James Lucas: MBA in Marketing and Senior Graphic DesignerJames Lucas: MBA in Marketing and Senior Graphic Designer

5 tools to automate your workflow

I work for a financial company and my job is very repetitive. I use these five tools to make my job easier, increase efficiency, and lower the chance for mistakes.


I use Quickkeys to type in anything that needs to be typed in more than once. I send out three types of emails during the day with a couple of changes. I also use it to type out company names. Quickkeys can be set-up with abbreviations for simple tasks or you can make short cuts for longer and more complicated tasks. You are also able to record the actions you are working on. (I did not find that function to work that well.) You can purchase Quickkeys 4 for $59.99 good for OS X 10.5 to 10.6.


I use Xdata to format text in QuarkXPress. This plug-in can also be used with InDesign. You need to make a template script in Quark and then run it through Xdata to format the text. The script writing takes some investment time. The time is well spent, since you will be able to increase your workflow and lower the amount of formatting mistakes. Once it is learned more complex scripts can be written to format text and add pictures. The text can either be copied and pasted using Xdata or imported. Xdata can be purchased for $400.


Applescript comes with every Mac. I use it to import text into Xdata and make boxes in Quark. This is a very powerful program that takes a lot of time to learn. There are sites that you can find code to paste into your scripts.


Automator comes with every Mac and is an easier version of Applescript. I use Automator to change file names and copy files. Automator can either make a stand-alone application or be added as a folder plug-in. As a stand-alone application files can be dropped on the application and then the script will run. As a folder plug-in Automator will run when a new file is put into the folder.


Microsoft Word and Excel both come with the scripting language, Macros. I use both Word and Excel macros to fix misspellings, format text, and do a find/replace. Macros can be recorded or manually scripted.

I hope these five tools will make your day run smoother with less mistakes and more time for design.