Demystifying Automator – Applications

In this next guide in our series on Automator, we’re going to discuss the Application Document Type. We hope that this example, while fairly simple, will inspire you to create your own Automator Applications.


Application – A workflow that is triggered when you drop a file or files on it’s program icon. – This is handy when you have files in disparate places and you simply want to process that file or group of files. Typically this will leave the original file in place and intact and having a new file created. I use this a lot for image processing, resizing or color profiles.

The Application data type will create an item that you can use by dropping files on top of it. This will trigger the application and perform the functions you have programmed.

Let’s start with something simple. We’re going to have this application extract the text from a PDF document so you can edit it easily in Text Editor.

  1. Choose the PDF’s Actions from the Library
  2. Click on the Extract PDF Text and drag and drop it to the Workflow Builder
  3. Modify desired output options if desired. I chose Rich Text for this example. You can also specify where the output is saved and any desired changes to the file name.

I keep all my Automator applications on my desktop so I can get to them easily but they can be saved anywhere. Be sure to provide a descriptive title so you know what the application will do.

To trigger your application all you need to do is to drop a PDF file on to your application’s icon.

The program will run in the background and create your new output file.