TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac In The Shell: More from the Unknown

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 07
Column Tag: Mac In The Shell

More from the Unknown

More shell tools that typically go unnoticed

by Edward Marczak

Introduction

OS X has an incredible breadth and depth available in the tools accessible from a shell. So much so, that it's hard to know each and every tool available. Some are almost hidden: tucked away in places one does not typically look. Others are hidden in plain sight: exactly where you'd expect them, but buried among the volume. This month, I'm going to dig out and introduce some more useful shell tools that you may not know about.

text manipulation

It's long been the domain of scripting languages like perl, and perhaps now to a lesser extent PHP, to slice, dice and otherwise manipulate text. However, there's a framework built right into OS X, so why not take advantage of it? The Cocoa text system is exposed to the shell via the "textutil" application. "textutil" can convert and manipulate many different formats of text documents. In fact, it works with a surprising number formats:

   txt
   html
   Microsoft Word "doc"
   Microsoft Word XML
   rtf
   webarchive

It's also incredibly easy to get started. Using the "-convert" switch, you can accomplish most conversions that you'd ever want:

textutil -convert html resume.doc

This will convert the Microsoft Word-based "resume.doc" into a separate HTML document named "resume.html". I'll immediately point out that textutil writes much, much better HTML than Word.

Note that the input format is determined 'automagically' by a number of methods. If textutil misidentifies the format of the source file, you tell it with the "-format" switch:

textutil -format html -convert rtf file1

This will tell textutil that "file1" is an HTML file, and we want to convert it into a rich text format file named "file1.rtf".

There's also a very handy "-info" switch that returns info on a given file:

$ textutil -info 2007-01-On\ Logs.doc
File:  2007-01-Marczak On Logs.doc
Type:  Word format
Size:  25600 bytes
Length:  3746 characters
Title:  MacTech Template
Author:  Classics Department
Last Editor:  Edward Marczak
Company:  Radiotope
Subject:  
Keywords:  
Created:  2006-11-02 17:56:00 -0500
Last Modified:  2006-11-06 09:47:00 -0500

As you can see, documents sometimes have incorrect metadata. Well, textutil can help you handle that as well! There are a number of metadata related switches:

strip: Remove metadata in target during conversion.

title: Set the title metadata attribute for output files.

author: Set the author metadata attribute for output files.

subject: Specify the subject metadata attribute for output files.

keywords: a shell-quoted list of 'tags' ("keyword1,keyword2, ...")

comment: Set the comment attribute for the output files.

editor: val Set the editor attribute for output files.

company: val Set the company attribute for output files.

creationtime: Set the creation time attribute for output files (in "yyyy-mm-ddThh:mm:ssZ" format).

modificationtime: Set the modification time attribute for output files (in "yyyy-mm-ddThh:mm:ssZ" format).

So, we could create an HTML document from a plain text file with the title and keywords set by running textutil like this:

textutil -convert html -title "Anti-gravity Thesis" -keywords "(anti,gravity,'atom power',physics)" -author "Bruce Banner" ag-file.txt

You'll find a well-formed HTML file with a little bit of CSS. Of course, there are many times when you need finer control over the tags that will be used in that HTML. Have no fear! The "-excludedelements" switch can help you out. This switch allows you to specify which HTML elements should not be used in the generated HTML. Like the "-keywords" switch, "-excludedelements" expects a single argument, so you can use a shell-quoted list of tags to skip.

Keep it clean

Speaking of well-formed HTML, manipulating tags and their parameters is a special case of text manipulation. Fortunately, tidy, the standard Unix utility just for this purpose, ships with OS X. So, if you've used textutil to generate HTML based output, tidy can take you even further.

The simplest case lets tidy modify your HTML document in place. To do so, use the "-m" switch:

$ tidy -im ag-file.html
Info: Doctype given is "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN"
Info: Document content looks like HTML 4.01 Strict
No warnings or errors were found.

Take look at your file before and after running the tidy command. I also like to include the "-i" switch, which ensures tag levels are indented appropriately. Also, by default, tidy will lowercase all tags (which, by me, is "correct"). This can be overridden with the "-u" switch.

One of my absolute favorite uses of tidy is to get rid of "illegal" characters. This is easily accomplished with the "-b" (bare) switch. This strips the document of smart quotes, and dashes, and other characters that cause problems in HTML documents.

There's much, much more that tidy can do. Check the very well written man page to look at more options. Don't forget, though, that you can combine textutil and tidy into one neat shell statement:

textutil -stdout ag-file.txt -convert html | tidy -i -output ag-file.html

This command uses textutil to convert a text file to HTML, and sends the output to stdout. Then, that output is piped to tidy, which then requires us to use the "-output" switch to write the file to disk.

Finally, realize that both textutil and tidy can be used with a wildcard character to process an entire group of files. If all files are in a single directory, simply change to that directory and:

textutil -convert html *.doc

This will convert all Word documents in the current directory into HTML files. To process the current folder and all subfolders, use the find utility:

find . -name \*txt -print0 | xargs -0 textutil -convert html

I opted for xargs over find's exec command to ensure that large directories can be processed. You can scrub Word metadata in-place using this technique:

textutil -strip -convert doc *.doc

Painless, right?

Image Manipulation

While slinging text around may be a common, and very specific operation, doing the same to images requires a different set of tools. OS X's scriptable image processor server or, "sips" is just the ticket.

Like textutil, sips leans on frameworks already built into the core of OS X. This, of course, lets you do all of the great things that you can with a GUI right in a shell! Why is this exciting? Automation, naturally.

In the past, I've put together both nightly reports and 'one-click-builds' of documents using both user submitted and random images. The trick is not so much the content, but the dimensions of the graphic: you need consistent dimensions so you can automate your layout. Resizing graphic files is one of the things that sips does best:

sips -Z 100x100 IMG_1312.JPG --out image1-sized.jpg

The "-Z" switch is really nice: it keeps the proportions of the original image, but makes sure neither the width or height exceed the dimensions specified. The "--out" switch writes the result to a new file. The image you just made doesn't have a nice preview icon in the Finder? Add one:

sips -i image1-sized.jpg

Oh, you didn't want a JPEG format file? Convert it at the same time using the "-s" (setProperty) switch (let's do it all in one shot):

sips -Z 100x100 IMG_1312.JPG -i -s format png --out image-sized.png

This one command resizes the graphic, converts the output to png and creates the Finder preview icon. Nice.

For automation, though, you often need to find out information about the source before you blindly process it. Again, like textutil, sips has functions for this. You can dump all of an image's data with the "-g all" switch and parse the output yourself:

$ sips -g all IMG_1312.JPG 
/Users/erm/Pictures/Parade/IMG_1312.JPG
  pixelWidth: 2592
  pixelHeight: 1944
  typeIdentifier: public.jpeg
  format: jpeg
  formatOptions: default
  dpiWidth: 180.000
  dpiHeight: 180.000
  samplesPerPixel: 3
  bitsPerSample: 8
  hasAlpha: no
  space: RGB
  profile: Camera RGB Profile
  creation: 2007:04:04 17:23:31
  make: Canon
  model: Canon PowerShot S2 IS

...or, you can request one or more of these parameters directly:

$ sips -g pixelWidth -g pixelHeight IMG_1312.JPG
/Users/marczak/Pictures/Parade/IMG_1312.JPG
  pixelWidth: 2592
  pixelHeight: 1944

Like textutil, feel free to throw a wildcard at sips, or, use the find/xargs trick.

Why?

So, why go through this trouble, when you can fire up Photoshop and make your changes (and even script it!), or use a Word processor to mold your words? Again, automation comes to mind. Specifically, automation with low overhead. Using the shell tools, you can run scripts on a server without having a GUI or installing an application like Photoshop at all. Combine this with some of the techniques I presented in April, and you can achieve some incredibly complex workflows.

Even cooler: more and more GUI utilities have some way to run shell jobs. Textmate, for example, can run a selection or entire document through a shell tool and plop the results right back in the live document. Even apps that don't have this functionality built in can usually be faked thanks to AppleScript. Take Mail.app, for instance. It lets you create signatures, but not dynamic signatures that rely on a running process. What if you wanted to include a snapshot from your iSight in your sig? Script a capture from isightcapture (http://www.intergalactic.de/hacks.html), run it through sips and AppleScript the copy and pasting of into Mail.

Or, consider a simpler alternative: you've installed fortune and want a random fortune in your sig. A simple bash script could be as follows:

#!/bin/bash
# Tell Mail.app to select all and copy to clipboard
osascript <<MailCopy
tell application "System Events"
        tell application "Mail" to activate
        keystroke "a" using {command down}
        keystroke "c" using {command down}
end tell
MailCopy
# Write clipboard to file
pbpaste > /tmp/mailpaste.tmp
fortune -s >> /tmp/mailpaste.tmp
textutil -stdout -convert rtf /tmp/mailpaste.tmp | pbcopy
# Tell Mail.app to activate and paste in the contents of the clipboard
osascript <<MailPaste
tell application "System Events"
        tell application "Mail" to activate
        keystroke "a" using {command down}
        keystroke "v" using {command down}
end tell
MailPaste

This is admittedly a quick hack with absolutely no error checking or other niceties. However, if you open up Mail.app, create a new message, put your cursor anywhere in the body and run this, you'll get a fortune tagged onto the end of your message (it helps if you already have a sig created). Pretty it up a bit and you could run it via the GUI via a ".command" file, or, wrap it in AppleScript and run it from your script menulet. Or, if you're a Quicksilver user, don't ignore the qs shell tool.

Of course, the real power lies in integrating other data: from the web, from Excel, from a database....wherever!

Conclusion

When venerable shell tools are integrated with the power of OS X, the workflow possibilities truly are endless. Be creative in your application of scripting tools, and you'll be able to solve any problem for your client/employer/self.

Media of the month: Brendan Benson's new album, "Alternative to Love". It's just good, fun pop music, no strings attached.

Until next month, keep thinking of ways to keep the work flowing.

References:

"Developer Release Note": http://developer.apple.com/releasenotes/Cocoa/AppKit.html


Ed Marczak owns and operates Radiotope, a technology consultancy that just tries to make life easier through the technology that already exists. He's also the Executive Editor of MacTech Magazine, and CTO of WheresSpot. His copious free time is spent with his wife and two daughters, currently enjoying the weather in the North East U.S.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Skype 7.9.746 - Voice-over-internet phon...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Apple GarageBand 10.1 - Complete recordi...
The new GarageBand is a whole music creation studio right inside your Mac -- complete with keyboard, synths, orchestral and percussion instruments, presets for guitar and voice, an entirely... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.7.7 - Find and d...
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... Read more
OS X Server 4.1.3 - For OS X 10.10 Yosem...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
Firefox 39.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and casual... Read more
pwSafe 4.1 - Secure password management...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
Kodi 15.0.rc1 - Powerful media center to...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
Coda 2.5.11 - 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
Bookends 12.5.7 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Maya 2016 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more

This Week at 148Apps: June 29-July 3, 20...
Into July With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the... | Read more »
Sonic Runners Guide
Despite its flaws, Sonic Runners' platforming action is actually quite fun. Though it can be a little more complicated than old-school Sonic games. Here's how to make sure you're up to speed when jumping in. [Read more] | Read more »
Rage of Bahamut is Giving Almost All of...
The App Store isn't what it used to be back in 2012, so it's not unexpected to see some games changing their structures with the times. Now we can add Rage of Bahamut to that list with the recent announcement that the game is severely cutting back... | Read more »
Adventures of Pip (Games)
Adventures of Pip 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** ONE WEEK ONLY — 66% OFF! *** “Adventures of Pip is a delightful little platformer full of charm, challenge and impeccable... | Read more »
Divide By Sheep - Tips, Tricks, and Stre...
Who would have thought splitting up sheep could be so involved? Anyone who’s played Divide by Sheep, that’s who! While we’re not about to give you complete solutions to everything (because that’s just cheating), we will happily give you some... | Read more »
NaturalMotion and Zynga Have Started Tea...
An official sequel to 2012's CSR Racing is officially on the way, with Zynga and NaturalMotion releasing a short teaser trailer to get everyone excited. Well, as excited as one can get from a trailer with no gameplay footage, anyway. [Read more] | Read more »
Grab a Friend and Pick up Overkill 3, Be...
Overkill 3 is a pretty enjoyable third-person shooter that was sort of begging for some online multiplayer. Fortunately the begging can stop, because its newest update has added an online co-op mode. [Read more] | Read more »
Scanner Pro's Newest Update Adds Au...
Scanner Pro is one of the most popular document scanning apps on iOS, thanks in no small part to its near-constant updates, I'm sure. Now we're up to update number six, and it adds some pretty handy new features. [Read more] | Read more »
Heroki (Games)
Heroki 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: CLEAR THE SKIES FOR A NEW HERO!The peaceful sky village of Levantia is in danger! The dastardly Dr. N. Forchin and his accomplice,... | Read more »
Wars of the Roses (Games)
Wars of the Roses 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 1.6GHz MacBook Air on sale for $849,...
Amazon has the 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99 including free shipping. Their price is $150 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
RamDisk4Mac App Helps Run Your Mac Faster And...
Ever use a RAM disk? If you’ve come to the Mac in the OS X era, likely not. The Classic Mac OS had a RAM disk function built-in, but that was dropped in the conversion to OS X. What is a RAM disk?... Read more
13-inch 1.6GHz MacBook Air on sale for $849,...
Best Buy has the 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99 on their online store this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders... Read more
Apple Refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $1949 $... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off original MSRP, starting at $979. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Seagate Backup Plus Drives Feature 200GB of C...
Seagate Technology plc has announced that its Backup Plus family of external storage offerings will now include 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage, a major added value, and the addition of Lyve’s photo... Read more
Canon PIXMA MG3620 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One...
Canon U.S.A., Inc. has announced the PIXMA MG3620 Wireless (1) Inkjet All-in-One (AIO) printer for high-quality photo and document printing. Built with convenience in mind for the everyday home user... Read more
July 4th Holiday Weekend 13-inch MacBook Pro...
Save up to $150 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro at the following resellers this weekend. Shipping is free with each model: 2.7GHz/128GB MSRP $1299 2.7GHz/... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149, sav...
Best Buy has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149.99. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is $... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2015 11-inch...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ MacBook Airs as well as 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Sr. Payment Program Manager, *Apple* Pay -...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is an exciting environment and a…devices in a simple, private and secure way. The Apple Pay Team is looking for an experienced Senior Read more
Project Manager - *Apple* Pay Security - Ap...
**Job Summary** The Apple Pay Security team is seeking a highly organized, results-driven Project Manager to drive the development of Apple Pay Security. If you are Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.