Applescript is unrelenting garbage, an ongoing series

From the docs for the “Standard Suite” command make:

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 2.43.23 PM.png


As written this says that new is a required, optional keyword to the make command.

The intention/actual meaning is that the type class is a required argument to the make command, and use of the new keyword is optional.

Also, for what it’s worth, with data is required (in BBEdit anyway), which another part of the documentation says is optional.

A brief, painful attempt to understand JSA

JSA is “JavaScript for Automation”, aka Apples attempt to embed JavaScriptCore into their Apple Event model.

The use case here is, roughly, “I know JavaScript and [love|like|tolerate] it, but I cannot under any circumstances be arsed to do anything useful in AppleScript, because AppleScript is easily one of the worst software platforms ever created by man”.

Seriously, AppleScript is extremely bad. I have in my life encountered a few people who loved it; and nearly 100% of them are not work-a-day programmers. AppleScript is purpose-built to confuse, annoy, and frustrate people who can chew through languages like Swift with little effort.

(I’m not trying to start a “you’re not a real programmer” thing; if you write a program – any program – you’re a real programmer! I’m just saying that the norms AppleScript adheres to are typically diametrically opposed the stuff we work-a-day programmers have deeply, deeply internalized as “normal”.)

Anyway! I decided rather than replace a bunch of light switches my wife has decided are no logner aesthetically pleasing, I thought I’d spend the morning trying to hack on some JSA. After all: how hard can it be? It’s JavaScript and I know JavaScript, and I have once or twice managed to fumble around with AppleScript until I accomplished something useful.

I can sum up the morning with the phrase, “Oh, for fuck’s sake”.

Continue reading “A brief, painful attempt to understand JSA”

So why don’t we replace AppleScript?

So AppleScript sucks. What’s the alterative?

I don’t get why Apple hasn’t seriously entertained a “next generation” scripting engine, in particular one based on JavaScript. All the things are there:

There’s the “canonical” JavaScript OSA component but it doesn’t fit the criteria: it uses Spidermonkey, not Squirrelfish/JavaScriptCore. Still, its API is pretty spot-on (since it’s an OSA component). It’s also pretty old.

JSTalk is another contender. It’s sort of the opposite number of the JavaScript OSA: it uses entirely modern, native components – stuff Apple almost literally has laying around – but does not feature an OSA-compatible API (as near as I can tell anyway). But, it’s modern and very friendly with Cocoa.

The sweet spot is the fusion of the two; the “already works on top of an OSA layer” of the former and the “all the modern stuff” of the latter.

Someone at Apple please make this happen! Make scripting the Mac awesome.

An example of why Applescript is utterly awful and must be replaced

A while ago, I attempted to resolve the problem in Safari’s Delibar extension, wherein it can’t do what the Chrome extension can: automatically put the selected text into the ‘notes’ field.

I failed.

In part I failed because of Safari, and the way it structures extensions. Briefly, Safari uses a sort of separation-of-concerns model, so what a particular piece of an extension can access varies. Getting the selection is really hard because you need to use proxying and messaging to communicate between the current page, the extension’s “page”, and any resources.

I gave up because it sucked and wasn’t fun.

I had another thought: use Applescript to get the selection and pass it to the Delibar app itself! GENIUS!

The tl;dr here is “Delibar isn’t scriptable” so none of this matters, anyway.

Safari’s Applescript dictionary doesn’t include the term “selection”. To the best of my knowledge, you cannot use Applescript to get the selection of the current tab. Oh ….. kay.

So, the next logical step is to use JavaScript, because I know it has the ability to get the selection AND I know that there is a ‘do JavaScript’ command in AppleScript for Safari. Now we’re cooking!

Here’s the relevant bits from the dictionary:


do JavaScript (verb) Applies a string of JavaScript code to a document.


and the example:


set theResult to do JavaScript unicode text ¬ in tab


Makes sense, right? Sure. So you’d pretty much imagine that it works just like this:

tell application "Safari"
    set selectedText to (do JavaScript “window.getSelection()” in current tab of window 1)
end tell

Always returned null. Always. I then tried hundreds of combinations of more-or-less JavaScript, including:

  • adding a return
  • wrapping it in an anonymous function
  • using document instead of window
  • banging my head against the desk and cursing myself for ever having these sorts of thoughts After lots of searching, I discovered the completely obvious answer:

    do JavaScript “(”+getSelection())”

That’s a double-quote, left paren, single quote, single quote, plus, then the function and a closing quote.

Of course. Completely obvious. Note that removing the single quotes and concatenation operator doesn’t work. So “(foo())” doesn’t work, but “(”+foo())” does. I found two places that say it does work, but I can’t make it happen in the latest Lion and Safari.

How the hell do you even arrive at that as a logical place. And how do you expect regular people, ostensibly the target market for Applescript, to arrive at that conclusion?

Applescript is goddamned awful.

Simple BBEdit Menu Scripts

BBEdit allows users to override menu actions with a small bit of AppleScript.

Here’s something really dopey I whipped up to favor Transmit over the built-in FTP/SFTP:

on menuselect()
tell application "Transmit"
end tell
set troof to true
return troof
end menuselect

(Returning true means, override the menu item entirely; returning false fires the menus action after the applescript as run. I don’t think it’s possible to do ‘return true’ in AppleScript.)

Pretty neat. This is an unexplored region of BBEdit with a lot of potential.