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TMO Quick Tip - iCal: Automated Custom Email Reminders

by , 9:45 AM EST, November 19th, 2008

iCal does a good job of reminding you about your appointments thanks to its alarms feature. If you have a customized email message that you want to send to specific people through an iCal alarm, however, you'll need a little extra help from Automator.

For example, I have a recurring appointment that I need to make sure my friend Bryan knows about even though he's not directly involved with the event. Here's how I set up his automated email reminder:

In Automator:
  • Choose Mail from Library column.
  • Now drag New Mail Message from the Actions column into the workflow area on the right.

  • Drag the New Mail Message action into the workflow area.
  • Enter an email address, subject, and message into the workflow object. This is the automated message that iCal will email for you.
  • Next, drag Send Outgoing Messages from Actions column into the workflow area.

  • Add your canned message to the New Mail Message action.
  • Now choose File > Save As and then choose Application from the File Format pop-up menu.
  • Give your new application a name, and click Save. Since I'm reminding my friend Bryan about a weekly appointment, I named my application "reminder email for bryan."
In iCal:
  • Select the appointment you want to add your Automator auto-email application to, then use the Command-E keyboard shortcut to edit the appointment.
  • Click the None pop-up menu for the alarm field and choose Open file.
  • Choose Other from the iCal pop-up menu, then navigate to and select your freshly made email Automator application. In my case, that's my "reminder email for bryan" application.

  • Add your home made Automator app as an iCal alarm.
  • Click the 15 minutes before pop-up menu and choose how far in advance you want your automated email to be sent. I set mine to one day.
  • Click Update to save your changes.

Now iCal will automatically run my home made Automator-based application one day before my appointment and open Mail, make a new email with the message I included in my original Automator workflow, and then send that message without any interaction from me.

Your Mac handles the process of making and sending the email message, your computer needs to be on and awake, and it needs an Internet connection.

Since you can build Automator workflows for other applications, too, this is a handy way to schedule other repetitive tasks on your Mac.


Jeff Gamet is TMO's Morning Editor and Reviews Editor. He lectures, teaches and speaks on Mac OS X and design-related topics, and is the author of The Designer's Guide to Mac OS X from Peachpit Press.

if you have tips or tricks to share, or Mac-related questions you want answered.

Jeff Gamet is TMO's Managing Editor and Reviews Editor. He lectures, teaches and speaks on Mac OS X and design-related topics, and is the author of The Designer's Guide to Mac OS X from Peachpit Press.

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