The professional publishing industry relies almost entirely on two programs: QuarkXPress and Adobe Photoshop. While we’ve long been able to automate mundane and repetitive tasks in QuarkXPress using AppleScript, the ability to script Photoshop has remained elusiveuntil now. Main Event Software’s PhotoScripter 1.0 adds a robust scripting vocabulary to Photoshop 5, letting you control almost every aspect of this powerful program using simple text commands.
PhotoScripter is unique in that it offers no user interface: you simply install it by dragging it into Photoshop’s Plug-ins folder and launching the program, and Photoshop is instantly scriptable. To take advantage of this new scriptability, you write AppleScripts in a program such as Script Editor (which comes with the Mac OS) or the more powerful Scripter from Main Event (see Reviews, April 1997).
To understand what this plug-in really does, try opening Photoshop’s AppleScript dictionary using one of these script-editing programs. Without PhotoScripter, the dictionary lists only one operationdo script, which simply runs an action you’ve created in Photoshop. With PhotoScripter, you can script everything, from making and transforming selections, to applying filters, to creating layers and editing their pixels.
But while the folks at Main Event really understand AppleScriptingand AppleScripters, whose success depends on how easily they can manipulate an applicationthey’re not die-hard Photoshop users. For example, although PhotoScripter lets you define or adjust every point and control handle on a Bézier path and control each setting in the Calculations dialog box, it won’t let you script common tasks such as copying a layer from one document to another.
Even though PhotoScripter doesn’t run scripts blindingly fast (this is probably a limitation of Photoshop itself), it can usually execute a series of events faster than a mere mortal could. And because AppleScript lets you perform repeating loops, mathematical calculations, and conditional branching, you can create incredible images that would be too tedious even to consider doing by hand (see “Repetitive Motion”). Unfortunately, PhotoScripter doesn’t make Photoshop “recordable”it won’t let you build scripts by stepping through the actions in the program.
Many of PhotoScripter’s limitations stem from the fact that Adobe has, not surprisingly, kept some pieces of its program off limits to plug-in developers. For example, you can’t control the settings in the Print and Page Setup dialog boxes, or query Photoshop to determine your image’s properties.
Fortunately, the documentation is relatively good; the introduction to AppleScripting and the fundamentals of scripting Photoshop is excellent. But because the manual lacks an index, you have to paw through it until you find what you need.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
PhotoScripter 1.0 lets you build scripts as powerful as Photoshop itself. If you’re a professional scripter, it would be a valuable addition to your arsenal.
Excellent AppleScript vocabulary and dictionary; good manual.
Can’t control all Photoshop features; minor bugs; can’t record actions.
Main Event Software (800/616-8320,
Single-user version, $299; server-based production version, $999.
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