AppleScript: The Definitive Guide
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: November 2003
Pages: 480

If you want to know all about AppleScript--the how, where, and why of using it--dig into AppleScript: The Definitive Guide. It doesn't make the mistake that other books do: it isn't about scripting this or that particular application, and it doesn't 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.AppleScript is a dynamic, object-oriented scripting system that allows Mac users--even novices who know nothing about programming--to directly control Macintosh applications, including the Mac OS itself. You can write scripts to automate repetitive tasks, customize applications, and even control complex workflows.AppleScript has always been useful, but with Mac OS X it's even more so. Nearly every application that comes with Mac OS X is scriptable. Even non-scriptable applications can often be driven with AppleScript, thanks to the new Accessibility API and GUI Scripting technologies. And now AppleScripters can put a true Aqua interface around their scripts! There's never been a more exciting time for AppleScript users.AppleScript: The Definitive Guide explores and teaches the language from the ground up. If you're a beginner and want to learn how to write your first script or just understand what the excitement is all about, you'll be able to do so after reading this book.AppleScript: The Definitive Guide is the quintessential guide to this important Mac tool. Regardless of their level of experience, AppleScripters everywhere will turn to this book again and again.

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oreillyAppleScript: The Definitive Guide

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(5 of 5 customers found this review helpful)


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Comments about oreilly AppleScript: The Definitive Guide:

O'Reilly books are some of the best out there, I own around 20 or so myself, but it must be noted that the Applescript framework and Xcode have changed drastically since this book was written making the book virtually useless.

There are so many pitfalls and traps you need to know how to avoid now that are not documented even by Apple (e.g. how to get parameters, "some item" is bugged for input) that a beginner buying one of these books will be totally lost. It's not the fault of the book of course, it was accurate at the time, it's just that things change over time and a printed book can't keep up unless it republishes.

In addition Xcode 4.0 is about to come out so no one, including Apple, are updating their documentation until then so if you want to learn how to write AppleScript you'll need to know how to use Google and understand most examples won't work. For me this is a challenge and fun but most people it will just annoy.


AppleScript: The Definitive Guide Review

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Comments about oreilly AppleScript: The Definitive Guide:

Totally agree with Diane Love... If you're a beginner and want to learn how to write your first script or just understand what the excitement is all about, you'll be able to do so after reading this book.


(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


AppleScript: The Definitive Guide Review

By Diane Love

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly AppleScript: The Definitive Guide:

AppleScript The Definitive Guide

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's word of the week on June the 9th, 2000, I naturally began to wonder whether he read 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

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.

(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


AppleScript: The Definitive Guide Review

By David Hoerl

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly AppleScript: The Definitive Guide:

I've dilly-dallied with AppleScript for years, and everytime given up in frustration. Now that I am half way through this new book, I understand why: its suppose to be like that!

Seriously, if you only by the book for Chapter 3, Matt's own experience in trying to get FrameMaker to do something he needed it to do, it would be worth the price of the book! What you get out of this is that its never going to be easy to get an unknown application (that is, to you!) to do what you want it to do - at least not right away. And he goes on to explain over and over that even though an application may accept Standard Suite events, it may ignore some or all of the parameters you send it! So, I finally found out - its not me - its the system!!!

Now that I understand my expectations are not reset, I have started to again play with Script Editor (on Panther) and scripting various events. I subscribe to the AppleScript users list on the Apple Developer site, and recently there was a thread on how to get a progress bar. Someone posted a script that opened TextEdit, set the window size to a long thin rectangle, send a stream of '|' characters such that it looked like an old style progress bar.

It looked interesting, so I played with it for a while. The script tells TextEdit to open a blank window, then it sets the title, sets the bounds, then starts writing. So, I think - if you could open the window with a title of "Progress..." and a bounds already set, that would be cool. I look in the TextEdit dictionary and there is a "with properties" option under "make new window". So I try it. Sigh. Its compiles, and runs, but TextEdit ignores the properties. Now, before I read Matt's book, I would have thought it was me. Now I know TEXTEDIT IS BROKEN! Not the end of the world, but its not me! I feel better already! [Note: I tested with Tex-Edit Plus, which takes the same make directive but honors the properties! ]

The above is illustrative of the thinking that this book provokes. Matt has a great blend of provoking thought, warning you of pitfalls, and constantly reminding you to experiement as you cannot read how to script a given application in a book, even this one!

I'm only half way through nowl, but am now engaged and feeling good about what I am learning. Matt has a conversational tone, as if you were in a small classroom and looking at one another - so its not another dull tome. He takes you to an amazing depth, slowly while building to it, and when you're done a chapter, and now understand some aspect of AppleScript, you may find yourself smiling that this has happened withour your hardly knowing it was happening.

I've been reading a few chapters each day, then playing around with Script Editor to lock in what I am learning. I have skimmed through the later chapters on occasion to find an answer, and I've always found one.

The only very minor complaint I have is that, for me, it would have been nice to have a small set of questions at end - like exercises - little tasks for the user to try to get them to stop reading and start coding. I find modifying existing example scripts is useful - others may prefer to make some exercises up for themselves.

That said, the buzz on Apple's list server has been extremely positive from a large group of users, some of whom have scripted for years. I personally have several other AppleScript books, and this one is head and shoulders above the rest. If you have any interest at all in using or even understanding AppleScript, you will find this book an invaluable companion. Its even an enjoyable read!

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