Thursday, November 23, 2017

#1 2003-09-11 09:38:38 am

T.J. Mahaffey
Administrator
From:: Arkansas, USA
Registered: 2002-11-20
Posts: 238
Website

FaceSpan 4.0 Public Beta

Although most of its detractors were quick to hail the end of the venerable FaceSpan's reign over the AppleScript interface kingdom a couple of years ago, many of its greatest evangelists had even become doubtful of its future under OS X. In fact, I'll be the first to admit that when our favorite DTI Goddess, Shirley Hopkins, appeared out of nowhere and pre-announced a very much complete beta to come September second, I was dumbstruck. The last flame of FaceSpan's memory was just beginning to flicker out and -whammo!- FaceSpan 4 appears back with a vengeance.

I don't think anyone will ever really know what happened behind the scenes at DTI, but you can bet that Shirley had a big hand in it and that every one of us will want to give her a big hug for that.

Now, on with the details of what will likely become the development tool of choice for many of our readers and the savior of many still stuck in OS 9 land. Let's start with the kudos.

FaceSpan 4 benefits equally from the same advance AStudio does. The AppleScript component of the modern Mac operating system is embedded and can't be frivolously turned off by the average user or even most power users for that matter. As such, working with apps and scripts written in AppleScript are seamless and invisible to the user. This represents a huge advance over OS 9, in my humble opinion.

facespan_projwindow.jpg


Resize handling of widgets and windows by your application's user seems more straight forward under FS4 as opposed to AppleScript Studio. [strong](See screenshot below)[/strong] Although some would say that AStudio's handling makes perfect sense, it has taken me over a year of regular use to get comfortable with it.

facespan_size.jpg


DTI bills FaceSpan 4 as almost an entirely new animal over the previous version. That may be true, but it is also important to note the level of familiarity one will have if you've used FS before. Data sharing between scripts and attaching scripts directly to given objects are all very familiar and beneficial hold-overs from previous versions of FaceSpan.

facespan_new_project.jpg


After all of this, however, it is very difficult not to acknowledge the elephant in the room: why would anyone pay for FaceSpan 4 when Apple is giving away AppleScript Studio for free? My answer to that is simple: simplicity. I think most would agree that it is far and away much simpler to create applications with FaceSpan 4.

Our own Greg Spence reports:

Upon launching the beta version of FaceSpan 4.0, I discovered that the learning curve has been much easier for me to grasp as compared with AppleScript Studio and the Project Builder. I managed to build an interface after using FaceSpan 4.0 for only a few minutes, whereas it took me several tries, many hours, and a lot of reading to get anywhere in AppleScript Studio and Project Builder, and I'm still not comfortable with AppleScript Studio. My lack of ability in using AppleScript Studio could be due to the fact that I do not have a formal background in programming, other than being a novice AppleScripter. My overall impression is that FaceSpan 4.0 is a much easier to use alternative to AppleScript Studio and the Project Builder. The interface is clean, easy to understand and it doesn't crowd me out of my desktop space.


Although FaceSpan 4.0 is similar to Project Builder and AppleScript Studio in some respects, FaceSpan 4.0 seems to be a lot more intuitive. The options for "Build and Run" are much faster than AppleScript Studio's implementation, and the ability to "Test Interface" is nice and quick, and it allows me to see my interface without having to "build" the application. In other words, I can inspect my applications interface and make adjustments as needed prior to "building" the application.

As a novice AppleScripter I never purchased any of the earlier versions of FaceSpan, but for those who have it's going to be smooth sailing. One thing I did take note of is that every new project application file seems to be quite large in size. I asked Shirley Hopkins about this and she offered the following comments about the file sizes and some additional insights on the finer points of FaceSpan 4.0.

"I mentioned the file size to development. They said that was "normal." I know with 3.5 I had at least one user that I can think of who was adamant that the footprint of those files was over 1mb.

I know that we will be looking into what can be done to pare the file size down. One thing I have suggested is to have the option of whether to include the dictionary or not. In my experience, the bulk of projects would not need to have a dictionary.

The one thing that really sets FaceSpan apart from Project Builder is the object hierarchy which allows data sharing between the scripts for objects, windows and the application. For instance, you can have a property established in the application (property kValue: "12345") and "see" that value from any window using the "my" qualifier. In other words, in a window script you could then say: set contents of text field "whatever" of window "main" to my kValue. You can also use "continue" to continue an event from a child script to its parent (or grandparent as the case may be). So if you have a clicked handler in a script for a button in the "main" window you could do something like the following which allows the button's handler to take care of what it does and then lets the window's clicked handler take over from there:

Applescript:

on clicked theObject
   --do whatever
   continue clicked theObject
end clicked

You will notice that all of AppleScript Studio's examples have all of their scripts in the application script. The reason for this is because AppleScript Studio cannot do data sharing between objects. The only way that data sharing can be accomplished in AppleScript Studio is with script objects (but script objects are not understood by the majority of scripters who feel the subject to be "advanced").


In addition, it is important to note that although many FaceSpan veterans will be interested in making the transition to version four, there will be some acclimation necessary to become comfortable with this new environment. OS X as a whole represents some new frontiers and, as such, will require some renewed effort. These changes include access to the shell, Aqua-specific widgets and the like. You will have to invest a bit of time into these subjects despite your previous familiarity with this and other tools.

Finally, we must not forget one important question: What will it cost? Well, we don't yet know what the street price will be for FaceSpan 4, but I think this will be what makes or breaks its success. Charge too much for FS4 and people will consider the additional obstacles within AppleScript Studio to be worth extra time to save the cash. Charge too little and DTI won't be able to make enough to warrant future development. It's as simple as that. My two cents? I say $99. No, that's not as much as FS 3.5 was, but that version didn't have to compete with a free equivalent from Apple back in those days. Couple that $99 with a bundle agreement with Late Night Software's formidable Script Debugger (with external debugging tie-ins renewed, of course) and you've got yourself the best AppleScript tool set available, in my humble if somewhat biased opinion. And all for under $300.

In conclusion, we here at MacScripter are delighted to see DTI's FaceSpan re-emerge as a formidable force in the AppleScript community and the OS X programming world at large. After all FS's presence in the market can only be good news for AppleScript as a language.


T.J.
tj@tjmahaffey.com


Filed under: Mahaffey, Facespan

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