TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Fun with AppleScript

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Administrivia

Fun with AppleScript

A fairly useless detour that nonetheless shows you some tricks with iTunes and Entourage v.X

by John C. Welch

Welcome

Okay, so my last couple of articles have been technical, (no surprise, this is Mac*TECH*, after all), but nonetheless, they were pretty dry to not only read, but write as well. (The USB2 spec is a great cure for insomnia) So this time, I thought I'd take a bit of a turn, and share a fun bit of AppleScript that I had done with iTunes and Microsoft Entourage for Mac OS X.

Get Sig From iTunes

Someone had shown me a neat application that was designed to get the name of the current track from iTunes, and insert the track information into your Entourage email message. It was well put together, but there were some things that I didn't like about it. First, it was a background application polling two other applications. That seemed a bit kludgy to me, as this script didn't really need to run that way. To my way of thinking, it is more of an Entourage script, so it should run inside of Entourage. Since Entourage is extremely scriptable, and has support for schedules that let you schedule, among other things, AppleScripts, it seemed to me that there was a way to have this run in Entourage's application space. A few hours of work, and 'voila', it was done.

If you want to just download the script, it's available from:

<http://web.mit.edu/jwelch/www/files/Mac OS X Scripts/EntourageX/SigFromiTunes.hqx>

The most recent versions are there, and it is fairly well commented, so if you don't want to type this all in manually, you can just download it from there.

Main functions of the script

As I saw it, the script had to do a few things, which made writing it pretty easy. It had to be able to get the current track information from iTunes, which I defined as the Track Name, the Track Artist, and the Track Album. If iTunes wasn't playing, then it had to substitute a signature from the user's list of random signatures. If there weren't any random signatures to use, then it had to insert a default signature. I ended up finding some interesting challenges in this, including one bug that could only happen in such a specific configuration, that it got its own name, "The La Grua Bug".

The script then had to take this iTunes information, and create a signature out of it, and insert this text into a predefined signature in Entourage. I ended up attaching the script to a schedule that runs every minute, so the track info is current. As of this article, it's been running constantly whenever I run Entourage, (which is pretty much 24x7), and no real problems.

Like most things with AppleScript, you end up getting help from the people in the community, both with the coding and with the testing. For the coding, I want to thank the folks on the Entourage mailing list,<mailto:Entourage-Talk-on@lists.letterrip.com> specifically Paul Berkowitz, and Dan Crevier, (who also works for the MacBU and is a major reason for the AppleScript quality in things like Outlook Express and Entourage.). For testing, besides the aforementioned (Jeff) La Grua, I'd like to thank the members of the Your Mac Life mailing list, <http://lists.mymacgroups.com/mailman/listinfo/yml>, who were quite helpful during the testing of this script.

Some caveats:

    1) This has been tested by me and most others in Entourage v.X and iTunes 2/3 in Mac OS X only. I have had reports of it working correctly in Mac OS 9 with the native versions of the programs there. If it does, cool, but I'm not going to worry if it doesn't. If you wish to change things to fix that, excellent.

    2) It only works with Entourage. I thought about Eudora, but the AppleScript dictionary for that Application makes my head hurt. If you want to get it to work with Eudora, please let me know when you do, I personally know a few people who will love you for it. It can't work with Mail at the moment, and Netscape's dictionary isn't even close to allowing it. I don't use PowerMail, or MailSmith, so I don't know if you could modify it for that. But anyone who wishes to may certainly use my code as a starting point.

    3) I'm not an AppleScript genius. I'm a pickup truck programmer. Most of my solutions are simple enough that I can read them in six months and remember why I did it that way. If you care to optimize my code, please do, and then comment it so I can maybe pick up a pointer or two.

So enough of this, let's dig into the code!

The AppleScript Code

The first section of this sets up some basic variables, and checks to see if iTunes is running at all. If it is, then we set a flag to show this. Otherwise, we avoid trying to get the track information, and dump into the 'iTunes isn't playing' sections.

set isiTunesRunning to 0
set theNewSig to ""
set iTunesIsPlaying to 0

The first three lines are pretty simple. Two flags, 'isiTunesRunning' and 'iTunesIsPlaying' are set to 0, which is the safer value. 'theNewSig', the variable used to hold the signature that will be built is initialized here as well.

try 
--the try allows for problems getting the process list from the finder without needing to 
--pop dialogs in e'rage if this times out
   tell application "Finder"
      if (get name of every process) contains "iTunes" then
         
--if iTunes isn't running, then assume the user wants things this way, and leave things 
--alone like a good boy
         set isiTunesRunning to 1
      end if
   end tell
on error
   quit
end try

This section asks the Finder if iTunes is running. If it isn't, then isiTunesRunning stays at 0, if it is, then it gets set to 1. The try block was needed because if Entourage was particularly busy, or the Finder was, or both were busy, then you'd get an error alert complaining that the script couldn't get the name of every process. If any errors occur, the script quits, and you just wait until the next run to update things.

if isiTunesRunning = 1 then
   
   tell application "iTunes" 
   --start talking to iTunes
      
      
      if player state is playing then 
      --now we want to see if iTunes is even playing         
         set iTunesIsPlaying to 1
         set theName to the name of the current track 
         --get the track name
         set theArtist to the artist of the current track 
         --get the artist name
         set theAlbum to the album of the current track 
         --get the album name         
         if theAlbum is "" then set theAlbum to "Beats the hell out of me" 
         --default if no album name
         if theArtist is "" then set theArtist to "Who the hell knows" 
         --default if no artist name
         if theName is "" then set theName to "Too Zen for me" 
         --default if no track name         
         set theNewSig to "--
I'm listening to " & theName & " by " & theArtist & " off of " & theAlbum 
         --now we set the sig to the  iTunes values. This has to 
         --happen here, otherwise we override other defaults, that would be bad
      end if
      
   end tell 
   --our iTunes work is done
   
   if iTunesIsPlaying = 1 then 
   --iTunes is running AND playing      
      buildSig(theNewSig) 
      --build the signature from the iTunes data, and update the e'rage sig since we call 
      --the same code twice, let's make it a handler, and save space
   else 
   --iTunes is running, but not playing      
      set theNewSig to buildSigWithoutiTunes(theNewSig) 
      --call the handler that builds a sig without iTunes running
      buildSig(theNewSig) 
      --update the sent sig to some random sig  created by the previous line
   end if
   
else 
--iTunes isn't running or playing
   
   set theNewSig to buildSigWithoutiTunes(theNewSig) 
   --call the handler that builds a sig without iTunes running
   
   buildSig(theNewSig) 
   --update the sent sig to some random sig  created by the previous line
   
end if

The first line of this section tests to see if iTunes is running. If the flag, 'isiTunesRunning' is set to 1, then iTunes is running, and we start talking to iTunes. Otherwise, this section is skipped. The 'tell block' routes all the commands inside the 'tell block' to iTunes, and the first thing we need to know is the player state. ITunes could be on, but not playing. So the 'if player stated is playing' line asks iTunes for this information. There are five possible values for 'player state': stopped, playing, paused, rewinding, fast forwarding. Since we only care about playing, we use that as our test. If the 'player state' is playing, then 'iTunesIsPlaying' is set to 1.

Since iTunes is playing, we now get the names of the track, the artist, and the album the track comes from and put them into theName, theArtist, and theAlbum, respectively. We then test to see if any of these variables are blank, indicating that iTunes doesn't have this information, and if they are, we insert default values into them. Once this is done, we create the new signature text, and put it into 'theNewSig'. The reason why it looks a little odd is that I inserted returns so that we sould get a good structure in the email message. The code for these is '\r', but when you compile the script, AppleScript converts these to actual returns, so you get the breaks instead of the characters. The pre-compiled code for the signature text is:

"--\rI'm listening to " & theName & " by " & theArtist & " off of " & theAlbum

The '&' characters allow me to concatenate the data in the three track variables into the text string of the signature. Once that is done, we close the if statement with an 'end if', and the tell block with an 'end tell', and that's all we need to talk to iTunes for.

The next if statement checks the value of 'iTunesIsPlaying'. If it is 1, then we call the handler 'buildSig()' and pass it the variable theNewSig that we just created. This handler is pretty short, as seen below:

on buildSig(theSignature) 
--handler/subroutine to set the sig in E'Rage
   
   tell application "Microsoft Entourage"
   --this actually ends up setting the signature *after* you send the mail,
   --but until I get a proper signature property, it's the only non-kludgy way to do this
      if exists signature "iTunesSig" then 
      --if iTunes Sig is there
         set the content of signature "iTunesSig" to theSignature 
         --change the contents         
      else 
      --if it isn't there         
         make new signature with properties {name:"iTunesSig", content:theSignature, include in 
         random:false} 
         --create iTunes Sig, with the correct contents         
      end if
   end tell
   
end buildSig

This handler tells Entourage to set a specific signature to the contents of 'theSignature', which is carrying the data from theNewSig. One quirk here is that you are actually changing the signature after the message is sent, as you can't directly manipulate the signature in an email message yet. The first 'if' inside the tell block asks Entourage if a signature named "iTunes Sig" exists. If it does, then the content of that signature is changed to the content of 'theSignature', and we're done with the handler. If "iTunes Sig" doesn't exist, then we use the 'make new signature' statement to create the signature, name it "iTunes Sig", set the content to 'theSignature', and make it a non-random signature. (that last bit is important. If "iTunes Sig" is random, you can start setting up for the La Grua bug.) Once that's done, we're done with the handler, and we jump back into the main program.

Now, at the beginning of the signature building block of code, we checked to see if iTunes was playing. If it wasn't , (if we got to here, then iTunes is running, but is not playing), then we have to create a different signature, so we set 'theNewSig' to the results of a different handler, 'buildSigWithoutiTunes()', and pass it 'theNewSig'. This handler's code is shown below:

on buildSigWithoutiTunes(theSignature)
   
   tell application "Microsoft Entourage" 
   --here's where we use a random signature, thank Paul Berkowitz for the help here      
      set randomSigs to every signature whose include in random is true
      if the length of randomSigs is equal to 1 then
      (* this is to catch the La Grua bug, wherein you only have one sig set to random, 
      namely the iTunesSig. This creates a problem where instead of the not playing 
      message    you get the name of the last tune to play until you run iTunes again. *)
         set theSignature to the name of the first item of randomSigs
         if theSignature is "iTunesSig" then
            set theSignature to "-- 
 itunes isn't playing right now"
         end if
      end if
      if the length of randomSigs is greater than 1 then 
      --more than one signature in the random list
         set theSignature to some item of randomSigs 
         --'this gives you the numerical ID of the selected sig
         set theSignature to the content of theSignature 
         --this gives you the text content of the selected sig
      else 
      --uh - oh, no random sigs         
         set theSignature to "-- 
 itunes isn't playing right now"
      end if
   end tell
   return theSignature
end buildSigWithoutiTunes

So now, we have to deal with creating a signature that has nothing to do with iTunes, since it isn't playing anything. We tell Entourage to create a list of signatures that have the random flag set to true. Next we avoid the La Grua bug, by checking to see if the number of items in this list is 1. If it is, we set 'theSignature' to the name of that single item. If that name is "iTunesSig" then we don't want to use potentially very old track information, so we change the contends of 'theSignature' to "--\r iTunes isn't playing right now", we return theSignature, and we're done with the handler.

If the number of items in randomSigs is greater than one, then we set 'theSignature' to 'some item' of 'randomSigs, (AppleScriptese for 'gimme a random selection from that list'). This gives us the index number for a random selection from that list. We then reset 'theSignature' to the contents of the signature that the index points to. Once that is finished, we return 'theSignature' and we're done. The 'else' statement is only there if the number of random signatures is not 1 and not greater than 1, so all that's left is 0 random signatures. In that case, we set 'theSignature' to "--\r iTunes isn't playing right now", we return 'theSignature' and we're done with the handler.

However, while we now have a signature ready to go, even though iTunes isn't playing, we still haven't told Entourage to actually change the signature. Well, we could just put that code into the buildSigWithoutiTunes(), but why duplicate code? As we saw earlier, we already have that code built and running, why not use it? After all, code reuse is 'a good thing'. So that's what we do. If we review two of the last lines in the main body of the program:

set theNewSig to buildSigWithoutiTunes(theNewSig) --call the handler that builds a 
sig without iTunes running
   
   buildSig(theNewSig) --update the sent sig to some rangom sig  created by the previous line

We see that the first line is what calls the buildSigWithoutiTunes(), and sets 'theNewSig' to the returned value. The next line calls our previously discussed buildSig() handler, and passes it 'theNewSig'. That handler is what creates the new sig in iTunes. So we don't have to re-enter the same code. It's a nice way to keep your code listings shorter. The next line closes up the if statement that checked to see if iTunes was even running, and that's the end of the main program, and we're done. You'll want to save this as a compiled script, not as an application. You can save it anywhere, but I prefer to save it in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Entourage Script Menu Items/, so I can run it manually from the Entourage Script menu if need be.

Setting Up Entourage

So now we have a script, how do we get Entourage to use this bit of script we have created? Well, first you'll want to create a schedule so it can run regularly. I've been running it every minute for about five months now without a problem. The schedule setup is pretty simple, as we can see below:


Setup for iTunes Script Schedule

You give it a name, set it to be a repeating schedule, and set the action to be 'Run AppleScript' and point it at the 'sigFromiTunes' script. Make sure the 'Enabled' checkbox is checked, click 'OK' and your schedule is set. The next step is to attach the signature that this schedule is going to be creating to an account. I chose my mac.com account, as I mostly use that for personal email. The setup for that is pretty easy as well. This account happens to be an IMAP account, but the setup for POP accounts is the same. Go to the 'Tools' menu, and select 'Accounts'. In the list of accounts, double-click the account you want this signature to attach to, and select the Options tab. Then in the signature pull down, pick the appropriate entry for the iTunes Signature, normally 'iTunesSig'. My setup is seen below:


Account setup for iTunesSig

Once that's done, click 'OK', and you're all set to wow your friends with your vast collection of legal MP3s.

Conclusion

Well, it's not a terribly serious or network-related use for AppleScript, but then again, you are supposed to have some fun with your Mac every once in a while. Otherwise, you may as well use Windows. Also, I have done some testing, and this should work on iTunes 3 as well as 2.X, but if it doesn't, by all means, feel free to fix it. Finally, here are some URLs that can help you with this, or any other AppleScripting projects you may have:


John Welch <jwelch@mit.edu> is a Consultant with MIT IS, and the Chief Know-It-All for TackyShirt. He has over fifteen years of experience at making computers work. John specializes in figuring out ways in which to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, showing that the Mac is the superior administrative platform, and teaching others how to use it in interesting, if sometimes frightening ways. He also does things that don't involve computertry on occasion, or at least that's the rumor.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Civilization VI 1.0.1 - Next iteration o...
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the popular Civilization franchise. Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a strategy game in which you attempt to... Read more
Google Chrome 55.0.2883.75 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Chromium 55.0.2883.75 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 55.0.2883.75: Security fixes: High CVE-2016... Read more
Luminar 1.0.2 - Powerful, adaptive, conf...
Luminar is the new full-featured image editor that adapts to the way you edit photos. Over 300 essential tools to fix, edit, and enhance your photos with comfort. The future of photo editing is here... Read more
Slack 2.3.3 - Collaborative communicatio...
Slack is a collaborative communication app that simplifies real-time messaging, archiving, and search for modern working teams. Version 2.3.3: Fixed window zoom jumping back-and-forth OS X 10.9... Read more
WhatRoute 2.0.10 - Geographically trace...
WhatRoute is designed to find the names of all the routers an IP packet passes through on its way from your Mac to a destination host. It also measures the round-trip time from your Mac to the router... Read more
Luminar 1.0.2 - Powerful, adaptive, conf...
Luminar is the new full-featured image editor that adapts to the way you edit photos. Over 300 essential tools to fix, edit, and enhance your photos with comfort. The future of photo editing is here... Read more
WhatRoute 2.0.10 - Geographically trace...
WhatRoute is designed to find the names of all the routers an IP packet passes through on its way from your Mac to a destination host. It also measures the round-trip time from your Mac to the router... Read more
Slack 2.3.3 - Collaborative communicatio...
Slack is a collaborative communication app that simplifies real-time messaging, archiving, and search for modern working teams. Version 2.3.3: Fixed window zoom jumping back-and-forth OS X 10.9... Read more
Lens Blur 1.4.3 - True out-of-focus boke...
Lens Blur transforms your existing photo into true SLR-quality out-of-focus bokeh effect! Everyone needs a gorgeous personalized background for a social profile, blog, Web/UI design, presentation, or... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Amateur Surgeon 4 Guide: Become the worl...
It's time to wield your trusty pizza cutter again, as Amateur Surgeon has returned with a whole fresh set of challenges (and some old, familiar ones, too). Starting anew isn't easy, especially when all you have at your disposal is a lighter, the... | Read more »
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire (Ga...
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Telltale Games really is working on a Gu...
Telltale Games' next episodic adventure is indeed Guardians of the Galaxy. A document tied to the voice actors strike suggested that the project was in the work, but now we have direct confirmation following an announcement at the Game Awards that... | Read more »
Amateur Surgeon returns to iOS and Andro...
Amateur Surgeon and its two sequels disappeared from the App Store some time and it was sad days for all. But now, just in time for the holidays, the Adult Swim favorite makes its joyous return in the shape of Amateur Surgeon 4, a remake with... | Read more »
The best board games on mobile
Sometimes you need to ditch all of the high speed, high action games in favor of something a little more traditional. If you don't feel like parting ways from your mobile device, though, there are still plenty of ways to get that old-school fix.... | Read more »
The best Facebook Messenger Instant Game...
Facebook's new Instant Games is now here, meaning you can play games with your friends directly via Facebook. It's a fun new way to connect with friends, of course, but it's also proving to be a solid gaming experience in its own right, with a... | Read more »
You can now play game's on Facebook...
Facebook launched its new Instant Games platform in an exciting new attempt to engage its user base. As a result, you can now play a number of different games directly through Facebook Messenger. All of these games run with HTML5, meaning you play... | Read more »
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney (Games)
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney 1.00.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.00.00 (iTunes) Description: Court Is Back In Session Star as rookie defense attorney, Apollo Justice, as he visits crime scenes,... | Read more »
KORG iWAVESTATION (Music)
KORG iWAVESTATION 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $19.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A revolutionary new world of sound.The Wave Sequence Synthesizer for iPad - KORG iWAVESTATION | Read more »
Don't Grind Guide: Tips for becomin...
Don’t Grind is a surprising, derpy little one touch game with fun hand-drawn graphics. The goal is simple -- get the high score without being chopped to bits. That can be tough when you’re not used to the game, and that’s compounded by the fact... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Parallels Toolbox 1.3 for Mac Offers 25 Singl...
Parallels has launched Parallels Toolbox 1.3 for Mac, an upgrade that adds five new utilities to the stand-alone application which was released in August and is available exclusively online at http... Read more
OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini Ultra-Portabl...
OWC has introduced the new OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini, a powerful yet ultra-portable dual-drive RAID solution. The new Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini packs phenomenal performance into a small... Read more
Clearance 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros availab...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ Retina Apple MacBook Pros available for up to $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Roundup of 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro sa...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1449 $... Read more
New 13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro in...
Adorama has the new 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar, MLL42LL/A) in stock for $1499 including a free 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax... Read more
Finnair Adopts iOS Enterprise iPad Apps from...
Finnair and IBM have announced a first-of-its-kind agreement to utilize iOS enterprise apps from IBM to support the airline’s overall digital transformation. Finnair is focused on Asia-Europe traffic... Read more
Tech21 Launches Evo Go iPhone 7 Case Availabl...
Tech21 has announced the launch of the Evo Go case for Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, exclusively at T-Mobile. Available online and at participating T-Mobile stores nationwide, Evo Go cases start... Read more
Apple Turns (RED) with More Ways to Join the...
In recognition of World AIDS Day, Apple is offering more ways than ever for customers to join (RED) in its mission to create an AIDS-free generation. Apple is the worlds largest corporate contributor... Read more
Deals on new 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros,...
B&H Photo has new 2016 Apple 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models in stock today with some available for $50 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $10...
12-inch Retina MacBooks remain on sale at B&H Photo with models available for up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. B&H will also include a free copy... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- White P...
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
Automotive Detailer - *Apple* Used Autos -...
We are currently conductinginterviews and will be accepting applications for a part-time detailer. Apple Used Autos is a great place to work andstart a career. We Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…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 Read more
*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Dallas TX Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.