Once upon a time…..
As the ultimate software, digital workflow and business integration tool, using AppleScript and designing and developing commercial Applescript solutions means looking into every nook and cranny of an existing manual workflow or utility requirement in detail: the so-called ‘use cases’ and the solution specification, existing ‘business processes and formal ( and not so formal!) methods, manual and digital tools, people and group dynamics, organisational hierarchies, job descriptions, data inputs and outputs etc., etc., etc.. This breeds an integrative and holistic (, may I say, ‘spiritual’) approach to business systems, people and thought processes whilst also demanding a (scientific) analytical, detailed and methodical approach to identifying ‘system’ components and their respective variables, influencers and modifiers.
A life of learning and applying AppleScript often ( but not always) in complex workflows with complex people in complex situations under complex management ideologies has taught me how to cut through to the essence from the visible and observable phenomena.. Soren Kierkegaard, Jean Paul Sartre, Maurice Merlieu Ponty, RD Laing etc would all be nodding knowingly: this is Existentialism as applied to computer science!
It’s good to know that Python and Functional Programming are taking up the Existentialist baton. Soon we’ll be rid of object orientated programming (OOP) altogether. Check out Charles Scalfani’s hilarious article Goodbye, Object Oriented Programming on Medium. You don’t need to be a computer geek to follow it.. Well said Mr Scalfani.
I was lucky enough to meet Sal Saghoian ( Apple’s AppleScript Product Manager ) at Apple Expo 2001 in San Francisco. I will always remember him taking the time to sign my “AppleScript for Dummies” book with the statement “go out there and make it happen. Sadly in 2017 Apple closed the position of AppleScript Product Manager, which begs the question whether they are committed to the future of AppleScript and to the future of all those creative holistic mavericks out there that are in possession of the real ‘power behind the Apple Macintosh’;-).
Speaking holistically, project management, product management and software development are all one and the same thing
Working for Freedman International in multilingual marcoms I was thinking about writing a series of scripts to handle document (character set) conversion from PC windows to Mac, for our in-house publishing in London for all of the European languages.
The process was already manually achievable by running a text conversion program that allowed you to select the ‘from’ language and the ‘to’ language, as well as select the ‘from’ and ‘to’ character sets. I located a program that would do this and then I set about testing, modifying, updating and adding to the language conversion tables that were available. I created ASCII character conversion tables for 30 european languages and in doing so provided Freedman with a method of publishing multilingual content in all its varieties extremely quickly from the Mac platform. The key was to align this tool with new language fonts that I created for use with Acrobat PDF ‘Notes’ to be able to cut and paste in-country translators notes directly in QuarkXPress without losing any extended characters. This was heaven for the typesetter / mac operator who won’t know 30 languages and is dependent on cut and paste from an accurate source. These tools wer bundled together into a solution called ‘Freedflow’.
This was an epiphany for me to suddenly see the result and power of applying well thought automation to a digital workflow. Hello AppleScript!
At Elateral I product managed the ActiStudio QuarkXpress Xtension and its integration into Elateral;s wider online automated Marcoms Collateral publishing platform. Here I learnt the opposite of the previous role – integration and simplification can only get you so far! My role was to create an App that simplified how logic can be applied to the creation of artwork layer presentation assets by a graphic designer. The graphic designer builds the ‘gate’ logic into the content in advance of and on behalf of the end user who gets to make choices and selections to customise the reuseable ‘campaign’ content in ‘real time’. Elateral failed to IPO so my shares were worth nothing and I was out of a job!
Anyway, I get a job at TechnoDesign in Zoetermeer, Holland. They had a TCP/IP driven scripting extension (TCP-IP XT) for QuarkXPress which could automate Quark’s document layout and construction process via a list of sequential and remote commands. This was the era of creating on-line product catalogues and TCP-IP XT was my baby to develop and promote, along with Personalizer XT. I believe that Ruby had just been launched at that time so I designed training courses with Ruby and AppleScript driving the TCP/IP XTension. The idea was to lower the barrier of access to 3rd party developers in order to leverage TCP/IP XT and simplify embedding into their own product offerings. My other resposibility was to test and develop TCP/IP XTs instruction set so as to be able to cope with just about any publishing task that QuarkXPress could do.
I left TechnoDesign with a heavy heart due to unforseen issues. My Dutch-born wife could no longer live in the Netherlands and returned to the UK with our young children. Eventually I quit the job and went back to try and save the marriage, but then spent the next two years at home in the New Forest trying to balance looking after my 2 children, freelancing and working in a Hotel bar for pin money, but it was all too much. I had lost my great job, my house and now I lose my wife and both my kids. I don’t get to see them for the next 2 years
The following few years were a difficult struggle but thanks go to Paul Cook, Ged & Fiona Whetstone and last but not least my Mum for being there.. but as always if you hold out eventually something wonderful happens
Superdrug Stores plc / APS Group
In 2008 I came back to AppleScript again, as I watched Superdrug’s Artworking Studio (contracted out on site to APS group) manually construct artwork for Point of Sale price tickets time and time again, every week, no less. As long as the product name, sku, price and offer type were on an excel spreadheet and readable, I could write a program to extract all the data, throw it into Textwrangler, add a checking process on the data, then pass the data to InDesign CS3, which would construct the pages automatically, then pass the output to the Finder and Acrobat to store all the files and create PDFs of batches of all tickets, then run through Quite Imposing Plus to impose the artwork for Offset Print. The Application created the barcodes and automatically added them to the Price labels.
The solution saved two people about three days manual work each week. The program took about an hour to run unattended and produce the weekly output – from selecting the excel datasheet to fully imposed press ready PDF documents, completely free from any manual intervention.
This program was my first commercial Applescript project scripting the following applications to communicate with each other in real time: OSX/Finder, InDesign, Excel, Acrobat Pro, Barcode Pro, Quite Imposing and Textwrangler. It took three months to write, and much of that time was used getting to grips with RealBasic to provide an integrated user interface and discrete application software.
The solution was rolled out to two other APS studios, one handling Co-Op Pharmacy, and one handling First Quench Retail (Thresher/WineRack/TheLocal), all three with different setups, systems, management styles etc. and all three solutions worked beautifully.
After reaching such a personal highpoint the only way could be to go down, and, suffice it to say, from 2008 I was distracted by my co-habitant partner with whom together we ran our web design business, ‘Crankpin’, from 2009. Just after a month of going out together my partner lost her job as an associate director at Ernst and Young and subsequently became unwell. I tried to do the honourable thing and stand by her, an American in London seeking the right to remain in the UK, but I lost my focus. (I was already forced to work from home as the new APS ‘Studio manager’ had seen my success with the software I was writing and the transformative effect it was having on APSs business that he became jealous and vindictive, spreading rumours, working from my computer when I arrived in the morning so that I couldn’t get to my desk for quarter of an hour etc. etc. ( and no we weren’t hot desking)
Anyway DDF and I began working as a couple providing WordPress websites, artworking, photography and other digital services. DDF introduced me to WordPress and so I’ve remembered to credit her here for that. Later I became aware that she was suffering from alcoholism and by the beginning of 2011, after we had retreated to Cornwall to benefit from a change of lifestyle (with the sea air, beautiful coast and a house virtually on the beach) the situation got worse. But it was all too late. DDF was the first true love of my life but I couldn’t take any more. I left the relationship on 5th Feb 2011 knowing that her father, who was staying with us at the time would take her home to Florida where she needed to be. I returned to my parents for the second time, with whom I spent the next 3 years convalescing.
From 2012 I began Menantol to continue both the Applescript automation and the WordPress website creation, and for around 6 years now I have been doing this singlehandedly. Remotely working with clients across international time zones using skype and business collaboration tools teaches one to be to the point, focused and efficient dealing with all the different aspects of sales, production and management.
“All’s well that ends well”
In summer of 2014 I spent a month on pilgrimmage walking around the knave and cloisters of Guildford Cathedral, in Surrey, contemplating my life to this point and asking the Universe for a sign.
Are prayers answered? What do you think? The answer came on the 26th October 2014, when I met Esther.
It’s now 2018 and here I am living on “Merciful Sisters Street” in Antakalnis, Vilnius, Lithuania: happy and content, wiser and more understanding, less critical of everything, including myself, accepting of things as they are, trying to live in the moment and being thankful for the redeeming and forgiving nature of love.
– thanks to Mark Alldritt’s LateNight Software