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March 95 - According to Script: Attaching and Embedding Scripts

Designing a Scripting Implementation

Cal Simone

Now that AppleScript is fast becoming an important core technology of the Macintosh operating system, more and more developers are making their applications scriptable or improving their scriptability. The way you design your scripting implementation can make the difference between satisfaction and frustration for users who want to script your application. The tips presented in this article will help you do it right.

A well-designed user interface enables users to discover your application's capabilities and take full advantage of them. Likewise, the way you design your scripting implementation determines the degree of success users will have in controlling your application through scripting -- writing simple, understandable, and, in most cases, grammatically correct sentences.

And just as the consistency of its user interface has been perhaps the most important factor in the Macintosh computer's ongoing adoption and success, consistency is an essential part of the world of scripting. It's highly important for users (by which I mean anyone who writes scripts, including power users, solutions providers, consultants, in-house developers, resellers, and programmers) to feel as if they're using a single language, regardless of which application they're scripting. As a developer, you have a responsibility to extend the AppleScript language in a consistent manner.

My purpose in this article, which might be considered a first attempt at some "human scriptability guidelines," is to offer conventions, suggestions, and general guidelines that you can follow to maintain consistency with the AppleScript language. I also give some suggestions for redoing a poorly done scripting implementation. (I'm assuming you're already convinced that you should make your application scriptable; if you're not, see "Why Implement Scriptability?") The result of doing all this work is that the AppleScript language feels consistent across applications of different types produced by different vendors.


    WHY IMPLEMENT SCRIPTABILITY?

    If you're still wondering why you should implement scriptability in your application, consider these reasons:

  • Scripting gives users a way to control your application through a different interface. This alternate interface allows users to incorporate your application into multi-application scenarios, as well as to automate tedious, repetitive tasks.

  • Allowing your application to be controlled through Apple events enables Apple Guide to give your users truly active assistance.

  • Implementing scripting prepares your application for OpenDoc by ensuring that your part handlers will be able to mesh smoothly with other parts.

  • Making your application scriptable ensures that as speech recognition matures, you'll be able to give users the option of voice control.

    It's important to implement AppleScript support in your core application, rather than through an external API, as some databases such as 4th Dimension and Omnis do. When your core application isn't Apple event-aware, two things happen: (1) no dictionary resides in the application itself, and (2) functionality is usually limited. Users have difficulty doing decent scripting of these applications, by and large. If you simply must support Apple events through an external API, at least support the dynamic terminology mechanism for your extensions.

    The bottom line is this: If your application isn't scriptable soon, you'll be left out in the cold. If you do the work now, not only will you open up more uses for your application in the "big picture," but you'll also be that much closer to implementing what you need in order to support several other technologies. So please, don't put it off!

FIRST, SOME BASIC CONCEPTS

A good scripting implementation consists of two parts:
  • An Apple event object model hierarchy, which describes the objects in your application and the attributes of those objects.

  • A semantic vocabulary, also called a terminology, consisting of the terms used in the construction of command statements. Your vocabulary is stored in your application's 'aete' resource, known to users as the dictionary.
Your terms, and the organization of those terms in your dictionary, directly affect the ability of users to explore and control your application through scripting. Creating a vocabulary through which users can effectively and easily script your application takes time and careful effort. Don't expect to spend six months implementing Apple events and then simply to throw together a dictionary at the last second.

It's important to note that a well-designed Apple event structure greatly increases the ease of scripting your application. In a minute I'll say more about that, but first let's look at the basic anatomy of an AppleScript command.

ANATOMY OF A COMMAND

You should design your scripting implementation so that users will be guided into using a clean, natural-language sentence structure. To help you begin to visualize the kinds of sentences your users should be encouraged to write, let's look at AppleScript's syntactic statement structure (say that three times fast!). All application-defined commands are in the form of imperative sentences and are constructed as follows:

verb [noun] [keyword and value] [keyword and value] . . .

These elements of sentence construction can be thought of as parts of speech that make up a human-oriented computer language. Here are a couple of examples of commands:

close the front window saving in file "Goofballs:Razor"
set the font of the first word in the front window to "Helvetica"
Let's dissect these:
close                          verb, corresponding to kAECloseElement
the front window               noun, corresponding to keyDirectObject
                               typeObjectSpecifier)
saving in                      keyword, corresponding to keyAEFile
file "Goofballs:Razor"         value, of typeFSS
set                            verb, corresponding to kAESetData
the font of the first word     noun, corresponding to keyDirectObject
   in the front window             (typeObjectSpecifier)
to                             keyword, corresponding to keyAEData
"Helvetica"                    value, of typeWildCard
Note that for application-defined commands, a verb -- for example, close or set -- is the human language representation for the action described by an Apple event (which I often shorten to just event), so there's a general correspondence between Apple events and verbs. In this article, I identify Apple events by the event's name, its 4-byte ID, or the constant name for the ID. For example, the Close Element event has the ID 'clos' and the constant name kAECloseElement, and corresponds to the AppleScript verb close; the Set Data event has the ID 'setd' and the constant name kAESetData, and corresponds to the AppleScript verb set.

Your ability to guide users toward writing clean, natural-language statements depends a great deal on your use of the object model, as I explain next.

WHY USE THE OBJECT MODEL?

Supporting the object model facilitates scripting by allowing the use of familiar terms for objects and actions. In the last couple of years, some important applications that don't implement the object model have shipped, and most of them range from difficult to impossible to script. Let's explore a couple of examples of how using the object model can make scripting a lot easier.
    Apple events and the object model are covered extensively in "Apple Event Objects and You" in develop Issue 10 and "Better Apple Event Coding Through Objects" in Issue 12.*
The following script is the result of a lack of defined objects in the application we'll call My Charter. The lack of defined objects leads to a vocabulary in which every noun-verb combination must be covered by verbs alone -- a vocabulary that doesn't relate to other applications and that forces users to learn a new set of commands.
tell application "My Charter"
   Plot Options myOptions
   Set Axis Lengths for X 100 for Y 100
   Output PICT
   Plot chart "pie"
end tell
By contrast, the script below describing the same operation in much more familiar terms results when the application uses familiar objects and characteristics of objects (properties):
tell application "My Charter"
   make new chart
   tell chart 1
      set the type to pie
      set the x axis to 100
      set the y axis to 100
   end tell
end tell
As illustrated by this script, a principal indication of solid use of the object model is that the most common verbs used in scripts are make, set, and get.

Users are more likely to remember the terms for objects than commands. Moreover, from the user interface, they often use Command-key shortcuts for the actions instead of looking at the menu items once they get comfortable using your application. If you don't implement the standard commands, they'll probably need to go back to your application's menus to find out that the menu command is, for instance, Plot Chart. You can help them by making the scripting terms intuitive. For instance, they already know what a chart is, and they're familiar with the standard AppleScript verbs make and set, which they're using to script other applications. Thus, the second script above will feel like an extension of the same language used in scripting other applications, while the first script won't.

Now consider this partial list of custom verbs from a popular mail application that doesn't follow the object model:

AddAttachment     SetSubject     GetSubject
AddTo             SetText        GetText
AddCC             SetReceipt     GetReceipt
AddBCC            SetPriority    GetPriority
AddToAtPO         SetLog         GetLog
Notice some patterns here? All of them start with Add, Set, or Get -- and this isn't even a complete list of all the commands in this application starting with these verbs. It's definitely time for this application to go with the object model. Most of the above commands can be replaced by set and get commands applied to properties such as subject, receipt, priority, log, and so forth.

DESIGNING YOUR OBJECT MODEL

Now that you know how important the object model is to scriptability, let's look at how to get started with your design. As you approach the design of your object model, keep in mind both your application's objects and the style of the commands you expect your users to write.

DECIDE WHICH OBJECTS TO INCLUDE

Base the design of your object model only partly on your application's objects. Keep in mind that the objects in an object model aren't necessarily the same as the programmatic objects in an object-oriented program but rather represent tangible objects that the user thinks about when working with your application.

Generally, you won't want the user to script interface elements, such as dialog box items (whose meaning should be expressed through verbs, or properties of the application or your objects), but rather objects that either contain or represent the user's data (which I'll call containers and content objects). For example, an object model might incorporate documents (containers); graphic objects (containers or content objects); forms (containers) and the elements of a form, such as fields (content objects); cells in a spreadsheet or database (content objects); and text elements, like paragraphs, words, and characters (content objects).

You should think carefully about whether to make something an object or a property; this is discussed later in the section "Other Tips and Tricks."

THINK FROM ACTIONS TO OBJECTS

When you design your commands, the primary thing to keep in mind is how you want the script command statements to read or to be written. The style of the commands you expect your users to write should determine your object model, not the other way around.

As programmers, we have the notion that an object "owns" its methods; we think in terms of sending messages to an object. For instance, the following C++ code fragment sends several messages to one object:

CDocument::Print
CDocument::Close
CDocument::Save
CDocument::Delete
By contrast, users think about doing some action to an object. So when you design your commands, you should think about allowing verbs to be applied to many different types of objects, as illustrated here:
print document "Fred"
print form ID 555
print page 4
Examine the actions that users take with your application and the objects that the actions are taken on. This will lead you naturally to an effective object model design.

START -- BUT DON'T END -- WITH MENU COMMANDS

One place to start your scripting implementation is to implement your menu commands as verbs for scripting. You can use this as a push-off point, but because your menu commands most likely don't supply all the functionality of your application, you shouldn't limit yourself to only implementing menu commands.

Before I say any more about this approach, you should note these two very important caveats:

  • Keep in mind that the philosophy of AppleScript is to allow the user to script the meaning behind an action, not the physical act of selecting a menu item or pushing a button. This perspective should be the foundation for your entire design.

  • When you use the standard events, often there's a set <property> scripting equivalent that's better than creating a new verb to match a particular menu item. Menu commands are designed for user interface work and don't always provide the best terminology for scripting. Thinking in terms of make, set, and get can often be more useful than creating verbs that mimic menu commands.
That said, let me elaborate on the idea of implementing menu commands and beyond.

Ideally, you should allow users to achieve through scripting everything that they can with your user interface. To accomplish this, you should think of capabilities you would like users to be able to script that go beyond your menu commands, such as capabilities accessible only from tools in a palette or actions resulting from a drag and drop operation. On the other hand, it's not entirely necessary to make the capabilities available from your user interface identical to those controllable through scripting. Scripting is a different interface into your program, so it's OK to do things a bit differently.

For example, you don't have to create exactly one script statement corresponding to each user action. If a single menu item or button in your application results in a complex action or more than one action, it might produce clearer scripting or give more flexibility to allow the user to perform individual portions of the action through separate statements in a script. Conversely, it can also be better to combine more than one action into one statement, especially when the set of actions is always performed in the same sequence.

Also, actions that aren't even possible from the user interface can often be made scriptable. For example, the Scriptable Text Editor allows a script to make a new window behind the front window, something that the user normally can't do. You could also provide a method of accomplishing a task that's too complex or impossible to express through manipulation of objects on the screen.

MAKE AN EARLY BLUEPRINT

These two exercises can help you get started with designing your hierarchy and your command scheme:
  • Write down in real human sentences as many commands as you can think of to control your application. Refer to these sentences later when you're thinking about what Apple events and objects to include in your implementation.

  • Make an early version of your 'aete' resource (see "Tools for Developing an 'aete'"). You can then do your coding based on this resource.
I would recommend that you go back and do both of these exercises again periodically throughout your development cycle. Use the combination of your 'aete' resource and the sentences as a blueprint during your implementation work.

    TOOLS FOR DEVELOPING AN 'AETE'

    To assemble your 'aete', you can choose from these tools:

  • The aete editor stack -- This HyperCard stack is a commonly used tool. It's a good way to assemble your 'aete' if it's not too large.

  • The Rez files -- Rez source files can easily be changed and can handle any size 'aete', so this is the tool of choice for developers who do serious work with resources. You'll need AEUserTermTypes.r and AERegistry.r as include files. In addition, you can refer to AppleEvents.r, AEObjects.r, AEWideUserTermTypes.r, and ASRegistry.r. You can use EnglishTerminology.r and EnglishMiscellaneous.r to examine the standard registry suites.

  • Resource editors -- Any resource editor except ResEdit will suffice. This is one situation in which ResEdit isn't really useful unless your 'aete' is microscopic; you can't open your resource using the 'aete' template if it's more than about 2K in size. Resorcerer includes a pretty decent 'aete' editor, considering the complexity of this resource -- but be warned, the editor is equally complex.

    The aete editor stack and the include files for Rez are available on this issue's CD and as part of the AppleScript Software Development Toolkit from Apple Developer Catalog. Resource editors with good 'aete' editors are commercially available.

    Details of the structure and format of an 'aete' resource can be found in Chapter 8 of Inside Macintosh: Interapplication Communication.

MAKE THE CONTAINMENT HIERARCHY OBVIOUS

Your object model design includes an object containment hierarchy, a scheme indicating which objects are contained in which other objects. When you design your containment hierarchy, think again about the user's experience when writing scripts. Make it easy for the user to determine that objects of class y are contained in objects of class x, which is in turn contained in the application.

For instance, Figure 1 shows part of the object containment hierarchy for an imaginary application that contains text windows, folders, and a connection. The windows can contain one or more paragraphs, words, or characters; paragraphs can contain words or characters; and words can contain characters. Note that even though only one connection is possible for this particular application, connection is an object class contained by the application, as opposed to being merely a property of the application.

Figure 1. Part of a typical object containment hierarchy

It's important to connect up all the appropriate pieces of your containment hierarchy. It's especially important to hook up the main classes of objects -- such as windows, documents, and other special objects not contained by other objects -- to the top level of the hierarchy by listing them as elements of your application. Never "orphan" a class! Every object class (except the application) must be listed as an element of something. Most classes or objects are contained by another object. If any object can't be contained by another object, it must be contained by the application.

ASSEMBLING YOUR VOCABULARY

After you've taken a shot at writing down the kinds of commands suggested by your application's capabilities and the object model, it's time to think about how to assemble your vocabulary.

The AppleScript terms (commands, objects, and properties) that you'll use in your vocabulary fall into two categories:

  • standard terms -- those drawn from the standard Apple Event Registry suites and other well-defined suites

  • extended terms -- those you'll create to represent actions or objects specific to your application

To ensure that your scripting implementation will have as much consistency across applications as the user interface, you should use the standard terms whenever possible. As you've seen, this is inextricably tied to good object model design. See "Registry Suites" for descriptions of the standard suites. Unless you have a excellent reason, don't vary from the standard terms associated with these suites.


    REGISTRY SUITES

    The Apple event suites listed below (which include those defined in the Apple Event Registry as well as additional standard suites) are collections of events, objects, properties, and other terms common to most applications. For the sake of consistency with other scripting implementations, you should draw on these suites as much as possible as you design your vocabulary.

  • The Required suite (kCoreEventClass = 'aevt') consists of the four events that the System 7 Finder uses to launch and terminate an application and to open and print documents. Note that while the Required suite's ID is 'reqd' (kAERequiredSuite), its four Apple events have the suite ID 'aevt'. Note also that in the early days, Apple originally referred to the Apple events in the Required suite as the core events (even including "core" in the C and Pascal constant names), creating some confusion with the Core suite. Please don't refer to the events in the Required suite as "core events."

  • The Core suite (kAECoreSuite = 'core') consists of 17 events (14 main and 3 extra) and 8 objects that encompass much of the functionality that most applications support, including creating, deleting, opening, closing, and counting objects, as well as getting and setting properties. In an object model-based application, a great deal of the work in AppleScript is done through the Apple events in the Core suite. See the Scriptable Text Editor's dictionary for an example of the standard implementation of this suite. Applications generally support most but not all of the Core suite. Note that the Core suite's ID is 'core', and while most of its events have that suite ID, the Open, Print, and Quit events have the suite ID 'aevt'.

  • The Text suite (kAETextSuite = 'TEXT') defines the object classes used in text handling, such as characters, words, and paragraphs, normally the direct objects of events defined in the Core suite. No Apple events are defined in this suite.

  • The Table suite (kAETableSuite = 'tbls') defines the essential object classes used in table handling, such as rows, columns, and cells, normally the direct objects of events defined in the Core suite. Again, no Apple events are defined in this suite.

  • The Database suite (kAEDBSuite = 'dbst') consists of the Group and Sort events; transaction-related events; the host, DBMS, database, session, and key objects; and extended definitions for the Table suite objects. It focuses the functionality of the Table suite specifically toward database activity.

  • Miscellaneous Standards (kAEMiscStandards = 'misc') is a collection of additional Apple events, including editing events such as Cut, Paste, Undo, Redo, Select, and Revert, and the menu, menu item, and text item objects. This isn't used as a suite; only individual events or small groups of events are used.

    Other Apple event suites that are used less frequently include the following:

  • the Scheduling suite, used for applications such as calendars, appointment books, and alarm programs

  • the Telephony suite, used by any application that handles phone numbers, including PIM, database, forms, and scheduling applications

  • the Mail suite, based on the AOCE Mailer and used in mail-capable applications to mail documents

  • the Collaborative Information suite, used in applications that access AOCE catalog services or manage contact or human resources information

  • the System Object suite (not actually a suite), used for terminologies defined in Apple's scripting additions

    The Word Services, QuickDraw, and QuickDraw Supplemental suites are generally not used in scripting.

    To look up the accepted human-language constructs for the Required, Core, Text, Table, and QuickDraw suites, see the file EnglishTerminology.r (also available for French and Japanese); for the Database suite, see the file Database.aete.r; and for Miscellaneous Standards, see EnglishMiscellaneous.r (also available for French and Japanese). These files, which present the standard terms in the form of 'aete' resource templates (in Rez form), can be found on this issue's CD and are included in the AppleScript Software Development Toolkit.

USING STANDARD TERMS

When it comes to implementing the standard suites, you have three options:
  • supporting an entire suite as is

  • supporting an entire suite and overriding or adding to it

  • supporting part of a suite
Supporting an entire suite. When you want to support all the events, parameters, classes, properties, and so on, of a suite, you should include the entire suite in your 'aete' resource. Listing 1 is an example of the Rez code you'll use to indicate that an entire suite (in this case, the Required suite) is supported. The four empty arrays in this listing are indicative of the fact that when you want a whole suite intact, you don't supply any events, classes, and so on. The entire suite will appear in your dictionary.

Listing 1. Sample Rez code supporting an entire suite

"Required Suite",      /* The entire suite, as is */
"Terms that every application should support",
kCoreEventClass,      /* 'reqd' */
1,
1,
{   /* array Events: 0 elements */
},
{   /* array Classes: 0 elements */
},
{   /* array ComparisonOps: 0 elements */
},
{   /* array Enumerations: 0 elements */
},
Note that whenever you use the 4-byte suite ID for a suite itself (as opposed to the suite ID for the individual events in a suite), all the standard definitions for that suite will automatically appear in your dictionary. Do not use this technique if you're implementing only a few of a suite's Apple events or objects. And note that this technique works only for the Required, Core, Text, Table, and QuickDraw suites, which are in AppleScript's 'aeut' resource. For all other suites, you'll need to include all the details of the suite in your 'aete' resource if you support it in its entirety.
    Supporting only the Required suite doesn't qualify your application as Apple event-aware or scriptable. To qualify as being scriptable, your application must support more than just the Required suite.
Supporting an entire suite to be modified. When you want to support a whole suite and then add to or otherwise modify it, use the Rez code in Listing 2 as a model. In this example, the entire Core suite is supported, and a new copies parameter is added to the print command. You can use the same technique to add property definitions to a standard object class. Just as in the previous example, here we don't specify any of the suite's details except the ones we're overriding or adding.

Listing 2. Sample Rez code supporting an entire suite to be modified

"Standard Suite",    /* The entire suite, plus an extra parameter */
"Common terms for most applications",
kAECoreSuite,         /* 'core' */
1,
1,
{   /* array Events: 1 element */
   /* [1] */
   "print",            /* This is the event being extended. */
   "Print the specified object(s)",
   kCoreEventClass,
   kAEPrint,
   ...
   {   /* array OtherParams: 1 element */
      /* [1] */
      "copies",      /* This is the parameter being added. */
      'NCOP',
      'shor',
      "The number of copies to print",
      ...
   }
},
{   /* array Classes: 0 elements */
},
{   /* array ComparisonOps: 0 elements */
},
{   /* array Enumerations: 0 elements */
},
Supporting part of a suite. On the other hand, when you want to implement only part of a suite, you need to explicitly define the subset of the suite's events and objects that you support. For example, let's say you implement only seven of the events in the Core suite (which nearly everyone implements only partially; these seven are the minimum you should support). You'll create a new suite with a unique ID -- your application's signature, perhaps, or, as used by the Scriptable Text Editor, 'CoRe' (note the alteration from all lowercase, which prevents the whole Core suite from appearing automatically). Then you'll include the events and objects you want. Listing 3 shows how to do this in Rez code. Note that you should retain the original suite ID of 'core' for the individual Apple events (except for Open, Print, and Quit, which get 'aevt', as mentioned earlier in "Registry Suites"), both in your 'aete' and in your Apple event handlers.

Listing 3. Sample Rez code supporting a partial suite

"Subset of the Standard Suite",
                                  /* Only seven of the Core events */
"Common terms used in this application",
'CoRe',       /* Note uppercase alteration of the 'core' suite ID. */
1,
1,
{   /* array Events: 7 elements */
   /* [1] */
   "count", "Return number of elements of a particular class ...",
   kAECoreSuite, kAECountElements,   ...   
   /* [2] */
   "delete", "Delete an element from an object",
   kAECoreSuite, kAEDelete, ...   
   /* [3] */
   "exists", "Verify if an object exists",
   kAECoreSuite, kAEDoObjectsExist, ...   
   /* [4] */
   "get", "Get the data for an object",
   kAECoreSuite, kAEGetData, ...   
   /* [5] */
   "make", "Make a new element",
   kAECoreSuite, kAECreateElement, ...   
   /* [6] */
   "quit", "Quit an application program",
   kCoreEventClass, /* Open, Print, and Quit have 'aevt' suite ID. */
   kAEQuitApplication, ...   
   /* [7] */
   "set", "Set an object's data",
   kAECoreSuite, kAESetData, ...
},
{   /* array Classes ...
},
...
    The format for Rez listings in Inside Macintosh puts one element on each line, as I've done in Listings 1 and 2. To conserve space, I'll now begin putting more elements on each line, which is also a permissible format.

USING EXTENDED TERMS

Whenever possible in your scripting implementation, you should use constructs and terms that are already in use. But sometimes you need to express concepts unique to your application. When you do, it's important to keep in mind the style of what's already been done in the AppleScript language, and in other applications.

The terms you create that aren't in the standard suites are actually extensions to AppleScript. The nature of these terms will directly affect the experience your users will have in scripting your application. You should create terms that give users the feeling that they're working within a unified language.

Keep in mind that creating new object classes or properties is generally better than creating new verbs. If you do need to create your own verbs or use terms unique to your application, it's better to try to do it in the spirit of what's been done before instead of inventing your own "language within a language." Users shouldn't feel as if they're jumping between what appear to be separate "pseudo-languages" for each application.

Although early documentation from Apple suggested creating one custom suite containing your Core suite subset lumped together with your custom verbs, I don't always recommend this. If you're adding a lot of vocabulary, either new events or objects, you can make your dictionary more understandable by keeping the Core subset in one suite and defining your own new verbs in a separate suite. In fact, it's OK to make more than one custom suite if you have a great many new verbs or objects and if you can separate them into distinct functional groupings.

Make sure that the names for your new suites clearly indicate that they're custom suites or specific to your application. And when you create ID codes for your new events, objects, and such, remember that Apple reserves the use of all 4-byte codes that contain only lowercase letters, so you should use at least one uppercase letter in the codes. There isn't yet a way to register your codes, but the Webster project (described at the end of this article in "Resources") aims to serve that end.


    A WORD ABOUT SCRIPT AND DO

    One of the easiest methods of gaining the appearance of scriptability is to implement the Do Script event. Do Script enables users to pass statements or groups of statements written in your own internal scripting language to your application for execution. If you have an internal scripting language already, Do Script can be OK as a first step. Just don't stop there -- in the end, it's useful as a supplement to the rest of your scriptability, but not as a substitute.

    The drawbacks to Do Script are that (1) new users must learn a new language -- yours -- in addition to AppleScript, and (2) Do Script is a one-way communication in most cases -- the script can control your application, but it acts much more like a puppeteer than a team leader. In the end, Do Script defeats the purpose of a single language for controlling all applications.

    Another easy method of appearing to be scriptable is to implement a Do Menu event, in which a user can simulate pulling down a menu and selecting menu items. Again, this is no substitute for real scriptability.

    By the way, if you're thinking about creating a new scripting language internal to your application, think again. The world doesn't need yet another private application-specific language. AppleScript is there for you, with all of its rich expressiveness, to use as your own. The benefit is that by the time you complete your scripting support, many of your users will already be familiar with AppleScript.

CONVENTIONS, TIPS, AND TRICKS

Here are some concepts and techniques that you can use to make your vocabulary more helpful to the script writer. Included are well-known tricks as well as techniques that aren't often considered. Adhering to these guidelines will make scripting cleaner and promote a consistent language "look and feel" across applications.

STYLISTIC CONVENTIONS

Begin terms with lowercase.

Begin all the terms in your dictionary with lowercase letters, except for proper names like PowerTalk. It may seem trivial, but it's actually quite important. If you use uppercase letters to begin your object names, for example, you'll end up with strange-looking commands that contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters:

make new History
set the Title of the first History to ...
Using all lowercase letters gives a more consistent look:
make new history
set the title of the first history to ...

Separate all terms.

If you have terms that consist of more than one word, separate the words. Don't turn them into Pascal-like names:
ReplaceAll
set the TransferProtocol to ConvertFromMainframe
Instead, make them flow naturally:
replace all
set the transfer protocol to convert from mainframe
Use familiar terms, but avoid reserved words.

Generally speaking, you'll want to identify your object classes with terms your users are already familiar with. When it comes to your verbs, you can use many of your menu items, and for the rest use terms that will be familiar and that lend themselves to starting clean and natural statements. Plain human language is always preferable to C- or Pascal-style identifiers.

On the other hand, when you attempt to use familiar terms, keep in mind that the list of words that could potentially conflict with your dictionary is constantly growing and also depends on which scripting additions and applications are currently running on a particular computer. As a result, there's no official list of reserved words to avoid. Choose your terms with extreme care -- remember, you're actually extending the language and what you do here will affect the future.

In summary, try to provide words that are familiar to users without running into conflicts with existing terminology. Don't make up new terms to express something when there's a clean way to do it using existing terminology: where possible, use terms analogous to those already in use to represent constructs (verbs, parameters, objects, properties, and enumerators) in your application. Conversely, don't use existing terms to represent something that differs from a term's accepted use.

ENUMERATIONS, LISTS, RECORDS, AND TYPE DEFINITIONS

Use lots of enumerations.

Very few developers have made effective use of enumerations. An enumeration is a set of constants, usually representing a fixed set of choices. In AppleScript, these constants, known as enumerators, are identified (like everything else) by 4-byte ID codes. Use an enumeration as the type for a parameter or property whenever there's a choice to be made from a specific list of possibilities, and make sure you use natural language.

For example,

set status to 1 
or
set status to "warm"
isn't as helpful to the script writer as
set status to warm
This subtle change makes a great deal of difference. In the dictionary, the enumeration is displayed as "hot|warm|cool|cold," as opposed to "integer" or "string," and the user can easily see there's a choice. To accomplish this, you would create an enumeration with the enumerators hot, warm, cool, and cold, and use the 4-byte enumeration ID as the type for the status property of the class, as shown in Listing 4. The dictionary entry for this property will read "status hot|warm|cool|cold," instead of "status integer" or "status string."

It's an extremely common mistake among developers to try using ordinal values as enumerators, but it simply won't work. Unlike in C or Pascal, you can't use ordinal values -- you must use 4-byte ID codes.

Listing 4. Creating and using an enumeration

{  /* array Properties: ...
   /* [1] */
   "status",
   'Psta',          /* Note uppercase in your IDs. */
   'Esta',          /* The enumeration's ID */
   "the status",
   reserved,
   singleItem,
   enumerated,      /* Use "enumerated" */
   ...
},
...
{  /* array Enumerations: 1 element */
   /* [1] */
   'Esta',
   {   /* array Enumerators: 4 elements */
      /* [1] */
      "hot", 'Khot', "A hot condition",
      /* [2] */
      "warm", 'Kwrm', "A warm condition",
      /* [3] */
      "cool", 'Kcoo', "A cool condition",
      /* [4] */
      "cold", 'Kfrz', "A cold condition"
   }
},

Set the list flag to indicate lists in parameters and properties.

If you're normally expecting a list of items as a parameter or a property, set the list flag (kAEUTListOfItems) in the parameter or property definition flags; the dictionary entry will then show "list of <whatever>." (Note that this is different from defining a parameter's or a property's type as list, which you should do when you want to indicate a mixed-type list or a list of lists.) An interesting possibility is to combine lists with enumerations, to indicate that the user can specify more than one choice, as in
set the applicability of filter 1 to {incoming, outgoing, ...}

Define record labels in a record definition.

To document the labels for the elements that make up a record, create a record definition in your dictionary. A record definition is actually a fake "class" in which the "properties" represent the labels in the record. Although there won't really be any objects in your application with this record type's class, your users can determine what labels are appropriate in order to fill in a record used as a parameter or a property value. Record definitions can also be helpful for users to interpret a record passed back as a result.

To create a record definition, invent a name for your record type and create a new class in your 'aete' resource with the record type name as the class name. Define all the possible labels as properties. As an example, Listing 5 shows the "class" definition you would create in your 'aete' resource for a record that looks like the following:

{name:"Fred", age:3, status:warm}
In this case, you would also define the enumeration for status with the enumerators hot, warm, cool, and cold. The record type would appear in the dictionary as follows:
class person info: A record containing information about a person
   person info
      name string -- the name
      age short integer -- age in years
      status hot|warm|cool|cold -- current status
Since a record definition is an "abstract class," it should be placed in the Type Definitions suite, described in the next section.

Listing 5. Class definition for our sample record definition

{  /* array Classes: 1 element */
   /* [1] */
   "person info", 'CPIN',
   "A record containing information about a person",
   {   /* array Properties: 3 elements */
      /* [1] */
      "name", 'pnam', 'itxt', "the name",
      reserved, singleItem, notEnumerated,
      ...
      /* [2] */
      "age", 'AGE ', 'shor', "age in years",
      reserved, singleItem, notEnumerated,
      ...
      /* [3] */
      "status", 'Psta', 'Esta', "current status",
      reserved, singleItem, enumerated,
      ...
   },
   {   /* array Elements: 0 elements */
   },
}

Put abstract class and primitive type definitions in special suites.

There are two suites you can use to organize your dictionary better: the Type Definitions suite and the Type Names suite. These suites are used in special situations where you want to define object and type classes that are used in your terminology but that won't ever be actual instantiable objects in your application.

In the case of the record definition classes described in the previous section, you need to define abstract classes that don't refer to real objects. You'll also need to do this in the case of extra classes defined for property inheritance, which aren't instantiable as objects in your application. To include these record or type definitions, create a Type Definitions suite (also known as an Abstract Class suite) with the ID 'tpdf' (kASAbstractClassSuite; note that this constant isn't defined in any .r files, so you'll need to define it yourself) and include your abstract class and record definitions.

On some occasions you may want to add terms to your vocabulary that you don't want to show up in your dictionary. For example, you might need to provide the terms for primitive types, such as integer and point, to make AppleScript work properly, but users are already familiar with these elemental terms and don't need to see them defined. In this case, make a Type Names suite with the ID 'tpnm' (kASTypeNamesSuite) and include your types as classes in this suite. Well-behaved editors such as Apple's Script Editor and Scripter from Main Event will suppress the display of this suite.

To sum up, if you want these definitions to be visible to the user, include them in your Type Definitions suite. If you want them to be hidden, include them in the Type Names suite. Use of these suites will help keep the rest of your suites less cluttered.

NOTES ON DIRECT OBJECTS

Be explicit about direct objects.

Some developers have relied on a default or current target, such that commands that don't include a specific object target will act on the frontmost window or the last explicitly set object. There are three reasons to be careful here:

  • Users of multiple applications may be confused by different assumptions surrounding the notion of a current object used as the target.

  • If your Apple events act just on the current object, your users can only act on some other object by explicitly making it the current object. In the case where the current object is considered to be the frontmost window, there's no way to script other windows.

  • Another script (or the user!) could make a different object the current object while a script is running.
The moral of this story is that it's best to be explicit at all times about the object that will be acted on.

Make the target the direct object.

One of our goals in scripting is to maintain a natural imperative command style throughout. However, there's one situation in which a technical issue might make it difficult to preserve this style. From the scripting point of view, you'd really like to allow the user to write something like the following:
attach <document-list> to <mail-message-target>
The problem is that OpenDoc requires the target to be in the direct parameter. In the preceding script, the target is in the to parameter, not the direct parameter. To make this compatible with OpenDoc, you'll need to change the attach verb to attach to and swap the direct parameter and the to parameter, like this:
attach to <mail-message-target> documents <document-list>

Help your users figure out which objects to use with a verb.

Due to limitations in the 'aete' resource, there's no provision for indicating which Apple events can act on which objects. The AppleScript compiler will accept any combination of verbs and objects, even though some of these combinations have no meaning to your application and will result in runtime errors. To help your users determine which objects work with which verb, you can use the following trick.

Define the parameter's type as an enumeration instead of an object specifier. Use a # as the first character of the 4-byte ID for the enumeration. Then define the enumerators as the object classes that are appropriate for the event. You can use the same enumeration for more than one event; you can define different enumerations with different sets of object enumerators for different events; and you can even indicate the same object class in more than one enumeration. For example, instead of

close reference
a dictionary entry incorporating this technique would read
close window|connection|folder 
This entry indicates to the user that the only object classes that make sense for the close command are window, connection, and folder.

OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS

Think carefully about objects versus properties.

Often, most of the work in a script is accomplished through creating objects and setting and getting properties, so use properties liberally. Be mindful that in certain cases, what initially might seem to be good candidates for objects might, on more careful examination, be represented as properties of another object, particularly when there's only one of such an object in your application. On the other hand, don't make something a property just because there's only one of it (such as a single object class belonging to an application or a containing object).

It's not always clear which is the better way to go -- object or property. Some examples may help you understand how to decide this. Certain Finder objects have properties but are themselves properties of the application or the desktop container. The selection, an object of the abstract "selection-object" class, has properties such as the selection's contents. However, the selection-object class is never actually used in scripts; selection is listed as a property of the application and other selectable objects, so that a script writer doesn't need to form an object specifier, and the class name can be used as the object itself ("selection" instead of "selection 1").

As another example, a tool palette, which would normally be an object class, might be one of several objects of the palette class, or it might be better listed as a property of the application. This would depend on whether you had several named palettes (palette "Tools," palette "Colors") or wanted separate identifiers for each palette (tool palette, color palette). It could also depend in part on whether there were properties (and perhaps elements) of the palettes. In this particular case, using the tool palette and color palette properties is more localizable than including the name of the palette in the script. If you translate the program into some other language, it's a fair bet that the tool palette won't be named "Tools" anymore. However, your 'aete' resource will have been localized and thus tool palette will be transformed into the correct name for the object.

Try to be careful when deciding whether to make something a property or an object -- users can end up writing

<property> of <property> of <object>
or even
<property> of <object> of <property> of <object>
and may become confused by real objects that appear to be datalike or that normally would be elements but are presented as properties. Make something a property only when it's meaningful rather than for convenience; otherwise, the concept of an object model hierarchy becomes eroded.

Whether something is a property or an object really depends on the specifics of your application. Still, in a large number of cases, objects are things that can be seen or touched, while properties are characteristics of the objects or the application. A good rule of thumb is: If the item in question is a characteristic of something else, it's probably a property.

Use inheritance to shrink your 'aete'.

If you've got a large 'aete' resource, or large groups of properties used in multiple classes, you can reduce the size and repetitiousness of your 'aete' by defining those sets of properties in an abstract or base class. Then classes that include those property definitions can include an inheritance property, with the ID code 'c@#^' (pInherits), as their first property. The human name for this property should be <Inheritance> (be sure to include the angle brackets as part of the name). The inclusion of this property will indicate to the user that this class inherits some or all of its properties from another class.

As an example, in QuarkXPress, several of the object classes have a large number of properties. Without inheritance, there would have been up to a hundred properties in the dictionary's list of properties for some of the classes! By creating abstract base classes in the 'aete' (defined in the application's Type Definitions suite) and inheriting from these, the application uses the same sets of properties (some quite large) in several different classes. The size of the 'aete' resource was reduced from 67K to 44K, and the lists of properties for many of the classes were reduced to just a few, including the inheritance property.

On the other hand, because this method produces a hierarchy that's smaller but more complex (and therefore slightly more confusing), I recommend using it only in situations where inheritance applies to more than one class. If you plan to use inheritance in only one place in your 'aete', or if your 'aete' isn't particularly large, it's probably better just to repeat all the properties in each class without using inheritance.

Be cautious when you reuse type codes.

If you use the same term for more than one "part of speech" in your dictionary, use the same 4-byte code. For example, if you use input as a parameter, again as a property, and later as an enumerator, use the same type code for each of the various uses.

By contrast -- and this is very important because it's the single most common source of terminology conflicts -- don't use the same type code for more than one event, or more than one class, and so on. If you do, AppleScript will change the script to show the last event or class defined with that code, changing what the user wrote in the script. This is usually not the desired effect, unless you specifically want synonyms.

If you do want synonyms, you can create them this way. For instance, in HyperCard the term "bkgnd field" is defined before "background field." The former can be typed and will always be transformed into the latter at compile time, so that the latter is always displayed. Just be careful not to have the script appear to change terminology indiscriminately -- it's unsettling to the user.

The section "ID Codes and the Global Name Space" later in this article discusses additional considerations having to do with type codes.

Avoid using is in Boolean property and parameter names.

Because is can be used to mean "=" or "is equal to," and because it's a reserved word, you should avoid using it in human names for properties and parameters, such as is selected, is encrypted, or is in use. It's better, and less awkward, to use selected, encrypted, and in use or used. In a script, writing
if selected of thing 1 then ...
or
tell thing 1
   if selected then...
end tell
is better than writing
if is selected of thing 1 then ...
or
tell thing 1
   if is selected then ...
end tell
However, it's OK to use has or wants (which have none of the problems presented by is), as in
if has specs then ... 
or
set wants report to true
When you name your Boolean parameters, keep in mind that AppleScript will change true and false to with and without. If the user writes
send message "Fred" queuing true
it compiles to
send message "Fred" with queuing

Control the number of parameters.

Sometimes you may find yourself implementing a verb that contains lots of options, for which you might be tempted to make separate Boolean parameters. When the number of parameters is small, it looks good to be able to say "with a, b, and c." Excessive use of this technique, however, can lead to unwieldy dictionary entries for these events with long lists of parameters.

There are two solutions to this:

  • Make a parameter or parameters that accept a list of enumerators for the option or set of options.

  • Break the command into separate commands with more focused functionality, reducing the number of options for each event.
For example, suppose a statistics package creates a single command to perform any type of analysis with lots of parameters, like this:
analyze <reference>     75 Boolean parameters indicating various 
                              analysis options
It would be better to split the analysis capability into multiple commands, followed by small groups of Boolean parameters, forming a suite, such as
cluster <reference>     small number of Boolean parameters indicating 
                              clustering options, or list of enumerators
correlate <reference>   small number of Boolean parameters indicating 
                              correlation options, or list of enumerators
fit curve <reference>   small number of Boolean parameters indicating 
                              curve-fitting options, or list of enumerators
and so on.

Use replies meaningfully.

In your dictionary, including a reply in an event's definition helps the user understand the behavior of an application-defined command and its role in the communication between a script and your application. However, you shouldn't include a reply definition if the only possible reply is an error message (except in the rare case where the error message is a normal part of the event's behavior).

When you return an object specifier as a reply, as in the case of the make command, it's up to you to decide which reference form to use. Reference forms (the various ways objects can be described in a script), also known as keyforms, include the following:

  • name ("Fred", "Untitled 1")

  • absolute (first, second, middle, last)

  • relative (after word 2, behind the front window)

  • arbitrary (some)

  • ID (ID 555)

  • range (4 through 6)

  • test (whose font is "Helvetica")
    For more information on reference forms, see Inside Macintosh: Interapplication Communication and the AppleScript Language Guide.
Most scriptable applications to date implement the absolute reference form, such as window 1, as the reply to a make command. If your users are likely to change the position of this object during a script, you might consider using the name form instead. When you absolutely want a unique value, reply with the ID form, as in window ID -5637. The ID reference form ensures a unique value but usually means much less to the user.

Deciding which reference forms to use for object specifiers comes into play in applications that are recordable, as well.

APPROACHES TO RECORDING COMMANDS

If your application will be recordable, take note. Some early adopters of AppleScript recordability assumed that their users would only record an action and play it back to see an example of how to script it. Their early scripting implementations were done quickly, often without supporting the object model. Later they realized that users would actually write scripts, sometimes from scratch, using the dictionary as their guide. As a result, most have redone their implementations to clean them up or use the object model. Don't use recordability as an excuse to take the easy route and implement quickly. You'll end up wanting to redo it later, but you won't be able to because your installed base will be too large. Instead, implement the object model the first time.

There are two approaches to recording commands. One approach is to send something as close as possible to what the user would write to the recorder. This isn't necessarily a mirror image of the user's actions but produces recorded statements that more closely resemble what a user will write.

open folder "Goofballs" in disk "Razor"
The other approach is to duplicate the actions of users. This is the method used in the Scriptable Finder. In this method, what's recorded is that the user makes a selection and then acts on that selection.
select folder "Goofballs" in disk "Razor"
open selection
In the first case, the recorded statement helps the user understand how to write the command (my personal favorite). In the other case, there's a relationship between what the user did and what was recorded. Either method is useful -- it depends on your objectives.

As is the case with returning object specifiers as replies (discussed above), you decide which reference forms to use for object specifiers that get recorded.

ID CODES AND THE GLOBAL NAME SPACE

One of the areas of greatest confusion among AppleScript developers is AppleScript's global name space and its implications for choosing ID codes for properties and enumerators. In this name space are all the terms used in all the scripting additions installed on a user's computer (see "If You're Writing a Scripting Addition . . .") and all the terms defined by AppleScript as reserved words. Properties and enumerators must have either unique or identical codes, depending on the situation. (Events, parameters, and classes that are defined within an application's dictionary aren't affected by this requirement.)

    IF YOU'RE WRITING A SCRIPTING ADDITION...

    Scripting additions (otherwise known as osaxen, the plural of osax, for OSA extension) add new core functionality to AppleScript by extending the AppleScript language. If you're writing a scripting addition, either for general purposes or for use with a particular application, you should be aware of a growing problem: the increasingly crowded name space for commands. When the number of additions was small, it was simple; each command (term) generally had only one usage. Now the situation is beginning to get out of hand.

    The problem stems from three issues:

  • Unlike applications, which generally go through a fairly significant development cycle, many osaxen have been written by programmers who aren't commercial application developers. As a result, there tend to be a great many more osaxen than scriptable applications.

  • The name space for osax terminology is global in the sense that these gems are accessible from any script running on your computer. You might think of all the osax dictionaries being lumped together as though they were a single large application's dictionary (really a "system-level" dictionary). So when two or more osaxen use the same terms in slightly (or radically) different ways, trouble abounds. Only one of them will capture AppleScript's attention, and you, the osax author, can't control which will win out.

  • If an application command is named the same as an osax command, the application command will be invoked inside a tell block, while the osax will be invoked outside the tell block. On the other hand, an osax command executed inside a tell block for an application that doesn't define the same command name will invoke the osax. Users writing scripts will undoubtedly make errors.

    It's impossible to completely avoid every term used in every application, but where possible, try not to use terms that are likely to be used by application developers. Remember that a user may load up a computer with any number of osax collections, without realizing that there are four different rename file osaxen among the horde (or should I say herd?).

    In addition, remember that if, for example, you define an open file command as an osax, the command

    open file "curly"
    is ambiguous. A user might want the Open event
    open (file "curly")
    or an osax command,
    (open file) "curly"
    Again, be extra careful when defining system-level terms.

    A different problem exists in the special case where a set of osaxen is marketed for use with a special application, such as plug-ins or database connectivity. In this case, you should name your commands so that they are unmistakably associated with their host application. One possible solution is to begin the command names with a prefix indicating that they should only be used with the particular application.

As noted earlier, you can reuse terms for different "parts of speech" -- for example, for a parameter, a property, and an enumerator -- but then you must use the same 4-byte ID code. By extension, if the term you want to use for a property or an enumerator is defined in the global name space, you must use the 4-byte code already defined there. For example, if you want to use the property modification date, you must use the code 'asmo', which is defined in the File Commands scripting addition. This applies across different parts of speech, so if, for instance, the term you want to use for a parameter is already defined in the global name space as a property, you must use the same code. If you use a different code, scripts that include your term may not compile, or they may compile but send the wrong code to your application when executed.

Conversely, if you make up a new 4-byte ID code for your own property or enumerator, you need to take reasonable precautions to avoid using a code that corresponds to another term in the global name space. If you don't use a completely new code, you can't be sure which term is represented by that code in scripts that contain the code. So, for example, you shouldn't use the code 'asmo' unless you're referring to the modification date property.

How can you identify potential conflicts? One way is by using a script editor, MacsBug (with the aevt dcmd and the atsend macro), and the templates on the AppleScript Developer CD, notably the templates for the Apple Event Manager traps. Together, these tools enable you to catch an Apple event as it's sent and to examine it. Here's what you do:

  • Use the Formatting menu item in the editor to set the colors of the AppleScript styles so that you can see whether a term parses as an application-defined term or as a script-defined variable.

  • Type in your desired terminology and compile.

  • If it parses as a script-defined variable, it's free and you can use it with your own unique code to represent your own term. If it parses as an application-defined term, go on to the next step.

  • Break into MacsBug, type "atsend," and go. Execute the script, and the code for the property or enumerator will be displayed. You can then use this term in a manner consistent with standard terminology or definitions in scripting additions -- the appropriate ID code will be generated by AppleScript. You must still include this term, along with the ID code you just discovered, in your 'aete' resource so that users will see the term in your dictionary. Then things will still work if the scripting addition that defines the term is subsequently removed.

IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO CLEAN UP YOUR ACT

Let's say you took a first stab at scriptability, implemented it in your application, and shipped it. Perhaps you did the expedient thing and didn't implement the object model. Or maybe you implemented totally new terms in your dictionary. Don't be afraid to redo some of your scripting implementation -- it's still early enough in the scripting game to clean up your vocabulary or to go the distance and support the object model. It's much better to do it now, when there are only 50 or 100 people struggling to script your application. The overwhelming majority of your users will breathe a sigh of relief and thank you profusely for making their lives easier, even if they have to modify some of their existing scripts.

Two well-known developers have each recently done a relatively full scripting implementation and have indicated to their users that this is the first version, that some of it is experimental and is likely to change. A number of others have retraced their steps, rethinking their approach, and on occasion switched to object model support. I'll give two examples of applications where changing a scripting implementation made a significant difference.

EUDORA: CLEANING UP VOCABULARY

As one of the most widely distributed applications in the history of the Macintosh, Eudora by Qualcomm is used by a vast number of people to manage their Internet mail. Eudora originally used completely nonstandard terms. For example, this script created a new message and moved it to a specific mail folder:
tell application "Eudora"
   CreateElement ObjectClass message InsertHere mailfolder "Good stuff"
   Move message 1 InsertHere mailfolder "Other stuff"
end tell
This was an easy cleanup job, involving mostly just changes to the dictionary. Standard human terms were substituted for Apple event constructs, as can be seen in this script that now accomplishes the same thing as the preceding script:
tell application "Eudora"
   make new message at mail folder "Good stuff"
   move message 1 to mail folder "Other stuff"
end tell
Your terms don't have to be quite this far afield for you to consider a scripting facelift.

STUFFIT: SWITCHING TO THE OBJECT MODEL

By contrast, in the case of StuffIt from Aladdin, the developer revamped the application, replacing a non-object model implementation with one that supports the object model. This revision produced a dramatic increase in the ease of scriptability.

Here's a synopsis of the original implementation:

  • Required suite: OpenApp, OpenDocs, PrintDocs, QuitApp

  • StuffIt suite: Stuff, UnStuff, Translate, Copy, Paste, Clear, Get Max Number of Archives, Get Current Number of Archives, Stack Windows, Tile Windows, Get Version

  • Selection suite: Select, Select All, DeSelect All, Select By Name, View Selected Items, Rename Selected Items, Delete Selected Items, Get Selected Count, Get Selected Name . . .

  • Archive suite: New Archive, Create New Folder, Open Archive, Close Archive, Verify Archive, Get Archive Pathname, Get Archive Name, Set/Get Archive Comment, Set/Get Archive View, Stuff Item, UnStuff Item, Change Parent, Save

  • Item suite: Get Item Count, Get Item Type, Get Item Name (and 14 others beginning with "Get Item"), Rename Item, Delete Item, Copy Items, Move Items
Notice the redundancy of Set, Get (more than 20 occurrences), Rename, Delete, Stuff, UnStuff, and Select. Also, notice that the command names look much like Apple event names. It was extremely hard to figure out how to script this application.

Once the object model was implemented, the scheme became a lot simpler:

  • Required suite
      Events: open, print, quit, run

  • Core suite
      Events: make, delete, open, and so on (the 14 main events)
      Classes: application, document, window

  • StuffIt suite
      Miscellaneous events: cut, copy, paste, select
      Custom events: stuff, unstuff, view, verify, segment, convert
      Classes: archive, item, file, folder

  • Type Definitions suite
      3 special record types used as property types in other classes
Each of the classes has a multitude of properties, where most of the action takes place. All the redundancies have been removed (the verbs can be remembered and used naturally), and statements can be written that resemble those written for other applications. The entries in the Type Definitions suite are record types used for properties. The result of this redesign is that the dictionary is now smaller and more understandable. A script to access all the items in an archive that was originally 68 lines long is now only 20 lines!

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Making your application scriptable is an art. Think of AppleScript as a living, growing human language. As you've seen, there are standard terms and object model constructs that you can use when designing your application's scripting implementation, for those capabilities that are common to many or all applications.

In the end, though, a unique treatment is usually necessary to fully express the particular capabilities of each application, and your scripting implementation should be carefully constructed accordingly.

I hope this article has convinced you to do the following:

  • Make AppleScript your application's language. Remember that AppleScript isn't just for programmers -- many users will want to write and record scripts to control your application.

  • Develop a sense of style. Consider the nature of what your users will end up writing in their scripts. "Clean and elegant" (like a user interface) will serve your users well. Use human terms that can be easily understood by a nonprogrammer.

  • Strive for consistency. Follow the conventions, suggestions, and general guidelines outlined here, for the sake of semantic consistency across applications.

  • Choose your terms carefully. Consider whether and how the terms you use in your vocabulary will affect the name space for AppleScript.
On the other hand, if you aren't comfortable designing a semantic vocabulary or if you're having trouble formulating a clear picture in your mind of a natural-language sentence structure, don't attempt to do it yourself. As in the case of graphic and interface design, it might be better to engage the services of an expert.

If you do undertake designing a scripting implementation yourself, you'll find it to be a rewarding experience, one that can enable your users to accomplish things never before possible. Happy implementing!


    RESOURCES

  • Inside Macintosh: Interapplication Communication (Addison-Wesley, 1993), Chapters 3 through 10. (Inside Macintosh Volume VI is not recommended.)

  • "Apple Event Objects and You" by Richard Clark, develop Issue 10.

  • "Better Apple Event Coding Through Objects" by Eric M. Berdahl, develop Issue 12.

  • Apple Event Registry: Standard Suites, available on this issue's CD or in print from Apple Developer Catalog.

  • AppleScript Software Development Toolkit, available from Apple Developer Catalog.

  • AppleScript Language Guide (Addison-Wesley, 1993). Also in the AppleScript Software Development Toolkit.

  • The Webster Project. This master database, containing terms used in scriptable applications and scripting additions, assists in resolving naming collisions across applications and serves to regularize the common terms used by applications of different types. I'm designing and implementing this; contact me at AppleLink MAIN.EVENT for more information.

CAL "MR. APPLESCRIPT" SIMONE (AppleLink MAIN.EVENT) has dedicated his life to bringing scripting to the masses. He can usually be found moving fast through the Worldwide Developers Conference or MACWORLD Expo, a cloud of dust in his wake. A founder of Main Event Software of Washington, DC, he designed the Scripter authoring and development environment for AppleScript and sometimes teaches AppleScript at corporate sites. An honorary member of the Terminology Police as a result of having reviewed scripting vocabularies for more than two dozen third-party products, Cal is available to look at yours. He lives about a mile from the White House and was fond of saying of President Bush, "I don't bother him, and he doesn't bother me."

Thanks to our technical reviewers C. K. Haun, Don Olson, and Jon Pugh, and to Michael Bayer.

 
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LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
CleanApp 5.0.0 Beta 5 - Application dein...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Monolingual 1.6.2 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least... Read more
NetShade 6.1 - Browse privately using an...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more

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Galaxy Trucker Pocket (Games)
Galaxy Trucker Pocket 1.0.8 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.8 (iTunes) Description: Galaxy Truckers Wanted!================================================================= (5/5) "Galaxy Trucker isn’t... | Read more »
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
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Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Holiday sale: 13-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $...
 Best Buy has the 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99, or $150 off MSRP, on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Best Buy has lowered their price on the 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro to $1149.99 on their online store for a limited time. That’s $150 off MSRP and the lowest price available for this... Read more
Kodak Returns to CES With New Consumer Produ...
Former photography colossus Kodak is returning to CES for the first time in three years where the Kodak booth (#21818 South Hall 1) will showcase a wide range of innovative, imaging-related products... Read more
Invaluable Launches New Eponymously -Named A...
Invaluable, the world’s largest online live auction marketplace, hhas announced the official launch of the Invaluable app for iPad, now available for download in the iTunes App Store. Invaluable... Read more
IDC Reveals Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Appli...
International Data Corporation (IDC) last week hosted the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Applications and Solutions 2015 Predictions Web conference. The session provided organizations... Read more
Hello Vino Wine App Launches “Safe Ride Home”...
Hello Vino has announced addition of a new “Get a Safe Ride Home” feature in its Food & Drink app with a direct connection to Uber, the technology platform that connects users with rides. The... Read more
DEVON-technologies Releases DEVONthink To Go...
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho based DEVON-technologies, LLC has updated DEVONthink To Go, its mobile companion to DEVONthink, to version 1.5. The update includes an iOS 8 extension, compatibility with the... Read more
The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
OtterBox Defender Series Case For iPad mini 3...
With their innovative Touch ID technology and ultrathin profile, the latest tranche of Apple iPads are more desirable than ever, and OtterBox has just announced the Defender Series custom-engineered... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store Leader Program (US) - Apple, I...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on experience, Read more
Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
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