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AppleScript Tips: Inspecting Objects, Modal Dialogs, and More

AppleScript is an amazing, quirky tool within the macOS ecosystem. It enables you to control any application on your Mac, even if the original developer didn’t explicitly write an API for it. This can be incredibly useful when attempting to automate certain actions. However, the language is incredibly weird and confusing, especially to a "real" software developer. I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks below that help me write various tools and scripts to automate my computer (I’ve written about applescript before in case you are looking for other tricks)…

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Using the Multiprocess Library in Python 3

Python has a nifty multiprocessing library which comes with a lot of helpful abstractions. However, as with concurrent programming in most languages, there are lots of footguns. Here some of the gotchas I ran into: Logging does not work as you’d expect. Global state associated with your logger will be wiped out, although if you’ve already defined a logger variable it will continue to reference the same object from the parent process. It seems like the easiest solution for logging is to setup a new file-based logger in the child process. If you can’t do this, you’ll need to implement some sort of message queue logging which sounds terrible. Relatedly, be careful about using any database connections, file handles, etc in a forked process…

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Scripting macOS with Javascript Automation

I’ve been playing with ActivityWatch, a really neat open-source application to track what you are doing when you are on your computer. Similar to rescue time RescueTime, but open source, with some more advanced features. I’ve been using it for a couple of months as part of my digital minimalism toolkit and it’s worked great to give me an idea of what’s taking up my time. There’s been a couple of things that have bugged me about the application, and it’s written in a couple of languages I’ve wanted to learn (Rust, Vue), so I decided to make a couple of changes as part of a learning project. I ended up needing to modify an AppleScript and ran into macOS’s Javascript Automation for the first time…

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