TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Chart Generation Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: Programming Techniques

Chart Generation with AppleScript & Excel

By Rich Allen
Edited by Cal Simone

A friend of mine likes to say "everything is easy once you know how", Updating an Excel spreadsheet and generating an accompanying chart is easy using a little AppleScript, and Microsoft Excel, once you know how!

People like charts. Charts are an easy way of seeing a lot of data and understanding it with a quick glance. Using AppleScript to update an existing workbook, a simple VisualBasic macro for exporting a chart as a JPEG file and the iDo Script Scheduler included with OS 9 is all you need to create a regularly updated chart. This article will explain how to

  • Use AppleScript to parse a data file for required values
  • Transmit those values to Excel
  • Tell Excel to export a chart as a JPEG file for use as part of a web page
  • How to setup iDo so the chart is updated regularly

A note on conventions used in the AppleScript source listing; those words that have an underline are application keywords. These terms have a specific meaning to either the enclosing tell block or to AppleScript itself. See the preferences panel of your script editor for implementing this option.

First let's look at using AppleScript to open a file of raw data and parse out the values that we really want. For our raw data file, we will use a tab-delimited text file as shown in Listing 1.

Listing 1: Sample raw data

Date   Hour   PhoneNum   Type   Members   Peg   Busy   Usage
12/20/00   09   5551234   DNH   3   7   0   17
12/20/00   09   5552345   DNH   4   9   0   34
12/20/00   09   5553456   DNH   2   1   0   3
12/20/00   09   5554488   DNH   4   5   0   6

For this project, we require the values under the headings labeled "Date", "Hour", "Peg" (number of telephone calls), and "Usage" (connect time of all calls) for telephone number 5554488. We will assume that this raw file is updated once each hour, although we will want to verify this, and that our chart will track peg values versa usage value count on an hourly basis. The Excel workbook will be pre-built with two worksheets; one containing the chart (chart) and another with the values that feed that chart (data). See Figures 1 and 2 for examples of these worksheets.


Figure 1. Sample chart output.


Figure 2. Property declaration.

OK, let's start writing a script! The script will use three properties, values that will be used throughout the script. These properties designate the path to the folder containing our files, the name of the raw data file, and the telephone number to find. See Listing 2.

Listing 2: Sample of worksheet data

property folderPath : "MacHD:Desktop Folder:MacTech:"
property fileName : "rawdata"
property phoneNumber : "5554488"

It is always a good idea to have a try block around scripting statements to catch any error that may arise. The main portion of the script, Listing 3, is completely enclosed in a single try block. Any error encountered will be handled by the on error section. For example, if the raw data file can not be found when AppleScript tries to open it, an error will occur, passing control to the on error routine.

The script starts by setting fileRef to an empty string. By doing this, if an error does occur, the error handler will be able to determine if the data file is open, if so, closing it. If the error routine is invoked and fileRef is the empty string, then the error was generated while attempting to open the file thus there will be no need to execute the close access statement.

Next the script will attempt to open the raw data file, concatenating the folderPath and fileName properties into a single string as input for the open for access statement and assigning the resulting file reference number to the variable fileRef. From this point on, we can access data from the file by referring to the fileRef variable. We know that the data file is tab-delimited (a tab character seperates each value in the file), so next, the script is set to use the tab character as its text item delimiter. (Normally AppleScript's text item delimiter is set to an empty character (""). Since we already know that each value of interest per line is separated by the tab character, by setting AppleScript's text item delimiters to a tab we can easily refer to any value by its position.)

The sample data file contains eight items per line; in this case the date, the hour, phone number, phone number type, number of members associated with the phone number, a peg count, number of busies and the usage. The variable num will be set to the empty string and will later be set to the telephone number from each line that is read from the data file and then compared to the property phoneNumber to determine a positive match.

At this point the script is ready to start reading each line of the data file until it finds a match of the phone number read and the desired number. Reading a line of the data file is done with the standard read statement; reading from the current file position until the next encountered return character. If the two telephone numbers do not match, the next line is read and phone numbers compared. If the desired phone number is not found before the end of the file (eof) is reached then an error will be created by AppleScript and handled by the on error portion of the run handler, otherwise the close statement will be executed to close the data file.

Listing 3: The run handler

try
   set oldDelimiter to AppleScript's text item delimiters
   set AppleScript's text item delimiters to tab
   set fileRef to ""
   set fileRef to open for access (folderPath & fileName)
   set num to ""
   repeat until num is phoneNumber
      set dLine to read fileRef before return
      set num to text item 3 of dLine
      if (phoneNumber is num) then
         UpdateWorkbook(dLine)
      end if
   end repeat
   close access fileRef
   set AppleScript's text item delimiters to oldDelimiter
on error errMsg number errNum
   if fileRef is not "" then
      close access fileRef
   end if
   set AppleScript's text item delimiters to oldDelimiter
end try

Once a match has been found, the UpdateWorkbook handler (Listing 4) is called. (A handler is basically equivalent to a subroutine.) The script starts with a tell statement that will direct any statements following towards Excel. For any statement within the tell block that are not directly understood by Excel, those statements will be handled by AppleScript itself (e.g. if).

The first statement to Excel will open the required workbook by combining two of the properties set initially and adding the ".xls" suffix to match the exact file name and path of the required workbook. Since the workbook contains more then one worksheet (chart and data), the script selects the data worksheet to assure the values from the raw data file will be inserted into the proper cells.

For this workbook and chart we are tracking 24 hours of data. The data worksheet contains a header in the first row with the following 24 rows containing the last 24 hours worth of data. Refer back to Figure 2 for an example.

We will want to verify that the raw data we have read is new before we update the worksheet. By comparing the hour from the line of raw data with the last hour on the data worksheet (cell B25), we can be sure that the raw data has been changed.

Since we want our chart to show peg versa usage information on an hourly basis, we will want to drop the oldest hour's data from our chart and add the newest data. By copying the last 23 hours data values (rows 3 through 25) and then pasting those values into the first 23 hours data (rows 2 through 24), the script has effectively dropped the oldest hour. (Note that the copyobject keyword, used here, comes from Excel's Custom Suite - unfortunately Excel does not have the standard copy verb as many other applications do.) Rows 24 and 25 are now the same. To add the newest data, the script will simply set the new values in row 25, overwriting the extraneous values.

Now that all the values have been updated, it's time to export a copy of the chart for use on the web page. Excel has an export function using VisualBasic that can accomplish this (the macro is contained within the workbook). We will not delve into Excel VisualBasic macros in this article but will show the macro we're using here in Listing 5. AppleScript uses the evaluate statement to communicate with Excel to run the macro. Be sure to note the syntax here, evaluate requires the file name of the workbook concatenated with the name of the macro with the exclamation point character separating them.

The last job for the UpdateWorkbook handler is to save the changes made to the workbook and close the workbook file.

Listing 4: The UpdateWorkbook handler

on UpdateWorkbook(dataLine)
   tell application "Microsoft Excel"
      open (folderPath & phoneNumber & ".xls")
      select sheet "data"
      if (text item 2 of dataLine != value of cell "$B$25") then
         select range ("$A$3:$D$25")
         CopyObject selection
         select range ("$A$2:$D$24")
         paste
         set value of cell "$A$25" to text item 1 of dataLine
         set value of cell "$B$25" to text item 2 of dataLine
         set value of cell "$C$25" to text item 6 of dataLine
         set value of cell "$D$25" to text item 8 of dataLine
         evaluate (phoneNumber & ".xls!ExportChart()")
         close ActiveWorkbook saving yes
      end if
   end tell
end UpdateWorkbook

Listing 5: VisualBasic macro to export chart as JPG

Sub ExportChart()
Charts("Chart").Export _
    FileName:="pb0:Desktop Folder:MacTech:5554488.jpg"
End Sub

Each time the script is run it will update the workbook and export a new chart for use on a web page. This script does not provide a method of performing this task on a regular basis so how do we get it to run on a schedule? One solution is to use the iDo Script Scheduler that is included with the Mac OS. If it is not already in your control panels folder, you will find it on the Mac OS 9 CD in the CD Extras folder in the AppleScript Extras folder.

Open the iDo Script Scheduler control panel and click on the New button. Give this event a name, set the trigger to "repeating", and select the start time and date. All that is left is to click the Choose button, select the script (which we've saved as a compiled script), and save the newly created event. Your chart will now be updated every hour at the specified time. See Figure 3 for an example of the iDo event.


Figure 3. iDo event.

Although this is a short script with only limited error checking, it does demonstrate the ease of integrating AppleScript with Microsoft Excel to create charts suitable for use on any web page!

My friend also has another thing he likes to say, "Now that I know how, it's easy!"


Rich Allen currently works for a local telephone company in Alaska in the traffic-engineering department. He has held a variety of telecommunications positions since 1984 and has designed a number of Macintosh based data systems. His email address is g3pb@alaska.net.

 
AAPL
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

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
ExpanDrive 4.2.1 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2014 13.2 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2014 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). After Effects CS6 is still available... Read more
Evernote 6.0.5 - 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
Command-C 1.1.7 - 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
Tidy Up 4.0.2 - Find duplicate files and...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

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 »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
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 »
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Fre...
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Free for the Holidays Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

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
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Pros for...
 B&H Photo has new MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP as part of their Holiday pricing. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1699... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Airs for...
B&H Photo has 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, for a limited time, for the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holiday shopping season. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: iMacs for up to $...
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software: - 21″ 1.4GHz... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac minis availab...
B&H Photo has new 2014 Mac minis on sale for up to $80 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459 $40 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $629 $70 off MSRP... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $500 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2599, $400 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3499, $... Read more
Save up to $400 on MacBooks with Apple Certif...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Save up to $300 on Macs, $30 on iPads with Ap...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
iOS and Android OS Targeted by Man-in-the-Mid...
Cloud services security provider Akamai Technologies, Inc. has released, through the company’s Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert), a new cybersecurity threat advisory. The... 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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.