TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Feb 98 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 2
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

by Eric Gundrum

Scripting is Part of the Interface

Why do we need scripting languages? Why do we need more than one? I started working in the Mac industry years before we had AppleScript. Back then, a few of the more powerful Mac applications had their own built-in scripting languages, including the communications application I was working on. Then a scripting language was used to automate the internal functions of the application, freeing the user from having to watch over time-consuming tasks, or just assisting with mundane, repetitive work. We did not have anything like the shell script of Unix or the batch files of DOS to tie applications together.

With the release of System 7, AppleScript entered the scene. Apple had given us a very powerful core language, with all the essential decision and flow control features. Unfortunately, Apple's original release of AppleScript was seriously flawed. The underlying technology was great, but Apple didn't show us how best to use it. They were in such a hurry to get AppleScript out the door, that they hadn't had time to build it into the Finder. Developers often look to the Finder for ideas on how to best make use of Apple technologies, for better or worse. If we want an example of how the menus should look in an application, we look to the Finder. We do the same for ideas on the About box, Balloon Help and many other technologies. Apple did not provide developers with a rich example of how to implement a scripting interface to an application. Developers were slow to adopt AppleScript, and consequently, so were users.

Designing a clean scripting interface to an application is as important as designing a clean graphical interface to the application. Yet few developers are willing to invest even a tenth the time in the scripting interface that they invest in the graphical interface. Most scripting interfaces are implemented at the last minute, usually as the application is going to beta testers. By then there is not sufficient time in the development cycle to change the application to better support scripting. Furthermore, most scripting implementations are designed by programmers, usually with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the application. They think in terms of the application's internal messages and data structures and figure they can use AppleScript to extend these to the user. Then the documentation folks have to figure out how to explain what the programmers mean by commands like "OpenConnectionToFTPServer( serverAddress, portNumber, showWindow )".

Talk to your Mac

I prefer AppleScript because writing in the AppleScript language is like talking to my computer. Being the asocial geek that I am, I like the idea of my computer understanding me when I talk to it. When I can say things like "Computer, please tell the application "Finder" to open the window named "projects." Or, while in a QuickTime VR world: "Computer, pan left 90 degrees." This sure beats having to say "OpenFinderWindow( "projects" )". AppleScript provides a framework for communicating with applications this way.

The biggest mistake Apple made with AppleScript was in not giving developers the "Human Scriptability Guidelines," the AppleScript equivalent of the "Human Interface Guidelines." After all, AppleScript is an alternative interface to applications. For that interface to be easy to use, it must be well designed and consistent with other applications. We all know how much users benefit from consistency across applications. Many of us fought hard to convince unenlightened developers who, in the early days of the Mac, neglected to include an Edit menu, used the wrong command key for "Close Window," put the Preferences item in the wrong menu, or otherwise made mistakes in the interface. Making applications scriptable requires this same attention to detail, but the problems are more subtle, and the solutions less obvious. Without Apple's guidance, we are left to figure out for ourselves how best to design a scripting interface, and everyone designs a different look and feel.

In my experience designing the scripting interface before designing the code helps a lot. This way, you can factor your application, building in well defined objects that easily map to your scripting terminology. To help you design your terminology, start by talking to your computer; verbally direct your application to perform common tasks. Ask users familiar with what your application does to write the directions to common tasks as if they were directing a colleague to perform the task. These activities will help you identify the object that users think of when they perform these tasks. Those objects should be the main elements of your terminology. This will also help you think about all the features you must have in your application, and how to organize the underlying code. Then all you have to do is write it. ;-)

In This Issue

Two of the articles in this issue can help you design better scripting interfaces your applications. John Schettino's look at prototyping applications with FaceSpan provides suggestions on designing an application with scripting in mind. Cal Simone and Bill Cheeseman have designed a framework for judging just how scriptable is an application. Their article identifies the essential features of any scriptable application. You also will find articles about scripting environments other than AppleScript. In today's multi-platform world, Perl and tcl/tk are important technologies. In the past, the Macintosh versions of these tools have not kept up with their Unix counterparts. This is no longer a problem. As you will see from the articles, these Macintosh tools are very powerful.

 
AAPL
$116.47
Apple Inc.
+0.16
MSFT
$47.98
Microsoft Corpora
-0.72
GOOG
$537.50
Google Inc.
+2.67

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

StatsBar 1.9 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6 - FTP and SFTP browser. (F...
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Maya 2015 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
Evernote 6.0.1 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
calibre 2.11 - 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... Read more
Herald 5.0.1 - Notification plugin for M...
Note: Versions 2.1.3 (for OS X 10.7), 3.0.6 (for OS X 10.8), and 4.0.8 (for OS X 10.9) are no longer supported by the developer. Herald is a notification plugin for Mail.app, Apple's Mac OS X email... Read more
Firetask 3.7 - Innovative task managemen...
Firetask uniquely combines the advantages of classical priority-and-due-date-based task management with GTD. Stay focused and on top of your commitments - Firetask's "Today" view shows all relevant... Read more
TechTool Pro 7.0.6 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
PhotoDesk 3.0.1 - Instagram client for p...
PhotoDesk lets you view, like, comment, and download Instagram pictures/videos! (NO Uploads! / Image Posting! Instagram forbids that! AND you *need* an *existing* Instagram account). But you can do... Read more
SuperDuper! 2.7.3 - Advanced disk clonin...
SuperDuper! is an advanced, yet easy to use disk copying program. It can, of course, make a straight copy, or "clone" -- useful when you want to move all your data from one machine to another, or do... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Ubisoft Gives Everyone Two New Ways to E...
Ubisoft Gives Everyone Two New Ways to Earn In-Game Stuff for Far Cry 4 Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Golfinity – Tips, Tricks, Strategies, an...
Dig this: Would you like to know what we thought of being an infinite golfer? Check out our Golfinity review! Golfinity offers unlimited ways to test your skills at golf. Here are a few ways to make sure your score doesn’t get too high and your... | Read more »
Dark Hearts, The Sequel to Haunting Meli...
Dark Hearts, The Sequel to Haunting Melissa, is Available Now Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Meowza! Toyze Brings Talking Tom to Life...
Meowza! | Read more »
Square Enix Announces New Tactical RPG f...
Square Enix Announces New Tactical RPG for Mobile, Heavenstrike Rivals. Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] With their epic stories and gorgeous graphics, | Read more »
Quest for Revenge (Games)
Quest for Revenge 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The great Kingdom of the west has fallen. The gods ignore the prayers of the desperate. A dark warlord has extinguished... | Read more »
Threadz is a New Writing Adventure for Y...
Threadz is a New Writing Adventure for You and Your Friends Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] In the tradition of round-robin storytelling, | Read more »
SteelSeries Stratus XL Hardware Review
Made by: SteelSeries Price: $59.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 4.31 out of 5 stars | Read more »
ACDSee (Photography)
ACDSee 1.0.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Capture, perfect, and share your photos with ACDSee. The ACDSee iPhone app combines an innovative camera, a powerful photo... | Read more »
ProTube for YouTube (Entertainment)
ProTube for YouTube 2.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 2.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ProTube is the ultimate, fully featured YouTube app. With it's highly polished design, ProTube offers ad-free... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save up to $400 with Apple refurbished 2014 1...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping... Read more
New 13-inch 1.4GHz MacBook Air on sale for $8...
 Adorama has the 2014 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $899.99 including free shipping plus NY & NJ tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. B&H Photo has the 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook... Read more
Apple Expected to Reverse Nine-Month Tablet S...
Apple and Samsung combined accounted for 62 percent of the nearly 36 million branded tablets shipped in 3Q 2014, according to early vendor shipment share estimates from market intelligence firm ABI... Read more
Stratos: 30 Percent of US Smartphone Owners t...
Stratos, Inc., creator of the Bluetooth Connected Card Platform, has announced results from its 2014 Holiday Mobile Payments Survey. The consumer survey found that nearly one out of three (30 percent... Read more
2014 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $...
 B&H Photo has lowered their price on the new 1.4GHz Mac mini to $449.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this new... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
64GB iPod touch on sale for $249, save $50
Best Buy has the 64GB iPod touch on sale for $249 on their online store for a limited time. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for... Read more
15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $17...
 B&H Photo has the 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1799.99 for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. B&H will also include free copies of... Read more
New Logitech AnyAngle Case/Stand Brings Flexi...
Logitec has announced the newest addition to its suite of tablet products — the Logitech AnyAngle. A protective case with an any-angle stand for iPad Air 2 and all iPad mini models, AnyAngle is the... Read more
Notebook PC Shipments Rise Year-Over-Year as...
According to preliminary results from the upcoming DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report, the global notebook PC market grew 10 percent year-over-year in Q3’14 to 49.4... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC)- Retail S...
**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, *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* Store Leader Program - College Gradu...
Job Description: Job Summary As an Apple Store Leader Program agent, you can continue your education as you major in the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll 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
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.