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Automator: Turn Your RSS Feeds Into Audio

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For all of you RSS aficionados out there, this one’s for you. I read this one on another blog some time ago, and since then I’ve lost the link. The workflow is just too good to not spread so here it is. It will let you turn the RSS feed of any website into audio files you can then take with you on your iPod.

More in Tutorials | May 3rd, 2009

For all of you RSS aficionados out there, this one’s for you. I read this one on another blog some time ago, and since then I’ve lost the link. The workflow is just too good to not spread so here it is. It will let you turn the RSS feed of any website into audio files you can then take with you on your iPod.


First thing we need to do is tell Automator which websites we’ll be getting the feeds from, so we’ll add the Get Specified URLs action in the Internet library. Add all the websites you want. From this library we can also get the next two actions we’ll need; Get Feeds From URLs and Get Text From Articles (in that order). Next we’ll head over to the Text actions and add the Text To Audio File action. Here we get to choose which voice will speak the RSS feeds to us. Also, you’ll want to create a folder on your desktop to save the files to and designate this folder in the action. This will act as an intermediate before we add the files to iTunes.

The only thing we have left to do is Import Files Into iTunes which can be found in the Music actions. This last action is also important. Here you can specify how you will import the audio files. What I choose to do is create a “Podcast” playlist in iTunes first, and then specify to import the files to that playlist. This allows me to make sure I’m syncing that playlist every morning and also I can find the files easily on my iPhone when I’m on the go.

This is actually pretty simple, but it’s not any fun if we don’t take it to the next level. I’m going to completely automate everything from the folder creation on the desktop to its deletion after all files are imported to iTunes, and I’ll also set my computer to do this every morning at 5am before I wake up and sync my iPhone so that it’s all done when I’m ready to go to work.

First things first, head to the Files & Folders actions and add the New Folder action as the first action before everything else and give this new folder a name. Next, double check that the action Text To Audio File you added earlier is saving the files to this same folder. What I recommend doing, if you’ve already deleted the folder you created in the beginning, is creating a folder on the desktop manually with the desired name. This will allow you to add this folder to the actions while building your workflow.

Next add the Get Specified Finder Items action to the very end of the workflow and add this folder to the list. After that, add the Move Finder Items To Trash below that. Once you’re finished with the workflow delete the folder from the desktop (the first action in the workflow will create it for us again).

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Test the workflow and make sure it works properly. If all is well, save the workflow as a plug-in. Give it a name and choose iCal Alarm from the pull down menu. iCal will then open, and you’ll be able to choose when this action will run and how often to repeat it (daily, perhaps?). What you can do is sleep or turn off your computer at night, but set it to turn on or wake from sleep a few minutes before you wake up in the morning, and set the iCal Alarm to go off a few minutes after your computer turns itself on. But here’s the kicker. Automator has no Sync iPod/iPhone action, so you have to trick it into syncing itself. The only way I’ve found to do this is to have iTunes NOT running when the action is set to run but have your iPod or iPhone docked. This way, when the action runs and launches iTunes to add the songs, your device will begin to sync automatically. Typically the importing will be so quick that it’ll be finished by the time your device syncs, so you’re golden. The problem arrives when you have your computer off or asleep. I believe if you have your device connected when it wakes up iTunes will automatically launch and sync before the action is completed. So you may have to leave your computer running all night. I haven’t tested it. Let me know if you find a better way around this.

Have fun!

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