TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Introduction to Scripting iCal

Volume Number: 21 (2005)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Programming

AppleScript Essentials

Introduction to Scripting iCal

by Benjamin S. Waldie

For the past couple of articles, I have discussed scripting specific applications. By now, you should be starting to realize AppleScript terminology varies from application to application. Some applications don't support AppleScript at all, some are more scriptable than others, some have more confusing terminology, etc. Even as become more knowledgeable as a scripter, you will find that there is a learning curve whenever you need to script a new application. Browsing the application's dictionary, and any accompanying documentation or example scripts is usually your best bet for learning how to script a new application.

This month, I will continue to discuss application-specific scripting, and this time, I will focus on iCal. Please note that all sample code within this article was written and tested with Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.x. Many times, software updates will introduce changes in the AppleScript terminology of a given application or process. Therefore, if you are using an older system, some code may not work properly, or may need to be adjusted slightly to work on your machine.

Working with Calendars

Let's begin by discussing the highest-level class within iCal's object hierarchy, a calendar. In iCal, a calendar contains events and to do's, which we will discuss a little later. For now, let's talk about creating calendars, locating them, and more.

Making a New Calendar

More than likely, you are working with existing calendars within iCal, such as a "Home" or "Work" calendar. However, should you need to, you do have the ability to create calendars via AppleScript.

iCal actually contains a command specifically for creating calendars, called simply enough create calendar. This command has an optional parameter, which will allow you to specify the calendar's name. The following sample code demonstrates the creation of a calendar with the use of this command.

tell application "iCal"
   create calendar with name "My Calendar"
end tell

One thing to take note of when using this command is that it does not produce a result. Because of this, you cannot place the newly created calendar into a variable for future reference. As an alternative to the create calendar command, you can also use the make command. This may be a better choice in this situation, as the make command does produce a result, that result being the newly created item. For example, the following code demonstrates how the make command can be used to create a calendar. In this example, the result of this command - the newly created calendar - is placed into a variable called theCalendar, which I can now reference later in my script.

tell application "iCal"
   set theCalendar to make new calendar with properties {title:"My Calendar"}
end tell
--> calendar 3 of application "iCal"

Getting a List of Calendars

If you are working with existing calendars, you may need to write code that will retrieve a list of these calendars. The following code demonstrates how to retrieve a list of all existing calendars.

tell application "iCal"
   set theCalendars to every calendar
end tell
--> {calendar 1 of application "iCal", calendar 2 of application "iCal", 
   calendar 3 of application "iCal"}

The previous code will return references to your existing calendars. However you , may only need to retrieve the names of your calendars. To do this, simply retrieve the title of every calendar. For example:

tell application "iCal"
   set theCalendarNames to title of every calendar
end tell
--> {"Home", "Work", "My Calendar"}

Changing Calendar Views

Within iCal, you have the option to view calendars in several different ways. You can use scripting to change calendar views as well. The following example code demonstrates how to change the calendar view to display in day view mode.

tell application "iCal"
   switch view to day view
end tell

The following sample code demonstrates how to change the calendar view to display in week view mode.

tell application "iCal"
   switch view to week view
end tell

The following example code demonstrates how to change the calendar view to display in month view mode.

tell application "iCal"
   switch view to month view
end tell

So, with the use of the code above, you can actually customize the viewing experience of iCal for the user, as your script processes.

Subscribing to a Calendar

In addition to creating calendars, you can also write code to subscribe to a calendar, using a calendar URL. The following code demonstrates how this is done.

tell application "iCal"
   GetURL "webcal://ical.mac.com/ical/DVDs.ics"
end tell

Please note that, when subscribing to a calendar via AppleScript, some manual intervention will be required. iCal will pop up a few dialogs, allowing users to confirm that they actually do want to subscribe to the calendar, and also allowing them to configure subscription settings. See figure 1.


Figure 1. Calendar Subscription Dialog

Working with Events and To Do's

Now that we have discussed calendars, let's talk about elements of calendars. Specifically, we will walk through several tasks involving events and to do's.

Making a New Event

Like calendars, events can be created with AppleScript. To do this, use the make command. When creating an event, you will most likely want to specify values for various attributes of that event. For example, for an event, you may want to specify the event's name, description, location, etc. This can be done as the event is created, with the use of the with properties parameter. The following sample code demonstrates how to create a new all-day event for the current day, with a specified name, description, and location.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theDate to current date
      make new event at end with properties {description:"Event Description", 
         summary:"Event Name", location:"Event Location", start date:theDate, 
         allday event:true}
   end tell
end tell
--> event 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal"

To create an event that falls within a specific time period, you may specify the start date and end date properties of the event. For example, the following example code will create an event at the current date and time, with a length of 2 hours.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theCurrentDate to current date
      make new event at end with properties {description:"Event Description", 
         summary:"Event Name", location:"Event Location", start date:theCurrentDate, 
         end date:theCurrentDate + 120 * minutes}
   end tell
end tell
--> event 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal"

Making a New To Do

The process of creating a to do is virtually the same as that of creating an event. Again, you can use the make command, and you may optionally specify properties to be applied as the to do is created. The following sample code will create a to do with a specified summary, description, and due date.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theDueDate to (current date) + 30 * days
      make new todo at end with properties {description:"To Do Description", 
         summary:"To Do Name", due date:theDueDate}
   end tell
end tell
--> todo 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal"

To find a complete list of event and to do properties, consult the appropriate class in the iCal suite in iCal's AppleScript dictionary.

Finding an Event or To Do

Many times, you may be working with existing events or to dos. If this is the case, then you might need to locate the appropriate event or to do in some way. The best way to locate something in iCal is to do so by its unique ID. In iCal, calendars, events, and to do's all have unique ID's, which can be retrieved by AppleScript from the item's uid property. The following sample code demonstrates how to retrieve the ID of an event.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theEvent to first event
      return uid of theEvent
   end tell
end tell
--> "1BCA3512-F3A9-4BCB-A0FD-BE812968D371"

If you have the ID of an event or to do, you can then find the item by its ID. The following code shows how to locate an event by its unique ID.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theEvent to first event whose uid = "1BCA3512-F3A9-4BCB-A0FD-BE812968D371"
   end tell
end tell
--> event 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal"

This same technique may be used to locate a to do by its unique ID.

Viewing an Event or To Do

AppleScript can also be used to display a specific event or to do within iCal. To do this, use the show command, and specify the item that you want to display. For example, the following sample code will cause iCal to display and select a specific event, which, in this case, is stored in a variable named theEvent.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      show theEvent
   end tell
end tell

Deleting an Event or To Do

Just as you can create events and to do's in iCal, you can also delete them. To delete an item in iCal, use the delete command and specify the item that you want to delete. For example, the following code will delete a specified event that is stored in a variable.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      delete theEvent
   end tell
end tell

Working with Alarms

If you are an avid iCal user, then you are probably already aware that events and to do's can be configured with alarms. There are multiple types of alarms that you can configure manually, which can also be configured via scripting. AppleScript can be used to create the following types of alarms:

  • Display Alarm - This type of alarm will display a message to the user, letting the user know about a scheduled event or to do. With the use of scripting, you can set the trigger interval or date for this type of alarm.
  • Mail Alarm - This type of alarm will send an email message to the current user, notifying the user of an upcoming event or to do. Like a display alarm, the trigger date or interval for this type of alarm may be set via scripting.
  • Open File Alarm - This type of alarm will open a file at a specified time. AppleScript can be used to set the date or interval for the alarm. It can also be used to specify the path to the file that should be opened. An alarm of this nature can be extremely useful if you want a script to trigger at a specific time.
  • Sound Alarm - This type of alarm will produce an audio alert about an upcoming event or to do. For this type of event, AppleScript may be used to specify the date or interval, as well as the name or file path of a sound to be used for the alert.

Adding an Alarm to an Event or To Do

Let's take a moment to look at how an alarm can be created with the use of AppleScript, for a given event or to do. For this first example, we are going to create a display alarm. The following example code will add a display alarm to a specified event.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theEvent to event 1
      tell theEvent
         make new display alarm at end with properties {trigger interval:-30}
      end tell
   end tell
end tell
--> display alarm 1 of event 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal

In the code above, you will notice that the trigger interval property of the event is set to -30. The trigger interval property may be specified to configure when the alarm message should be displayed. This property should be given a numeric value, signifying minutes. In this case, I have specified a negative value of 30. This will cause the alarm to trigger 30 minutes prior to the start date of the event.

Optionally, I can choose to specify a trigger date for the alarm, rather than a trigger interval. This will allow me to configure the alarm to trigger at a specific date and time, rather than on a trigger interval. The following sample code will create a new display alarm for a given event.

tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theEvent to event 1
      set theDate to (current date) - 3 * days
      tell theEvent
         make new display alarm at end with properties {trigger date:theDate}
      end tell
   end tell
end tell
--> display alarm 1 of event 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal"

Let's look at another type of alarm. This time, let's add an open file alarm to an event. For this type of alarm, in addition to specifying a trigger interval or date, we can specify a file path for the item to be opened. The following example code demonstrates the process of creating an open file alarm for a given event.

set theFile to choose file
tell application "iCal"
   tell calendar "My Calendar"
      set theEvent to event 1
      set theDate to (current date) - 3 * days
      tell theEvent
         make new open file alarm at end with properties {trigger date:theDate, 
            filepath:theFile}
      end tell
   end tell
end tell
--> open file alarm 1 of event 1 of calendar 3 of application "iCal"

If you look in iCal's dictionary, you may notice that the filepath property of an open file alarm is defined as needing a POSIX style path. As you can see from the code above, if you pass an AppleScript alias reference, that will work as well. To pass a POSIX path, you may need to convert the desired file's path. For example:

set theFile to POSIX path of (choose file)
--> "/Users/bwaldie/Desktop/FileToOpen.scpt"

Please note that if you configure an open file alarm to open a compiled AppleScript file, the script will actually be loaded and run by iCal, rather than simply opened. See figure 2. This is a great way to create a workflow with scripts that trigger at scheduled intervals.


Figure 2. An Open File Alarm to Trigger a Compiled Script

Triggering Scripts and Automator Workflows from iCal

As we have seen above, there are ways to trigger an AppleScript from within iCal. You can quickly and easily create events, and add open file alarms to run compiled scripts, open script applications, etc.

You can also trigger Automator workflows from iCal, and Automator makes the process of configuring such scheduled events a snap. First, begin by creating an Automator workflow to perform any set of desired tasks. Next, select Save as Plug-In... from the File menu within Automator. From the plug-in type popup menu, select iCal Alarm. See figure 3.


Figure 3. Creating an Automator iCal Alarm Plug-In

Click the Save button, and a new event will be created in iCal, which will be configured to trigger the workflow. Now, you can adjust the event, as needed, perhaps putting it on a repeating schedule. See figure 4 for an example of a configured event.


Figure 4. A Configured Automator iCal Alarm Plug-In Event

In Closing

Hopefully, you are already thinking of the great possibilities for creating scripts that interact with iCal, or that work in conjunction with iCal. In addition to creating and interacting with calendars, events, and to do's, you can also begin to schedule the execution of your scripts, allowing you to really begin putting your computer to work for you, perhaps at night, over the weekend, or whenever you are away from your desk.

For a list of some existing iCal scripts, try searching for "iCal" in the ScriptBuilders section of MacScripter.net at http://scriptbuilders.net/. For more information about creating and scheduling Automator workflows, check out the help files that come with Automator, or check out my Automator book, available from SpiderWorks at http://www.spiderworks.com/ books/automator.php.

Until next time, keep scripting!


Ben Waldie is author of the best selling books "AppleScripting the Finder" and the "Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator", available from http://www.spiderworks.com. Ben is also president of Automated Workflows, LLC, a firm specializing in AppleScript and workflow automation consulting. For years, Ben has developed professional AppleScript-based solutions for businesses including Adobe, Apple, NASA, PC World, and TV Guide. For more information about Ben, please visit http://www.automatedworkflows.com, or email Ben at applescriptguru@mac.com.

 
AAPL
$101.52
Apple Inc.
-0.27
MSFT
$46.95
Microsoft Corpora
+0.27
GOOG
$592.49
Google Inc.
+3.22

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Attachment Tamer 3.1.14b9 - Take control...
Attachment Tamer gives you control over attachment handling in Apple Mail. It fixes the most annoying Apple Mail flaws, ensures compatibility with other email software, and allows you to set up how... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.0 - Find and del...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.0.4 - Complete personal f...
Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial transactions,... Read more
iMazing 1.0 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (formerly 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... Read more
Xcode 6.0.1 - Integrated development env...
Apple Xcode is Apple Computer's integrated development environment (IDE) for OS X. The full Xcode package is free to ADC members and includes all the tools you need to create, debug, and optimize... Read more
Apple Safari 7.1 - Apple's Web brow...
Apple Safari in OS X Mavericks brings you all-new ways to find and enjoy the best of the web. It works with iCloud to give you a seamless browsing experience across all your devices. It looks out for... Read more
Delivery Status 6.1.2 - Check delivery s...
Delivery Status displays delivery status of packages for a variety of shipment services. Can't wait for your packages to arrive? Don't waste your time checking the site constantly, just open this all... Read more
Mavericks Cache Cleaner 8.0.9 - Clear ca...
Mavericks Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for OS X. MCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many OS X functions. Novice and expert users... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

SKIT! Now with Godzilla Movie Action!
SKIT! Now with Godzilla Movie Action! Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
The Impossible Test 3 Review
The Impossible Test 3 Review By Jennifer Allen on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TAXING THINKINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Offering some tough but lateral thinking based puzzles works well for The Impossible... | Read more »
Age of Zombies Goes Update Crazy and Lau...
Age of Zombies Goes Update Crazy and Launches Zombie Month Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
MUJO Review
MUJO Review By Campbell Bird on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: ASSEMBLE THE GODSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad This match-three game has collectible and role-playing elements that make it continually satisfying... | Read more »
Project Life (Photography)
Project Life 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Imagine scrapbooking without scissors or adhesive or tools … or without having to print photos! Never before has... | Read more »
Skater (Games)
Skater 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: All of Skateboarding In The Palm Of Your Hand Designed by skaters for skaters, we teamed up with 17 of the most prominent brands in... | Read more »
Huerons (Games)
Huerons 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH PRICE! Huerons is 50% off until September 20th! Huerons are tiny colored circles. Merge them by clicking on an empty... | Read more »
Down Among the Dead Men (Games)
Down Among the Dead Men 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Avast! Take to the high seas in a fully interactive piratical tale of broadsides and buccaneers. From author Dave... | Read more »
Sling Adds Chromecast Support Through Sl...
Sling Adds Chromecast Support Through Slingplaye​r Mobile Apps Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 18th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
How to Completely Delete Your iPhone’s C...
The iPhone 6 is out tomorrow, and plenty of people are excited about it. So much so that they’re planning to – or already have – traded in their old iPhone to go towards it. The thing about trading in hardware is it’s very important to make sure... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Previous-generation 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
21″ 2.7GHz iMac available for $1179, save $12...
Adorama has 21″ 2.7GHz Hawell iMacs on sale for $1179.99 including free shipping. Their price is $120 off MSRP. NY and NJ sales tax only. Read more
iOS 8 Adoption Rate Slower than iOS 7, 6, Hit...
Apple began pushing out iOS 8 updates to eligible devices around 1pm ET on September 17, 2014. However, unlike with iOS 7, which boasted a wide variety of differences from its predecessor iOS 6, in... Read more
LIkely Final Definitive OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks...
Apple has released what will almost certainly be the last incremental version number update of OS X 10.9 Mavericks (save for futire security updates) before OS X 10.10 Yosemite is released next month... Read more
Fingerprints, Apple Pay and Identity Theft Wa...
On Sep 9th, CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple Pay, along with the new iPhone 6 and iWatch. Apple Pay is a newly developed technology that utilizes a near field communication (NFC) to enable customer... Read more
Amazon Introduces Two All-New Kindles
Amazon on Thursday introduced the 7th generation of its Kindle dedicated e-reader device: Kindle Voyage, its top-of-the-line e-reader, and the new $79 Kindle, with a 20% faster processor, twice the... Read more
Save up to $300 on the price of a new Mac wit...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
13-inch 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1699.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more
16GB iPad Air on sale for $449, save $50
Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air WiFi on sale for $449 on their online store for a limited time. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup. Their price represents a $50 savings over standard... Read more
13-inch 256GB MacBook Air on sale for $1099,...
B&H Photo has the 2014 13″ 1.4GHz 256GB MacBook Air on sale for $1099.99. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and 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* 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* 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* 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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.