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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

More on scripting and Sal, who y’all know

Michael Tsai has done his usual bang-up job in rounding up links and quotes about Sal Soghoian leaving Apple.

I also got into a pretty heated Twitter back-and-forth with Clark Goble on this topic, but I think Clark’s blog post on the topic is worth a read:

For all of you who remember Applescript during its heyday in the 90’s, what’s the most significant AppleScript related technology of the last 15 years? I can only think of Automator. Yet here’s the thing. I don’t know anyone who uses Automator. 1

By and large automation the past 15 years has been dismal. The interesting technologies outside of Apple were ignored in preference to proprietary solutions that worked far worse. So anyone saying this is bad needs to grapple with what has been good.

Clark makes some salient criticisms of Apple’s lack of scripting support and questionable choices over the years. My only real complaint is the assignment of blame. Everything I’ve seen and heard suggests that Sal’s group was deeply committed to automation on the Mac, but was deprioritized and locked out of access to pretty much everything else Apple was doing. As Clark points out, maybe the real question is why this team was allowed to continue existing for so long, despite the fact that the powers that be at Apple don’t seem to care about what they do.

Just look at the lack of scriptability and automation in many of Apple’s own apps. iOS automation has fallen on apps like Workflow and Pythonista and a wacky homegrown URL communication method. This is not an area that Apple has focused on.

Now, we can all hope that these changes mean that Apple’s going to take an entirely different approach to automation and scripting on its platforms. I love being an optimist. But my guess is that Apple considers this stuff old, uninteresting, and with appeal only to an exceedingly tiny group of users—and so rather than seeing Siri on the Mac suddenly be able to control all our apps in interesting ways, we’ll see Automator end up like Dashboard. Not dead, per se, but frozen in amber.

  1. Hi, Clark, I’m Jason, I use Automator actions every day to do my job…. ↩