Thursday, 17 February 2011

Midweek Surgery: Otto-whatnow?

(Yes, I've admitted defeat with Wednesday Surgeries… I'll still try to do them on a Wednesday, where possible, but I might as well recognize the fact that I can't always manage it!)

This is a Mac-only workflow tip. Apologies up-front to all my Windows-based readers, but I simply don't know how to replicate this on a Windows system…

Also, apologies if I was the only person who didn't know about this, but a quick straw-poll of Mac-using friends and colleagues suggests that I wasn't alone in ignoring …

…The OSX Automator application.

I'm aware that I've barely scratched the surface of what Automator can do, but the one pre-set function I'm going to talk about today is already saving me significant amounts of time and inconvenience.

You're about to start a new issue or project. I'm not sure how you set up your .ai files, but I now save a single blank document into the folder where the Illustrator pages will be saved. This document is the correct dimensions for the project, has the layers already set up, and has a couple of standard balloons and a sample of text formatted to the size and font selected for the specific book pasted outside the art area. 

In Finder, I click on that file, go CMD-C and then hit CMD-V twenty-one (or however many more pages you require) times. This gives you a folder containing twenty-two identical but unhelpfully named files.

At this point, you need to fire up Automator, which you will find in your Applications folder.

Choose 'Workflow' from the options screen that greets you:

Drag and drop your files from the Finder into the Automator window as indicated:

And your files will be added to Automator, waiting for you to tell it what you want to do with them:

Scroll down the list of actions (the inner of the two columns on the left) until you find "Rename Finder Items" and double-click it. This will get the action ready to apply to your files:

(The sharper eyed among you will probably have noticed that you can keep adding actions from the left, so that complex workflows can be built up. You could, for example, add another instruction to move the files to another folder once the first action is complete. As I say, I've barely scratched the surface of this one.)

You now have a number of options for re-naming your files in a batch. In this case, I want to have sequentially numbered files…

…with brand new file names:

All you need to do now is click on "Run":

…And your files will all be renamed and automatically given numbering:

Whilst this sounds like an astonishing faff, when you try it, it's actually remarkably fast -- certainly quicker than renaming the files manually!

It's also worth directing your attention to some of the other options in this screengrab:

For some reason, when I export TIFFs from Illustrator, AI has inexplicably stopped adding the .tif extension to the end of the file name. Note the "Add Text" option above, which even has the option to add file extensions.

A quirk of CS5 I haven't been able to work around yet is the infuriating habit of adding "-01" to the end of filenames when you do an export. Using the "Replace Text" option above, you can search for "-01" in a batch of filenames -- if you leave the replacement text field empty, the offending text is simply eliminated from the name of all the files in the batch.

I have a distinct feeling that this little chap…

…is going to become my new best friend.




  1. Fantastic tip!

    I recently went through the process of renaming pages for 1) a 64 page anthology series and 2) a 110 page GN, so will be sure to use this in future.


  2. I think the Adobe Bridge can handle some of what you mention here.