Work faster, increase your efficiency, and have more fun with automation!

Take Control of
Automating Your Mac

Fourth Edition
Joe Kissell

Ever wondered if automation could make your life easier? In Take Control of Automating Your Mac, Fourth Edition, Mac expert Joe Kissell shows you how to save time and aggravation by using numerous built-in macOS tools, as well as helpful third-party apps, to automate routine tasks and procedures.

All Take Control books are delivered in two ebook formats—PDF and EPUB—and can be read on nearly any device.


Looking for ways to work smarter and faster with your Mac? In this updated and expanded fourth edition of his popular guide to Mac automation, Joe Kissell shows how anyone, at any level of experience, can save time and effort, and avoid unnecessary errors, by using automation techniques that range from the simplest keyboard shortcut to the most complicated script.

In this book, Joe teaches you how to automate routine tasks in a wide variety of ways. You can begin by making the most of productivity features such as Siri, Spotlight (for launching apps), and text replacement—and then move on to the more sophisticated automation tools built into macOS, such as Shortcuts, Automator, AppleScript, services, and shell scripts.

In addition, Joe gives extensive information about third-party automation apps that can make a huge difference to your work efficiency, such as Keyboard Maestro, TextExpander, OmniGraffle, and many more. As an extra bonus, the book includes coupons for discounts on seven automation apps!

Whether you’re new to automation, you just need a refresher, or you’re experienced with automation but want to go deeper, this book can teach you the skills you need to automate with ease. Take back your time, work more efficiently, and have more fun with your Mac, with Take Control of Automating Your Mac, Fourth Edition!

With this book, you’ll learn how to:

  • Get started with the built-in macOS automation tools, including Shortcuts, Automator, AppleScript, and shell scripts
  • Take full advantage of input devices to save clicks and keystrokes
  • Customize toolbars and your Touch Bar to put hard-to-find controls at your fingertips
  • Use your voice to control your Mac with Siri and Voice Control/Dictation Commands
  • Automate text expansion for faster, more consistent typing
  • Control the Finder with a launcher and by organizing files with Hazel
  • Supercharge your clipboard to remember and reformat previous copies
  • Write macros in Microsoft Office and Nisus Writer Pro
  • Create rules to file email automatically in Apple Mail and Outlook
  • Log in to websites faster with a password manager
  • Automate cloud services with IFTTT and Zapier
  • Set up automatic backup and syncing
  • Use Omni Automation for JavaScript-based automation tasks
  • Control nearly anything on your Mac with Keyboard Maestro

BONUS: We’ve included discount coupons for seven of the key apps Joe covers: 15% to 30% off on Keyboard Maestro, LaunchBar, Hazel, Nisus Writer Pro, Script Debugger, TypeIt4Me, and Typinator—look for coupons at the end of the book!

Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He formerly wrote for publications such as Macworld, Wirecutter, and TidBITS. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, his two children, and his cat.

What’s New in Version 4.1

Version 4.1 of this book brings it up to date with macOS 13 Ventura, requiring hundreds of changes. Most notably:

  • Updated the text and screenshots extensively to account for the large number of user interface changes in Ventura, including the change from System Preferences to System Settings and the change from Preferences windows to Settings windows. (In many places an entire procedure changed, not just the name or location of the command.)
  • Expanded a tip about using Shortcuts with a Stream Deck; see “Control Anything with a Stream Deck.”
  • Added mentions of an impressive new launcher called Raycast that became suddenly popular and is already on its way to the top of my list of third-party automation tools. See “Raycast,” as well as a mention in “Use a Third-Party Text Expansion Utility.”
  • Added the clipboard utility Paste to the list in “Use a macOS Clipboard Utility.”
  • Significantly updated the topic Autofill Secrets and Generate a Random Password to cover Safari’s current behavior, and added a sidebar, About Card Verification Numbers or CVVs.
  • Expanded “Run Backups Automatically” with Time Machine with instructions for setting up Time Machine in Ventura or later.
  • Updated the chapter “Get Started with Shortcuts” to reflect the way Shortcuts works in Ventura, and added a sidebar, “Shortcuts Improvements in Ventura.”
  • Added a sidebar, Enabling Third-Party Actions in Automator, about a new hoop you have to jump through in Ventura.
  • Restored some older text and added more information about the now (somewhat) undead UI Browser utility in “Use GUI Scripting.”
  • Added a tip about a tool called Hammerspoon in “Learn More About AppleScript.”
  • Clarified in “Use Omni Automation” that JavaScript is supported only in the Pro versions of Omni apps.
  • Updated “Macro #1: Open Login Items” for Keyboard Maestro to work in Ventura.
  • Replaced the Typinator coupon with one that now works!

What Was New in Version 4.0.1

This version clarified some wording about Quick Actions and their relationship to Services; see “Create Your Own Service.” It also added notes in “Use Dictation Commands” and “Use Omni Automation” about a new website that teaches you how to use Voice Control in Omni apps.

What’s New in the Fourth Edition

This edition of the book adds coverage of macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 12 Monterey. It also includes notes about expected changes coming later in 2022 in macOS 13 Ventura.

Significant changes include the following:

  • Rewrote most of the chapter “The State of Mac Automation” to bring it up to date with current (mid-2022) reality, including the appearance of Shortcuts on the Mac and the removal of the scripting languages PHP and Python.
  • In “Create and Use Smart Containers,” added information about the smart folders Apple added to the Notes app in Monterey.
  • Included “Screen Recording” in the list of activities for which automation tools might require special permission.
  • Added a topic about Elgato’s Stream Deck controllers: “Control Anything with a Stream Deck.”
  • Added a sidebar about the essential Default Folder X utility; see “Enhance Open and Save Dialogs with Default Folder X.”
  • Updated the list of example apps in “Use a macOS Clipboard Utility.”
  • Added a topic about the new MailKit-based extensions supported in Mail for Monterey and later; see “Try Mail Extensions.”
  • Removed the discussion of automating bootable duplicates; see the sidebar “Whither Bootable Duplicates?”
  • Added Shortcuts to the list of “Apple’s Core Automation Technologies.”
  • Added a big chapter on Shortcuts, the automation utility that Apple brought to iOS/iPadOS a few releases ago, but which first appeared on Macs in Monterey; see “Get Started with Shortcuts.”
  • Noted in “Create Your Own Service” that Quick Actions no longer appear on the right-click/Control-click contextual menu in the Finder starting in Monterey; I also suggest an alternative.
  • Noted the impending discontinuation of the venerable UI Browser utility in “Use GUI Scripting.”
  • Updated the “Use Omni Automation” chapter to reflect the addition of OmniFocus to apps that support Omni Automation.
  • Marked the passing of a useful automation tool called ControlPlane; see the sidebar “Farewell, ControlPlane.”
  • Removed references to outdated books, apps, and websites, of which there were quite a few.
  • Dropped all discussion of features in macOS 10.14 Mojave and earlier in order to keep the size and complexity of this book more manageable. This edition of the book assumes you have 10.15 Catalina or later.

What versions of macOS does this book cover?

Unless otherwise noted, all the techniques in this book work with macOS 10.15 Catalina through 13.4 Ventura, and will likely work in future versions of macOS as well. Most of them work in older versions of macOS too—perhaps with minor modifications. In general, the older your operating system, the less likely you’ll find that everything works as described.

  • Read Me First
    • Settings vs. Preferences
    • What’s New in Version 4.1
    • What Was New in Version 4.0.1
    • What Was New in the Fourth Edition
  • Introduction
  • Automation Quick Start
  • The State of Mac Automation
  • Develop an Automator’s Mindset
    • Learn the Basic Principle of Automation
    • Learn What You Can Automate
    • Look for Automation Opportunities
    • Pick the Right Tools
  • Use Built-In Automation Features
    • Use the Mac’s Built-In Keyboard Shortcuts
    • Make Your Own Keyboard Shortcut
    • Use and Customize Toolbars
    • Use macOS Text Substitutions and Transformations
    • Control Your Mac with Your Voice
    • Update Apple and Mac App Store Software Automatically
    • Update Non-Mac App Store Software Automatically
    • Work with Rule-Based Searches
    • Create and Use Smart Containers
    • Deal with the Mac’s Evolving Security Features
  • Automate Your Input Devices
    • Use Trackpad and Magic Mouse Gestures
    • Use BetterTouchTool
    • Customize Your Touch Bar
    • Save Clicks with Third-Party Input Devices
    • Program an Input Device with USB Overdrive
    • Control Anything with a Stream Deck
    • Learn About Other Special Input Devices
  • Automate Text Expansion
    • Use Text Replacement in macOS
    • Use a Third-Party Text Expansion Utility
  • Automate the Finder
    • Use Spotlight as a Launcher
    • Use a Third-Party Launcher
    • Organize Files with Hazel
  • Supercharge Your Clipboard
    • Learn What a Clipboard Utility Can Do
    • Use a Macro or Launcher Utility
    • Use a macOS Clipboard Utility
  • Automate Individual Apps
    • Automate Microsoft Office
    • Automate Nisus Writer Pro
    • Discover Other Internally Scriptable Apps
  • Automate Email
    • Use Server-Based Rules
    • Automate Apple Mail
    • Automate Outlook Email with Rules
    • Automate Other Email Apps
  • Automate the Web
    • Log In Faster with iCloud Keychain and Safari Autofill
    • Automate Web Logins with a Password Manager
    • Automate Cloud Services
    • Discover Other Web Automation Options
  • Automate Backup and Syncing
    • Run Backups Automatically with Time Machine
    • Create Hands-Off Versioned Backups
    • Automate Mac-to-Mac Syncing
  • Discover macOS Automation Technologies
    • Apple’s Core Automation Technologies
    • Using JavaScript for Automation
    • Using Swift for Automation
  • Use Services for System-Wide Shortcuts
    • Configure Services
    • Find and Use Services
  • Get Started with Shortcuts
    • Explore Shortcuts
    • Run a Shortcut
    • Import Automator Workflows
    • Customize a Shortcut
    • Create a Shortcut
    • Share a Shortcut
  • Get Started with Automator
    • Create a Simple Automator Workflow
    • Create an Automator Droplet
    • Create Your Own Service
    • Find and Run Sample Workflows
    • Learn More about Automator
  • Get Started with AppleScript
    • Write a Simple AppleScript
    • Learn What AppleScript Can Do
    • Understand AppleScript Basics
    • Find and Run Example AppleScripts
    • Edit an Existing AppleScript
    • Use GUI Scripting
    • Use AppleScript Folder Actions
    • Learn More About AppleScript
  • Script the Command Line with Shell Scripts
    • Create Your Own Shell Script
    • Try Another Script
    • Shell Scripts Outside the Shell
  • Use Omni Automation
    • What Omni Automation Can Do
    • Try Omni Automation in OmniGraffle Pro
  • Use a Macro Utility
    • Control Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro
    • Use Another Macro Utility
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About the Author and Publisher
    • Acknowledgments
    • Credits
  • Copyright and Fine Print
  • Also by Joe Kissell
  • Hazel Coupon
  • Keyboard Maestro Coupon
  • LaunchBar Coupon
  • Nisus Writer Pro Coupon
  • Script Debugger Coupon
  • TypeIt4Me Coupon
  • Typinator Coupon

Joe Updates Book and MacVoices Automatically Interviews Him

Posted by Michael E. Cohen on April 1, 2015

As is automatic when a Take Control book gets a major update, Chuck Joiner of MacVoices interviews the book’s author. The 1.1 update to Take Control of Automating Your Mac is no exception. Watch Joe and Chuck chat about what’s new in this season’s update to a very useful book.

Joe Schools Chuck Joiner on How to Boss His Mac Around

Posted by Michael E. Cohen on June 27, 2014

Taking time off from working on his next ten books, Joe discusses with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices how to make your Mac do more so you have more time to have a life away from the keyboard. In this 40-minute interview, Joe outlines how to think about automating tasks on your Mac and why you don’t need to be a programmer to do it.


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