Archive for the ‘OS 9’ Category

Automate file tasks with File Buddy droplets

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

On classic Mac OS and OS X alike, AppleScript is a very useful tool for automating commonly performed tasks. I’ve previously shared a couple of ways in which AppleScript can be used to improve Finder workflow. That was mainly with respect to window management. For simple, but tedious tasks involving file metadata, I find a program called File Buddy to be a better option.

File Buddy is a Swiss army knife of file management. While the application has an incredible depth, you can fundamentally think of it as a powerful version of Finder’s Info window. If you open File Buddy, press File > Get Info… and select a file (or, after rebuilding the desktop file, just drag and drop it on File Buddy’s icon), then the following window will appear:

File Buddy Info window

In File Buddy’s Info window, you can inspect ­ and manually modify ­ the value of any given property of the file. In the screenshot, you can see that I’ve queued up a couple of changes, indicated by the red check marks, that I can apply by pressing a Save button.

But ­ and this is one of File Buddy’s selling points ­ instead of pressing Save, you can press the icon with a water drop near the top of the window. This will save the queued changes in a File Buddy droplet, which is a small program that will apply those changes to any file that is dropped on it. Optionally, if you drag a folder, then the changes will be recursively applied to all the files in that folder.

File Buddy droplet on the desktop

File Buddy droplet on the desktop

Droplets are especially useful for quickly changing something a particular file, such as its creator code. For example, an interoperability issue between classic Mac OS and OS X is that OS X gives text clippings the creator code MACS, whereas classic Mac OS expects the creator code drag. This means that text clippings created on OS X cannot be opened on OS 9! To mitigate this, I have a droplet on my desktop called “Fix Clipping”, onto which I can drag any file to change its creator code to drag.

In general, File Buddy’s droplets are great for quickly opening a file with a different program. Let’s say I want to open an HTML document in BBEdit. Instead of manually opening the file using BBEdit’s Open… menu, I simply drop it on my “Make BBEdit” droplet, which changes the creator code to R*ch. Now I can double-click the file to open it in BBEdit.

What’s so great about droplets is that they’re a graphical, Macintosh-like solution to the problem of bulk processing. While File Buddy offers a more conventional list-based bulk processing feature, droplets are what really sets the product apart. Just like the Macintosh itself, they are simple, elegant and easy to use.

File Buddy 7, the last version with support for both OS 9 and OS X, has graciously been released for free. File Buddy is still being developed for modern versions of OS X and is available for sale on Skytag Software’s web site.

Improve OS 9 Finder workflow with AppleScript

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

The modern Finder, which was introduced into Mac OS X from NeXTSTEP, is a file manager, much like Microsoft’s Explorer or the countless similar programs on Linux. But the words “file manager” can hardly describe the original Finder, which accompanied the Mac from its inception until the last version of Mac OS 9. It was an interface in a much deeper sense of the word. Interacting with the file system through a file manager is akin to drawing with the mouse. It works, sort of, but there’s a degree of separation between you and the drawing. Using the classic Finder, however, is like drawing directly with your hands. To the classic Macintosh user, there was no separation between the Finder and the file system.

This is why many were unhappy to see Apple abandon the classic Finder – often called the “spatial” Finder – with the release of Mac OS X, and it is why Mac OS 9 is such a joy to use even today, twenty years after its final release.

While great by default, the Finder interface can be improved even further with the use of QuicKeys and AppleScript. QuicKeys lets you define custom shortcut keys, both global and application-specific, to run arbitrary AppleScript code. Below, I share some of my favorite AppleScripts for the Finder.

Two cascaded Finder windows

Two Finder windows arranged using the Cascade script.