drive with macOS, then plugged it into a Windows computer only to find a bunch of .DS_Store files? macOS creates these files and uses them to keep track of the folder icon, background and other things. Normally they are hidden from the user, however, when you plug the USB drive into a Windows computer they show up since Windows doesn’t understand what a DS Store file is. This can very quickly get very messy and confusing, so let’s use Cocktail to clean it up!
What we are going to do is create a service for Finder. Services allows you to expand the functionality of Finder and virtually every other application in macOS using Automator. In this case it will add an option to the menu when you right click a folder that lets you clean up all the DS Store files inside.
To do this, open Automator (in Applications) and when it asks you for what type of workflow you want to create, select Service. Automator will create a template for a workflow which can receive a number of different inputs from applications and lets you process these. In this case we want to deal with folders in Finder so make sure it says “Service receives selected folders in Finder” in the top of the right hand pane.
On the left side of the Automator window you have the library which contains the building blocks for the workflows. We definitely recommend that you explore these actions when you have time but for now lets carry on with our example. Select the Files & Folders category in the Library, then drag the “Delete DS Store Files” action into the workflow area on the right. When you drag it into the workflow area a few more options will appear, in this case we’d like it to search the subfolders on the drive too so make sure you tick the checkbox. When you’re done, save the service and name it “Delete DS Store Files”.
Voila, we’re done! Plug in a USB drive, then right click it and select Delete DS Store Files from the menu. Now go to a Windows computer and magically your USB drive will be a little cleaner! This works on any folder or drive so if you are emailing a folder to a friend who’s using Windows, you can clean it up the same way.
Automator lets you do much more than this, for example you can make your own maintenance scripts which you can run whenever you want by saving them as small applications (just select Application instead of Service when you create a new workflow).