General Scripting Info

Scripting is a powerful tool for "inventive users", system managers, in-house developers, outside consultants etc. to integrate multiple applications, automate work, and customize off-the-shelf software for specific needs.

DOS and UNIX folks have had "batch processing" for years; even the Apple ][ had built-in BASIC. While the Mac was a major advance in ease-of-use, it was a step backwards in automation power. UserLand wrote a great article on this topic when Frontier was released; I wonder if I can find it.... If someone spots it on the UserLand website before I dig it up, please let me know.

Past, Present and Future

Way back in 1991, System 7 introduced an Inter-Application Communication (IAC) technology known as Apple events (yes, the "e" is not capitalized, but that's another story). At MacWorld Expo in January 1992, UserLand began shipping Frontier. Some time later (anyone remember the date?), Apple quietly released AppleScript, and still later turned it into a commercial product available through standard retail channels. They unleashed the "Open Scripting Architecture" (OSA) so that all scripting systems, tools and languages could work together. For example, you can type Frontier's UserTalk code into Apple's Script Editor, and AppleScript code into Frontier's outline-based script windows. Apple also promoted the "Object Model" scripting philosophy, with various "Suites" of objects and verbs that they encouraged developers to implement for compatibility across applications.

Some people are doing amazing, productive, fun things with scripts. But in general, scripting still hasn't really caught on, with developers and Macintosh owners each (apparently) waiting for the other to jump on the bandwagon. Frontier sales languished. Apple stopped evangelizing, marketing or enhancing AppleScript.

Then, suddenly, came the Internet and especially the Web. Much of the leading software was scriptable. In May '95, UserLand released Frontier for free, and began to turn it into a content development tool and (along with some dedicated members of the scripting community) web server CGI tool. Apple rediscovered the publishing market, and figured out that scripting has quietly become an important tool for workflow automation. Michael Spindler featured two topics in his keynote address at the Sept. '95 Seybold publishing conference: scripting and (separately) the Web. Scripting appears as the #8 of 20 key advantages over windows. Will these glimmers turn into solid commitment, or will Apple fumble again? Has the scripting market gained enough momentum to really grow on its own?

When OpenDoc is released, will every "part" really be scriptable? (I haven't been tracking the details, so comments are welcome.) Will CyberDog, Apple's OpenDoc Internet solution, help bring both scripting and OpenDoc to the internet masses, or will it be too late to make a difference? Will "geeks who write scripts" continue to run the web, and flock to Frontier?

Well, we can't provide definitive answers to these questions, but we can provide the definitive source of information on Macintosh scripting.

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*Every Known Scripting Link
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Updated on 11/9/95 by Scott S. Lawton (

Copyright 1995-96 by Martin Fenner, Fred Terry and PreFab Software, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.  Page design and navigation based on the Stage Three system by Scott S. Lawton.  Hosted by Ground Zero.

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