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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

The beginner's guide to Warbits
Warbits is a turn-based strategy that's clearly inspired by Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Since turn-based strategy games can be kind of tricky to dive into, see below for a few tips to help you in the beginning. Positioning is crucial [Read... | Read more »
How to upgrade your character in Spellsp...
So you’ve mastered the basics of Spellspire. By which I mean you’ve realised it’s all about spelling things in a spire. What next? Well you’re going to need to figure out how to toughen up your character. It’s all well and good being able to spell... | Read more »
5 slither.io mash-ups we'd love to...
If there's one thing that slither.io has proved, it's that the addictive gameplay of Agar.io can be transplanted onto basically anything and it will still be good fun. It wouldn't be surprising if we saw other developers jumping on the bandwagon,... | Read more »
How to navigate the terrain in Sky Charm...
Sky Charms is a whimsical match-'em up adventure that uses creative level design to really ramp up the difficulty. [Read more] | Read more »
Victorious Knight (Games)
Victorious Knight 1.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.3 (iTunes) Description: New challenges awaits you! Experience fresh RPG experience with a unique combat mechanic, packed with high quality 3D... | Read more »
Agent Gumball - Roguelike Spy Game (Gam...
Agent Gumball - Roguelike Spy Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Someone’s been spying on Gumball. What the what?! Two can play at that game! GO UNDERCOVERSneak past enemy... | Read more »
Runaway Toad (Games)
Runaway Toad 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It ain’t easy bein’ green! Tap, hold, and swipe to help Toad hop to safety in this gorgeous new action game from the creators of... | Read more »
PsyCard (Games)
PsyCard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: From the makers och Card City Nights, Progress To 100 and Ittle Dew PSYCARD is a minesweeper-like game set in a cozy cyberpunk... | Read more »
Sago Mini Robot Party (Education)
Sago Mini Robot Party 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: -- Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice -- | Read more »
Egz – The Origin of the Universe (Games...
Egz – The Origin of the Universe 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ►►► Special offer until 2nd may : get the game at 2.99€ instead of 3.99€ ! ◄◄◄ Egz is a mesmerizing mix... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

SanDisk Half-Terabyte SSD Optimized for Every...
SanDisk Corporation has announced the SanDisk Z410 SSD, a cost-competitive, half-terabyte solid state drive (SSD) that enables manufacturers to design for a broad range of desktop PCs and laptops.... Read more
Churchill Downs Racetrack Selects VenueNext t...
Churchill Downs Racetrack has announced an agreement with VenueNext to implement its technology platform for the start of Churchill Downs 2016 Spring Meet, which includes the 142nd running of the... Read more
Record 700 Million Pounds of CE Recycled in 2...
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) reports that a record-setting 700 million pounds of consumer electronics (CE) have been recycled under the eCycling Leadership Initiative (ELI). According to... Read more
Price drops on clearance 12-inch Retina MacBo...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on leftover 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks with models now available starting at $999. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros available for $20...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Target offers Apple Watch Sport for $50 off M...
Target has Apple Watch Sports on sale for $50 off MSRP for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished Mac mini...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon.com has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1699.99 including free shipping. Their price is $300 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller (and... Read more
Apple Beats Microsoft at Own Game; Amazon Pri...
First quarter seasonality combined with an overall disinterested customer base led to an annual decline of 14.7% in worldwide tablet shipments during the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16). Worldwide... Read more
Tablets Had Worst Quarter Since 2012, says St...
The global tablet market began 2016 just as 2015 left off, down. Tablet shipments fell 10% to 46.5 million units during the Q1 2016, according to the new “Preliminary Global Tablet Shipments and... Read more

Jobs Board

Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
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
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.