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.

 
AAPL
$119.00
Apple Inc.
+1.40
MSFT
$47.75
Microsoft Corpora
+0.28
GOOG
$540.37
Google Inc.
-0.71

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

HoudahSpot 3.9.6 - Advanced file search...
HoudahSpot is a powerful file search tool built upon MacOS X Spotlight. Spotlight unleashed Create detailed queries to locate the exact file you need Narrow down searches. Zero in on files Save... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.1.10 - Manage m...
iPhoto Library Manager lets you organize your photos into multiple iPhoto libraries. Separate your high school and college photos from your latest summer vacation pictures. Or keep some photo... Read more
iExplorer 3.5.1.9 - View and transfer al...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.3 - Discover and i...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
SteerMouse 4.2.2 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
iMazing 1.1 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
PopChar X 7.0 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.0.3 - Easy-to-use b...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.3 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Bounce On Back (Games)
Bounce On Back 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Maker...
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Makers of Scrap Squad Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Relevant Games has announced they will be releasing their reverse tower defense game, | Read more »
Tripnary Review
Tripnary Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRAVEL BUCKET LISTiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Want to create a travel bucket list? Tripnary is a fun way to do exactly that... | Read more »
Ossian Studios’ RPG, The Shadow Sun, is...
Ossian Studios’ RPG, The Shadow Sun, is Now Available for $4.99 Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Mmmm, Tasty – Having the Angry Birds for...
The very first Angry Birds debuted on iOS back in 2009. When you sit back and tally up the number of Angry Birds games out there and the impact they’ve had on pop culture as a whole, you just need to ask yourself: “How would the birds taste... | Read more »
Rescue Quest Review
Rescue Quest Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PATH BASED MATCH-3Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide a wizard to safety by matching gems. Rescue Quest might not be an entirely original... | Read more »
You Can Play the Final Chapter of Lone W...
You Can Play the Final Chapter of Lone Wolf: Dawn Over V’taag Right Now Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swords of Anima (Games)
Swords of Anima 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A new tactical turn-based RPG experience. Command the Savior Rex Squad in an epic journey of courage and deception. Can you... | Read more »
Audio Defence: Zombie Arena
Audio Defence: Zombie Arena By Lee Hamlet on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: DRAGS ITS FEETUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad From the makers of Papa Sangre comes a defense game that forces players to listen carefully... | Read more »
Tales from the Borderland​s Will be Comi...
Tales from the Borderland​s Will be Coming to iOS by the End of the Year Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Telltale Games has announced | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

2014 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $...
 B&H Photo has the new 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $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 model. Adorama... Read more
Early Black Friday pricing on 27-inch 5K iMac...
 B&H Photo continues to offer Black Friday sale prices on the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac, in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP... Read more
Early Black Friday sale prices on iPad Air 2,...
 MacMall is discounting iPad Air 2s by up to $75 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free: - 16GB iPad Air WiFi: $459 $40 off - 64GB iPad Air WiFi: $559 $40 off - 128GB iPad Air... Read more
Early Black Friday MacBook Air sale prices, $...
 MacMall has posted early Black Friday MacBook Air sale prices. Save $101 on all models for a limited time: - 11″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $798 - 11″ 1.4GHz/256GB MacBook Air: $998 - 13″ 1.4GHz/... Read more
Why iPhone 6 Tablet/Laptop Cannibalization Is...
247wallst.com blogger Douglas A. McIntyre noted last week that according to research posted on the Applovin blog site the iPhone 6 is outselling the iPhone 6 Plus by a wide margin . Hardly a surprise... Read more
Worldwide Tablet Growth Expected to Slow to 7...
The global tablet market is expected to record massive deceleration in 2014 with year-over-year growth slowing to 7.2%, down from 52.5% in 2013, according to a new forecast from International Data... Read more
Touchscreen Glove Company Announces New Produ...
Surrey, United Kingdom based TouchAbility specializes in design and manufacture of a wide variety of products compatible with touchscreen devices including smartphones, tablets and computers. Their... Read more
OtterBox Alpha Glass Screen Protectors for iP...
To complement the bigger, sharper displays on the latest Apple devices, OtterBox has introduced Alpha Glass screen protectors to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The fortified glass screen protectors... Read more
Early Black Friday Mac Pro sale, 6-Core 3.5GH...
 B&H Photo has the 6-Core 3.5GHz Mac Pro on sale today for $3499 including free shipping plus NY sales tax. Their price is $500 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from... Read more
Early Black Friday sale price: 15-inch 2.2GHz...
 B&H Photo has the 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale today for $1699.99. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $300 off MSRP, equalling Best Buy’s price... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**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
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
*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* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**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
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.