Scripting Boot Camp at CMD-D Conference

I'm very excited to be leading a one-day Scripting Boot Camp August 8 at the CMD-D Masters of Automation Conference. Part of a two-day conference held in Santa Clara, California, this class will be an introduction to AppleScript, the powerful tool for automation included on every Mac.

What is AppleScript and why should I learn it?

AppleScript is a scripting language which is sometimes called Apple's best-kept secret. While many scripting languages might be referred to as "programming lite," AppleScript is unique in that it uses English-like syntax to make this automation tool more approachable, even for those without any previous programming experience (like me).

Most users learn AppleScript on-the-fly, meaning they are busy with other tasks in a deadline-driven world. Who has the time to stop completely and learn something else? With AppleScript, a new user might work on a developing a script, then be pulled away by another task for days or even weeks. When he or she returns to the script, the English-like syntax really helps ease the process of getting back into the flow. This not only helps beginners but even veteran users like myself because, hey, I forget things as well.

What are the benefits of AppleScript automation?

One of the primary goals of computers is to automate tedious tasks. Yet for various reasons, we often find ourselves doing the same tasks again and again every day. Again and again. And again. Every single day. Then again.

It gets repetitive.

One solution is to use a macro utility which can record and repeat actions in the user interface, like choosing menu items in a sequence, or recording an action in Photoshop.

AppleScript is much more powerful. Much more. It allows a user to make intelligent decisions based on conditions and needs. Instead of driving the user interface, AppleScript works directly Apple Events, the powerful technology which allows Mac apps to communicate with each other. AppleScript can also speak to multiple applications, chaining them together in a powerful workflow automation.

For example, a user might build a script which watches a folder for incoming files. When files arrive, the script could gather information from the files, add that information to a database, move the files to another location, then create a nice layout of text and images, use that to update a web page and a print publication, and alert others to the finished process bycreating an e-mail with an attachment.

Could the script play a song in iTunes for your enjoyment while you watch your Mac work? Oh, yes. But AppleScript automation is fast, so in most cases it would need to be a short song.

Will the Scripting Boot Camp be a class for pure beginners or people with some AppleScript experience?

Yes.

While targeted to beginners, I will include some more advanced tips as well, much in the same style as Shane Stanley and I used for years at AppleScript Pro Sessions. While no class can cover everything about AppleScript, I'm including lots of resources for attendees to use afterwards. This includes sample scripts with detailed comments, only some of which we will cover fully in class. I'm also including a quick reference guide—a PDF of dozens of pages covering some basic concepts and commands.

I will do my best to follow-up with students after the class, and see about forming a forum or mailing list for us to continue to discuss writing scripts. The main goal: To make sure people have a foundation beyond the one-day class to continue learning more about AppleScript.

Will I learn how to use Script Editor in class?

You will learn the basic of using Apple's free tool to examine dictionaries and create and edit scripts. Towards the middle of the class, I will switch to using Script Debugger, the excellent development environment from Late Nite Software. Script Debugger 6 has so many features which help beginners, including three different dictionary views and line-by-line stepping. These same features help me to do a better job of teaching AppleScript in a classroom setting.

What is the schedule?

The Scripting Boot Camp will be from 10am until 5pm local time on Tuesday, August 8. Before you register, be sure to check out the second day of the conference, which goes well into that evening. The speakers will include automation experts Andy Ihnatko, Jon Pugh, Jason Snell, John Welch, Sal Soghoian, and David Sparks. I'm looking forward to learning much!