[...]AppleScript: The Missing Manual by Adam Goldstein is part of the Missing Manual series of beginner/intermediate books published by Pogue Press/O'Reilly and Associates. The focus of this book series is on computer products that have been released without adequate printed manuals (Mac OS X, iLife '04, Google, iPod and iTunes, Windows XP, Windows 2K among others). Their newest release, AppleScript: The Missing Manual, is a welcome addition to their catalog of smart, funny and user-friendly books.
AppleScript is a scripting language that mimics the syntax of English. As such, it's extremely similar to how sentences are structured and, as a result, is very intuitive and simple to use. However, this doesn't belie the fact that it's a very powerful tool for automation.
Goldstein's Missing Manual is an exciting newcomer to the meager collection of AppleScript introductory volumes. This book covers the current Mac OS 10.3 (Panther) release of AppleScript and includes multimedia support, GUI scripting and AppleScript Studio. While it is intended for the beginner and intermediate user, power-hounds will also find many tricks, tips and hidden tools within its pages.
The book is divided into four parts: "AppleScript Overview", "Everyday Scripting Tasks", "Power-User Features" and "Appendixes".
Part One begins with the usual suspects: where to find the AppleScript folder in Mac OS X, how to enable the script menu and the surprising number of useful scripts you'll find there. In just a few pages, Goldstein hands the reader a collection of valuable scripts that were hiding in OS X Panther all along (I particularly like the "ransom note" script).
Part Two is the main core of the book and covers "Everyday Scripting Tasks". The seven chapters in this section run the gamut of increasing difficulty: manipulating text, controlling files, creating lists, organizing and editing graphics, playing sound and video, internet and network scripting and organizing information in databases. The author quickly takes the reader through a series of simple scripts designed to illustrate AppleScript syntax.
Once the reader whips through the example scripts in Parts One and Two, it's time to get down and geeky. Part Three titled "Power-User Features", is the section of the book for geeks and wanna-be geeks. Goldstein shoves enough advanced techniques in five chapters to make these alone worth the price of the book. The reader learns how to enable folder actions, attach built-in folder actions to specific folders, view and edit these built-in folder actions and run his or her own actions.
My favorite chapter in this section is Chapter 13, Mixing AppleScript and Unix. Goldstein gives a quick terminal lesson followed by a neat trick to display the Expose button ("the blob"). Other helpful actions: use do shell script to run Unix programs straight from AppleScript, run shell scripts with admin privileges, run AppleScripts from Unix thus saving time by bypassing the Script Editor and schedule commands (use an AppleScript to run cron every day, use iCal to schedule scripts). Even users who normally shy away from the terminal will want to try some of these.
Part Four contains the Appendix A through C: "AppleScript Support in Common Programs" (a very useful set of tables of applications, their level of AppleScript support, price and where to get them), "Moving from Hypercard to AppleScript" (options and advice for converting Hypercard stacks to AppleScript and major syntax differences between HyperTalk and AppleScript) and "Where to Go from Here" (AppleScript sources: Web sites, discussion lists and books).
Goldstein's style of writing is exceptionally clear with just a dash of humor that humanizes the experience of reading a technical or "how-to" manual. The reader won't find anything confusing, lacking in detail or dull. This book is eminently satisfying on many levels: the writing style is conversational and humorous (I would imagine this is a pre-requisite for writing for David Pogue), the style of this book series is consistently pleasant to read and the level of technical difficulty satisfies the range of readers from beginner through power-user. The "valuable information:price" ration is, hands-down, in the buyer's favor.
A final note about Adam Goldstein, the author of Applescript: The Missing Manual...he is the teenage founder of GoldfishSoft ([...] a Mac OS X games and utilities software company (my 7 year-old son loves AlgeKalk and FrakKalk, geek that he is). By "teenage", I mean Adam Golstein is 17-ish. He began contributing to this Pogue/O'Reilly series several years ago by writing a few sections of Mac OS X Panther Edition: The Missing Manual (FileVault, journaling and Disk Restore). I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from Mr. Goldstein...and I'm looking forward to it.