TweetFollow Us on Twitter

More Fun With AppleScript

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 2
Column Tag: Programming

Getting Started

by Dave Mark

More Fun With AppleScript

In last month's column, we installed Script Menu to help us organize our scripts, and then started digging into the Finder's AppleScript dictionary. Fantastic stuff! Hopefully, you've had a chance to play. If not, launch Script Editor, select Library from the Window menu, then double-click on the Finder entry in the Library list. A Finder dictionary window should appear.

Click on the line in the left pane labeled Finder Basics. The classes and commands associated with the Finder Basics AppleScript suite will appear (see Figure 1). Notice that the Finder Basics are divided into Properties and Elements. Think of properties as class data and the elements as objects within the class.

Figure 1. The Finder Basics dictionary entries.

For example, go into the Script Editor and type this script:

tell application "Finder"
   get name
end tell

When you run this script, here's what appears in the results field:


This is the value of the name property of the Finder. If you are running Panther, here's the result of the command get version:


Here's an interesting one. First, do a get startup disk:

startup disk of application "Finder"

Now do a get name of startup disk:

"Macintosh HD"

See the difference? Startup disk is a reference to the startup disk, whereas name of startup disk is a string containing the name of the startup disk. If you look in Figure 1, you'll see that startup disk is of type disk. The disk class is defined in the Containers and folders suite. The class is shown in Figure 2. Notice that the dictionary shows the plural form of disk as disks. The dictionary also shows the elements and properties of the disk class.

Figure 2. The disk class entries of the Containers and folders suite.

Try the command get format of startup disk. Remember, format is a property of the disk class and startup disk is defined as being of class disk. Here's the result on my Mac:

Mac OS Extended format

Now try get journaling enabled of startup disk. Here's the result:


As you might expect, Boolean properties return either true or false. The command get ignore privileges of startup disk returns:


Finder Basics - Elements

Go back to Figure 1 and take a look at the elements in the Finder Basics suite. These are the objects that you might expect the Finder to encounter. What do you think the result will be of running this script:

tell application "Finder"
   get items
end tell

It helps to have a sense of the item class. An item is basically a generic object - pretty much anything that could exist in a Finder window or on the desktop. Here's the result I got when I ran the script on my Mac:

{startup disk of application "Finder", disk "Macintosh HD" of application 
"Finder", folder "AE Monitor 1.0" of desktop of application "Finder", document file 
"DSC_0751.JPG" of desktop of application "Finder", folder "InDesign CS Example Scripts" 
of desktop of application "Finder", folder "UI Element Inspector" of desktop of application 
"Finder", alias file "Warcraft III" of desktop of application "Finder", folder "wedding_pics" 
of desktop of application "Finder", document file "Xcode notes" of desktop of application "Finder"}

Look through this list of items. Note the curly braces, necessary to making this a proper list. Take a look at the nomenclature, especially the use of the word "of" all over the place. Think containers/enclosures, items within items within items.

Figure 2 shows the listing of the Finder items suite in a dictionary window. Check out the list of properties. Note that an item has an index. Look in the list of items in the previous list, returned by the get items command. What do you think will happen when I run the command get item 2. Here's my result:

disk "Macintosh HD" of application "Finder"

Figure 3. The item class in the Finder items suite.

As you might expect, get item 2 returns the second item in the list returned by get items. Now, what do you suppose you'd get from this command:

get container of item 2

In my case, I got:

folder "Dave Mark's Computer" of application "Finder"

Brave New Make

So far, all we've done is suck information out of the Finder. Let's try making something.

In the Finder's dictionary window, click on the Commands line in the Standard Suite. The commands supported by all subsequent suites are listed. One of these is the make command. The details are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Details on the make command.

Here's a script to create a new folder at the current insertion location (the desktop).

tell application "Finder"
   make new folder with properties {name:"blap"}
end tell

This tells the Finder to create a new folder at the current insertion location (since I didn't specify a new location) with the specified properties. Since I only specified a single property, this will be pretty simple. I ran this script and a new folder named "blap" appeared on my desktop. Here's the result returned by my script:

folder "blap" of folder "Desktop" of folder "davemark" of folder "Users" 
of startup disk of application "Finder"

Does this make sense? You can see the containment hierarchy as it walks its way out from the new folder to the top of my hard drive and Finder itself.

Now that "blap" exists, let's try running the script again. Hrm. As you can see in Figure 5, we got an error, telling us that the folder already exists.

Figure 5. An error is reported when I try creating a folder that already exists. Hrm.

Having Script Editor report the error is very useful if you are testing your script or just playing. But if you deliver this script as a compiled entity to a user, you'll want the program to handle the errors itself. Here's a new version of the script:

tell application "Finder"
      make new folder with properties {name:"blap"}
   on error error_message
      display dialog error_message
   end try
end tell

Running this script produces the dialog shown in Figure 6. Much better. Now the script uses a try block and a corresponding on error block to pass the incoming error message to the display dialog command.

Figure 6. A simple error dialog.

Here's the result of running this script (I clicked the OK button):

{button returned:"OK"}

Till Next Month...

Hopefully, you are getting a bit more familiar with the AppleScript Finder dictionary and the way you can take advantage of properties, elements, and commands. Now that you have a sense of the Finder, open up some other dictionaries. A great one to play with is the TextEdit dictionary. A lovely place to create text elements and copy them to the clipboard for use in other applications. Try your hand at manipulating TextEdit. See what you can do with it.

We will return to AppleScript at some point (I love it too much not to) but next month's column is going back to Cocoa. I am heading down to Atlanta to Aaron Hillegass' Big Nerd Ranch for a week of intensive Cocoa training. I am very excited about this. Model View Controller, Model View Controller. See you next month! 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


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Hazel 4.0.7 - Create rules for organizin...
Hazel is your personal housekeeper, organizing and cleaning folders based on rules you define. Hazel can also manage your trash and uninstall your applications. Organize your files using a familiar... Read more
Opera 40.0.2308.90 - High-performance We...
Opera is a fast and secure browser trusted by millions of users. With the intuitive interface, Speed Dial and visual bookmarks for organizing favorite sites, news feature with fresh, relevant content... Read more
BetterTouchTool 1.93 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Backblaze - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Postbox 5.0.5 - Powerful and flexible em...
Postbox is a new email application that helps you organize your work life and get stuff done. It has all the elegance and simplicity of Apple Mail, but with more power and flexibility to manage even... Read more
Coda 2.5.19 - One-window Web development...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few surprises... Read more
Toast Titanium 15.1 - $99.99
Roxio Toast 15 Titanium, the leading DVD burner for Mac, makes burning even better, adding Roxio Secure Burn to protect your files on disc and USB in Mac- or Windows-compatible formats. Get more... Read more
Firetask 3.8.1 - Innovative task managem...
Firetask uniquely combines the advantages of classical priority-and-due-date-based task management with GTD. Stay focused and on top of your commitments - Firetask's "Today" view shows all relevant... Read more
Chromium 54.0.2840.71 - 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 54.0.2840.71: Release notes were unavailable... Read more
Chromium 54.0.2840.71 - 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 54.0.2840.71: Release notes were unavailable... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

WitchSpring2 (Games)
WitchSpring2 1.27 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.27 (iTunes) Description: This is the story of Luna, the Moonlight Witch as she sets out into the world. This is a sequel to Witch Spring. Witch Spring 2... | Read more »
Best Fiends Forever Guide: How to collec...
The fiendship in Seriously's hit Best Fiends has been upgraded this time around in Best Fiends Forever. It’s a fast-paced clicker with lots of color and style--kind of reminiscent of a ‘90s animal mascot game like Crash Bandicoot. The game... | Read more »
5 apps for the budding mixologist
Creating your own cocktails is something of an art form, requiring a knack for unique tastes and devising interesting combinations. It's easy to get started right in your own kitchen, though, even if you're a complete beginner. Try using one of... | Read more »
5 mobile strategy games to try when you...
Strategy enthusiasts everywhere are celebrating the release of Civilization VI this week, and so far everyone seems pretty satisfied with the first full release in the series since 2010. The series has always been about ultra-addictive gameplay... | Read more »
Popclaire talk to us about why The Virus...
Humanity has succumbed to a virus that’s spread throughout the world. Now the dead have risen with a hunger for human flesh, and all that remain are a few survivors. One of those survivors has just called you for help. That’s the plot in POPCLAIRE’... | Read more »
Oceans & Empires preview build sets...
Hugely ambitious sea battler Oceans & Empires is available to play in preview form now on Google Play - but download it quickly, as it’s setting sail away in just a few days. [Read more] | Read more »
Rusty Lake: Roots (Games)
Rusty Lake: Roots 1.1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.1.4 (iTunes) Description: James Vanderboom's life drastically changes when he plants a special seed in the garden of the house he has inherited.... | Read more »
Flippy Bottle Extreme! and 3 other physi...
Flippy Bottle Extreme! takes on the bottle flipping craze with a bunch of increasingly tricky physics platforming puzzles. It's difficult and highly frustrating, but also addictive. When you begin to master the game, the sense of achievement is... | Read more »
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes guide: How to...
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes surprised us all, presenting a deep deck building experience. It's a great CCG that stands up well to the competition. There are a lot of CCGs vying for players' attention at the moment, but PvZ Heroes is definitely one... | Read more »
Arcane Online takes Online RPG’s to anot...
If you think that you need a desktop to enjoy high quality MMO gaming then Arcane Online hopes to prove you emphatically wrong. An epic fantasy Online RPG set in the land of Eldine, Arcane Online offers an abundance of features and content that... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Apple’s Thursday “Hello Again” Event A Largel...
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a strong record of Apple hardware prediction accuracy, forecasts in a new note to investors released late last week that a long-overdue redo of the... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off...
Amazon has 2016 12″ Apple Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free: - 12″ 1.1GHz Silver Retina MacBook: $1199.99 $100 off MSRP - 12″ 1.1GHz Gold Retina MacBook: $1199.99 $100 off... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
PixelStyle Inexpensive Photo Editor For Mac W...
PixelStyle is an all-in-one Mac Photo Editor with a huge range of high-end filters including lighting, blurs, distortions, tilt-shift, shadows, glows and so forth. PixelStyle Photo Editor for Mac... Read more
13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for $100-$140 of...
B&H has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $100-$140 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MMGF2LL/A): $899 $100 off... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
21-inch 3.1GHz 4K on sale for $1379, $120 off...
Adorama has the 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac on sale $1379.99. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. To purchase an iMac at this price, you must first... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
Apple, Samsung, Lead J.D. Power Smartphone Sa...
Customer satisfaction is much higher among smartphone owners currently subscribing to full-service wireless carriers, compared with those purchasing service through a non-contract carrier, according... Read more
Select 9-inch Apple WiFi iPad Pros on sale fo...
B&H Photo has select 9.7″ Apple WiFi iPad Pros on sale for up to $50 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 9″ Space Gray 256GB WiFi iPad Pro: $799 $0 off... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Nashua,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Napervi...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Security Data Analyst - *Apple* Information...
…data sources need to be collected to allow Information Security to better protect Apple employees and customers from a wide range of threats.Act as the subject Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (Multi-L...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- New Yor...
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.