Monday, January 9, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Tell Us Your Mac Automation Stories

Adam C. Engst:

What should we make of Sal leaving? Apple didn’t lay him off specifically, it instead eliminated the position of Product Manager of Automation Technologies. It’s my understanding that multiple groups within Apple wanted to hire Sal afterward, but Apple was under some sort of hiring freeze that prevented him from migrating within the company. So it doesn’t look as though Apple was trying to get rid of Sal personally, which is good. What’s less good is that it would appear that Apple doesn’t see the need for having a position that evangelizes user automation internally.

[…]

Sure, Apple could have plans to replace AppleScript and Automator with super secret magic unicorn technologies, but based purely on what the company has done and said, it’s hard to believe that.

[…]

Even so, it’s obvious to anyone who uses iOS that there is still an important role for automation. I can tell Siri to “Change ‘Floating’ to 8 AM” to adjust the time of my wake-up alarm, but I have no way to automate the five taps necessary to play the audiobook we listen to every night in the Hoopla digital library app. Five wasted taps every night isn’t the end of the world, but if you can’t automate the little stuff, you certainly can’t automate the big stuff.

[…]

If Apple’s seeming indifference toward automation worries you because you rely on scripts, macros, workflows, and more to get your work done quickly, effectively, and accurately, here’s what I’d like you to do. Leave a comment on this article outlining how you depend on Mac automation tools in your job.

Previously: Thank You, Sal.

Update (2017-01-25): Adam C. Engst:

The stories poured in, and you can now read about the amazing things that fellow TidBITS readers have accomplished with AppleScript, Automator, and the many other automation technologies available to Mac users. It’s a lot, so don’t feel the need to do it all at once.

I’ll send these to Apple’s Tim Cook and Craig Federighi as well so they can see just how important automation is to the future of the Mac. And just to bring up how constantly I turn to automation tools, the start of each story below was formatted with a single grep search in BBEdit, saving me at least 10 minutes.

11 Comments

"It’s my understanding that multiple groups within Apple wanted to hire Sal afterward, but Apple was under some sort of hiring freeze that prevented him from migrating within the company" - this is the kind of mega-corp bureaucratic HR mess that Apple is meant to have transcended a long time ago. Shameful.

As a Mac admin I'm relying on shell scripts and (to less extent) on AppleScript for my daily work. While I can't imagine the Unix shell and utilities to go away anytime soon, I'm a little worried about AppleScript since it is very helpful for creating simple and native GUI interactions and something that can't be easily done in Bash et al. That said I'm hoping for some kind of Swift-based scripting solution to catch up in the future, e.g. something like Scriptarian (https://eclecticlight.co/2016/11/21/scriptarian-swift-scripting-for-macos/).

@NIck: Aww, bless you kid. Maybe one day when you're all grown up, you can ask your friendly local business adviser to explain the facts of life to you.

@Paul: Scriptarian is useless broken crap, far more feature-crippled and app-incompatible than even Apple's own ScriptingBridge and JavaScript for Automation failures. (Actually worse than useless, cos it's diverying and wasting everyone's time on a dumb retread of already-failed OO-weenie arrogance and ignorance, right at a time when unified focus and ready-to-use proven solution could possibly still adjust Apple's mind.)

If you want to get a production-quality Swift-to-AE bridge in macOS, go dupe the following ticket on bugreport.apple.com:

http://openradar.appspot.com/29332915

Then get all your mates to do likewise, and so on, cos the more duplicate requests Apple gets from users the more likely they are to take notice.

And once you've done that, get back to me and kick my ass until I finish rewriting[1] the POS tutorial chapter. I dunno when Apple's internal cut-off for selecting new features for 10.13 is (for all I know it's already passed) but if I can pitch SwiftAutomation to Apple at the end of this month, maybe it'll stall the AppleScript stack's probable dump to legacy track long enough to figure out the rest of my cunning plan and get it into play.[2]

Be aware that SwiftAutomation's just a library, not an IDE; it replaces AppleScript, not the full AppleScript + Script Editor/Debugger toolchain. While you can write shell-style Swift #! "scripts" using any old text/code editor, most folks'll want something at least on Script Editor's level (syntax highlighting, dictionary viewer, documentation, etc) so I've thrown together a quick-n-dirty micro-editor for writing simple Swift automation "scripts" here:

https://bitbucket.org/hhas/swiftautoedit

I don't have time to develop it further, but perhaps someone else who's a bit more tolerant of Swift-Cocoa GUI programming (yuk) will take it over and fix and improve it in future.

--

[1] To be fair, the holdup is not purely down to laziness; at least not this time. Right now'm trying to start up a limited company that delivers *very* high-end artwork automation systems to the global packaging industry, and already getting enquiries from potential future clients and global partners before I'm even ready. Five years from now I'll be either a multi-millionaire or dead - either way an impressive AppleScript success story.

[2] Part two of my grand plan is to get my next language, entoli, properly up and running. There is a reason I've nicknamed it "SiriScript", after all (partly-working proof-of-concept here, to give a clue).

Stationary Feast

> "It’s my understanding that multiple groups within Apple wanted to hire Sal afterward, but Apple was under some sort of hiring freeze that prevented him from migrating within the company" - this is the kind of mega-corp bureaucratic HR mess that Apple is meant to have transcended a long time ago. Shameful.

I suspect his removal might be a knock-on effect of Apple's diversity initiatives. I have a solution, though — simply have Tim Cook declare that Armenians are underrepresented minorities and Sal should be eligible for re-hire.

@Stationary Feast: Sal's sacking was a knock-on effect of Apple's growth and sales slumping, which is an alarm call to clear out all the dead wood that's not been pulling its weight for years and spur the rest to pull their fingers out and start shipping products that win new customers.

Sal had twenty years in a uniquely privileged position to make text-driven UIs as phenomenally successful as Apple's point/click/tap UIs, yet has nothing but a string of decrepit, failed, and dead-on-arrival crapware to show for his tenure. He may be a wonderful evangelist for end-user automation when placed in a room of semi-pro power-users, but as a product manager he was useless as shit.

The only pity is that he wasn't sacked a decade ago and new talent brought in to give it fresh crack. The only question now is whether Apple still sees any untapped value in it that might persuade it to give it one more try, or if Sal's legacy of failure has already good as buried it in the ground.

NIck: "It’s my understanding that multiple groups within Apple wanted to hire Sal afterward"

Most likely all the Applications teams who've tried to add scripting support over the last 20 years wanted to hire him for their Friday Nerf gun target practice.

@has you seem fun.

"@has you seem fun."

It's weird. He's a pretty worthwhile commenter on every other topic under the sun on this fine blog. But once we hit this topic, yes, he indeed becomes "fun", to put it quite politely.

@Chucky heh. I'm not enough of a regular to notice that someone's fed him after midnight.

@Nick: Oh I'm definintely Brain Gremlin, except I eat programmers instead of childred. They may be fat and pulpy, but their tears are the tastiest treat ever.

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