Notes From the AppleScript World
Possibly you haven’t noticed, but during the past several months, up to just a couple of issues ago, I didn’t contribute much to TidBITS. The reason is that I was extremely busy all that time, working flat out on some AppleScript-related projects. Those projects have now come to fruition, so I now have liberty (and leisure) to tell you about them.
First on the list is the completion of the second edition of my book, "AppleScript: The Definitive Guide," published by O’Reilly Media. I overhauled just about every chapter, and rearranged things and added some new sections, to improve the exposition, to correct mistakes or earlier gaps in my own understanding, to respond to reader suggestions, and of course to take account of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. To top it all off, I compiled my own index. Owing to the usual time pressures, it has taken a second edition for this book to become all that I wished it to be, but now I’m very happy with it. Whether you’re a total beginner who has never programmed before, an experienced scripter in need of a clear reference, a Perl hacker trying to grok the AppleScript frame of mind, or a Cocoa programmer starting to add scriptability to your application, this book is intended as your guide. It’s priced at $40 ($27 at Amazon, but they don’t seem to be able to list the new edition correctly; check the isbn.nu book comparison service run by TidBITS Contributing Editor Glenn Fleishman for other retailers).
Next we have the brand spanking new, insanely fast, startlingly cool, all-singing, all-dancing, all-Cocoa version 4 of Late Night Software’s Script Debugger. This is the product of master programmer and magician Mark Alldritt; my role involved consulting about Cocoa, arguing about interface, writing a few lines of code, and (most important) writing the online help documentation. Script Debugger makes it easy to explore scriptable application dictionaries and objects, provides numerous editing shortcuts, and lets you understand exactly what your script is doing, line by line and value by value. It gives you information you can’t get in any other way. For me, it’s the AppleScript sine qua non; without it, I can’t do any AppleScript programming at all (and certainly couldn’t have written my book). It’s priced as a developer tool ($200, or $100 to upgrade from an earlier version), but it proves its worth instantly. At the very least, if you write any AppleScript programs, download and try Script Debugger as a free 20-day demo; you’ll have a blast. Requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce my upcoming participation in the AppleScript Pro Sessions, to be held this year just outside New York City in May. I’ll be talking about Automator and giving my usual insanely paced complete introduction to AppleScript Studio. The AppleScript Pro Sessions are a sequence of in-depth seminars covering the most widely needed topics in AppleScript, run by experienced consultants Ray Robertson and Shane Stanley. The previous Sessions occurred last November in Chicago, and contributed materially to several key points in my book. I’ve been involved with the Sessions for several years now, but I still always come away amazed at their depth and range: beginning scripters and hardened programmers alike come away enlightened and satisfied. The number of valuable tips per minute that Ray and Shane provide is simply not to be believed.
AppleScript is a curious language, to say the least. It’s a dinosaur, an almost unchanged survival of code written in 1993 to run on a slow computer with a mere speck of RAM. The language suffers from peculiarities of architecture and design, from a dearth of accurate documentation (which my book is intended to correct), and from the fact that all scriptable applications are utterly different from one another. Nevertheless, AppleScript goes on and on, not least because it lies at the core of major publishing workflows. Attendees at recent AppleScript Pro Sessions have come not only from newspaper and book publishers, but also from companies with catalogs of every kind, such as IKEA, Reebok, and Land’s End. And at the same time, AppleScript is present on every Mac; it comes into play wherever applications communicate with one another (like when you press the Mail button in iPhoto, or when iChat knows what iTunes is playing), and you can use it to automate and customize the behavior of scriptable applications. AppleScript brings applications together; it also brings humans together. These last months have been a wonderful and fulfilling time for me, not least because of the splendid people I’ve been privileged to work with – folks like Mark, and Ray and Shane, and the AppleScript Pro Sessions attendees, and the great people on the AppleScript team at Apple, and my editors and associates at O’Reilly, and AppleScript users everywhere who have helped and encouraged me. My thanks to all of them, and to Adam Engst and the TidBITS gang for letting me be absent all this time.
So – I’m tired, is it nap time yet?