Spectrasonics ones are a little more tricky. You actually have to enable each control separately in the plug-in to expose it to the host before you can either map it to automap or device configuration for blue hand control.
Out of curiosity, do you personally use Automap with Omnisphere and/or Trillian? I'd like to know how you set it up if so. Mapping out subtractive VA's and simple effects has been no problem but I'm just not sure how best to tackle Spectrasonics in a way that would be intuitive enough that it would actually be a superior solution to clicking around in their UI's.
I use Automap Pro for both Logic and Live. In Live, Novation's Ableton-specific Advanced Template is more or less home base for basic navigation, clip launching, and use of Live devices. If I select a track with a third party synth or effect on it, I just hit the Automap button to get feedback on the controller.
I've taken advantage of the "virtual" MIDI control that Automap MIDI can give you in one of the two USER map pages to build a more "live" oriented template. You can do some Bome's-esque things that way. For example, I have a button that executes the following: Command+D, Return, Shift + Tab, Shift + Tab, Command+U. That effectively duplicates the clip you were just recording down to the next slot, plays it as a loop, and quantizes it. The double Shift+Tab is just a weird way that I found it possible to get the "mouse" from the clip launching area of the session down into the clip editor with minimal button pushes. The button next to my quantize loop button is just a Tab+Tab which takes takes me back to navigating around in the session view with arrow keys if I so desire or doing any other strange compound qwerty messaging that I might need for say, a keyboard performance. In that scenario, I can even have my synth mappings available on stage without much additional hassle since I'm using Automap MIDI on the SL MkII anyway.
I also have a Launchpad in my rig that I use for more straightforward purposes with the SL. It gives me more immediate control of the session view which I like a lot, plus it makes it really easy to keep track of what's going on in Ableton as opposed to what's going on in Minimonsta, for example. Plus, it's great for momentary or latching effects that you don't need a knob or a fader. Usually, I bus my synths to one or two dummy clip tracks with effect racks in them.
The Launchpad is great for stuff like that. Launch a drum loop, play a bass line, quantize/loop the bass, throw down a quick lead and do the same, and then improvise some mellowness with a rhodes plugin, pick a measure you liked, copy/loop/quantize it, play some launch quantization rhythmic games with starting the loop, make people think you're going in one direction, screw around with the ADSR and filter cutoff filter on the bass part you ALREADY played, play a dummy clip on the track everything is routed to that slams everything into a glitchy mess, loop the mess, launch a new scene that's totally different... etc. etc. A major "aha" moment for me was when I realized that I could dedicate a few buttons on the SL to essential QWERTY messages regardless of whether I was controlling a plugin or not. For example, I don't find the drum pads particularly good and can play drums on a keyboard much more effectively anyway, so I have my duplicate/quantize/loop button assigned to the same drum pad in all of my templates. UNDO Command+Z is obviously always in the same place no matter what as well. Right now I'm trying to come up with a good system for recording into the arrangement on the fly and then copying/pasting back into the session to get around not being able to record automation in the session view.
I do most of my serious producing and mixing in Logic, and the reason I originally got into Live was because I wanted to turn Massive, Lounge Lizard, and Twin 2 into a keyboard rig on my MBP and see if I could incorporate Timeless and Volcano as well. Things have gotten more complex the more I've grown to appreciate this program and understand the fact that so much of its power lies in the ambiguity of its intended purpose: "performance." Automap is most definitely a huge pain in the ass to get set up in a way that makes you enjoy it, but what I'm saying is that it can be a lot more than a convenience tool.
I agree that Novation does a horrible job of explaining how Automap really works. I think part of the issue is that while almost all hosts handle automation in more or less the same way, they pretty much all handle MIDI mapping differently. All of Novation's manuals are really big on branding every aspect of their brainchild technology: Automap Universal, Automap MIDI, Automap Mixer, Automap User, Automap HUI, Automap HUD, Automap Server..... I mean really.... When Novation tell Live users to turn OFF Automap MIDI (which you really don't even necessarily even do), a lot of people are rightfully freaked out that their expensive new MIDI controller won't be able to send MIDI to Live! Why the hell did I buy this thing? Most people buying Automap hardware are buying Novation's product after weighing it against other MIDI
controllers. The manual does not stress the fact that Automap is predominantly an automation
client and not a MIDI client, that you're not using MIDI learn to assign controllers to your plugin so that Sylenth will respond to CC#x and change the filter resonance. Rather, you're using your Nocturn, SL, Zero, etc's LEARN function to do exactly the opposite: to assign your controller to the plugin via automation. The advantage of that is that Logic, Cubase, Live, etc. all use the same automation system so we users can actually write automation for 3rd party plugin parameters. That's a standardized system. How your particular host handles MIDI, MIDI learn, control maps, HUI, MIDI control of plugins, etc. varies from host-to-host.
So it's not that you can't have MIDI control over things in your DAW as there are lots of ways to do this effectively with all the different hardware models, it's just that there's no MIDI data being exchanged when you're using Automap unless you assign a hardware control in a template to a MIDI CC. If you go to the USER tab in Automap mode, you can build a pretty sophisticated MIDI
template for Live (especially if you have Automap Pro) but of course ironically, you won't see contoller feedback for Live devices. Most sane people would consider that to be what Automap is about, but yes, for updates on Live devices, you must be in Advanced mode using the Ableton template.