TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Fun With AppleScript

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: Programming

Getting Started

by Dave Mark

Fun With AppleScript

A few weeks ago, I read an article talking about the changes to AppleScript introduced with the release of Panther. I've always been a big AppleScript fan, but this article really piqued my interest. I've been promising myself to spend some quality time digging into dictionaries, scripting environments, and especially using Interface Builder and AppleScript Studio to add Cocoa elements to AppleScript, and now that I've had enough quality play-time, I wanted to start writing about all this cool stuff.

Start by Setting Up Script Menu

Before we start playing with AppleScript itself, it is worthwhile taking a minute to install Script Menu, the little script icon that appears on the right side of the menu bar and gives you access to a wide range of AppleScripts.

Navigate over to Applications/AppleScript/ and double-click on the script Install Script Menu. The Script Menu icon should appear in your menu bar. My Script Menu is shown in Figure 1. The Script Menu lists scripts from three different places on your hard drive. Local Scripts (also called Library Scripts) are found in the directory /Library/Scripts. User Scripts are found in your home directory, inside /Users/<user name>/Library/Scripts/. And, finally, Application Scripts are found within your User Scripts folder, in a subfolder called /Applications/<appname>/, where <appname> is a folder with the exact same name as the application the scripts are written for.


Figure 1. The Script Menu's menu.

Let's take a look at this in action. Figure 1 shows the vanilla install of Script Menu. The first item, Open Scripts Folder, opens your User Scripts folder in a Finder window. Remember, User Scripts are the scripts you install in your home area.

The second menu item, Hide Library Scripts, removes the Library Scripts from the Script Menu.

Next comes a separator and the list of all the Library Scripts. In this case, all the scripts are divided into subfolders and so appear in the Script Menu divided into submenus.

Add in a User and Application Script

The screen shot in Figure 1 shows Script Menu as it appears out of the box. Let's add a User Script to the menu. Go into the directory /Applications/AppleScript/ and launch the application Script Editor. Select New from the File menu, type in this simple script:

tell application "Finder"
	activate
end tell

Now select Save from the File menu and save the script in the directory /Users/xxx/Library/Scripts/, where xxx is your user name. I saved my script under the name Dave's Test Script.

A quick note about terminology: The directory /Users/xxx/ is called your home directory and can be represented in the Unix world by the tilde character (~). For example, if I typed in the command:

ls /Users/davemark/

it would be exactly the same as typing:

ls ~

You can also use ~xxx to refer to another user's home directory. So this is also equivalent way to refer to davemark's home directory:

ls ~davemark

And this is one way to list the contents of my User Scripts folder:

ls ~davemark/Library/Scripts

As soon as you save the script, it should appear in your Script Menu. Make sure you are still in Script Editor, then open the Script Menu, select your script (it should be at the very bottom), and watch what happens. Your script is executed, and it does what it is supposed to do. Namely, it tells the Finder to activate, to come to the front. And that is exactly what should happen.

Note that you could have created a folder in your ~/Library/Scripts/ folder and placed the script inside that folder. In that case, the folder would have appeared in the Script Menu as a submenu and the script would have appeared as an item inside that submenu. Try it!

Now for some ultimate coolness! Go back into Script Editor and close the window of the script you just created. Next, hold down the option key, click on the Script Menu and select your script again. Instead of running the script, Mac OS X opens the script in Script Editor. An excellent feature!

Your next step is to add an application-specific folder to your User Script directory. The idea here is to have a directory for all your scripted applications and have the scripts for that app appear in the Script Menu whenever that application is front most. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Start off by creating a folder called Applications in your ~/Library/Scripts/ folder. Within that folder, create a folder with the exact name of one of your applications. For example, create a folder named Finder. Note that spelling is critical or this won't work. Now go into Script Editor and create this script:

tell application "Script Editor"
	activate
end tell

Save the script in the ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/Finder folder. I saved my script under the name Dave's Finder Script. Once the script is saved, click on the Script Menu. If you are in the Finder, your Finder scripts will appear at the bottom of the menu. If you are in another app, the Finder scripts will be replaced by the scripts (if any) for that app.

Figure 2 shows my Script Menu, as selected from within the Finder. Note that the User Script I created, Dave's Script, is second from the bottom, and the Finder script is at the very bottom. When I run Dave's Script, the Finder comes to the front. Then, within the Finder, when I run Dave's Finder Script, Script Editor comes to the front. Try this yourself.


Figure 2. The Script Menu with the addition of my test script from my User Scripts folder and my Finder

Script from my Applications/Finder/ folder.

Exploring the Dictionary

Now that you have a home for all your scripts, let's start exploring AppleScript itself. One place to start is with an application's dictionary. Each application's dictionary entry gives specific information about the classes and commands that the application supports.

Launch Script Editor. If it is not already open, open the Library window by selecting Library from the Window menu. Figure 3 shows my Script Editor library.


Figure 3. Script Editor's Library window.

Double-click on the Finder entry in the Library window. The window shown in Figure 4 will appear. There is a lot of information to digest in this window. Spend a few minutes opening the various disclosure triangles (I've opened some of them in Figure 4) and clicking on the various commands and classes in the left scrolling pane.

If you've ever done any pre-OS X Mac development, you've likely encountered the concept of Apple events. Want an app to quit? Send it a quit Apple event. Want an app to open or print a file? Send it an open or print Apple event. AppleScript is basically a sophisticated language you can use to control a scriptable application by sending it events and scripting the results.


Figure 4. The Finder's dictionary, showing the application class in the Finder Basics suite.

The most basic set of commands are organized into something called the Standard Suite. Most applications support the Standard Suite. The Standard Suite commands are close, count, data size, delete, duplicate, exists, make, move, open, print, quit, and select.

Many applications add their own sets of commands to the Standard Suite. For example, the Finder adds in a set of classes and commands called Finder Basics and another called Finder items. The main pain of Figure 4 shows the details of the application class in the Finder Basics suite. Notice that the list is divided into Elements and Properties. Elements are the objects contained in a class, while properties are more like preferences - unique within a class. Elements can be plural while a property is usually singular. A typical Finder element might be the list of items on the desktop. A typical Finder property might be the current selection.

Let's play with this a bit.

Create a new script and type in this code:

tell application "Finder"
	get home
end tell

When you run this script, Script Editor should display results in its Result pane. My results are shown in Figure 5. Notice that home is a Finder property containing the home directory. If you look towards the bottom of Figure 4, you'll see that it is also marked [r/o], meaning the property is read-only.


Figure 5. A simple Finder script, with the results shown in the Result pane.

Now edit the script like so:

tell application "Finder"
	get items of home
end tell

While the first script gave you the value of the home property, this script returns the list of items in the home folder. Here's the result I got when I ran this script:

{folder "Desktop" of folder "davemark" of folder "Users" of startup disk of 
   application "Finder", folder "Documents" of folder "davemark" of folder "Users" of startup 
   disk of application "Finder", folder "Library" of folder "davemark" of folder "Users" of 
   startup disk of application "Finder", folder "Magazines" of folder "davemark" of folder 
   "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder", folder "Movies" of folder "davemark" of 
   folder "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder", folder "Music" of folder "davemark" 
   of folder "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder", folder "Pictures" of folder 
   "davemark" of folder "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder", folder "Public" of 
   folder "davemark" of folder "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder", folder "Sites" 
   of folder "davemark" of folder "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder"}

As you can see, this is a comma-delimited list, wrapped in curly braces. This kind of result is typical in AppleScript. As you can see in the top of Figure 4, an item element can be specified "by numeric index, before/after another element, by name, as a range of elements, satisfying a test." For example, we can refer to item 3, as in this script:

tell application "Finder"
	get item 3 of home
end tell

As you might expect, here's the result of this script:

folder "Library" of folder "davemark" of folder 
   "Users" of startup disk of application "Finder"

Till Next Month...

There is a ton of cool stuff to play with here. In the Finder dictionary, look in the Finder items suite, at the item class to learn everything you could possibly want to know about items. For example, you'll see a bounds property, which describes the bounding rectangle of the specified item. You might extend the script above to:

tell application "Finder"
	get bounds of item 3 of home
end tell

You get the idea. The dictionary is an incredibly powerful tool for unlocking the mysteries of AppleScript. Play more. I'll be back next month with more fun stuff! J


Dave Mark is a long-time Mac developer and author and has written a number of books on Macintosh development, including Learn C on the Macintosh, Learn C++ on the Macintosh, and The Macintosh Programming Primer series. Be sure to check out Dave's web site at http://www.spiderworks.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Adium 1.5.10.3 - Popular instant messagi...
Adium is a fast and free instant messaging client which supports AIM, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, Yahoo! Japan, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Novell Groupwise, SIP/SIMPLE (Text), and Lotus Sametime... Read more
CleanMyMac 3.8.1 - $39.95
CleanMyMac makes space for the things you love. Sporting a range of ingenious new features, CleanMyMac lets you safely and intelligently scan and clean your entire system, delete large, unused files... Read more
BusyCal 3.1.7 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. Its unique features... Read more
Lyn 1.8.9 - Lightweight image browser an...
Lyn is a fast, lightweight image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists, and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it delivers... Read more
Tweetbot 2.5 - Popular Twitter client.
Tweetbot is a full-featured OS X Twitter client with a lot of personality. Whether it's the meticulously-crafted interface, sounds and animation, or features like multiple timelines and column views... Read more
Monolingual 1.7.8 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. If you use your computer in only one (human) language, you... Read more
Dash 4.0.3 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API documentation browser and code snippet manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
Posterino 3.3.6 - Create posters, collag...
Posterino offers enhanced customization and flexibility including a variety of new, stylish templates featuring grids of identical or odd-sized image boxes. You can customize the size and shape of... Read more
Apple Numbers 4.1.1 - Apple's sprea...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more
Apple Pages 6.1.1 - Apple's word pr...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices, and... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

SCRAP (Games)
SCRAP 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: That day, for no apparent reason, SCRAP decided to wake up and run. He had to, because his activation was a mistake the "Factory" could... | Read more »
The Bunker (Games)
The Bunker 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: The critically acclaimed console hit "The Bunker" comes to iOS, The groundbreaking live-action thriller adventure set in a real... | Read more »
Die With Glory (Games)
Die With Glory 1.2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.2.0 (iTunes) Description: Die with Glory is an epic adventure game where your goal is to die in glorious fashion. You must help Sigurd, a brave old... | Read more »
Get Ike in the new Fire Emblem: Heroes u...
One of the most popular Fire Emblem characters is finally available in a new update to Nintendo'sFire Emblem: Heroes. [Read more] | Read more »
Die With Glory in a new viking adventure...
If you're a fan of classic adventure games you'll do well to pick upDie With Glory, the gorgeous new title from Cloud Castle inc. Die With Glory updatesthe gameplay of the same kind of adventure classics such asMonkey Island for modern, mobile... | Read more »
Get up to speed with everything you need...
In case you haven’t heard, MU Origin just got a colossal new update with new all-server events, battle modes, and systems making their way to the land of MU. Here’s a handy guide to everything you need to know about the latest content. [Read... | Read more »
Minimalist puzzle game, Cuts, free on iO...
If you're looking for a gorgeous puzzle experience on iOS devices, developer Gamebra.in's aesthetically interesting puzzler, Cuts, is discounted to free on the iOS App Store right now. [Read more] | Read more »
Anime tactical RPG, War of Crown, comes...
If you're looking for another tactical RPG fix to go alongside your Fire Emblem Heroes campaigns check out Gamevil's newest, anime-inspired tactics RPG, War of Crown, which comes out tomorrow. [Read more] | Read more »
Fantasy MMORPG MU Origin adds new modes,...
MU Origin, Webzen’s highly popular fantasy MMORPG is getting ready to shake things up for the second time this year, as a new update makes its way to the Google Play and App Store from today. Introducing new systems, modes, and events, the land of... | Read more »
Blizzard is looking to hire a mobile dev...
A new thread on the popular video game rumor forum, NeoGAF, uncovered an interesting job listing over at Blizzard Entertainment. It appears the studio behindStarCraft, World of WarCraft, Hearthstone,andOverwatch is looking to bring on a new hire... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Digital Paper Tablet Offers Distraction Free...
I typically spend 8-10 hours a day gazing at the screens in my laptops and iPad, as tools of my livelihood, I don’t as a rule use electronic devices for pleasure reading. I subscribe to a daily... Read more
“Today at Apple” Bringing New Educational Ses...
Apple has announced plans to launch dozens of new educational sessions next month in all 495 Apple Stores ranging in topics from photo and video to music, coding, art and design, and more. The hands-... Read more
Smart Finance Free Comprehensive Personal Fin...
Moscow-based indie developer, Alexander Survillo has announced the release and immediate availability of Smart Finance: Personal Finance, Budget & Money 1.1.4, an update to his comprehensive... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $1...
B&H has 12″ 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1199.99 $100 off MSRP - 12... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $130 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (MF839LL/A): $1169 $... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available...
B&H Photo has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro available for $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro (MJLQ2LL/A): $1799.99 $200 off... Read more
13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for up...
B&H Photo has the 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up...
B&H has 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $160 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1439.99 $160 off MSRP - 12″ 1... Read more
HyperX Ships Pulsefire FPS Gaming Mouse, Winn...
Your reporter is a longtime fan of gaming mice for general purpose coomnputing use, finding them typically superior in comfort and performance. HyperX, a division of Kingston Technology Company, Inc... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mac Computer Technician - GeekHampto...
…complex computer issues over the phone and in person? GeekHampton, Long Island's Apple Premium Service Provider, is looking for you! Come work with our crew Read more
Product Manager, *Apple* Platforms - Viacom...
…Product Manager to drive the execution of its iOS and AppleTV experiences. The Apple Platform Product Manager will be a leader in our Agile/Scrum environment and Read more
Geek Squad *Apple* Master Consultation Agen...
**500662BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Master Consultation Agent **Location Number:** 000286-Canton-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Geek Squad Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**500710BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000279-North Olmsted-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master Read more
*Apple* Engineering Specialist - CSRA (Unite...
Apple Engineering Specialist All times are in Eastern Daylight Time Requisition ID Job Locations US DC Washington DC Posted Date Category Engineering Sciences Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.