FaceSpan: AppleScript Studio's predecessor?

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With the upcoming AppleScript Studio, history repeats itself, according to developer David Moffat.

AppleScript Studio, due before year's end, is designed to let users make script applications that look, feel and act just like Mac OS X applications. It will include such Aqua "widgets" as buttons, windows, sliders, checkboxes, tabs, radio buttons and more. Apple says AppleScript Studio will be "fun" to use, but will provide a set of professional application development tools featuring complete interface design and script writing with step-by-step debugging and source management.

Back in 1994, Moffat helped develop, test and document the FaceSpan interface builder for AppleScript. He did this while working at SDU (Software Designs Unlimited), which was owned and run by a developer named Leonard (Lee) Buck, who is now at a company called TIBCO. Buck had already developed an enhanced interface builder for HyperCard.

"FaceSpan is essentially a Visual Basic-like environment for building real applications with AppleScript," Moffat told MacCentral. "I say 'is' because, although Lee eventually sold the product, it is still available at FaceSpan, which whom, by the way, I'm not affiliated. However, it's one of the neatest IDEs I've ever used."

Although Apple did put an early version of FaceSpan in the AppleScript box, they never really promoted it, he added. Still, some "incredible" applications were created with it, including the management of editorial writing and newspaper assembly, want ads and catalog production and much more, Moffat said. FaceSpan was also suitable for writing games and much more, he added.

"Now, I guess, Apple has seen the light," Moffat said. "I hope Mac owners will get as big a kick out of AppleScript Studio as we got out of FaceSpan. I'm looking forward to it."

Moffat is now in the Instructional Technology Development group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he's developing the FACET product for the English Department. He got into computing in 1970 and bought his first Mac in 1984.

"I cried when I first sat down in front of a Mac and saw how the GUI [graphical user interface] worked; this was how computing should be," Moffat said. "I programmed Macs for the next 12 years, both as a teacher (I offered the first college-level Mac systems programming course, at NCSU) and as a professional developer."

In the early 90s, he had a company in which he developed Mac system-level support for Russian and other exotic languages. This was "way before my work was obsoleted by the Script Manager," he said.

When Java came out, the Mac was the premium platform for Java development, the best IDE being Roaster, Moffat said. But Java moved ahead too quickly for Roaster or for Apple to keep up, so the Mac fell behind, he added.

"By that time, I had seen the light -- I decided to develop for the Java platform, not for any specific hardware platform," Moffat said. "I had to abandon the outdated Java on the Mac and move to a PC. Of course, I kept using my Macs for other things, but I have been spending much more time on Windows. (I've had nine Macs and three PCs.)"

The good news is that he's coming home. Moffat said he's starting to pull up stakes and migrate back to the Mac for his Java development.

"Mac OS X has the latest Java on it, and, when Metrowerks delivers a CodeWarrior for Java that runs on Mac OS X, I will move decisively and completely to the Mac," he added. "All I want from Apple is the opportunity to make full use of my Mac without ever resorting to Unix, the way Windows frequently forced me to use DOS."

This story, "FaceSpan: AppleScript Studio's predecessor?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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