How-To

How to Use Quick Action Workflows in macOS Big Sur

Quick Action workflows make it easier to perform often repeated tasks. Here’s how to use them on your Mac.

With Automator workflows on macOS, you can set up a series of actions to accomplish a task automatically. Building on this is Quick Action workflows (which arrived with macOS Mojave) that are ideal for workflows you use frequently. These are available on macOS Big Sur from Finder windows, the Services menu, or the MacBook Touch Bar.

Long present in macOS, Automator makes it possible to accomplish tasks by stringing together necessary actions. Some of these actions (but not all) require types of input to proceed. Otherwise, the automatic task cannot proceed.

Creating Quick Flow Workflows

It’s important to understand how Automator is put together before moving on to Quick Actions. If you haven’t used Automator previously, it’s relatively painless. On the left side of the app, you’ll find the library pane to add on or more actions to the workflow, located on the right side of the Automator window. From there, you’ll configure actions, then save your workflow.

Follow these steps to get started with Quick Flow workflows:

  1. Choose Automator from the Applications folder on your Mac.
  2. Select File > New.
  3. Click Quick Action.
  4. Select Choose.

Quick Action setup

Next:

At the top of the screen, you can specify any of the following:

    • Workflow receives current: The type of data used as input to the workflow. If you choose Automatic, Automator guesses the type of input you want to use in your workflow.

      Note: Only Quick Actions that receive files as input are available in Finder windows.

    • Application: The app or apps you want to use to process your workflow. Each app must be open for the workflow to be available.
    • Input is: If the workflow receives input from URLs, addresses, phone numbers, dates, or email addresses, you can specify different input options.
    • Output replaces selected text: When the workflow receives input from Text or Rich Text, you can specify that the output replaces the selected text.
    • Image: An image for your Quick Action. You can select an image on your Mac or choose an image from the menu.
    • Color: A color for your Quick Action (visible in the Touch Bar only).

Next:

  1. Add actions to your workflow.
  2. Choose File > Save to keep the workflow. Name the workflow, then save.

Once a Quick Action gets created, the Action pop-up menu appears at the top of a Finder window or the bottom of the Finder window preview pane in Column or Gallery view. It’s also available in the Service menus and under Quick Actions in the Touch Bar, when applicable, as you can see below.

Quick Action Workflow: An Example

At GroovyPost, we’re asked to convert images to PNG format. Unfortunately, most of the images I find for use in articles are in JPG format. To convert images to PNG from JPG, I typically use Mac Preview. With a custom Quick Action, I can automate this process.

To create this Quick Action:

  1. Choose Automator from the Applications folder on your Mac.
  2. Select File > New.
  3. Click Quick Action.
  4. Select Choose.
  5. Choose Photos from the left panel under Actions.
  6. Click Change Type of Images from the middle column, then drag to the right side of the window.

In the pop-up, you must decide whether to add an action to copy the image (thereby preserving the original in the process) or skipping over that step. I suggest choosing Add, not Don’t Add, so the original file remains.

Automator Photos change

Next:

  1. Select to PNG under the pull-down menu under Change Type of Images.
  2. Choose the location to send your files under the Copy Finder Items pull-down.
  3. Choose File > Save to keep the workflow. Name the workflow, then save.

Change Type of Image

Adding Quick Action Workflows to Touch Bar

To utilize Quick Actions Workflows on your MacBook Pro Touch Bar, you must first add the Quick Actions button by following these directions:

  1. Click on the Apple icon at the top left of your Mac screen.
  2. Choose System Preferences.
  3. Select Extensions.
  4. Click Touch Bar.
  5. Choose Customize Control Strip.

Customize Touch Bar

Next:

  1. Drag the Quick Actions button to the bottom of the screen.
  2. Choose Done.

quick action Touch Bar

Customizing Quick Action WorkFlow Access

By default, your Quick Action workflows show up in Finder windows, the Service menu, and the Touch Bar, when applicable. You can adjust which ones show up in the Finder and Touch Bar.

  1. Click on the Apple icon at the top left of your Mac screen.
  2. Choose System Preferences.
  3. Select Extensions.
  4. Click Finder, then uncheck the items you don’t want to show in Finder windows.
  5. Choose Touch Bar, then uncheck the items you don’t want to show on Touch Bar.

Quick Action workflows make it easier to perform often repeated tasks. After setting them up through the macOS Automator, you can find Quick Action workflows on the Finder menu, Services menu, or the MacBook Touch Bar.

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