Applescript in a Nutshell
Posted: 30-Jun-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Nathan Holsteen $29.95

Applescript in a Nutshell

By Bruce W. Perry
June 2001
1-56592-841-5, Order Number: 8415
526 pages, $29.95 US

What the Book is About
As the title suggests, AppleScript in a Nutshell is all about programming in Apple's powerful scripting language. It is fairly comprehensive, although it does have a few minor omissions.
Level of Reading
AppleScript in a Nutshell is not exactly a book designed to be read page by page, cover to cover. There are some sections suited for page by page reading, but the bulk of the book is explicitly designed to be a reference for anyone interested in writing scripts.

As to the intended audience, the book appears to be aimed more at a "middle of the road" scriptwriter. Those with a boatload of experience in programming and scripting (for example, PERL pros and VBS wunderkinder) will find this book helpful primarily for clarifying command and syntax. The complete beginner, on the other hand,will definitely find this book helpful, but will probably want another resource on hand in addition to this book to assist in the process of learning to script. But the real target audience seems to be those of us who took a few programming courses at college, and want to make our Macs do a few thing that will make our lives easier. This group will find AppleScript in a Nutshell to be the best thing available in helping with that task.
What To Expect
AppleScript in a Nutshell is divided into six parts. Part I is an introduction to AppleScript and the Script Editor that is helpful to anyone who does not have extensive experience with AppleScript. Part II is a language reference, containing lists of various commands and their syntax. Parts III and IV introduce the reader to scripting in OS 9 (scripting in applications as well as system extensions and control panels). Part V discusses scripting the OS X system, and Part VI contains appendices on scripting additions (osaxen) and scripting resources.

It is worth noting that only 35 pages out of a 499 page book pertain directly to scripting in OS X. While this is partly understandable when one recognizes that the bulk of the AppleScript world is not overly affected by the switch to OS X, it would have been of great assistance to this reviewer to have more material on the uniquenesses of scripting in OS X.

Another deficiency is the lack of material on scripting the apps that come with OS X. For example, scripting in the OS X Mail app only consumes 4 pages, and when you take out the illustrations, that reduces to a smidgen under two pages of text. That is not enough to help the average user who wishes to write a script for Mail that will really do useful work.
The book provides an absolutely stellar summary of commands, data types, variables, and all the other stuff of scripting. It is an indispensable reference to have on your desk as you experiment with scripts of your own devising. In this regard the book upholds the excellent reputation of the "In a Nutshell" series of books.
Mac Guild Grade
Final Words
The deficiencies mentioned above do not, in my view, decrease the value of this book. It is still an amazingly useful resource - it's just that it could have been that much better! Anyone who is going to experiment with AppleScript and has not yet reached the level of "script guru" would be well rewarded by this book.