Bill Cheeseman’s Amazing UI Browser Will Be End-of-Lifed in October

From the PFiddlesoft website, home of UI Browser:

UI Browser End of Life: UI Browser will reach its end of life and be retired on October 17, 2022. The current release of UI Browser, version 3.0.2, will not be updated. On the end-of-life retirement date, the PFiddlesoft website will be closed. Thereafter, it will no longer be possible to download or purchase UI Browser, and product support will no longer be available. UI Browser has been a labor of love for me, its sole developer for almost twenty years. Now that I am 79 years old, it is time to bring this good work to a conclusion. Bill Cheeseman, April 17, 2022.

Speaking about pouring one out. Man.

Long story as short as possible: “Regular” AppleScript scripting is accomplished using the programming syntax terms defined in scriptable apps’ scripting dictionaries. If you ever merely tinkered with writing or tweaking AppleScript scripts, this is almost certainly what you know. But as an expansion of accessibility features under Mac OS X, Apple added UI scripting — a way to automate apps that either don’t support AppleScript properly at all, or to accomplish something unscriptable in an otherwise scriptable app. UI scripting is, basically, a way to expose everything accessible to the Accessibility APIs to anyone writing an AppleScript script. They’re not APIs per se but just ways to automate the things you — a human — can do on screen.

A great idea. The only downside: scripting the user interface this way is tedious (very verbose) at best, and inscrutable at worst. Cheeseman’s UI Browser makes it easy. Arguably — but I’ll argue this side — “regular” AppleScript scripting is easier than “UI” AppleScript scripting, but “UI” AppleScript scripting with UI Browser is easier than anything else. UI Browser is both incredibly well-designed and well-named: it lets you browse the user interface of an app and copy the scripting syntax to automate elements of it.

I know that as a pundit, spending Apple’s money is easy, but UI Browser seems like a tool Apple should have purchased long ago. It’s like Apple only did the infrastructure of making UI scripting happen, but Bill Cheeseman did the work of making it usable. If UI scripting is worth keeping in MacOS, UI Browser is worth Apple buying. It’s not merely useful but essential.

Regardless, I can’t thank Bill Cheeseman enough for making UI Browser a reality. It has been wonderful, and still is.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022