Mac Turn Shell Script Into App

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Calling Command-Line Tools

In AppleScript, the do shell script command is used to execute command-line tools. This command is implemented by the Standard Additions scripting addition included with OS X.

Note

The Terminal app in /Applications/Utilities/ is scriptable and provides another way to execute command-line tools from scripts.

Executing Commands

The direct parameter of the do shell script command is a string containing the shell code you want to execute, as demonstrated in Listing 39-1, which simply lists a directory.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 39-1AppleScript: Executing a simple shell command that lists the contents of a directory
  1. do shell script 'ls /Applications/'
  2. (*
  3. --> Result:
  4. 'App Store.app
  5. Automator.app
  6. Calculator.app
  7. Calendar.app
  8. ...'
  9. *)

Since the direct parameter of do shell script is a string, you can concatenate it with other strings at run time. Listing 39-2, for example, concatenates a shell command to a previously defined parameter value.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 39-2AppleScript: Concatenating a command with a value
  1. set theHostName to 'www.apple.com'
  2. do shell script 'ping -c1 ' & theHostName

Quoting Strings

The shell uses space characters to separate parameters and gives special meaning to certain punctuation marks, such as $, (, ), and *. To ensure that strings are treated as expected—for example, spaces aren’t seen as delimiters—it’s best to wrap strings in quotes. This process is known as quoting. If your string contains quotes, they must also be escaped (preceded by a / character) so they are interpreted as part of the string. Listing 39-3 shows an example of an error occurring as a result of a parameter that contains a space.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 39-3AppleScript: An error resulting from a string containing a space
  1. set thePath to '/Library/Application Support/'
  2. do shell script 'ls ' & thePath
  3. --> Result: error 'ls: /Library/Application: No such file or directoryrls: Support: No such file or directory' number 1

The easiest way to quote a string is to use the quoted form property of the text class, as demonstrated in Listing 39-4. This property returns the string in a form that’s safe from further interpretation by the shell, regardless of its contents.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 39-4AppleScript: Quoting a string to prevent errors
  1. set thePath to quoted form of '/Library/Application Support/'
  2. --> Result: '/Library/Application Support/'
  3. do shell script 'ls ' & thePath
  4. (*
  5. --> Result:
  6. 'App Store
  7. Apple
  8. ...
  9. '
  10. *)

More Information

For more information about the do shell script command, see Commands Reference in AppleScript Language Guide and Technical Note TN2065.

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Automating the User Interface

Unfortunately, not every Mac app has scripting support, and those that do may not always have scripting support for every task you want to automate. You can often work around such limitations, however, by writing a user interface script, commonly called a UI or GUI script. A user interface script simulates user interaction, such as mouse clicks and keystrokes, allowing the script to select menu items, push buttons, enter text into text fields, and more.

Enabling User Interface Scripting

User interface scripting relies upon the OS X accessibility frameworks that provide alternative methods of querying and controlling the interfaces of apps and the system. By default, accessibility control of apps is disabled. For security and privacy reasons, the user must manually enable it on an app-by-app (including script apps) basis.

  1. Launch System Preferences and click Security & Privacy.

  2. Click Accessibility.

  3. Choose an app and click Open.

When running an app that requires accessibility control for the first time, the system prompts you to enable it. See Figure 37-1.

Attempting to run an app that has not been given permission to use accessibility features results in an error. See Figure 37-2.

Note

To run a user interface script in Script Editor, you must enable accessibility for Script Editor.

Admin credentials are required to perform enable user interface scripting.

Targeting an App

User interface scripting terminology is found in the Processes Suite of the System Events scripting dictionary. This suite includes terminology for interacting with most types of user interface elements, including windows, buttons, checkboxes, menus, radio buttons, text fields, and more. In System Events, the process class represents a running app. Listing 37-1 shows how to target an app using this class.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 37-1AppleScript: Targeting an app for user interface scripting
  1. tell application 'System Events'
  2. tell process 'Safari'
  3. -- Perform user interface scripting tasks
  4. end tell
  5. end tell

To control the user interface of an app, you must first inspect the app and determine its element hierarchy. This can be done by querying the app. For example, Listing 37-2 asks Safari for a list of menus in the menu bar.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 37-2AppleScript: Querying an app for user interface element information
  1. tell application 'System Events'
  2. tell process 'Safari'
  3. name of every menu of menu bar 1
  4. end tell
  5. end tell
  6. --> Result: {'Apple', 'Safari', 'File', 'Edit', 'View', 'History', 'Bookmarks', 'Develop', 'Window', 'Help'}

Accessibility Inspector (Figure 37-3) makes it even easier to identify user interface element information. This app is included with Xcode. To use it, open Xcode and select Xcode > Open Developer Tool > Accessibility Inspector.

Once you know how an element fits into an interface, you target it within that hierarchy. For example, button X of window Y of process Z.

Clicking a Button

Use the click command to click a button. Listing 37-3 clicks a button in the Safari toolbar to toggle the sidebar between open and closed.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 37-3AppleScript: Clicking a buttonMac os x shell scripts

Mac Shell Script Tutorial

  1. tell application 'System Events'
  2. tell process 'Safari'
  3. tell toolbar of window 1
  4. click (first button where its accessibility description = 'Sidebar')
  5. end tell
  6. end tell
  7. end tell
  8. --> Result: {button 1 of toolbar 1 of window 'AppleScript: Graphic User Interface (GUI) Scripting' of application process 'Safari' of application 'System Events'}

Choosing a Menu Item

Menu items can have a fairly deep hierarchy within the interface of an app. A menu item generally resides within a menu, which resides within a menu bar. In scripting, they must be addressed as such. Listing 37-4 selects the Pin Tab menu item in the Window menu of Safari.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 37-4AppleScript: Choosing a menu item
  1. tell application 'System Events'
  2. tell process 'Safari'
  3. set frontmost to true
  4. click menu item 'Pin Tab' of menu 'Window' of menu bar 1
  5. end tell
  6. end tell
  7. --> Result: menu item 'Pin Tab' of menu 'Window' of menu bar item 'Window' of menu bar 1 of application process 'Safari' of application 'System Events'

Note

Run Shell Script On Mac

Scripting the user interface of an app can be tedious and repetitious. To streamline the process, consider creating handlers to perform common functions. For example, Listing 37-5 shows a handler that can be used to choose any menu item of any menu in any running app.

APPLESCRIPT

Mac turn shell script into applicationListing 37-5AppleScript: A handler that chooses a menu item
  1. on chooseMenuItem(theAppName, theMenuName, theMenuItemName)
  2. try
  3. -- Bring the target app to the front
  4. tell application theAppName
  5. activate
  6. end tell
  7. -- Target the app
  8. tell application 'System Events'
  9. tell process theAppName
  10. -- Target the menu bar
  11. tell menu bar 1
  12. -- Target the menu by name
  13. tell menu bar item theMenuName
  14. tell menu theMenuName
  15. -- Click the menu item
  16. click menu item theMenuItemName
  17. end tell
  18. end tell
  19. end tell
  20. end tell
  21. end tell
  22. return true
  23. on error
  24. return false
  25. end try
  26. end chooseMenuItem

Listing 37-6 calls the handler in Listing 37-5 to select the Pin Tab menu item in the Window menu of Safari.

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 37-6AppleScript: Calling a handler to choose a menu item

Choosing a Submenu Item

Mac Turn Shell Script Into Apps

Some menus contain other menus. In these cases, it may be necessary to select a menu item in a submenu of a menu. Listing 37-7 demonstrates how this would be done by selecting a submenu item in Safari.

Mac Turn Shell Script Into App Download

APPLESCRIPT

Listing 37-7AppleScript: Selecting a submenu item
  1. tell application 'System Events'
  2. tell process 'Safari'
  3. set frontmost to true
  4. click menu item 'Email This Page' of menu of menu item 'Share' of menu 'File' of menu bar 1
  5. end tell
  6. end tell
  7. --> Result: {menu item 'Email This Page' of menu 'Share' of menu item 'Share' of menu 'File' of menu bar item 'File' of menu bar 1 of application process 'Safari' of application 'System Events'}

Turn Shell Script Into App Mac Os X

Copyright © 2018 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Privacy Policy Updated: 2016-06-13