Launch multiple applications on Mac OS X

Practically every time I start up my Mac I have a specific purpose in mind. I'm either in work mode, writing mode, photography mode, or something else. In each of these scenarios, I use different applications, and in almost every case I need to launch multiple applications to begin work.

For example, in work mode I need to launch OmniFocus, Mail, Calendar, MindNode Pro, nvALT and Evernote. I use these constantly and need to keep them open throughout the day. Other apps, like Keynote, Pages or OmniGraffle, I launch only when I need them.

Similarly, in writing mode, I launch Byword, Evernote, Dictionary and Safari; in photography mode, I launch Aperture, Photoshop and Pixelmator.

Launching apps one at a time is annoying. Especially when you do it every day.

In Mac OS X, you can define which applications launch at startup, but this only solves one "mode" and becomes annoying when I'm in the other ones. It's not fun having to close a bunch of apps that just opened on startup because you want to do something different.

Launching multiple applications with Automator (and Alfred).

After a few experiments, I figured out a way to solve the problem using Automator. The trick is to build one application for each mode that launches all the apps I need for each.

Here's how:


Step 1: Launch Automator

Automator is an application that lets you build workflows to automate repetitive tasks. It's included with every Mac.


Step 2: Choose Application in Automator

Upon launch, Automator asks you to pick the type for your document you want to create. Select Application. We're going to build an application that launches multiple applications.


Step 3: Build Application

Find the 'Launch Application' action. It's under Library>Utilities or just search for it. Drag and drop it into the area on the right and from the drop down pick the application you want to launch first. Then drag a new instance of 'Launch Application' and pick the second application you want to launch, and so forth. Until you have all the applications you want to launch at once.


Step 4: Save Application

Save as a new application (I saved it in the Applications folder) and give it an easy to remember name. In my case, I call them "Launch Office", "Launch Photography" and "Launch Writing". Be careful to give them names that don't overlap... for example, I used to call the "launch office" ... launch productivity, but because I have "launch photography" I couldn't just type LP into Alfred. Ideally, the first letter in each word will be unique.


Step 5: Launch your newly created app

This is where the magic happens. Just invoque Alfred and type the first letter of each word and your newly created application will rise to the top. Hit Enter and watch multiple applications launch with zero additional effort.