Task Till Dawn: Schedule File Actions On Your Mac

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on August 6th, 2011.

Automation is one of my favorite topics. There’s something about sitting back and watching my Mac perform tasks for me that makes me smile every time.

Today we’re going to take a look at Task Till Dawn, a simple and free little automation tool that will allow you to schedule files and applications to launch automatically.

What Is It?

As I mentioned in the introduction, Task Till Dawn is an app that makes it easy to schedule certain tasks to fire at a given time. What you do with it is limited to your imagination and skill level.

There aren’t any built-in actions, instead you simply choose a file to run. This can be an application, file, Applescript (sort of, more on that later); anything you want.

Getting Started

When you first open Task Till Dawn, you’ll see a list of your currently active tasks. If you haven’t set up any tasks, this list will be empty.

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Task Till Dawn

As you can see, the interface is fairly barebones. It’s not flashy or super attractive, but it is highly functional and has a nearly non-existent learning curve.

To add a new task, hit the “New Task” button. Remember, at this point you already have to possess something to add. Obviously, if you’re not familiar with scripting or automation, the app’s appeal will be minimal.

However, keep in mind that you can use Task Till Dawn to launch files and applications, so even if you’re not an avid automator you still have some options. For instance, let’s say you write invoices every Friday at 3PM, Task Till Dawn could easily launch your template files and required applications automatically at that time every week.

Setting Up a Task

To test out the app, I whipped up a basic script to remind me to work out. Basically, all it does is tell my Mac to audibly speak the current time and tell me to get my butt to the gym. With Task Till Dawn, we can set this script to fire at specific times every week.

Once we hit the “New Task” button, the window below pops up. Here we can name the task, add a description and choose the file to launch. In this case I chose my work out reminder script.

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Basic Settings

Next, it’s time to tell Task Till Dawn when to fire the action. The default options here allow you to choose whether you want the task to run at a specified interval (say every three hours), at a specific time of day, manually or whenever the app launches.

For my workout script, I chose to run it at a specific time of day. Since I wanted it to run at 7:30PM, I entered 19:30.

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Execution Settings

Extended Settings

As the task currently stands, it will run every day, but let’s say that I’m lazier than that and only want to work out on certain days of the week.

To tweak my action settings even further I click the “Extended Settings” tab. Here I can apply a delay, activate and deactivate certain weekdays, set the task to run on a certain day of the month, and limit the number of times the task will run.

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Extended Settings

As you can see, I set my task up to run only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Once you’re all done with the task, it will show up in your list back at the main screen along with some information on how many times it has run.

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Updated Task List

Worth A Download?

Task Till Dawn is one of those applications that does only one thing. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, just a simple one or two step process for setting a file to fire at a specified time.

In my own use, I felt like Task Till Dawn had just the right balance of options and simplicity. It’s super easy to use and does what you want in a fashion that reminds me of Mac utilities of old.

It’s not quite perfect though. For instance, after setting up my AppleScript, I found that Task Till Dawn simply opened the script in Script Editor rather than running it. I changed the file to a “Run Only” script, but apparently the app isn’t compatible with those, which forced me to convert once again to an application. This is easy enough, but it’s annoying that an application that seems so perfectly ideal for running scripts isn’t smart enough to just run a script when you select it without forcing you to jump through the right hoops.

Further, I think tossing in a few basic but handy actions would go a long way toward making the app accessible to a much wider audience. For example, maybe some alarm clock functionality could be built in so that you can easily set up iTunes to launch and play a given song at a certain time.

Overall though, it’s a pretty useful little app that automation nerds like myself will be happy to keep around. Keep in mind that it’s completely free so you should definitely check it out if you’re looking for a way to launch files at specified intervals.

Conclusion

To sum up, Task Till Dawn is a nifty utility that allows you to launch files and applications at a specified time or interval. The setup is super simple and the app functions nearly exactly as you’d expect it to.

If, like me, the limited AppleScript support is a serious downside for you, check out LaunchOnTime from the Mac App Store. It’s free, has very similar functionality and works better with scripts.

Leave a comment below and let us know which app you use for scheduling actions on your Mac. How does it stack up to Task Till Dawn?


Summary

A basic but useful utility that launches files and applications at a specified time or interval.

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  • Anthony

    Task Till Dawn has been a great little application that I’ve used since I found it over a year ago. As noted in the review, it doesn’t rule AppleScripts directly; but it will if they are compiled as applications. This is annoying as I don’t want two copies of the script around (the straight script and then an application version of it); but that’s a minor issues.
    TTD is great in that you can setup tasks to run not only at on a specific schedule (whether it be occurrences per day, time of day, day of week/month or first occurrence of a day each month, etc); but you can disable tasks but unchecking them, no need to delete them. Simply put, if you can think of something to schedule, it can rule that schedule for you without fail.

    In the end, there aren’t many other Mac applications that do what this does without costing money or putting too complex a setup in front of you. Give TTD a try and if you don’t like it, fine. I have and will continue to use it; also, it works flawlessly in Lion.

  • http://www.lri.me Lri

    I just use launchd. `man launchd.plist` has an example XML plist and descriptions of all the keys that could be added to it. The agent can be loaded with `launchctl load ~/Library/LaunchAgents/label.plist` or by logging out and back in.

  • Jenn

    So is this just a gui for a cronjob list? seems neat though

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