Announcing Learning AppleScript with Helix and the Helix RADE Readiness Kit
December 31, 2010 — In the December 31, 2009 edition of The Latest Word, we announced that 2010 would be the year that Helix RADE — code named Europa — makes its debut as an OS X native application. The code name was a tip of the hat to the movie 2010.
Now it seems like we blinked our eyes and before we knew what hit us, we have precious little to show for ourselves as we stare right into the mouth of 2011.
We are sad to report today that the first release of OS X RADE is not going to make it into your hands as 2010 draws to a close. That is going to have to wait until sometime in early 2011. However, we made considerable progress toward that goal in 2010.
Why the delay? The need for speed. On November 30th of 2009, we released version 6.1.5 of Helix Server, Client, and Engine. For a while we turned our full attention back to Helix RADE. But what began as apparently random rumblings of discontent rapidly turned crystal clear: the performance was still not good enough.
And so, in February we made the hard decision to put RADE aside yet again and work on Client/Engine performance. This task took longer than expected (what doesn’t?) and it took the releases of version 6.1.6 in July and 6.1.7 in September to deliver the performance people expected along with a reasonable level of stability. Unfortunately, Helix Client/Server 6.1.7 is not as stable as 6.1.5 — it’s that old balancing act: performance vs. stability — but it is working well enough for most of our customers that, since then, we’ve been able to resume work on Europa almost exclusively. (There’s a 6.1.8 coming soon that addresses some of the stability issues and fixes a couple nagging bugs.)
But that set us back about eight months, and instead of being able to ship the first release of Europa this summer, we came to the realization that shipping RADE in 2010 just wasn’t going to happen. Our first release is now on track for sometime in the first quarter of 2011, and it is going to be scaled back significantly from what you probably expect, but it will provide tools that allow you to begin to modify your database structures in a native OS X environment. (Europa remains compatible with Classic RADE, so you can still dip back into Classic when needed.)
OS X RADE extends both reach and access with AppleScript
In that December 31, 2009 The Latest Word, we laid out our plan for Europa and revealed that a major component would be support for AppleScript in Design Mode of Helix RADE.
As the Mac platform has grown in the past few years, AppleScript has also grown from a simple scripting tool to a full-fledged part of Apple’s Developer Tools. It allows you to do virtually everything from creating a Helix Collection to performing actions heretofore impossible in Design Mode.
But even with AppleScript support built right into the core of Helix, there still beats the heart of an ancient code base that is built on Pascal, a wonderful language that Apple has declared “obsolete.” All of Helix’s Design Mode editors (for creating abaci, templates, posts, etc.) are, naturally, written in Pascal.
Some of those editors — such as the abacus editor — are so complex that bringing them to OS X requires nothing short of a complete rewrite. This it has led us to re-engineer the RADE Design Mode interface to rely more on the use of a context-sensitive inspector window. Creating these all-new editors — while maintaining full backwards compatibility — is proving to be an arduous task. But by shipping an AppleScript-enabled Helix RADE that allows you to work in Design Mode first via scripting, we can put a product in your hands much sooner. When the Preview Releases start appearing, Design Mode editing will be available first only as scriptable tasks. The ‘new and improved’ interface for each editor will be added later, in successive releases.
Thus, in Europa’s initial releases over the next few months, scripting will be the first way to accomplish Design Mode tasks. While we implemented AppleScript in Helix in part to tide us over until the graphic user interface of RADE was complete, we’re willing to bet that for some of you, scripting will eventually become your preferred method of working in Design Mode.
Here’s where OS X RADE begins
For many Helix users, the notion of learning a programming language is a daunting task. AppleScript is a programming language, no doubt about it. But it’s easier to learn than you might think, and learning it with Helix makes it even easier. Besides, many of you might be surprised to learn how much difficulty some professional programmers have in learning how to use Helix!
As we considered this critical transition in light of the delays we’ve encountered, we started looking for ways to make it as painless as possible. And we’ve came up with a solution we think you’ll like.
Available today, the Helix RADE Readiness Kit is a collection of tools designed to assist you in the process of learning AppleScript, and learning it with Helix RADE as its focal point. With the Helix RADE Readiness Kit, you will be able to learn AppleScript faster and sooner. Faster because the kit includes tools and tutorials that teach you AppleScript with the foremost goal of using AppleScript with Helix. Sooner because it lets you start working with Helix in AppleScript today. No need to wait for Europa to roll up your sleeves.
The Helix RADE Readiness Kit, available now for $89(US), contains these items geared towards helping you learn and use AppleScript:
What are these items in the Helix RADE Readiness Kit, and why are they included? Glad you asked…
In short, the Helix RADE Readiness Kit is all about taking you beyond the purchase to a place where you are confident and competent to use AppleScript and Helix together to make your life easier.
Some additional resources are a couple of clicks away
Learning is much easier with a good instructional book at your side, so we’ve also pulled together a list of books about AppleScript that you might find helpful. Clicking on a link on the right takes you to Amazon.com where you can purchase them and support QSA ToolWorks at the same time. Our highest recommendations go to AppleScript, the Definitive Guide by Matt Neuburg and Apple Training Series: AppleScript 1-2-3 by Sal Soghoian. We have both these books on our own bookshelf, and our tutorials contain references that point you directly to the pages that correspond with the topic at hand. By putting the detailed explanations from the books together with the Helix-centric examples in the newsletter, you’ll be learning faster, but more importantly, your learning will have practical application to Helix.
Help yourself get ready for OS X Helix RADE now
As we have noted before, bringing Helix to OS X has largely been a labor of love. And now, since our efforts are focused primarily on RADE, we are at last working on the part of the play we came to see, so to speak.
As we have noted before, again and again, this labor of love still requires financing. We’ll be launching — at long last — the subscription plan for buying Helix that we promised a year ago. But getting this job done will ultimately require much more money than we believe we can raise by subscription. Fortunately, while the economy has been hard on us all, there should never be a shortage of good ideas. If you have one, let's talk about it in 2011.
As we have noted above, the first OS X Helix RADE is still a couple months away. But it is coming. And the Helix RADE Readiness Kit is available right now through the QSA ToolWorks Web Store for $89.00 USD. (A six-issue subscription to Learning AppleScript with Helix is also available separately for $49.00, for those already own Helix Scripting and Script Debugger.) If we haven’t made the case strongly enough yet, here it is again: it’s time for us all to get serious and learn how to put the combined powers of OS X, Helix and AppleScript to work.
Happy New Year!