TweetFollow Us on Twitter

A platform for protecting mail servers.

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Programming

AppleScript Essentials

by Benjamin S. Waldie

Introduction to Scripting the Finder

Last month, we looked at the user interaction functionality in the Standard Additions scripting addition. This month, we are going to get started with some basic Finder scripting. We will briefly look at the Finder's dictionary, recording in the Finder, and some basic folder maintenance. In the future, we will explore other aspects of Finder scripting in greater detail.

Finder Basics

Accessing the Finder Dictionary

The first thing to note is that the Finder is not the Mac OS. The Finder is simply an application in the Mac OS, and it provides you with a graphical interface for navigating and organizing your computer's file and folder structure.

The Finder can be found in the System > Library > CoreServices folder on your computer. Please note that, much like any other application on your computer, the Finder's version number typically changes when newer system software becomes available. With these version changes, frequently comes new and/or modified AppleScript functionality, and updates to your existing code may be required.

Like many other applications on the Mac, the Finder is scriptable, and therefore contains an AppleScript dictionary. The Finder's AppleScript dictionary contains all of the AppleScript commands, objects, and properties that the Finder understands.

To open the Finder's dictionary, launch the Script Editor, located in Applications > AppleScript. Then, select Open Dictionary from the File menu. You may also open the Finder's dictionary from the Library palette in the Script Editor. If this palette is not visible, select Library from the Window menu in order to make it visible.


Figure 1. The Finder Dictionary

As you look through the Finder's dictionary, you will see that it is broken up into different sections, or suites. These suites help to organize the dictionary into groups of related objects, properties, and commands, making the dictionary easier to navigate.

You may notice that certain things in the Finder's dictionary indicate a note of "NOT AVAILABLE YET". For example:

Finder preferences  preferences  [r/o]  -- (NOT AVAILABLE YET)

This indicates functionality that was present in Mac OS 9, but has not yet been fully implemented into Mac OS X. This is due to fundamental differences in the way that the Finder behaves in Mac OS X, versus Mac OS 9.

Finder Recording

You may be aware that, in addition to being AppleScriptable, some applications on the Mac are also AppleScript recordable. What this means is that you can click a Record button in the Script Editor and then perform the desired actions in the recordable application. Then, when you come back to the Script Editor, your code has been written for you. This is a method frequently adopted by beginner AppleScripters.

As you may have guessed, one such recordable application in Mac OS X Panther (10.3) is the Finder. Please note that if you are using an older version of Mac OS X, this functionality is not present. While Finder scriptability is present in older versions of Mac OS X, the recording feature was not re-introduced until the release of Mac OS X Panther (10.3). The reason I say the word "re-introduced" is because the Finder was recordable in Mac OS 9. Also, although the Finder is recordable in Mac OS X Panther (10.3), you may notice that it will not record absolutely every single task that you perform.

    Please note that not all scriptable applications on the Mac are recordable. Only certain scriptable applications are recordable. Some popular recordable applications include - BBEdit, MultiAd Creator, QuickTime Player, Stuffit Deluxe, and Tex-Edit Plus.

Figure 2 shows a basic script that was recorded in the Finder. This particular recorded script creates a folder on the desktop, and renames it to My Folder.


Figure 2. A recorded Finder Script

Writing Vs. Recording

So, why record? Recording in the Finder, or any recordable application for that matter, can provide a quick and easy way to get started with scripting a particular application. If you are finding an application's dictionary to be complex and difficult to navigate, or perhaps you just can't seem to get your syntax quite right, then recording can be a tremendous help. By recording a quick script, you will probably find the syntax that you are looking for, and all with only a few clicks of the mouse.

While recording appears to be a simple answer for those looking to learn AppleScript, it is not always the best option for the job. There are some disadvantages to recording. For one, a recorded script contains no logic. It simply contains a series of AppleScript statements to perform a set of tasks. Because of this, the script cannot evaluate situations or data in order to take different courses of action. A recorded script will attempt to perform the exact same tasks time and time again.

Take, for example, the script I recorded a little earlier. If I ran the script as soon as I finished recording, I would have received an error message.


Figure 3. An Example of a Recorded Script Error

In this example, the script created a new folder on my desktop and attempted to change its name to My Folder. However, a folder named My Folder already existed on my desktop, thus causing the script to produce the error message.

Ideally, a script of this nature would be written to anticipate such a scenario, and take a specific course of action based on whether or not a folder with the same name already existed. For example, the script could be written to check to see if a folder with the name My Folder exists, and only create the folder if it does not exist.

set theOutputFolder to path to desktop folder as string
tell application "Finder"
   set theFolderToCheck to theOutputFolder & "My Folder"
   if (folder theFolderToCheck exists) = false then
      make new folder at desktop with properties {name:"My Folder"}
   end if
   open folder theFolderToCheck
end tell

Another limitation of recorded scripts is that they contain no variables, handlers, if/then statements, or repeat loops. Because of this, recorded scripts are typically very verbose, and contain a lot of unnecessary and repetitive code. For example, let's say that you want a script that will create ten folders, and name them from 1 to 10. To record this functionality, you would need to click record in the Script Editor, and then actually create ten folders and rename them manually. Doing this for ten folders may not be too time consuming, but what if you needed to do it for a hundred folders, or a thousand? In order to do this, you would be much better off writing the script than recording it. With only a simple repeat loop and a few lines of code, you could write in a few moments what would take you quite a while to record. In addition, your code would be much shorter, more efficient, more expandable, etc. The following example of written code will create 100 folders in a user specified output folder, and rename them from 1 to 100.

set theOutputFolder to choose folder
tell application "Finder"
   repeat with a from 1 to 100
      make new folder at theOutputFolder with properties {name:a as string}
   end repeat
end tell

The sample code displayed above does not contain any error protection or handling to check for existing folders with the same names, but this could be added into the script, if necessary, with only a few extra lines of code.

With recorded scripts, you can also go back in, once recording is complete, and clean up and improve the code. This is a suggested procedure if you do choose to record your scripts.

Folder scripting

Creating a Folder

As you have already seen from some of the code above, creating a folder in the Finder is fairly straightforward. The following code, which will create a new folder on the desktop, illustrates this again:

tell application "Finder"
   make new folder at desktop
end tell

Once a folder has been created, you will probably want to store a reference to a newly created folder in a variable. This way, you can actually do something with the folder, such as assign a name to it, move it, open it, etc.

tell application "Finder"
   set theFolder to make new folder at desktop
   set name of theFolder to "My Folder"
end tell

Please note that since the code above will rename the folder, whose reference has been stored in a variable, the variable will no longer link to the folder once it has been renamed. Therefore, you will need to alias the folder reference once it has been created, or re-create your variable to link to the newly renamed folder. For example:

This code will alias the folder reference, causing the reference to the folder to dynamically update, regardless if the folder is renamed or moved.

tell application "Finder"
   set theFolder to (make new folder at desktop) as alias
   set name of theFolder to "My Folder"
   open theFolder
end tell

This code will recreate the variable containing the folder reference, after the folder has been renamed:

tell application "Finder"
   set theFolder to make new folder at desktop
   set name of theFolder to "My Folder"
   set theFolder to folder ((path to desktop folder as string) & "My Folder")
   open theFolder
end tell

In some cases, you may want to specify certain properties of a folder, such as a name or a comment, during its creation, rather than after it has been created. This can help to shorten your code and make it more efficient.

tell application "Finder"
   set theFolder to make new folder at desktop with properties {name:"My Folder", 
   comment:"Test comment"}
   open theFolder
end tell

Working with Folders

Sometimes, when working with a folder, you may notice that the Finder's interface does not update immediately. This sometimes will occur when creating a new folder or file, or when moving, copying, or deleting a folder or file. To cause the Finder to update immediately, simply use the update command, which will immediately refresh the view of the path specified.

tell application "Finder"
   update (path to desktop folder)
end tell

When working with folders, you may want to customize the look and feel of an opened folder. For example, you may want to change the view of the folder to list view, icon view, or column view. Or, you may want to change the size and/or position of the window to default settings. To do this, you need to actually work with the window of the folder, rather than the folder itself. The following sample code will create a folder, open it, set it to list view, and resize it to a predefined size.

tell application "Finder"
   set theFolder to make new folder at desktop with properties {name:"My Folder"}
   open theFolder
   set current view of window of theFolder to icon view
   set bounds of window of theFolder to {13, 69, 470, 396}
end tell

In Closing

This general introduction should help you to get started with scripting the Finder. In the future, we will begin to take a more in-depth look at the different aspects of Finder scripting.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the sample Finder scripts that are already built right into your system. You can find these sample scripts under Applications > AppleScript > Example Scripts > Finder Scripts folder on your hard drive. These scripts will also appear in your Script Menu, if it has been enabled on your machine. These sample Finder scripts are unlocked, and fully editable for you to explore and enhance. You can also find additional sample Finder scripts on Apple's AppleScript web site at http://www.apple.com/applescript/toolbar/.

Until next time, keep scripting!


Benjamin Waldie is president of Automated Workflows, LLC, a firm specializing in AppleScript and workflow automation consulting. In addition to his role as a consultant, Benjamin is an evangelist of AppleScript, and can frequently be seen presenting at Macintosh User Groups, Seybold Seminars, and MacWorld. For additional information about Benjamin, please visit http://www.automatedworkflows.com, or email Benjamin at applescriptguru@mac.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Viber 6.8.6 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device, so... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.1.17 - Easy-to-use...
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
EtreCheck 3.4.2 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.2.10- - Binary dis...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32- and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about its... Read more
VueScan 9.5.81 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
iFFmpeg 6.4.2 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a comprehensive media tool to convert movie, audio and media files between formats. The FFmpeg command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does all the hard... Read more
Fantastical 2.4.1 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical 2 is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
Fantastical 2.4.1 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical 2 is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
Live Home 3D Pro 3.2.2 - $69.99
Live Home 3D Pro, a successor of Live Interior 3D, is the powerful yet intuitive home design software that lets you build the house of your dreams right on your Mac. It has every feature of Live Home... Read more
Live Home 3D Pro 3.2.2 - $69.99
Live Home 3D Pro, a successor of Live Interior 3D, is the powerful yet intuitive home design software that lets you build the house of your dreams right on your Mac. It has every feature of Live Home... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Glyph Quest Chronicles guide - how to ma...
Glyph Quest returns with a new free-to-play game, Glyph Quest Chronicles. Chronicles offers up more of the light-hearted, good humored fantasy fun that previous games featured, but with a few more refined tricks up its sleeve. It's a clever mix of... | Read more »
Catch yourself a Lugia and Articuno in P...
Pokémon Go Fest may have been a bit of a disaster, with Niantic offering fans full refunds and $100 worth of in-game curency to apologize for the failed event, but that hasn't ruined trainers' chances of catching new legendary Pokémon. Lugia nad... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
There are quite a few truly superb games on sale on the App Store this week. If you haven't played some of these, many of which are true classics, now's the time to jump on the bandwagon. Here are the deals you need to know about. [Read more] | Read more »
Realpolitiks Mobile (Games)
Realpolitiks Mobile 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: PLEASE NOTE: The game might not work properly on discontinued 1GB of RAM devices (iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad... | Read more »
Layton’s Mystery Journey (Games)
Layton’s Mystery Journey 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $15.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: THE MUCH-LOVED LAYTON SERIES IS BACK WITH A 10TH ANNIVERSARY INSTALLMENT! Developed by LEVEL-5, LAYTON’S... | Read more »
Full Throttle Remastered (Games)
Full Throttle Remastered 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Originally released by LucasArts in 1995, Full Throttle is a classic graphic adventure game from industry legend Tim... | Read more »
Stunning shooter Morphite gets a new tra...
Morphite is officially landing on iOS in September. The game looks like the space shooter we've been needing on mobile, and we're going to see if it fits the bill quite shortly. The game's a collaborative effort between Blowfish Studios, We're Five... | Read more »
Layton's Mystery Journey arrives to...
As you might recall, Layton's Mystery Journey is headed to iOS and Android -- tomorrow! To celebrate the impending launch, Level-5's released a new trailer, complete with an adorable hamster. [Read more] | Read more »
Sidewords (Games)
Sidewords 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Grab a cup of coffee and relax with Sidewords. Sidewords is part logic puzzle, part word game, all original. No timers. No... | Read more »
Noodlecake Games' 'Leap On!...
Noodlecake Games is always good for some light-hearted arcade fun, and its latest project, Leap On! could carry on that tradition. It's a bit like high stakes tetherball in a way. Your job is to guide a cute little blob around a series of floating... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Move Away from White Label Event Apps C...
DoubleDutch, Inc., a global provider of Live Engagement Marketing (LEM) solutions, has made a statement in the light of a game-changing announcement from Apple at this year’s WWDC conference.... Read more
70 Year Old Artist Creates Art Tools for the...
New Hampshire-based developer Pirate’s Moon has announced MyArtTools 1.1.3, the update to their precision drawing app, designed by artist Richard Hoeper exclusively for use with the 12.9-inch iPad... Read more
Sale! New 2017 13-inch 2.3GHz MacBook Pros fo...
Amazon has new 2017 13″ 2.3GHz/128GB MacBook Pros on sale today for $150 off MSRP including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest available for these models from any reseller: – 13″ 2.3GHz/128GB... Read more
13″ 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro on sa...
MacMall has the 13″ 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXQ2LL/A) on sale for $1219 including free shipping. Their price is $80 off MSRP. Read more
Clearance 2016 12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple...
Apple recently dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks, with models now available starting at $1019. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and... Read more
Save or Share
FotoJet Designer, is a simple but powerful new graphic design apps available on both Mac and Windows. With FotoJet Designer’s 900+ templates, thousands of resources, and powerful editing tools you... Read more
Logo Maker Shop iOS App Lets Businesses Get C...
A newly released app is designed to help business owners to get creative with their branding by designing their own logos. With more than 1,000 editable templates, Logo Maker Shop 1.0 provides the... Read more
Sale! New 15-inch MacBook Pros for up to $150...
Amazon has the new 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2249 $150 off MSRP – 15″ 2.89Hz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2779 $... Read more
DEVONthink To Go 2.1.7 For iOS Brings Usabili...
DEVONtechnologies has updated DEVONthink To Go, the iOS companion to DEVONthink for Mac, with enhancements and bug fixes. Version 2.1.7 adds an option to clear the Global Inbox and makes the grid... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, Apple refu...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro. An Apple one-year warranty is... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Poole -...
Job Summary The people here at Apple don't just create products - they create the kind of wonder that's revolutionised entire industries. It's the diversity of those Read more
SW Engineer *Apple* TV - Apple Inc. (United...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
Product Manager - *Apple* Pay on the *Appl...
Job Summary Apple is looking for a talented product manager to drive the expansion of Apple Pay on the Apple Online Store. This position includes a unique Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform 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.