By Matt Neuburg
1st Edition November 2003
453 pages, $39.95 US
- What the Book is About
- This book aims to provide
a complete explanatory manual and reference to AppleScript, up to date with Mac OS
X 10.3 (Panther).
- Target Audience
- The introduction states that
the book assumes no prior knowledge of AppleScript or of any other programming language.
While I agree that no knowledge of AppleScript is required, it's challenging to consider
someone with no programming knowledge starting out with this book to use AppleScript
as their first programming language. For experienced Applescript users, the book
is likely to be an essential reference.
- What NOT to Expect
- Perhaps like many others who
had not used AppleScript, I believed it was a simple, English-like language that
was very easy to use. I jumped eagerly in at the first chapter, certain that I would
soon be told go sit at my Mac and type my first "Hello World" AppleScript
into some application or other.
As I read and read chapter after chapter from the sofa, I realized it was not going
to be quite so simple in either case.
AppleScript, according to the author, has come close to extinction in the past, but
is now entering a "golden age"; it is a technical innovation and a labor
saving device for the ordinary Mac user, yet it's not true to say that it's an intuitive
language needing no real explanation.
- What to Expect
- In reading this book, the
author's (Matt Neuburg) expertise in AppleScript becomes immediately apparent. So
too does his extremely erudite writing style. For example, when I got to the list
of "apothegms" and discovered that this synonym for saying or maxim
was dictionary.com's word of the week on June the 9th,
2000, I naturally began to wonder whether he read dictionary.com every week for fun.
As it transpires, the author has degrees in ancient Greek and Classical Philology
and had a career as an academic classicist before starting a new career in computing.
He thinks computer languages are relatively easy. (See http://www.tidbits.com/matt/).
The trouble with AppleScript is that to use it you have to use it to script an application,
each application has a different vocabulary stored in its dictionary, and dictionaries
in general have no manuals of their own. If someone tried to write one book that
said precisely how to script every application, it would need to contain a dictionary
manual for each application, and would therefore be enormous.
While there are books about AppleScript for single applications, Matt Neuburg quite
simply wants to get you to see AppleScript through his eyes and learn to use it as
he does, finding out what you need to know as you go along.
Part 1 - AppleScript Overview starts by identifying when and why you would want to
use AppleScript - for example whenever you get bored doing something very repetitive
with your computer. Also discussed in this part of the book are the different environments
for creating AppleScripts and some of the important concepts and principles.
The singular feature of this section is that it contains a complete worked example
of how to create an AppleScript to do a repetitive document management task. The
example uses Framemaker; this has the disadvantage that people who don't have Framemaker
won't be able to try it out. The point is to illustrate that no prior knowledge of
the Framemaker dictionary is required - you can figure it out for yourself if you
know how to ask the application !
Part 2 - The AppleScript Language, is intended as both a reference and instruction.
As the author says, "the order of the exposition is pedagogical" - you
are supposed to read the chapters in order. This section explains all the language
features and illustrates pitfalls including those caused by forgetting AppleScript
is not English.
Part 3 - AppleScript in Action, is where, as the author puts it, having learned to
use the sword in Part 2, you now go out and do battle. It covers dictionaries, scripting
additions, working with applications both scriptable and unscriptable, working with
UNIX and finally writing your own applications. Again in this section problems are
foreseen and solutions provided.
There are appendices on Apple's "aeut" resource and general AppleScript
resources such as websites.
- The depth of the coverage
is amazing and the approach of teaching you how to learn for yourself is refreshing.
If you are interested in linguistics as well as computer languages then this book
is a delight. A language manual written by a linguist, it frequently compares and
contrasts AppleScript to English and other computer languages.
- Mac Guild Grade
- A+ (Awesome)
- Final Words
- If you want to know everything
there is to know about AppleScript, then this book is essential.
If on the other hand you are looking for a very practical tutorial or cookbook, be
warned that after reading all of this book, I still have not typed any "Hello
World" AppleScript into AppleScript Studio. Maybe I just don't do enough boring,
repetitive tasks with my Mac.