The Automator Alarm Clock

There are a bunch of apps out there – some free and some shareware – that allow you to use your mac as an alarm clock. They’re mostly pretty good too, but I like the customizability of an Automator based solution, and I think you will too – with a little drag and drop you can have a very complex little morning radio bit.

The Basic iTunes Alarm

You can make a very simple little alarm with just three actions:

  1. Set Computer Volume (turn the volume up to maximum in case you muted it the previous day)
  2. Get Specified iTunes items (select the playlist you want to play in the morning)
  3. Play iTunes playlist

Here’s a screencap of what the finished article should look like:


Next, save it and select ‘Save As Plugin’ from the menu, and choose an iCal plugin. Automator will spit out an action into iCal, which you can move around to the proper date and time and also set repeats.

Now, iCal alarms will wake your mac from sleep but not from a shut down state (which is just as well, really). If you shut down your mac every night, you’ll need to set up a little scheduling. Fortunately this is simplicity itself from the Energy Saver preference pane. Open up System Preferences and click ‘Schedule’:


Then put in the time you want your mac to wake. It can be at the same time or a little after – the mac will run as soon as it wakes up.

You’ll also need to set auto-login:

Auto Login

I’ve blurred out the accounts and account names because I’m incredibly paranoid. So don’t worry about that blocky effect.

Also, a brief warning: this is a security risk, so I’d set it back to a proper login if you ever leave your machine unattended where someone might faff around with it.

Once all that’s done, you should have a simple little Automator alarm clock that you didn’t have to pay for or anything. Wohoo! But of course plenty of freeware will do this, so what’s the real advantage? Customizability!

Advanced stuff

You can drop other actions in teh bottom of the queue easily. My personal favourite, though, is having a little built-in DJ.


The iTunes volume actions will turn the music down to let the speech server talk over the music, but you can use the system volume options to really blare out the voice if you want. I don’t, because my Macbook’s tawdry built-in speakers simple don’t allow it – maximum volume is about right for music.

Beyond that, you can add more complex speech: for example, here’s a little Applescript that’ll interface with the rather fine (and also free) ?TextWrangler:

tell application “TextWrangler”
open “path/to/file.txt”
set readOut to line (random number from 1 to 22) of document 1 as string
end tell

say “Today's usage rule is: ” & (usageRule)
Using Automator’s ‘Run Applescript’ function you can get this script to read random lines from a text file (mine contains the usage rules from Strunk and White, which I laboriously typed out). To double check the line numbers in TextWrangler, just use the ‘Add/Remove Line numbers’ function in the ‘Text’ menu

Other stuff

Using my previous hint to set display sleep times, you can make sure the screen isn’t blaring away (although personally I’ve found the bright screen useful in dark mornings).

You can also open websites, check RSS feeds, or even download and open your local free Metro newspaper (no uk version, bah!).

So that’s quite handy.

2 Responses to “The Automator Alarm Clock”

  1. […] See, I found This link via The Unofficial Apple Weblog and immediately jumped on the idea of producing my own little bit of scroll text, possibly as an addition to my existing Automator alarm clock workflow. […]

  2. […] I find music helps – get a clock radio, or rig your computer up to run through an alarm clock script early in the morning (relatively easy on the mac – Here’s one I made earlier). __________________ Daily Flash Fiction – Does exactly what it says on the tin. Except it’s weekdays only at the moment Hifelacking – Lifehacks and Personal productivity for students Writr – my personal blog […]

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