TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Fun with AppleScript

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Administrivia

Fun with AppleScript

A fairly useless detour that nonetheless shows you some tricks with iTunes and Entourage v.X

by John C. Welch

Welcome

Okay, so my last couple of articles have been technical, (no surprise, this is Mac*TECH*, after all), but nonetheless, they were pretty dry to not only read, but write as well. (The USB2 spec is a great cure for insomnia) So this time, I thought I'd take a bit of a turn, and share a fun bit of AppleScript that I had done with iTunes and Microsoft Entourage for Mac OS X.

Get Sig From iTunes

Someone had shown me a neat application that was designed to get the name of the current track from iTunes, and insert the track information into your Entourage email message. It was well put together, but there were some things that I didn't like about it. First, it was a background application polling two other applications. That seemed a bit kludgy to me, as this script didn't really need to run that way. To my way of thinking, it is more of an Entourage script, so it should run inside of Entourage. Since Entourage is extremely scriptable, and has support for schedules that let you schedule, among other things, AppleScripts, it seemed to me that there was a way to have this run in Entourage's application space. A few hours of work, and 'voila', it was done.

If you want to just download the script, it's available from:

<http://web.mit.edu/jwelch/www/files/Mac OS X Scripts/EntourageX/SigFromiTunes.hqx>

The most recent versions are there, and it is fairly well commented, so if you don't want to type this all in manually, you can just download it from there.

Main functions of the script

As I saw it, the script had to do a few things, which made writing it pretty easy. It had to be able to get the current track information from iTunes, which I defined as the Track Name, the Track Artist, and the Track Album. If iTunes wasn't playing, then it had to substitute a signature from the user's list of random signatures. If there weren't any random signatures to use, then it had to insert a default signature. I ended up finding some interesting challenges in this, including one bug that could only happen in such a specific configuration, that it got its own name, "The La Grua Bug".

The script then had to take this iTunes information, and create a signature out of it, and insert this text into a predefined signature in Entourage. I ended up attaching the script to a schedule that runs every minute, so the track info is current. As of this article, it's been running constantly whenever I run Entourage, (which is pretty much 24x7), and no real problems.

Like most things with AppleScript, you end up getting help from the people in the community, both with the coding and with the testing. For the coding, I want to thank the folks on the Entourage mailing list,<mailto:Entourage-Talk-on@lists.letterrip.com> specifically Paul Berkowitz, and Dan Crevier, (who also works for the MacBU and is a major reason for the AppleScript quality in things like Outlook Express and Entourage.). For testing, besides the aforementioned (Jeff) La Grua, I'd like to thank the members of the Your Mac Life mailing list, <http://lists.mymacgroups.com/mailman/listinfo/yml>, who were quite helpful during the testing of this script.

Some caveats:

    1) This has been tested by me and most others in Entourage v.X and iTunes 2/3 in Mac OS X only. I have had reports of it working correctly in Mac OS 9 with the native versions of the programs there. If it does, cool, but I'm not going to worry if it doesn't. If you wish to change things to fix that, excellent.

    2) It only works with Entourage. I thought about Eudora, but the AppleScript dictionary for that Application makes my head hurt. If you want to get it to work with Eudora, please let me know when you do, I personally know a few people who will love you for it. It can't work with Mail at the moment, and Netscape's dictionary isn't even close to allowing it. I don't use PowerMail, or MailSmith, so I don't know if you could modify it for that. But anyone who wishes to may certainly use my code as a starting point.

    3) I'm not an AppleScript genius. I'm a pickup truck programmer. Most of my solutions are simple enough that I can read them in six months and remember why I did it that way. If you care to optimize my code, please do, and then comment it so I can maybe pick up a pointer or two.

So enough of this, let's dig into the code!

The AppleScript Code

The first section of this sets up some basic variables, and checks to see if iTunes is running at all. If it is, then we set a flag to show this. Otherwise, we avoid trying to get the track information, and dump into the 'iTunes isn't playing' sections.

set isiTunesRunning to 0
set theNewSig to ""
set iTunesIsPlaying to 0

The first three lines are pretty simple. Two flags, 'isiTunesRunning' and 'iTunesIsPlaying' are set to 0, which is the safer value. 'theNewSig', the variable used to hold the signature that will be built is initialized here as well.

try 
--the try allows for problems getting the process list from the finder without needing to 
--pop dialogs in e'rage if this times out
   tell application "Finder"
      if (get name of every process) contains "iTunes" then
         
--if iTunes isn't running, then assume the user wants things this way, and leave things 
--alone like a good boy
         set isiTunesRunning to 1
      end if
   end tell
on error
   quit
end try

This section asks the Finder if iTunes is running. If it isn't, then isiTunesRunning stays at 0, if it is, then it gets set to 1. The try block was needed because if Entourage was particularly busy, or the Finder was, or both were busy, then you'd get an error alert complaining that the script couldn't get the name of every process. If any errors occur, the script quits, and you just wait until the next run to update things.

if isiTunesRunning = 1 then
   
   tell application "iTunes" 
   --start talking to iTunes
      
      
      if player state is playing then 
      --now we want to see if iTunes is even playing         
         set iTunesIsPlaying to 1
         set theName to the name of the current track 
         --get the track name
         set theArtist to the artist of the current track 
         --get the artist name
         set theAlbum to the album of the current track 
         --get the album name         
         if theAlbum is "" then set theAlbum to "Beats the hell out of me" 
         --default if no album name
         if theArtist is "" then set theArtist to "Who the hell knows" 
         --default if no artist name
         if theName is "" then set theName to "Too Zen for me" 
         --default if no track name         
         set theNewSig to "--
I'm listening to " & theName & " by " & theArtist & " off of " & theAlbum 
         --now we set the sig to the  iTunes values. This has to 
         --happen here, otherwise we override other defaults, that would be bad
      end if
      
   end tell 
   --our iTunes work is done
   
   if iTunesIsPlaying = 1 then 
   --iTunes is running AND playing      
      buildSig(theNewSig) 
      --build the signature from the iTunes data, and update the e'rage sig since we call 
      --the same code twice, let's make it a handler, and save space
   else 
   --iTunes is running, but not playing      
      set theNewSig to buildSigWithoutiTunes(theNewSig) 
      --call the handler that builds a sig without iTunes running
      buildSig(theNewSig) 
      --update the sent sig to some random sig  created by the previous line
   end if
   
else 
--iTunes isn't running or playing
   
   set theNewSig to buildSigWithoutiTunes(theNewSig) 
   --call the handler that builds a sig without iTunes running
   
   buildSig(theNewSig) 
   --update the sent sig to some random sig  created by the previous line
   
end if

The first line of this section tests to see if iTunes is running. If the flag, 'isiTunesRunning' is set to 1, then iTunes is running, and we start talking to iTunes. Otherwise, this section is skipped. The 'tell block' routes all the commands inside the 'tell block' to iTunes, and the first thing we need to know is the player state. ITunes could be on, but not playing. So the 'if player stated is playing' line asks iTunes for this information. There are five possible values for 'player state': stopped, playing, paused, rewinding, fast forwarding. Since we only care about playing, we use that as our test. If the 'player state' is playing, then 'iTunesIsPlaying' is set to 1.

Since iTunes is playing, we now get the names of the track, the artist, and the album the track comes from and put them into theName, theArtist, and theAlbum, respectively. We then test to see if any of these variables are blank, indicating that iTunes doesn't have this information, and if they are, we insert default values into them. Once this is done, we create the new signature text, and put it into 'theNewSig'. The reason why it looks a little odd is that I inserted returns so that we sould get a good structure in the email message. The code for these is '\r', but when you compile the script, AppleScript converts these to actual returns, so you get the breaks instead of the characters. The pre-compiled code for the signature text is:

"--\rI'm listening to " & theName & " by " & theArtist & " off of " & theAlbum

The '&' characters allow me to concatenate the data in the three track variables into the text string of the signature. Once that is done, we close the if statement with an 'end if', and the tell block with an 'end tell', and that's all we need to talk to iTunes for.

The next if statement checks the value of 'iTunesIsPlaying'. If it is 1, then we call the handler 'buildSig()' and pass it the variable theNewSig that we just created. This handler is pretty short, as seen below:

on buildSig(theSignature) 
--handler/subroutine to set the sig in E'Rage
   
   tell application "Microsoft Entourage"
   --this actually ends up setting the signature *after* you send the mail,
   --but until I get a proper signature property, it's the only non-kludgy way to do this
      if exists signature "iTunesSig" then 
      --if iTunes Sig is there
         set the content of signature "iTunesSig" to theSignature 
         --change the contents         
      else 
      --if it isn't there         
         make new signature with properties {name:"iTunesSig", content:theSignature, include in 
         random:false} 
         --create iTunes Sig, with the correct contents         
      end if
   end tell
   
end buildSig

This handler tells Entourage to set a specific signature to the contents of 'theSignature', which is carrying the data from theNewSig. One quirk here is that you are actually changing the signature after the message is sent, as you can't directly manipulate the signature in an email message yet. The first 'if' inside the tell block asks Entourage if a signature named "iTunes Sig" exists. If it does, then the content of that signature is changed to the content of 'theSignature', and we're done with the handler. If "iTunes Sig" doesn't exist, then we use the 'make new signature' statement to create the signature, name it "iTunes Sig", set the content to 'theSignature', and make it a non-random signature. (that last bit is important. If "iTunes Sig" is random, you can start setting up for the La Grua bug.) Once that's done, we're done with the handler, and we jump back into the main program.

Now, at the beginning of the signature building block of code, we checked to see if iTunes was playing. If it wasn't , (if we got to here, then iTunes is running, but is not playing), then we have to create a different signature, so we set 'theNewSig' to the results of a different handler, 'buildSigWithoutiTunes()', and pass it 'theNewSig'. This handler's code is shown below:

on buildSigWithoutiTunes(theSignature)
   
   tell application "Microsoft Entourage" 
   --here's where we use a random signature, thank Paul Berkowitz for the help here      
      set randomSigs to every signature whose include in random is true
      if the length of randomSigs is equal to 1 then
      (* this is to catch the La Grua bug, wherein you only have one sig set to random, 
      namely the iTunesSig. This creates a problem where instead of the not playing 
      message    you get the name of the last tune to play until you run iTunes again. *)
         set theSignature to the name of the first item of randomSigs
         if theSignature is "iTunesSig" then
            set theSignature to "-- 
 itunes isn't playing right now"
         end if
      end if
      if the length of randomSigs is greater than 1 then 
      --more than one signature in the random list
         set theSignature to some item of randomSigs 
         --'this gives you the numerical ID of the selected sig
         set theSignature to the content of theSignature 
         --this gives you the text content of the selected sig
      else 
      --uh - oh, no random sigs         
         set theSignature to "-- 
 itunes isn't playing right now"
      end if
   end tell
   return theSignature
end buildSigWithoutiTunes

So now, we have to deal with creating a signature that has nothing to do with iTunes, since it isn't playing anything. We tell Entourage to create a list of signatures that have the random flag set to true. Next we avoid the La Grua bug, by checking to see if the number of items in this list is 1. If it is, we set 'theSignature' to the name of that single item. If that name is "iTunesSig" then we don't want to use potentially very old track information, so we change the contends of 'theSignature' to "--\r iTunes isn't playing right now", we return theSignature, and we're done with the handler.

If the number of items in randomSigs is greater than one, then we set 'theSignature' to 'some item' of 'randomSigs, (AppleScriptese for 'gimme a random selection from that list'). This gives us the index number for a random selection from that list. We then reset 'theSignature' to the contents of the signature that the index points to. Once that is finished, we return 'theSignature' and we're done. The 'else' statement is only there if the number of random signatures is not 1 and not greater than 1, so all that's left is 0 random signatures. In that case, we set 'theSignature' to "--\r iTunes isn't playing right now", we return 'theSignature' and we're done with the handler.

However, while we now have a signature ready to go, even though iTunes isn't playing, we still haven't told Entourage to actually change the signature. Well, we could just put that code into the buildSigWithoutiTunes(), but why duplicate code? As we saw earlier, we already have that code built and running, why not use it? After all, code reuse is 'a good thing'. So that's what we do. If we review two of the last lines in the main body of the program:

set theNewSig to buildSigWithoutiTunes(theNewSig) --call the handler that builds a 
sig without iTunes running
   
   buildSig(theNewSig) --update the sent sig to some rangom sig  created by the previous line

We see that the first line is what calls the buildSigWithoutiTunes(), and sets 'theNewSig' to the returned value. The next line calls our previously discussed buildSig() handler, and passes it 'theNewSig'. That handler is what creates the new sig in iTunes. So we don't have to re-enter the same code. It's a nice way to keep your code listings shorter. The next line closes up the if statement that checked to see if iTunes was even running, and that's the end of the main program, and we're done. You'll want to save this as a compiled script, not as an application. You can save it anywhere, but I prefer to save it in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Entourage Script Menu Items/, so I can run it manually from the Entourage Script menu if need be.

Setting Up Entourage

So now we have a script, how do we get Entourage to use this bit of script we have created? Well, first you'll want to create a schedule so it can run regularly. I've been running it every minute for about five months now without a problem. The schedule setup is pretty simple, as we can see below:


Setup for iTunes Script Schedule

You give it a name, set it to be a repeating schedule, and set the action to be 'Run AppleScript' and point it at the 'sigFromiTunes' script. Make sure the 'Enabled' checkbox is checked, click 'OK' and your schedule is set. The next step is to attach the signature that this schedule is going to be creating to an account. I chose my mac.com account, as I mostly use that for personal email. The setup for that is pretty easy as well. This account happens to be an IMAP account, but the setup for POP accounts is the same. Go to the 'Tools' menu, and select 'Accounts'. In the list of accounts, double-click the account you want this signature to attach to, and select the Options tab. Then in the signature pull down, pick the appropriate entry for the iTunes Signature, normally 'iTunesSig'. My setup is seen below:


Account setup for iTunesSig

Once that's done, click 'OK', and you're all set to wow your friends with your vast collection of legal MP3s.

Conclusion

Well, it's not a terribly serious or network-related use for AppleScript, but then again, you are supposed to have some fun with your Mac every once in a while. Otherwise, you may as well use Windows. Also, I have done some testing, and this should work on iTunes 3 as well as 2.X, but if it doesn't, by all means, feel free to fix it. Finally, here are some URLs that can help you with this, or any other AppleScripting projects you may have:


John Welch <jwelch@mit.edu> is a Consultant with MIT IS, and the Chief Know-It-All for TackyShirt. He has over fifteen years of experience at making computers work. John specializes in figuring out ways in which to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, showing that the Mac is the superior administrative platform, and teaching others how to use it in interesting, if sometimes frightening ways. He also does things that don't involve computertry on occasion, or at least that's the rumor.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

TotalFinder 1.12.2 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Features... Read more
Duet 2.3.0.3 - Use your iPad as an exter...
Duet is the first app that allows you to use your iDevice as an extra display for your Mac using the Lightning or 30-pin cable. Note: This app requires a $9.99 iOS companion app. Version 2.3.0.3:... Read more
FileMaker Pro Advanced 18.0.3 - Powerful...
FileMaker Pro Advanced is the tool you use to create a custom app. You also use FileMaker Pro Advanced to access your app on a computer. Start by importing data from a spreadsheet or using a built-in... Read more
OsiriX Lite 10.0.6 - 3D medical image pr...
OsiriX Lite is an image processing software dedicated to DICOM images (".dcm" / ".DCM" extension) produced by medical equipment (MRI, CT, PET, PET-CT, ...) and confocal microscopy (LSM and BioRAD-PIC... Read more
Ableton Live 10.1.5 - Record music using...
Ableton Live lets you create and record music on your Mac. Use digital instruments, pre-recorded sounds, and sampled loops to arrange, produce, and perform your music like never before. Ableton Live... Read more
Burn 2.7.8 - Easily burn data, audio, vi...
Burn... There are a lot of ways to approach burning discs. Burn keeps it simple, but still offers a lot of advanced options. Create data discs with advanced data settings like, file permissions, the... Read more
Malwarebytes 4.0.30.3073 - Adware remova...
Malwarebytes (was AdwareMedic) helps you get your Mac experience back. Malwarebytes scans for and removes code that degrades system performance or attacks your system. Making your Mac once again your... Read more
Acorn 6.5.3 - Bitmap image editor.
Acorn is a new image editor built with one goal in mind - simplicity. Fast, easy, and fluid, Acorn provides the options you'll need without any overhead. Acorn feels right, and won't drain your bank... Read more
Fantastical 2.5.13 - Create calendar eve...
Fantastical is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 11.05 - File, pho...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Eternal Warfare is a new idle clicker fo...
Idle games are a popular genre on mobile, they might not be to everyone's taste but they're made with such regularity and receive a lot of downloads, so it's hard to argue it's not big business. Eternal Warfare is set to join the sea of idle games... | Read more »
New heroes and balance updates set to ar...
It feels like Hearthstone: Battlegrounds only launched yesterday, and already the auto batter addition to Blizzard's megahit card game is set to receive new heroes and balance updates. [Read more] | Read more »
Pre-register for Hello Kitty AR: Kawaii...
Hello Kitty — the cute cat that launched a multi-billion-pound franchise — has been brought to life… sort of. Sanrio has teamed up with the Bublar Group to create a new mobile game that uses AR tech to turn the real world into Hello Kitty’s... | Read more »
Gorgeous and tranquil puzzler Spring Fal...
One-man indie studio SPARSE//GameDev has now launched its tranquil puzzler, Spring Falls. It's described as "a peaceful puzzle game about water, erosion, and watching things grow". [Read more] | Read more »
Black Desert Mobile gets an official rel...
Pearl Abyss has just announced that its highly-anticipated MMO, Black Desert Mobile, will launch globally for iOS and Android on December 11th. [Read more] | Read more »
Another Eden receives new a episode, cha...
Another Eden, WFS' popular RPG, has received another update that brings new story content to the game alongside a few new heroes to discover. [Read more] | Read more »
Overdox guide - Tips and tricks for begi...
Overdox is a clever battle royale that changes things up by adding MOBA mechanics and melee combat to the mix. This new hybrid game can be quite a bit to take in at first, so we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get a leg up on the... | Read more »
Roterra Extreme - Great Escape is a pers...
Roterra Extreme – Great Escape has been described by developers Dig-It Games as a mini-sequel to their acclaimed title Roterra: Flip the Fairytale. It continues that game's tradition of messing with which way is up, tasking you with solving... | Read more »
Hearthstone: Battlegrounds open beta lau...
Remember earlier this year when auto battlers were the latest hotness? We had Auto Chess, DOTA Underlords, Chess Rush, and more all gunning for our attention. They all had their own reasons to play, but, at least from where I'm standing, most... | Read more »
The House of Da Vinci 2 gets a new gamep...
The House of Da Vinci launched all the way back in 2017. Now, developer Blue Brain Games is gearing up to deliver a second dose of The Room-inspired puzzling. Some fresh details have now emerged, alongside the game's first official trailer. [Read... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

B&H offers $100 discounts on 4-Core and 6...
B&H Photo has new 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis in stock and on sale today for $100 off Apple’s MSRP. Prices start at $699. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US: – 3.6GHz Quad-... Read more
Save $200 today on a 2019 13″ MacBook Air wit...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2019 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at only $929 and up to $200 off the cost of new Airs. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a... Read more
New Verizon Pre-Black Friday 2019 deal: Buy o...
Buy one new Apple iPhone 11 model or 2018 iPhone XS model at Verizon and get a second one for free. One new line of service required. Offer is valid from November 21, 2019 to November 27, 2019. Here... Read more
AirPods with Wireless Charging Case on sale t...
Abt Electronics has 2019 AirPods with the Wireless Charging Case on sale today for $163 shipped. Their price is $36 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s currently the cheapest price for these AirPods from any... Read more
Apple continues to offer 2017 13″ Dual-Core n...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ 2.3GHz Dual-Core non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros still available starting at $1019. An standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, outer cases... Read more
Save up to $120 on the new 16″ MacBook Pro at...
Apple’s resellers are starting to receive stock of new 16″ MacBook Pros, and the first set of sales & deals are now available: (1) Amazon 16″ MacBook Pros start on sale for $100-$116 off Apple’s... Read more
Apple Watch Series 3 models on sale at Amazon...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 3 GPS models on sale for $30 off MSRP, starting at only $169. There prices are the lowest we’ve ever seen for these models from any Apple reseller. Choose Amazon as the... Read more
The ‘Mac Potpourri’ Mailbag: Edition #1- Info...
COMMENTARY: 11.20.19- Welcome to the inaugural edition of the “Mac Potpourri” Mailbag where we take a look at correspondence received from readers of this column from all over the world who write in... Read more
13″ 2.4GHz MacBook Pros available for up to $...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2019 13″ 2.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1529 and up to $300 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, shipping is... Read more
New at T-Mobile: Switch to T-Mobile, and get...
T-Mobile is offering a free 64GB iPhone 8 for new customers who switch to T-Mobile and open a new line of service. Eligible trade-in required, and discount applied over a 24 month period. The fine... Read more

Jobs Board

Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**747303BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Store NUmber or Department:** 001413-Cypress-Store **Job Description:** **What Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**743221BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 000230-Greenwood-Store **Job Description:** At Best Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**747338BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 000254-Superstition Springs-Store **Job Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**745516BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 001101-Manhattan-Store **Job Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**746655BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Store NUmber or Department:** 002518-Atlantic Center-Store **Job Description:** Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.