TweetFollow Us on Twitter

AppleScript in Snow Leopard

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: AppleScript

AppleScript in Snow Leopard

by Ben Waldie

With the release of Snow Leopard, AppleScript developers will no doubt be in store for a few surprises. While the AppleScript language itself hasn't changed too much, a variety of other enhancements are welcome, but will take some getting used to.

Noticeable Changes

Script Editor

One of the first things you will notice is that Script Editor is no longer found in the /Applications/AppleScript folder on your Mac. Don't worry, though, it hasn't gone away. Apple has just moved it into a new, perhaps more appropriate, location - into the /Applications/Utilities folder. In addition, to help better clarify its purpose to those new to AppleScript, Script Editor has been renamed AppleScript Editor.

The example scripts that once resided alongside Script Editor are not gone either. They're still located in /Library/Scripts (an alias pointing to this folder was previously included in the /Applications/AppleScript folder). Now, you can quickly navigate to them from within AppleScript Editor, by selecting Open Example Scripts Folder from the Help menu.

AppleScript Editor has received a number of other enhancements, too, in addition to its new name. First, you may notice some changes in formatting when you compile your scripts. Command names, parameter names, classes, and more, which were previously grouped under a generic Application keywords category of formatting, now have their own formatting attributes. These attributes can be adjusted in AppleScript Editor's Preferences window, under Formatting.


Figure 1. Formatting Options in AppleScript Editor's Preferences Window

Another visual change is that the event log and result panes at the bottom of the script window have been merged into a single pane, labeled Event Log. Within this new, merged pane, you now have the option to view a list of events, events and replies (replies are more clearly indicated than in previous versions), or the result. See figure 2.


Figure 2. AppleScript Editor's Event Log, Displaying Both Events and Replies

The new event log pane also includes a number of other enhancements, which are sure to make it easier to both develop and troubleshoot your scripts. For advanced scripters, positioning the mouse cursor over an event in the log will now display a tool tip containing the raw Apple Event details for the event. Another very useful enhancement is that the event log now displays error messages, complete with both the error's description and number. This doesn't just occur when a showstopper error occurs either. It happens whenever any error is encountered, even if it's within a try statement. See figure 3 for an example of this.


Figure 3. Error Logging in AppleScript Editor's Event Log

Another useful enhancement for experienced scripters is the new "tell" application pop-up menu, which can be enabled in the Preferences window, under Editing. See figure 4.


Figure 4. Enabling AppleScript Editor's "tell" Menu

Once enabled, a new pop-up menu appears in the navigation bar above the script window's editing area (if this bar isn't visible, select Show Navigation Bar from the View menu). This pop-up menu may be used to set the target of the script to a specified application. For example, setting this pop-up menu to the Finder will instruct AppleScript Editor that all code within the script should be sent to the Finder application, thus eliminating the need to implicitly use a "tell" statement. This capability would be useful for running quick application terminology tests during development, or for testing scripts that will be run from within an application (which serves as the script's target). For example, a FileMaker developer might use this feature to write a script that will eventually run within a FileMaker database's Perform AppleScript script step. See figure 5.


Figure 5. Targeting the Finder with AppleScript Editor's "tell" Menu

Changing a script's target with the "tell" application pop-up menu will only affect the script's behavior when it is compiled and run within AppleScript Editor, or when run from within the target application. If you change a script's target and then save the script as a stand-alone application, you will receive an error when you attempt to run it, as the script application becomes the target of the script.

Another more advanced enhancement is the AppleScript Editor's ability to run scripts on background threads. This means that you can now run multiple opened scripts at once. For example, you could be testing a lengthy script, while editing and testing a smaller, second script at the same time. You can also force a script to run on the main thread by holding down the Control key and selecting Run in Foreground from the Script menu. This may be necessary if your script interacts with a scripting addition that's not thread-safe.

Finally, another change to AppleScript Editor is that there is no longer an option to save a "flat" script application. Rather, all applications are saved as bundles, and are, therefore, not compatible with systems prior to 10.3.

AppleScript Utility

In previous versions of Mac OS X, an AppleScript Utility application, located in the /Applications/AppleScript folder, provided a central location for managing various OS-level AppleScript settings. This application has been moved into the /System/Library/CoreServices folder, and now operates as a background application, in order to provide backward compatibility with older scripts. Settings previously found in the AppleScript Utility, such as enabling, disabling, and configuring the system-wide script menu, can now be found in AppleScript Editor's Preferences window, under General. See figure 6.


Figure 6. Script Menu and Other System-Wide Options in AppleScript Editor's Preferences Window

Folder Actions Setup

Another application that has been moved from /Applications/AppleScript to the /System/Library/CoreServices folder is Folder Actions Setup. This application, which allows you to enable and configure Folder Action scripts in Mac OS X, can now be launched by selecting Folder Actions Setup... from the Finder's contextual menu (see figure 7), or from the Finder > Services menu in the menu bar.


Figure 7. Launching Folder Actions Setup from the Finder's Contextual Menu

Folder Actions themselves have also received some upgrades. For one, they now support attaching Automator workflows directly to folders. Previously, a secondary AppleScript component was required to launch Automator workflows attached to folders. Another change, which I'm sure will prove a welcome enhancement for many, is that Folder Actions will now attempt to wait for an item to finish writing to the attached folder, before processing it. This is done by checking the size of the detected item until it remains static for at least three seconds. In the past, Folder Actions were notorious for triggering when an item first appeared in the folder, thus causing errors if the item was still being copied or saved.

Changes Under the Hood

Scripting Addition Calls

Snow Leopard introduces a number of other noticeable AppleScript changes. First, calls to scripting additions are now a bit finicky, and most will produce a privilege error when issued within an application "tell" statement. According to Apple, this is done for security purposes. Instead, scripting addition calls should be sent to the current application, i.e. the script itself or the process running the script.

To provide backward compatibility with older scripts, AppleScript automatically tries to capture this error, and redirect the problematic call to the current application. This is evident in figure 8's event log, where the do shell script call is first sent to the Finder, and then to the current application.


Figure 8. Redirected Scripting Addition Calls

For optimal results and to ensure future compatibility, however, developers should try to avoid including calls to scripting additions within application "tell" statements. For example, change:

tell application "Some App"
   do some scripting addition command
   do some application command
end tell
... to:
some scripting addition command
tell application "Some App"
   do some application command
end tell

Alternately, you can implicitly target the current application in your scripting addition call. For example:

tell application "Some App"
   tell current application to do some scripting addition command
   do some application command
end tell

Date Handling

Coercions from strings to dates are also a bit finicky in Snow Leopard. Previous versions of AppleScript were fairly forgiving when attempting to coerce a string to a date. For example, in Mac OS X 10.5, the following script ran successfully on my machine:

set theDate to "03, September, 2009"
date theDate
-> date "Thursday, September 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM"

In Snow Leopard, however, the same script fails with the following error message:

-> error "Invalid date and time date 03, September, 2009 of «script»." number -30720

To prevent these types of errors, Apple recommends ensuring that any string being coerced to a date match one of the system date formats found in System Preferences, under Language and Text (formerly International) > Formats. For example:

set theDate to "September 3, 2009"
date theDate
-> date "Thursday, September 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM"

Standard Additions Changes

Only a few minor changes have been made to the Standard Additions scripting addition. The do shell script command now provides better error reporting, and the say command includes some interesting new parameters for controlling the pitch, modulation, and rate of spoken text. So, you can now have your script sound more like Darth Vader, for example:

say "No, 'Luke'! 'I' 'am' your father!" using "Bruce" speaking rate 200 pitch 25 modulation 20

System Events Changes

The System Events background application has also received a few updates, such as providing access to screen savers. And, menu bar transparency is now accessible via scripting. For example:

tell application "System Events"
   set translucent menu bar of current desktop to false
end tell

Application Scripting Changes

As with any major system update, scripters should also be on the lookout for AppleScript terminology changes in updated Snow Leopard applications. As one example, QuickTime Player has received some fairly hefty enhancements in Snow Leopard. As a result, its AppleScript terminology has changed substantially too. Users with existing QuickTime scripts should take a careful look at this updated terminology, and make any necessary adjustments to their scripts.

AppleScript Studio Changes

Perhaps the most significant AppleScript change in Snow Leopard involves AppleScript Studio, which has officially been deprecated. Yep, you read that correct, deprecated, as in obsolete and discontinued.

AppleScript Studio was a subset of features in Apple's Xcode development environment, which allowed scripters to build AppleScript-based applications, complete with Cocoa interfaces (created in Interface Builder).

For those scripters who have created countless AppleScript Studio applications, don't freak out just yet. First, Apple says that AppleScript Studio is still supported in Snow Leopard, and existing applications should continue to function. You should also be able to continue opening your existing AppleScript Studio projects and editing them in Xcode.

You will not, however, be able to create new AppleScript Studio projects in Xcode, as the templates for doing so have been removed. In addition, the handy AppleScript palette you're used to seeing in Interface Builder is now hidden by default. You can re-enable it, however, by running the following command in Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.InterfaceBuilder3 IBEnableAppleScriptStudioSupport -bool YES

Another option may be to install a second, older version of Xcode, alongside Snow Leopard's Xcode, thus allowing you to continue developing new AppleScript Studio applications. Installing multiple versions of Xcode was supported in the past, though I have yet to test it for myself in Snow Leopard, and I can't say whether it will continue to be supported in the future.

Regardless, there will come a day when AppleScript Studio is no longer supported. So, developers should start thinking about this now, and begin creating new applications and migrating existing ones to AppleScript Studio's successor - AppleScriptObjC - as soon as possible. AppleScriptObjC is a new framework in Mac OS X, which provides a bridge between AppleScript and the Objective-C runtime, thus allowing AppleScript to interact with any Cocoa framework.

For scripters without a background in Cocoa and Objective-C, AppleScriptObjC will take some time to master. However, there are some resources that can help get you started. For one, Xcode includes a new project template, named Cocoa-AppleScript Application. See figure 9. There's a Cocoa-AppleScript Automator action template too, for those Automator developers.


Figure 9. Creating a Cocoa-AppleScript Application in Xcode

You can also browse the Mac OS X reference library for Snow Leopard, which, at the time I wrote this column, included some preliminary AppleScriptObjC release notes, as well as a brief, though informative, Objective-C/AppleScript Quick Translation Guide. If you're new to Objective-C and Cocoa, I'd also recommend checking out the Cocoa Fundamentals Guide and the Introduction to The Objective-C 2.0 Programming Language. All of these documents are available on the Apple Developer Connection website at http://developer.apple.com.

In Closing

Overall, the AppleScript changes in Snow Leopard come as welcome improvements. That said, some changes are likely to cause compatibility issues with existing scripts. As with any Mac OS X update, AppleScript developers should take the time to test existing scripts thoroughly, and make any necessary changes to ensure compatibility.

AppleScriptObjC will likely require a bit more time and effort to upgrade existing scripts, and there will be a learning curve. That said, scripters adopted AppleScript Studio fairly quickly when it was first introduced, and I have no doubt that they will do the same for AppleScriptObjC. Once the migration is complete, however, the power and reach of AppleScript will be greater than ever before.

Until next time, keep scripting!


Ben Waldie (ben@automatedworkflows.com) is president of Automated Workflows, LLC (www.automatedworkflows.com), a company offering AppleScript, Automator, and workflow consulting services to Mac-based businesses. For years, Ben has developed professional automated solutions for companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Adobe Systems, Apple Inc., CNN, Microsoft, NASA, PC World, and Time Magazine. Ben is the author of "Automator for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Visual QuickStart Guide" (Peachpit Press) and "AppleScripting the Finder", has written AppleScript and Automator content for Apple.com, Macworld, MacTech, MacScripter.net, and X-Ray Magazine, and is the host of the "Mac Automation Made Simple" video podcast (Peachpit Press). Ben has also released hundreds of Automator actions for use with Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, FileMaker, QuarkXPress, Twitter, and more.

 
AAPL
$102.50
Apple Inc.
+0.25
MSFT
$45.43
Microsoft Corpora
+0.55
GOOG
$571.60
Google Inc.
+2.40

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

pwSafe 3.1 - 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
StatsBar 1.8 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
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
VueScan 9.4.41 - 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
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.1.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
SlingPlayer Plugin 3.3.20.505 - Browser...
SlingPlayer is the screen interface software that works hand-in-hand with the hardware inside the Slingbox to make your TV viewing experience just like that at home. It features an array of... Read more
Get Lyrical 3.8 - Auto-magically adds ly...
Get Lyrical auto-magically add lyrics to songs in iTunes. You can choose either a selection of tracks, or the current track. Or turn on "Active Tagging" to get lyrics for songs as you play them.... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rhonna Designs Magic (Photography)
Rhonna Designs Magic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to sprinkle *magic* on your photos? With RD Magic, you can add colors, filters, light leaks, bokeh, edges,... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: August 25-29, 2014
Shiny Happy App Reviews   | Read more »
Qube Kingdom – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Qube Kingdom is a tower defense game from DeNA. You rally your troops – magicians, archers, knights, barbarians, and others – and fight against an evil menace looking to dominate your kingdom of tiny squares. Planning a war isn’t easy, so here are a... | Read more »
Qube Kingdom Review
Qube Kingdom Review By Nadia Oxford on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: KIND OF A SQUARE KINGDOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Qube Kingdom has cute visuals, but it’s a pretty basic tower defense game at heart.   | Read more »
Fire in the Hole Review
Fire in the Hole Review By Rob Thomas on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: WALK THE PLANKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole looks like a bright, 8-bit throwback, but there’s not enough booty to... | Read more »
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwi...
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwide Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dodo Master Review
Dodo Master Review By Jordan Minor on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEST EGGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Dodo Master is tough but fair, and that’s what makes it a joy to play.   | Read more »
Motorsport Manager Review
Motorsport Manager Review By Lee Hamlet on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MARVELOUS MANAGEMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite its depth and sense of tactical freedom, Motorsport Manager is one of the most... | Read more »
Motorsport Manager – Beginner Tips, Tric...
The world of Motorsport management can be an unforgiving and merciless one, so to help with some of the stress that comes with running a successful race team, here are a few hints and tips to leave your opponents in the dust. | Read more »
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Add...
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Adds Lots of New Stuff Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Are We Now In The Post-Post-PC Era?
A longtime and thoroughgoing laptop aficionado, I was more than a little dismayed by Steve Jobs’s declaration back in 2010 when he sprang the iPad on an unsuspecting world. that we’d entered a “post-... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... Read more
A&D Medical Launches Its WellnessConnecte...
For consumers and the healthcare providers and loved ones who care for them, A&D Medical, a leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices and services, has launched its... Read more
Anand Lal Shimpi Retires From AnandTech
Anand Lal Shimpi, whose AnandTech Website is famous for its meticulously detailed and thoroughgoing reviews and analysis, is packing it in. Lal Shimpi, who founded the tech site at age 14 in 1997,... Read more
2.5GHz Mac mini, Apple refurbished, in stock...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2.5GHz Mac minis available for $509, $90 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. Read more

Jobs Board

*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
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.