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December 10, 2003

"AppleScript: The Definitive Guide": The How, Where, and Why of Using AppleScript

Sebastopol, CA--Between the dawn of the Mac and Mac OS X, the most innovative system revision was System 7, which brought with it Apple events: an extraordinarily clever and powerful system-level method for applications to ask each other questions and send each other commands. AppleScript was then introduced as a means for users to take direct advantage of Apple events. As Matt Neuburg, author of the just released book AppleScript: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly, US $39.95), explains, "AppleScript was Apple's way of rendering Apple events as a user-readable, user-writable scripting language. As time went by, many developers did a better and better job of integrating AppleScript into their applications. At the same time, AppleScript remained a kind of orphan in the Apple world. Apple didn't quite seem to know what to do with it."

With Mac OS X, all that has changed and AppleScript is now perhaps entering a kind of Golden Age. Finally embraced and acknowledged, AppleScript is starting to take its place among Apple's star technologies. "It's noticed on Apple's own web pages as a major aspect of Mac OS X," says Neuburg. "The Script Editor has been rewritten as a Cocoa application. Scripts may be run from a system-wide menu. Integration with Unix scripting has been provided. And users can actually write a genuine application with a full-fledged Aqua user interface--windows, menus, buttons, text fields, scrolling lists, and more--using AppleScript as their programming language, thanks to the astounding AppleScript Studio."

AppleScript: The Definitive Guide explores and expounds the language from the ground up. Unlike many books on AppleScript, Neuburg's book doesn't focus on scripting one application or another, nor does it assume that learning AppleScript is easy or obvious. Instead, the book teaches and documents the language in a clear and rigorous manner, just as you'd expect with any programming or scripting language.

According to Neuburg, there has long been a need for a complete, systematic book about AppleScript. Even Apple's own manual for the language is out of date and lacking in detail on certain key facts. The biggest complaint Neuburg hears from AppleScript users is that there is no way to learn the language! Neuburg gained his own knowledge of the language from every resource available, including the Apple manual, but ultimately resorted to experimenting with the language himself to see what it could do.

"AppleScript is a fairly small language," says Neuburg, "but I was amazed by how difficult it was to write this book! It took more than twice as long as I'd expected. My approach, as readers of my Frontier and REALbasic books know, is not to rely on documentation, but to bang away at the language itself, testing and experimenting, trying to deduce the underlying rules. Well, the underlying rules of AppleScript turn out to be really strange. As a result, my book contains a great deal of material I never knew before and have never seen documented elsewhere."

The book covers AppleScript 1.9.2 and the new Script Editor, released as part of the new version of Mac OS X Panther. No prior knowledge of AppleScript or previous programming experience is assumed, so that complete beginners can use the book to learn AppleScript. At the same time, the book provides such a degree of technical depth and completeness that experienced AppleScripters will find it an invaluable reference to use to check a point of syntax or gain a firmer understanding of such advanced arcana as how the scoping rules operate, how terminology is resolved, or what an Apple event really is.

AppleScript: The Definitive Guide not only teaches how the AppleScript language works, but shows readers how to use it in all sorts of contexts--in everyday scripts to process automation, as well as in AppleScript Studio, in Cocoa, in CGI scripts, and in combination with Perl and Ruby. Regardless of their level of experience, AppleScripters everywhere will turn to this book again and again.

Praise for AppleScript: The Definitive Guide:

"Having worked with AppleScript for more than 12 years, I honestly thought I knew it inside out. Matt's book proved me wrong. It does a bang-on job of telling you how to get the most out of AppleScript."
--Mark Alldritt, president, Late Night Software Ltd., Script Debugger Developer

"Matt Neuburg knows AppleScript's ins and outs thoroughly, and is not afraid to point out problems and how to work around them, as well as its strengths. This book will be of great interest both to programmers coming to AppleScript from other languages and to scripters who are already adept at AppleScript but puzzled by its many oddities."
--Paul Berkowitz

Additional Resources:

AppleScript: The Definitive Guide
Matt Neuburg
ISBN 0-596-00557-1, 453 pages, $39.95 US, $61.95 CA
order@oreilly.com
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

About O'Reilly

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