Mojave: How to make Automator shortcuts for MBP Touch Bar

Apple’s macOS Mojave introduces a rather cool new feature: You can add Automator actions to your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. Here is how to do it.

Apple, macOS, Mojave, MacBook Pro, Touch Bar, Automator, Automation, How to
Dan Masaoka/IDG

Apple’s macOS Mojave introduces a rather cool new feature: You can add Automator actions to your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. Here is how to do it.

Why does this matter?

If you use a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar you’ve probably wondered if there is any way to make the tools provided there even more useful to your particular needs.

The introduction of support for self-generated Automator actions is Apple’s response to this, as it means you can populate your Touch Bar with single-button commands to get some of your most repetitive tasks done with a single button-click.

This has lots of potential for any enterprise or creative worker, and underlines that automation is alive and kicking on your Mac. I do feel that it remains a little more complex to achieve for many casual Mac users, but it is becoming easier.

Here is how to add an Automator action to your Touch Bar:

Step #1: Create some Automator actions

To begin, we’ll create a couple of useful Automator actions – they aren’t terribly complex but may help you begin to understand how to build your own. In the next section we’ll make these usable from within the Touch Bar.

Night & Day

This creates a single control that lets you switch between Night mode and normal mode in just a couple of Touch Bar clicks.

  • Open Automator, select New document and choose Quick Action.
  • Select No Input in the Workflow drop down.
  • Look across to the search bar above the Actions column, write Apple and then select Run AppleScript.
  • Delete everything in the script box and write this instead:

tell application “System Events”
tell appearance preferences
set dark mode to not dark mode
end tell
end tell

  • Tap the Play button and watch the magic happen.
  • Open File>Save and name this (I used Night & Day).

QuickScale

This set of actions will let you choose an image and scale it to fit.

  • Open Automator, select New document and choose Quick Action.
  • Click on Photos and drag Ask For Photos across, then drag Scale Images over and click Add in the dialog that appears. (The latter means you’ll only be working with copies of an image, if you agree to it)
  • Under Scale Images in the workflow box, click Options and select Show this action when the workflow runs.
  • Click Save and give the action a name.

Step #2: Add the Actions to Touch Bar

Now you’ve created these actions you must take a couple of additional steps: you must make them actionable across your system using Shortcuts, and you must then make them available within your Touch Bar,

Activate them

Open System Preferences>Keyboards, select the Shortcuts tab and then choose Services.

Look down the list of available Services for the names of the actions you just built in Automator, which would be ‘QuickScale’ and ‘Night & Day’ on my Mac.

Tick the box beside each of these to find the Add Shortcut item. You must then enter a unique keyboard combination (I like to use Command-Option and a random character for this). If you attempt to use a combination that is already used for something it won’t work – just try another.

You can now use this keyboard command to activate these actions.

Find them on your MacBook Pro Touch Bar

Open System Preferences>Extensions>Touch Bar. Make sure that your new shortcuts are enabled (ticked in the checkbox).

Open Customize Control Strip and drag the Quick Actions item into your Touch Bar.

In future, when you want to quickly scale an image or switch in and out of Night Mode, you can do so by tapping the Quick Actions button and then tapping the relevant item in your Touch Bar.

I do like being able to switch in and out of Night mode using a couple to taps on the Touch Bar, but I imagine most Mac users will create Quick Actions specific to their needs. If you want to delve more deeply into using Automator on your Mac you really must explore MacOSXAutomation.com, which is run by automation expert, Sal Soghoian.

NB: This refers to beta software. It is possible Apple will change elements of how this feature works when the final version of the OS ships this fall.

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