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by Stephen Swift

October 22nd, 2001

Workflow Automation
With AppleScript Training CD

Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: TECSoft
Product Home Page: Workflow Automation With AppleScript Training CD
Description: The CD is an interactive tutorial application that teaches the user how to use AppleScript in applications such as the Finder, FileMaker Pro, QuarkXPress, and Canto Cumulus.
Address: Attn: AppleScript Training CD, TECSoft, 136 Main Street, PO Box 2220, Amagansett, NY 11930-2220.
Please use this PDF.

Price: US $99 through TECSoft
Telephone: 800-626-4119 or 631-267-0700. Live hours are Mon. - Fri.,
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM ET

Fax: Attn: AppleScript Training CD @ 631-267-2386. Please use this pdf.
Requirements: PowerPC Macintosh.
Mac OS 8.5 or later.
QuickTime 3 or later.
2 x CD-ROM.
32 MB of RAM.
A monitor capable of displaying thousands of colors and a resolution of at least 800 x 600.

System Used For Testing: PowerCenter 150 MHz with QuickTime 5 and 196 MB of RAM under Mac OS 8.5 and Mac OS 8.1.

PowerBook G3 (Pismo)
400 MHz
QuickTime 5
768 MB RAM
Mac OS 9.2.1
Mac OS X (Classic Mode)

Workflow Automation With AppleScript Training CD
by Stephen Swift

About the Tutorial

If you've ever found yourself laboring over a QuarkXPress document, importing pictures and positioning text over and over again, you must have thought, there's got to be an easier way to do this. With the use of AppleScript, this can be accomplished while you get a cup of coffee from the office coffee pot, however, it might seem a bit daunting to learn how to use AppleScript with your layouts. This is where TECSoft and its useful Workflow Automation with AppleScript Training CD comes in. Using demonstrations, text slides, and hands-on examples, it will take you through the process of automating your projects.

Anyone with Mac OS 8.5 or higher, can use everything on this CD; if you only have Mac OS 8 you can still use most of the tutorial. Included with the tutorial are demos of all the products used in the AppleScript examples such as FileMaker Pro, QuarkXPress, Scriptable Text Editor, and Cumulus. It is not necessary to be an AppleScript guru in order to understand the tutorial program. You'll start by learning what AppleScript is, how it works, and how to control it, using simple scripts, and adding more complexity to them as you learn. There is a helpful glossary that translates AppleScript terms into layman's English. You may find it helpful to read up a little on AppleScript and play around with it before diving in. After you learn how to create scripts, the tutorial takes you into the realm of FileMaker Pro where you learn how to script the application. You go through each application this way, tying in information you have learned in the past, combining applications, and expanding your knowledge.

The Interface

When you open the tutorial, the first thing you notice is how clean and organized the interface is. Each of the six chapters contains five to twenty buttons, each representing one slide. Red buttons represent slides you have visited so that you can easily continue where you left off in your instruction. You can look up any word in the glossary from the main menu. When you select a term, any slide that uses that term appears yellow. This allows you to see how the term is used in context. If a slide contains a QuickTime movie, the QuickTime icon will highlight when you move your mouse over the button for the slide. Each slide is arranged in an outline form. Clicking on items in the outline will display more information and instructions on the topic. It is very easy to move around, and if you need, to go back and review something from a previous slide.

The Learning Process

To demonstrate what you can do with AppleScript - and what this tutorial will teach you - there are demos of AppleScript publishing documents. If you are more of a visual type of learner, the QuickTime movies show you what the slides were about. Sometimes, slides and movies will mention things unfamiliar to you. They will be covered in later slides, and usually aren't the main point of the current slide. Some slides contain instructions for creating your own scripts. It guides you through each step of the process, explains why it is telling you to do this, and shows you how it came up with what the syntax that it did. As you progress, you become less dependent on the instructions. You are expected to remember similar examples from before, and apply them to what you are currently working on. If you can't remember, you can always go back and check. Along the way, it also shows you some tips and shortcuts to make scripting easier and faster. To get you to start creating your own scripts, it teaches you basic AppleScript syntax. You may have to slow down here and take small baby steps if your AppleScript background is limited, however, the AppleScript language is based on English. By looking at examples and trying to decipher how lines are strung together, you should be able to catch on soon enough. At the end of each chapter are mini-quizzes to test your memory. Most of them have solution files to check how well you did.

The Tutorial Running a Demo
(click for a larger image)

A Dictionary Deciphering Tool

Each application's dictionary (Where the commands it can understand are stored) is unique with its own little quirks. This tutorial gives you good advice for picking apart any application's dictionary. However, if you use FileMaker Pro, Cumulus, or QuarkXPress with AppleScript regularly, it is a great reference tool. It explains how each application expects its dictionary to be used.

Your Boss Hands You The Project...

The tutorial gives you real world problems. Using what you have learned, you are tasked with how to create a solution. It shows you how to analyze the problem and write out a step-by-step procedure to solve it. It also leads you in the right direction by asking questions and hinting at methods to use. The last exercise is a problem where you have to use almost all of the knowledge learned in the tutorial to create a nifty script.

Nothing Is Perfect

My only concern is that there are a few glitches in the tutorial. The instructions on some of the slides might lead you to the wrong place. For example, one slide tells you about a file in a folder that doesn't exist. It is easy to find the file by searching the computer for it, but one simply shouldn't have to do so. All of these problems can be easily solved with a little logical thinking and searching, and these minor inconsistencies have little impact on the overall learning process of the tutorial.

Mac OS X

This tutorial is not designed for Mac OS X; it is a Classic Mac OS AppleScript tutorial. We found that it ran fine in Classic mode in Mac OS X, but the applications it is designed to show you how to better use are all Classic apps as well. You may find a few issues with working with the AppleScript Training CD in Mac OS X Classic mode, so do so at your own risk.


This tutorial is a great tool. It shows you how to pick apart AppleScript dictionaries, put together AppleScript solutions, gives you more experience with AppleScript, and allows you to do things like automatically create a publishing layout while away from the computer. You'll be the envy of all your co-workers. If you publish many Web pages, create catalogs, or use databases extensively, check out the Workflow Automation with AppleScript CD from TECSoft. It won't make you an AppleScript guru, but it will allow you to become quite proficient with AppleScript in this area. If you just want to learn more about AppleScript and aren't into the desktop publishing industry, there are better tutorial programs out there for you.

Final Score (Out of 5)
4 Thumbs
Pros Clean interface
Demos are helpful
Solutions to examples are included
Good approach to teaching AppleScript.
Cons Some inconsistencies with file hierarchy
Some slides may be confusing to someone completely new to AppleScript.

Comments or Questions? Is this column going to slow or fast for you? Do you want to script something, but don't know how? Do you need something explained or have a question about a script?  My E-mail address, [email protected], is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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