TweetFollow Us on Twitter

March 96 - According to Script: Properties and Preferences

ACCORDING TO SCRIPT: Properties and Preferences

Cal Simone

On the way to implementing scripting support in your applications, you're bound to confront a variety of issues. In this column, I'll give you some pointers for devising and testing property names and discuss the techniques for handling preferences through scripting.

PROPERTIES

In an application's scripting vocabulary, a property is an attribute of an object. Properties can replace variables in if and repeat statements, as well as in expressions, and a script writer normally uses the AppleScript verbs set and get with them. Here I'll give some guidelines for coming up with human-language names for properties and testing the viability of those names within the overall natural style of the AppleScript language. It's important that properties have names that users can easily become familiar with. Ideally, users should be able to refer to properties in a script the way they think or speak about them.

Don't start property names with verbs. Starting property names with verbs leads to confusion when the property appears in the middle of a sentence. For example, naming a property disable call waiting leads to commands that don't read smoothly:

set disable call waiting to true 
if disable call waiting then ... 
This is somewhat clearer:
set call waiting enabled to false
if not call waiting enabled ... 
In fact, in the above case, it would be even better to name the property call waiting and use an enumeration as its value type (for a discussion of enumerations, see my article "Designing a Scripting Implementation" in develop Issue 21). The choices enabled and disabled allow grammatically correct sentences, as in the following:
set call waiting to enabled
if call waiting is disabled ... 
A little creative thinking goes a long way in making it easy for users to work with the language.

The "the" test. AppleScript allows you to add or remove the word the almost anywhere in a script without changing the meaning of the script. Many script writers precede object and property names with the word the to make their scripts easier to read. Writing your test scripts in this way helps you determine the degree to which your property names facilitate forming natural sentences.

set the service to "America Online"
if the priority is high then ...

Don't confuse attributes and actions. Sometimes setting a property can cause an immediate change on the screen. In deciding whether to use a property in this situation, a helpful rule is: When an action is initiated, use a verb; when an attribute changes (even if it produces immediate visible results), use a property. Another way of looking at this is if a visible change is immediate, it's OK to use a property, but if an action has a duration, use a verb.

As an example, the following command causes an immediate change on the screen:

set the font of the third paragraph to "Courier"
Even though setting the font property creates a visible change, the font is still an attribute of the text, not an action. On the other hand, naming a property or enumerator playing, as shown in the next two commands, is a poor choice, because playing actually initiates an action:
set playing to true   
set [the] status to playing   
The playing enumerator value in the second command is fine for obtaining state information, but a status property should be read-only. Instead of creating a property to control an action, use a verb. Verbs such as play or start playing are better suited for actions, as shown here:
play the movie "Wowie Zowie"
start playing the movie "Wowie Zowie"
Note that the commands are play and start playing, not play movie or start playing movie. In an application based on the object model, movie would be an object class.

The properties property. A properties property enables script writers to obtain all the properties for a given object in the form of a record by using a get properties construct. (I first suggested using records in this column in develop Issue 22.) The properties property can also be set with the set command. The sample properties property shown in Listing 1 can be included as a property of any object for which you allow the setting of more than one property at a time.

Listing 1. A sample properties property

{   /* array Properties: 5 elements */
   /* [5] */
   "properties",
   'Prop',
   'reco',
   "Property that allows setting of a list
      of properties.",
   reserved, singleItem, notEnumerated,
   readWrite, reserved,
   ...
},
Don't require the user to supply all the properties when setting the properties property -- allow the setting of just one or a few properties.

get the properties of the fourth paragraph 
   -- returns font, size, style, and so on
set the properties of the fourth paragraph to ~
   {font:"Helvetica", size:14} 

PREFERENCES

Developers use a variety of techniques to allow users to set preferences through scripts. I'll describe three common and easily implemented approaches for dealing with preference properties in your application class. (These same approaches can be used to implement document settings or group properties for individual objects within your application.)

Separate properties for each preference. Implementing preferences as individual properties works well when you have only a few preferences. For example:

set the connect sound to "Shriek"
set the receive folder to alias "HD:Drop Folder"
If you have many preferences, it's inefficient for the user to have to set each property individually. To solve this, you can implement your preferences as individual properties (usually in your vocabulary's application class definition) and also include a preferences property, described next.

A property that includes all the preferences. You can make a single preferences or settings property, which is a record that's defined elsewhere in your vocabulary. To define the elements of the record, create a fake "class" in your vocabulary, preferably in your Type Definitions Suite, to serve as the definition of the element labels in a record definition. In the comment field for your "class," be sure to document clearly that this is a record definition, not an object class. Listing 2 illustrates this technique; for more information, see the section "Define Record Labels in a Record Definition" in "Designing a Scripting Implementation" in develop Issue 21.

Listing 2. A sample preferences property

/* First, define this application property. */
{   /* array Properties: 5 elements */
   /* [5] */
   "preferences",
   'Pref',   
   'cprf,      /* for "preferences class" */
   "Property that allows setting some or all
      of your preferences.",
   reserved, singleItem, notEnumerated,
   readWrite, reserved,
   ...      /* more reserved items */
},
... /* more property definitions */

/* Later, in your Type Definitions Suite, */
/* create a fake class. */
{   /* array Classes: 1 element */
/* [1] */
"preferences record",
'cprf',
"A record containing individual preferences",
{   /* array Properties: 10 elements */
   /* [1] */
   "connect sound", 'CSND', 'itxt',
   "the name of the sound to use when
      connected",
   reserved, singleItem, notEnumerated,
   ...
   /* [2] */
   "receive folder", 'RFLD', 'alis',
   "the folder to place files when received",
   reserved, singleItem, notEnumerated,
   ...
},
{   /* array Elements: 0 elements */
}
Lists and records are the two principal constructs in AppleScript that don't lend themselves to human sentence structure. They are, however, an integral part of the language and can occasionally help to make the script writer's life easier. When you use a record to create a preferences property, it's OK to stray a little from strict natural-language style. Of course, when referring to elements of a list or record, you should use natural-language style.

As with the properties property described earlier, don't require the user to set all the individual preferences at once. Allow the setting of just one or a few preferences at a time:

set the preferences to ~
   {connect sound:"Shriek", ~
    receive folder:alias "HD:Drop folder"}
A user can address individual preferences as if they were defined as separate application properties. To allow for varying user experience with AppleScript, your application should always accept property specifications for individual preferences using the technique described above, regardless of whether the user includes the qualifying phrase of the preferences. For example, both of the following statements should be allowed:
set the receive folder of the preferences to ~
   alias "HD:Drop Folder"
set the receive folder to alias "HD:Drop Folder"

Multiple "group" properties for grouping preferences. If you have many preferences or want to group the preferences according to similar functionality, such as those often found in multipaneled dialog boxes, you can create separate properties for groups of preferences or settings (using the record definition technique just described). The properties can reflect the groupings you've set up in your graphical interface:

set the compiler preferences to ~
   {warnings included:true, ~
   default integer size:short integer}

set the drawing settings to ~
   {pen size:{1,2}, shape:circle}
A user addresses an individual preference by including in the object property specification the record that the preference is an element of, as follows:
the pen size of the drawing settings
set the shape of the drawing settings to ~
   rectangle
set the default integer size of the compiler ~
   preferences to short integer

PARTING WORDS

Following these guidelines in implementing scriptability in your applications makes it easier for users to write scripts. Although they may seem like small points, it's the details that mean the difference between frustration and smooth sailing for the script writer. Remember to think about the way a user would write or speak about accomplishing what they want to do. Until next time, I remain your obedient servant on the AppleScript front. I'll see you on applescript-implementors@abs.apple.com, the mailing list for scriptability.

CAL SIMONE (AppleLink MAIN.EVENT, Internet mainevent@his.com) wants your dictionary for the Webster database, which will be used to help resolve human-name conflicts between different applications and scripting additions. He'll be analyzing the terms in your vocabulary against others in search of similarities and differences. Send your 'aete' resources to Cal via AppleLink or the Internet.*

Thanks to Eric Gundrum, Jon Pugh, and Derrick Schneider for reviewing this column.*

 
AAPL
$95.60
Apple Inc.
-2.55
MSFT
$43.16
Microsoft Corpora
-0.42
GOOG
$571.60
Google Inc.
-15.82

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OneNote 15.2 - Free digital notebook fro...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that’s too important to forget. Whether you’re at... Read more
iStat Menus 4.22 - Monitor your system r...
iStat Menus lets you monitor your system right from the menubar. Included are 8 menu extras that let you monitor every aspect of your system. Some features: CPU -- Monitor cpu usage. 7 display... Read more
Ember 1.8 - Versatile digital scrapbook....
Ember (formerly LittleSnapper) is your digital scrapbook of things that inspire you: websites, photos, apps or other things. Just drag in images that you want to keep, organize them into relevant... Read more
OmniPlan 2.3.6 - Robust project manageme...
With OmniPlan, you can create logical, manageable project plans with Gantt charts, schedules, summaries, milestones, and critical paths. Break down the tasks needed to make your project a success,... Read more
Command-C 1.1.1 - Clipboard sharing tool...
Command-C is a revolutionary app which makes easy to share your clipboard between iOS and OS X using your local WiFi network, even if the app is not currently opened. Copy anything (text, pictures,... Read more
Knock 1.1.7 - Unlock your Mac by knockin...
Knock is a faster, safer way to sign in. You keep your iPhone with you all the time. Now you can use it as a password. You never have to open the app -- just knock on your phone twice, even when it's... Read more
Mellel 3.3.6 - 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
LibreOffice 4.3.0.4 - Free Open Source o...
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
Freeway Pro 7.0 - Drag-and-drop Web desi...
Freeway Pro lets you build websites with speed and precision... without writing a line of code! With it's user-oriented drag-and-drop interface, Freeway Pro helps you piece together the website of... Read more
Drive Genius 3.2.4 - Powerful system uti...
Drive Genius is an OS X utility designed to provide unsurpassed storage management. Featuring an easy-to-use interface, Drive Genius is packed with powerful tools such as a drive optimizer, a... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Dawn of the Immortals Review
Dawn of the Immortals Review By Jennifer Allen on July 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: RESPECTABLE EXPLORATIONUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Dawn of the Immortals might not re-invent the wheel, but it does tweak it a little... | Read more »
80 Days Review
80 Days Review By Jennifer Allen on July 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: EPIC ADVENTUREUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A fantastic and fascinating re-envisioning of the classic novel by Jules Verne, 80 Days is a delightful... | Read more »
Battleheart Legacy Guide
The world of Battleheart Legacy is fun and deep; full of wizards, warriors, and witches. Here are some tips and tactics to help you get the most enjoyment out of this great game. | Read more »
Puzzle Roo Review
Puzzle Roo Review By Jennifer Allen on July 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: PUZZLE-BASED TWISTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A different take on the usual block dropping puzzle game, Puzzle Roo is quite pleasant.   | Read more »
Super Crossfire Re-Release Super Crossfi...
Super Crossfire Re-Release Super Crossfighter Coming Soon, Other Radiangames Titles Go 50% Off Posted by Ellis Spice on July 31st, 2014 [ | Read more »
Hexiled Review
Hexiled Review By Rob Thomas on July 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: HEX SELLSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad In space, no one can hear you… spell? Hexiled is a neat concept for a word scramble puzzle, but it doesn’t go too... | Read more »
Summoners War: Sky Arena Passes 10 Milli...
Summoners War: Sky Arena Passes 10 Million Installs! Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Deep Loot Review
Deep Loot Review By Jennifer Allen on July 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: DIVE DEEPUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Dive deep in this fun explore-em-up that’s a little grind heavy but ultimately quite entertaining.   | Read more »
Despicable Me: Minion Rush is One Year O...
Despicable Me: Minion Rush is One Year Old, Gets its Biggest Update Yet Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Fish & Shark Review
Fish & Shark Review By Jordan Minor on July 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: FLAPPY FISHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fish & Shark’s beauty is only scale deep.   | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save up to $130 on an iPad mini with Apple re...
The Apple Store has Certified Refurbished 2nd generation iPad minis with Retina Displays available for up to $130 off the cost of new models, starting at $339. Apple’s one-year warranty is included... Read more
iPad Cannibalization Threat “Overblown”
Seeking Alpha’s Kevin Greenhalgh observes that while many commentators think Apple’s forthcoming 5.5-inch panel iPhone 6 will cannibalize iPad sales, in his estimation, these concerns are being... Read more
Primate Labs Releases July 2014 MacBook Pro P...
Primate Labs’ John Poole has posted Geekbench 3 results for most of the new MacBook Pro models that Apple released on Tuesday. Poole observes that overall performance improvements for the new MacBook... Read more
Apple Re-Releases Bugfixed MacBook Air EFI Fi...
Apple has posted a bugfixed version EFI Firmware Update 2.9 a for MacBook Air (Mid 2011) models. The update addresses an issue where systems may take longer to wake from sleep than expected, and... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, plus free sh...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $140 on an iPad Air with Apple ref...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished iPad Airs for up to $140 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Stock tends to come and go with some of these... Read more
$250 price drop on leftover 15-inch Retina Ma...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on 2013 15″ Retina MacBook Pros by $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.3GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $2249, $250 off... Read more
More iPad Upgrade Musings – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
Much discussed recently, what with Apple reporting iPad sales shrinkage over two consecutive quarters, is that it had apparently been widely assumed that tablet users would follow a two-year hardware... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $999.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $100 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more

Jobs Board

*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
Sr. Product Leader, *Apple* Store Apps - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
Sr Software Lead Engineer, *Apple* Online S...
Sr Software Lead Engineer, Apple Online Store Publishing Systems Keywords: Company: Apple Job Code: E3PCAK8MgYYkw Location (City or ZIP): Santa Clara Status: Full Read more
Sr Software Lead Engineer, *Apple* Online S...
Sr Software Lead Engineer, Apple Online Store Publishing Systems Keywords: Company: Apple Job Code: E3PCAK8MgYYkw Location (City or ZIP): Santa Clara Status: Full Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.