“It's a hybrid between a human language and a computer language. You can describe in reasonable sentences any activity that a computer can carry out, across any number of applications, and AppleScript will make it happen. It has the most unique combinations of capabilities ever assembled into a single language.”

 

 

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FEATURE August 10, 2000
Completing the Revolution

Unparalleled power to customize, integrate and automate creative applications

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town™
[email protected]

One of the key components of the Industrial Revolution is the automation of repetitive tasks. The tasks automated are primarily related to physical labor, and, as far as that goes, you'd have to admit that the Industrial Revolution has actually been pretty revolutionary.

As often as people use the word "revolutionary" these days, that's an important qualification.

The problem, says Cal Simone, is what the ongoing Industrial Revolution hasn't addressed, what it can't address—the repetitive aspects of creative work. "What we're left with," he says, "is the tedium of the mind. AppleScript is where we find relief."

Yes, AppleScript.

Simone is the founder of Main Event Software and one of the guiding lights of the AppleScript world. The gatekeeper, if you will: He's hired by Apple to oversee the development of AppleScript in specific applications as diverse as Adobe InDesign and Media 100 i to ensure consistency and interoperability, two of the keys to AppleScript's power.

"There's actually some question of how well computers have actually helped us do creative things. As often as not, they get in the way." He pauses and smiles. "Except Macintoshes. They get in your way less than the others, which is why I use them.

"But even on Macintoshes, creative people spend an overwhelming amount of time doing tasks that are anything but creative. The kind of assistance that we need for the labor we do hasn't been available, which means we've been stuck with the tasks that we find most burdensome."

Before AppleScript, that is. "Mac users are used to its graphic user interface, and that may be as far as some people get. But there's much you can do with the Macintosh in AppleScript, which you can think of as a semantic user interface. AppleScript uses an elegant, English-like syntax, with a small set of standard verbs, that allows you to direct the computer's actions in intelligent ways.

"Think of it as C-I-A," says the Washington, D.C.-based Simone. "AppleScript provides the ability to Customize tasks, the ability to Integrate them across applications and, at long last for creative people, the kind of Automation we need."

Simone contrasts this with macros, which many users are familiar with from programs like QuicKeys. Those are limited to repeating specific, identical actions. Scripts, on the other hand, can look intelligently and make decisions based on what they see and combine these decisions among applications.

As he starts to talk about the intelligence of AppleScript, its ability to make decisions, Simone gets excited. "It's a hybrid between a human language and a computer language. You can describe in reasonable sentences any activity that a computer can carry out, across any number of applications, and AppleScript will make it happen. It has the most unique combinations of capabilities ever assembled into a single language."

Sounds like we're talking about a revolution to me—while perhaps not starting one, at the very least extending the Industrial Revolution by bringing machine power to lighten the labors of creative professionals.

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