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Mac::AppleScript::Glue - allows AppleScript to be written in Perl


    use Mac::AppleScript::Glue;

    my $finder = new Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Application('Finder');



This module allows you to write Perl code in object-oriented syntax to control Mac applications. The module does not actually execute Apple Events, but actually translates Perl code to AppleScript code and causes it to be executed.

Quick start

The following AppleScript opens the "current" folder in the Finder:

    tell application "Finder"
        open insertion location
    end tell

To do this in Perl, you first include the module:

    use Mac::AppleScript::Glue;

Then you create an object you'll use to talk to the Finder application:

    my $finder = new Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Application('Finder');

And finally you issue the compound statement:

    # open the Finder's "insertion location" in a new window

You can save the result of a statement:

    # get the Finder's "insertion location"
    my $loc = $finder->insertion_location;

And if that result is not a scalar, list, or hash (more on this later), you can use that result as an object to do further work:

    # now open that in a new window

You can set attributes:

    my $folder = $finder->make_new_folder;

    $folder->set(name => 'My folder');

If you need to get a particular element of an object, put the identifier as an argument to the thing that names the element list:

    my $window = $finder->windows(1);

If you need to specify parameters of a command, use a hash for the parameters, where each key/value pair corresponds to a parameter name and value:

    my $epson_files = $finder->files(whose_name_contains => 'epson');

You can specify both identifiers and parameters:

    my $epson_files = $finder->files(1, whose_name_contains => 'epson');

Finally, there are cases where you need to create an object reference, rather than obtaining one from an application. To do this, you can use an application object to create a Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Object(3pm) that refers to both the object reference and the application to which that reference should belong:

    my $folder = $finder->objref('folder "Applications"');

Then, you can use that as you normally would:

    # open the "Applications" folder

If you don't need a full-fledged object, you can simply specify a parameter of a reference to a scalar containing a string:

    # open the "Applications" folder
    $finder->open(\'folder "Applications"');

This is also what you should use if you need to pass an AppleScript "constant" along:

    $folder->duplicate(replacing => \'true');

But an easier way is to enclose the name of the constant in angle-brackets; the module will know to use it verbatim rather than trying to quote it:

    $folder->duplicate(replacing => '<true>');

Return values

If you issue a statement that will return a value, like insertion location, the result of that statement is always a scalar. The actual contents of this scalar depends on the sort of statement. It will be one of:

regular scalar

A number or a string. This is what you'd expect in Perl -- like 1, or "foo".

object reference

An object reference is a textual string that AppleScript uses to describe both the class and context of a "thing". For example, the insertion location statement might return an object reference of:

    folder "Desktop" of folder "johnl" of folder "Users" of startup
    disk of application "Finder"

When Mac::AppleScript::Glue(3pm) sees this sort of reference, it puts the whole object reference string into an object of type Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Object(3pm) (see Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Object). It also stores in this object the application object that created the object. By doing this, the Mac::Application::Glue::Object(3pm) can be used by itself to access or modify other data.

array or hash reference

If the statement returned an AppleScript "list" or "record", the result will be a Perl array- or hash-reference, respectively. This could contain simple scalars, or a combination of any of the result types; it can also be nested.

Note that you'll have to dereference the references to use the elements:

    for my $window (@{ $finder->windows }) {


    my $props = $finder->properties;

    while (my ($key, $val) = each %{$props}) {


For multi-word AppleScript terms like insertion location, use the underscore character (_) in place of each space character.

You generally need to reverse the parts of a statement when translating AppleScript to Perl. In AppleScript, open insertion location really sends the "open" message to the object represented by "insertion location". This maps to the Perl syntax insertion_location->open().

Unlike Perl, AppleScript makes a distinction between booleans and numbers -- you can't intermix them. So if an AppleScript method wants a boolean as a parameter, you must use the AppleScript constants true or false. You can do this by enclosing the string with angle-brackets (<true>) or passing a reference to a string containing the constant (\'true').


Contrary to what it might seem, this module knows nothing of Apple Events, and only knows a sprinkling of AppleScript syntax.

Instead, it actually employs a variety of magic dust to accomplish its tasks:

  • The Mac::AppleScript::Glue module translates Perl-style object/method calls to actual AppleScript.

  • The resulting AppleScript is executed by the Mac::AppleScript(3pm) module (by Dan Sugalski); any results are returned as text.

  • The AppleScript-format result data is translated into into Perl data structures as appropriate.

  • Perl's $AUTOLOAD feature (perlobj) is used to translate statements like $finder->insertion_location to AppleScript. Method calls that aren't defined in the module itself and don't refer to a part of the object's data structure are delegated to a translater function that tries to write the method as if it was AppleScript.

  • AppleScript's concept of the "object reference" is essential to the idea of having Perl objects for things other than applications.

  • The AppleScript interpreter seems somewhat lenient on the exact syntax of the language. This makes it possible to write AppleScript statements that work even though they look weird.


There aren't any useful public methods in Mac::Application::Glue itself. Instead, see Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Application and Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Object.


Note that no functions are exported by default. You can use them by specifying the full package name:


or by specifying them on the use statement at the top of your program:

    use Mac::AppleScript::Glue qw(run);

run([$app, ] @script)

Runs an AppleScript whose lines are in @script. If $app is specified, it should be a previously created Mac::AppleScript::Application(3pm) object to which any object references will "belong to."

from_string([$app,] $str)

Parses a string containing an AppleScript result, and returns the Perl data structures corresponding to that result. If $app is specifed as a Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Application(3pm) object, any object references will be "owned" by that application.


Converts a Perl data structure into an AppleScript string. It will correctly interpret Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Object(3pm) objects.

dump($obj [, $label])

Provides a simple dumping facility for any sort of data. All this does is call Data::Dumper(3pm)'s Dump() method.

dump_pretty($object, $label [, $fh])

Provides a nicely-formatted view of any object. The object can be as simple as a regular scalar, or a deeply-nested tree of references. If the object is a Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Object, angle-brackets (<, >) are placed around its value.

If a string is supplied as $label, the output will be labeled suchly.

Output is to STDERR by default; you can provide an alternate filehandle in $fh if you like.


Returns true if the given string is really a number.


Various amounts of debugging can be enabled by manipulating the %Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Debug hash. Debugging usually involves printing messages to the STDERR file handle.

To turn on a certain type of debugging, specify the key that names the debug option, and a value of non-zero. For example, the following enables debugging of generated AppleScripts:

    $Mac::AppleScript::Glue::Debug{SCRIPT} = 1;

You can get a list of all the debugging keywords by examining @Mac::AppleScript::Glue::DebugAll.

Debugging keywords


Show each generated AppleScript before it's sent off to the script interpreter, as well as the AppleScript-formatted result string. This is useful when writing programs using Mac::AppleScript::Glue, as looking at the generated AppleScript is often the best way to figure out why a statement is failing.


Show the parsed return value from the AppleScript result. This is the data you will be working with when you examine a return value from a statement.


Show the process of parsing the AppleScript result. You probably don't want to be setting this.


Show the values of Mac::AppleScript::Glue objects after all initialization has been completed. You probably don't want to be setting this.


Show attempted calls to non-existent functions and methods. You probably don't want to be setting this.


Unfortunately this package doesn't mean that you don't have to know AppleScript, or the class/event hierarchy of the operating system. Both of those can be quite inscrutable.

I recommend having the Script Editor program open while writing Perl code. Use the dictionary browser (File menu > Open Dictionary) to browse the dictionaries for the applications you're trying to control. If you're having trouble getting the right Perl code written, try writing it in AppleScript first, then translate to Perl, then let this module translate it back to AppleScript. ;)

If you're trying to navigate through inscrutable AppleScript results, try using the dump_pretty() function (see above).

Finally, turn on the SCRIPT and RESULT debugging keywords for the most useful yet not-too-overwhelming debug output.


  • It's fairly slow. This is mostly because a compound statement ($finder->insertion_location->name) requires several separate AppleScript executions, generally one per element besides the application object. It's also slow because under the hood, the Perl calls are translated to AppleScript, then compiled, and finally executed.

  • Error-handling is nearly non-existant. If the resulting AppleScript is bad, or the target applications don't understand the resulting AppleScript, this module will force a die(), and you will see errors on STDERR. If you want to trap this, use eval.

  • AppleScript generation is not quite right. However, it works most of the time.





the application dictionaries, accessible through the Script Editor application (in the /Applications/AppleScript folder)


John Labovitz <>

New versions of this package are available at


Thanks to David Bonn for the use of his mountain retreat, where most of this module was written over three days of peace, quiet, and light.


Copyright (c) 2002 John Labovitz. All rights reserved. This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.