Automator is touted by Apple Computer Inc. as a simple, user-friendly application for building complex scripts, called workflows, that automate complex processes by calling on multiple applications and the operating system itself.
In the update, the actions expose most of BBEdits text-editing tools, such as the applications GREP search capabilities, to automation.
Though company officials characterized Version 8.2 as a free maintenance release, and stressed that it is compatible with Mac OS X 10.3.5 and later, the updates Automator integration requires Tiger. The integration comprises a collection of actions, which are the basic building blocks for Automator workflows.
"All of BBEdits naked text-processing power is in there," CEO Rich Siegel said, referring to the Automator support.
At the same time, Siegel said Mac customers shouldnt confuse Automator with AppleScript, the built-in scripting language used in the older, Classic versions of the Mac OS and in earlier versions of OS X.
"The promise of AppleScript was that you could use it to automate routing tasks," Siegel said, "but what held back AppleScript was that you had to write scripts." This, he said, meant learning the scripting language, debugging scripts and so on.
"Automator fulfills the promise of AppleScript," Siegel said. "Its not a GUI front end to AppleScript, but a GUI front end to multiple application automation."
Automator offers Tiger users a drag-and-drop stage for creating workflows; users select an actions icon or name and then drag it into a visually depicted workflow. Users do not have to learn a scripting language and can set action options simply by checking or unchecking boxes in the actions description.
That Automator works with any Mac application that has actions created for it means that BBEdit 8.2 can be used in a workflow along with any other application and with any functions inherent in the Tiger OS itself, Siegel said.
As an example, he cited an Automator workflow using BBEdit that will collect DVD release schedules automatically from Apples iCal calendaring application, as well as information on the titles from the Web, and then format the data into a BBEdit text document.
"Were out in front with Automator support," Siegel said. He added that he could see independent developers focusing on building commercial products out of packages of actions and workflows for Automator, on the existing model of plug-ins for Adobe Systems Inc.s Photoshop image-editing application and Xtensions for Quark Inc.s QuarkXPress document layout program.
"The first wave will be application developers building and including [Automator] actions with their applications," Siegel said. "And then fourth-party developers will start making actions for other companies applications."
"After time," he said, "I would not be surprised to see a plug-in-like cottage industry grow up around Automator."
However, Siegel observed, this future is not certain. "The only limit to acceptance of Automator would be a lack of understanding of what it is."