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
$102.99
Apple Inc.
+0.52
MSFT
$44.38
Microsoft Corpora
-0.50
GOOG
$532.71
Google Inc.
+6.17

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OmniOutliner 4.1.3 - Organize your ideas...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
BBEdit 11.0 - Powerful text and HTML edi...
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
Apple Security Update 2014-005 - For OS...
Apple Security Update is recommended for all users and improves the security of Mac OS X. For information on the security content of this update, please visit this website: http://support.apple.com/... Read more
EyeTV 3.6.6 - Watch and record TV on you...
EyeTV brings a rich TV experience to your Mac. Watch live TV on your Mac. Pause, rewind, and record whenever you want. EyeTV gives you powerful control over what you watch and how you watch it. Put... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0 - Create template-based...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
NTFS 12.0.39 - Provides full read and wr...
Paragon NTFS breaks down the barriers between Windows and OS X. Paragon NTFS effectively solves the communication problems between the Mac system and NTFS, providing full read and write access to... Read more
RestoreMeNot 2.0.3 - Disable window rest...
RestoreMeNot provides a simple way to disable the window restoration for individual applications so that you can fine-tune this behavior to suit your needs. Please note that RestoreMeNot is designed... Read more
Command-C 1.1.5 - 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
Macgo Blu-ray Player 2.10.9.1750 - Blu-r...
Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can bring you the most unforgettable Blu-ray experience on your Mac. Overview Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can satisfy just about every need you could possibly have in a Blu-ray... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1 - The latest version of Ap...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Travel to Northern Allansia’s perilous Icefinger Mountains to defeat the wicked Snow Witch in this... | Read more »
TinType by Hipstamatic (Photography)
TinType by Hipstamatic 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Create hauntingly beautiful, soul capturing portraits with TinType by Hipstamatic. Inspired by daguerreotypes,... | Read more »
The Latest Update for Heroes of Dragon A...
The Latest Update for Heroes of Dragon Age Introduces Daily PvE Challenges Posted by Ellis Spice on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
A New Trailer has Been Revealed for Epic...
A New Trailer has Been Revealed for Epic of Kings Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Dead Mage Inc. has released a new, action-packed trailer for the upcoming Epic of Kings. | Read more »
Find the Line Review
Find the Line Review By Campbell Bird on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: INSLIDE THE LINESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Tease out beautiful line drawings in this unique, free-to-play puzzle game.   | Read more »
The Silent Age Episode 2 Review
The Silent Age Episode 2 Review By Jennifer Allen on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ROUNDING THINGS OFF NICELYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rounding off a great point and click adventure comes The Silent Age... | Read more »
Craft Your Own Mini-Games with Papercade
Craft Your Own Mini-Games with Papercade Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Scrapbookers move over, Scrapgaming is the new thing. | Read more »
Reshape Review
Reshape Review By Jennifer Allen on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE SHAPESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Match triangles together to form cubes in this fast-paced and twitchy game.   | Read more »
Miika (Games)
Miika 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Miika is a beautiful 3D puzzle game based on camera perspectives combined with the use of optical illusions. Miika challenges... | Read more »
Infuse Pro (Photography)
Infuse Pro 3.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $9.99, Version: 3.0 (iTunes) Description: ** All-new version 3 includes fully licensed and certified DTS® and DTS-HD® audio! ** | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
iPad Air 2 & iPad mini 3 Best Tablets Yet...
The new iPads turned out to be pretty much everything I’d been hoping for and more than I’d expected.”More” particularly in terms of a drinking-from-a-firehose choice of models and configurations,... Read more
Drafts 4 Reinvents iOS Productivity App
N Richland Hills, Texas based Agile Tortoise has announced the release of Drafts 4 for iPhone and iPad. Drafts is a quick capture note taking app with flexible output actions. Drafts 4 scales from... Read more
AT&T accepting preorders for new iPads fo...
AT&T Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB... Read more
Apple offering refurbished Mac Pros for up to...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2013 Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Select MacBook Airs $100 off MSRP, free shipp...
B&H Photo has 2014 a couple of MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Strong iPhone, Mac And App Store Sales Drive...
Apple on Monday announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion... Read more
Apple Posts How-To For OS X Recovery
OS X 10.7 Lion and later include OS X Recovery. This feature includes all of the tools you need to reinstall OS X, repair your disk, and even restore from a Time Machine backup. OS X Recovery... Read more
Mac OS X Versions (Builds) Supported By Vario...
Apple Support has posted a handy resource explaining which Mac OS X versions (builds) originally shipped with or are available for your computer via retail discs, downloads, or Software Update. Apple... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, 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
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work 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
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.