Script Timer Features

NOTE: This page describes Version 2.7.1 of Script Timer for Mac OS X 10.9 and 10.10.

Contents

1: Action Data Files
2: Action Panels
3: Preferences Panel (Files and Folders)
4: Preferences Panel (Actions)
5: Status Monitor
 
1: Action Data Files
Script Timer actually consists of two different programs: Script Timer itself and the scheduling engine, a faceless background process that does the actual scheduling and execution of the scripts, workflows, or applications.

Your ‘to do’ lists of scheduled actions are stored in action data files. You use Script Timer to create and edit these files. The scheduling engine reads your ‘to do’ list and runs items from it at the appropriate times. Note that you only need to run Script Timer when you want to change your ‘to do’ list. Otherwise, the scheduling engine runs unobtrusively behind the scenes carrying out your actions.

You can have as many action data files as you want. For example, you might want a completely different schedule of actions for weekends or holiday periods. You can easily switch among different data files, either manually using the ‘Set As Current Data File’ command in the File menu, or automatically by scheduling an AppleScript script that employs a custom Apple event defined for the program. (Registered users will be provided with an AppleScript script for automatic data file switching that uses this custom Apple event.)

Figure 1a: The Script Timer Document Window

Script Timer 2.7 document window

A Script Timer document window contains two "panes". The upper pane lists the contents of the Designated Items to Schedule Folder, which is the recommended place to hold the scripts and applications (or aliases to them) you schedule frequently. Then scheduling an item is as simple as dragging it from the upper pane onto the table of scheduled actions (your ‘to do’ list) in the lower pane.

However, Script Timer is completely flexible. You can store your scripts or applications wherever you prefer, and just drag their icons from a Finder window onto the table of scheduled actions.

Before dragging your item to schedule to the lower pane of the document window, you select the tab for the kind of action you want by clicking on the appropriate tab. There are three types of actions:

• Time of Day Actions run at a specific time of the day, week, month, or year,
• Repeating Actions repeat on a time interval from one second to any number of weeks, and
• Triggered Actions run when certain events occur such as when the computer enters or leaves an idle state,
just before or just after the computer sleeps, when resigning or activated a user session under fast user switching, when you log into your account (log out actions have been discontinued. ), or when a specified program starts or stops.

In addition, there is a special, unique type of action called a “dynamic action”. Dynamic actions can be created by AppleScript scripts you schedule, and added to your list of scheduled actions. This powerful feature allows your list of actions to be modified on the fly depending the results of the execution of your scripts. For example, you might want to schedule one of two actions to run depending on the outcome of a scheduled script, or you might want to schedule a script to run at a time that can only be determined by the execution of another action.

When you drop your item to schedule onto the lower pane, the appropriate Action Panel (see below) will come up, depending on which tabbed list of scheduled actions is frontmost.

Actions listed in a table can be sorted by columns by clicking on a column header. They can also be rearranged or copied to another document window or program by standard drag and drop techniques.

Three buttons and an action menu are situated below the lower pane:

  • The Start button is used to turn the scheduling engine on and off.
  • The ‘+’ (New) button provides an alternate way to the drag and drop method to create a new action to schedule.
  • The ‘-‘ (Remove) button removes the selected actions from an action table. You can also just use the Delete key.

The action (gear) menu contains three menu items:
  • Do Now causes the selected actions in an action table to be executed immediately. This is a convenient way to test the correctness of a script before scheduling it for some time when you are absent from your computer. The results are displayed in the Do Now Results window
  • Edit... brings up an Action Panel for the action or actions selected in an action table so that their properties can be edited. Alternately, you can just double click on an action to bring up the panel.
  • Clone... is used to duplicate a selected item in an action table. It brings up an Action Panel pre-filled with data from a selected action that you can edit to make a new action.

    Figure 1b: The Do Now Results Window

    “Script

    In the example in Figure 1b an action with a script called “Running Procs” was selected in the Repeating actions table and then the Do Now button was clicked. The Running Procs script, which comes with Script Timer, assembles a list of all active programs and returns this information, normally for inclusion in the Script Timer log file. In this case the returned data is displayed in the Do Now Results window.


    Top of Page

    2: Action Panels

    An Action Panel is used to fill in the information required for the scheduling engine to schedule and run actions. Action panels appear whenever you want to create a new action or edit an existing one. Each of the three action types has a slightly different panel, reflecting the different characteristics of the action type. An action need not involve a script - it could launch an application or Automator workflow, or open a document.

    Figure 2a: Example of an Action Panel for a Time of Day Action

    “Script


    The panel in Figure 2a is for a Time of Day action. It shows the properties of an action that schedules the Track Timer iTunes controller script to play a random selection from an iTunes play list called "Jazz Faves" every weekday at 6:00 PM.

    The “Item Name”, the file path to the item (script, application, workflow, or document) to be run or opened, is automatically filled in when you create a new action by dragging the item onto an action table. Alternately you can type the file path directly, or use the Choose button to show a standard Open File panel, allowing you to select an item from anywhere on your computer.

    The Parameters field allows you to pass information to scripts and Automator workflows. For example, in Figure 2a the playlist to play, the sound level, and the track to play are being passed to the Track Timer script.

    The radio buttons allow you to choose among four different scheduling patterns, while the Start Time control allows you to specify when in the day you want the action to be carried out. You can also specify a "Late Start" time. An action will run even if its normal Start Time has passed when the scheduling engine starts up, provided the Late Start time has not passed.

    The Wait Time is the time in seconds that the scheduling engine will wait for a script to run to completion before looking for another action to execute. Waiting allows the engine to receive data returned by a script for further action.

    There are three types of data a script can return (the latter two being specific to AppleScript):
    1. Information for inclusion in the Script Timer log file, which you can view in the program at any time.
    2. A New Action Record, which the scheduling engine uses to schedule a new action on the fly. This "dynamic scheduling" feature lets your AppleScript script both construct and schedule another action for a different time depending on its own outcome.
    3. Information to indicate whether or not you want the application that was front most on the screen before the action started to return to the front when it ends. Not restoring the front most application allows a script to start another application and have that application remain frontmost.

    Unchecking the Active checkbox allows you to create an action and save it in the data file without it being put into the list of actions to schedule. An action can be turned on and off at will using this checkbox, or the equivalent one in the Script Timer document window.

    Action panels for the other action types are shown in Figures 2b and 2c. Both types of actions have Start and Stop times, allowing you to bracket the hours you want an action to run. For example, you might want an action to take place every hour between 9 AM and 5 PM, but not outside those times.

    Figure 2b: Example of an Action Panel for a Repeating Action

    Script Timer Repeating Action Panel

    The action shown in Figure 2b schedules the script “Running Procs” to run every hour between 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM. The Running Procs script, which comes with Script Timer, assembles a list of all active programs and sends this information to the Script Timer log file. Thus the log file will contain an hourly snapshot of which applications are running during the day. Running Procs requires no user supplied data to run; therefore the Parameters field is left blank. The Time Interval can be set to any number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, or weeks.

    Figure 2c: Example of an Action Panel for a Triggered Action

    Script Timer Triggered Action Panel

    Figure 2c shows an action that schedules the “SayIt” script that comes with Script Timer to say the phrase “going to sleep now” whenever the computer is about to go to sleep. This particular action is very handy for laptops. When you close the lid the computer will tell you when it is safe to move it. NOTE: The SayIt script (or any script producing sound) will not currently work as a “before sleep” script in OS X 10.7 and later.

    In addition to “sleep”, eight other events can trigger an action:

    • just after the computer wakes up
    • when the computer enters or leaves an idle state
    • when user session is resigned or activated under fast user switching,
    • when you log into your account, and
    • when an application you specify launches or quits

    NOTE: Logout actions have been discontinued. As a substitute you can schedule a quit action to run whenever a program you never quit quits - e.g. Mail. On logout this program will be quit and the action will be run.

    Top of Page

    3. Preferences Panel (Files and Folders)

    The operation of Script Timer can be fine-tuned through its extensive set of preferences. The preferences are grouped into two panels, one dealing with the settings for files and folders, the scheduling engine, and the optional status monitor; the other with the default settings for the various types of actions.

    Figure 3a: The Script Timer Preferences Panel (Files and Folders)

    Script Timer Preferences Panel (Files and Folders)



    The Files and Folders Preferences panel shows the two main files and the folder associated with the program. In addition, you can change the behavior of the scheduling engine and optional status monitor from this panel.

    Current Data File: You can have many different data files, but only the one showing here as the Current Data File will be used by the scheduling engine. Having multiple data files can be a convenient way to group actions. For example, you might have a “Holiday” data file with seasonally favorite play lists for Track Timer to play.

    • Changing the currently active data file is accomplished by:
    • choosing the new data file here using the Choose button or typing in its path,
    • using the "Set As Current Data File" command in the File menu, or
    • by scheduling an AppleScript script that uses the custom "change data file" command built into Script Timer. (A custom script using this command is supplied to registered users.)

    • The auto update feature causes a data file to be saved whenever you make a change in its document window. The scheduling engine won't notice any changes you make in the Current Data File's document window until the file is actually saved. If this feature is turned off you must explicitly save the file using the Save command in the File menu. (Turning it off is sometimes convenient - for example when you are making a number of changes to the document window all at once.)

    Designated Items to Schedule Folder: This is a convenient place to hold frequently scheduled items. You can change it here in the Preferences panel, or by dragging a different folder onto the upper pane of any Script Timer document window.

    • Log File: Script Timer maintains a log file that records the scheduling engine’s activities, such as when your actions are run.
    Your scripts can also use the file to store their results. This lets you write simpler, more task oriented scripts by removing the need to include file access commands.

    Verbose logging increases the amount of information the scheduling engine records about its operations in the log file.

    You would normally want to arrange for the scheduling engine to automatically start when you log into your account. You do this by checking the "Start at Login" checkbox. If you want to start the scheduling engine manually at some time after login you would uncheck this box. Note that no actions will take place unless the scheduling engine is running.,

    The "Status Monitor Enabled" checkbox determines whether or not the optional status monitor is active. If active it will automatically start at login, and will keep running until you stop it or log out. The status monitor displays the scheduling engine icon in the system status bar at the right of the main menu bar. The icon is faded if the scheduling engine is not running, allowing you to ascertain its state at a glance. A menu attached to the icon allows you to open Script Timer, turn the scheduling engine on or off, or quit the status monitor.

    The "Start or Stop Status Monitor" button allows you to turn the status monitor on or off at will.

    If the "If on line check for new program version on Internet" option is selected, Script Timer will automatically check for newer versions of itself on the Apps & More web site when you launch it if the Internet is reachable, and alert you that a new version is available. (If you normally connect to the Internet via dialup modem, the Internet is not considered reachable unless you are actively connected.)

    NOTE: During version checking no data is sent to the Apps & More web site from the computer running Script Timer, so your security and privacy are not compromised. Automatic version checking is included because with the increasing level of spam on the Internet and the consequent increase in email filtering, it is becoming more difficult for software vendors to communicate with their customers. The danger of a mass mailout about the availability of a new version being filtered away is high. This feature makes it easier for the user to keep up to date with the latest version of the program.

    The Factory button resets the preferences to those that come with the program.

    Top of Page

    4. Preferences Panel (Actions)

    You can assign default values to most of the properties of a newly created action, including the action type. Some properties are common to all actions, and some specific to each action type. Figure 4a shows typical default settings for Time of Day actions. The Actions preferences panels for Repeating and Triggered actions are shown in Figures 4b and 4c, and their differences are discussed below these figures.

    Figure 4a: The Script Timer Preferences Panel (Time of Day Actions)
    Features Figure 4a

    The default action type specifies which action table will be frontmost when you launch Script Timer or open a new document window. You would normally leave “New Actions are active” checked. Otherwise you would need to explicitly activate your newly created actions for them to be scheduled to run.

    The tabbed panel in the center allows you to specify defaults for the various properties in the action panel that appears when you create a new action. Each of the three action types has its own tab. Figure 4a shows a typical setup for a Time of Day action, Figure 4b for Repeating action, and Figure 4c for a Triggered action.

    The Wait Time is the number of seconds the Script Timer scheduling engine will wait for a script to complete before continuing on. Waiting allows a script to return data to the scheduling engine for further action or for saving in the log file. (NOTE: The Wait Time only applies to shell and perl scripts, AppleScript scripts that address other applications with a 'tell' statement, and Automator workflows.)

    If you check “Use Seconds in Times”, all time displays in Script Timer will include seconds as well as hours and minutes. This allows you to specify when you want your actions to run with finer than one minute precision, which might be handy if, for example, you are using Script Timer, Track Timer, and iTunes to run an Internet radio station.

    You can decide whether or not you want the application that was frontmost before an action started to be restored to the front on your screen after the action completes. You can override this preference on a script by script basis. You would leave this option unchecked if, for example, a purpose of your script was to bring forward or launch some application.

    If your computer is asleep, no programs are running. You can choose to have any actions that were missed during sleep to be carried out when the computer awakes or to be discarded. For example, you would not want a script that chimed the hour to run upon awakening. (If a repeating action is missed more than once while the computer is asleep, it is only carried out one time if this option is selected.)

    The scheduling engine checks for new actions to execute every "Checking Interval" seconds. The checking interval can be a little as one second, though you would probably only use such a short time in special cases such as when combining Script Timer, Track Timer, and iTunes to run an Internet radio station.

    Actions normally start on or near the start of a checking interval. However, the program allows you to change this to any number of seconds into the checking interval. For example, if you had the checking interval set to 60 seconds, actions would start at the "top of the minute" for a zero offset. The Scheduling Offset would allow you to delay the start of actions to any number of seconds into the minute.

    Top of Page

    Figure 4b: The Script Timer Preferences Panel (Repeating Actions)
    Features Figure 4b
    The preferences panel shown in Figure 4b differs from that in Figure 4a only in which tab is showing in the middle of the panel. You use the Time Interval field to set the default repeating interval for new Repeating actions, which can be from any number of seconds to any number of weeks. You can also specify the length of time after the start time you specify in the Action panel that the Repeating action will end. For example, if you set this figure at 8 hours, and you create an action that starts at 9:00 AM, the stop time will automatically be filled in as 5:00 PM, and the action will not take place after that time.

    Top of Page

    Figure 4c: The Script Timer Preferences Panel (Triggered Actions)
    Features Figure 4c
    The preferences panel shown in Figure 4c differs from that in Figure 4a only in which tab is showing in the middle of the panel. In this tab you can set a default trigger event for new Triggered actions by choosing one of the eight options in the Start Action At popup menu. As for Repeating actions, you can also specify the length of time after the start time you specify in the Action panel that the Triggered action will no longer fire.

    Top of Page

    5. Status Monitor

    An optional status monitor program comes with Script Timer. The status monitor displays the scheduling engine icon in the system status bar to the right of the main menu bar. The icon is faded if the scheduling engine is not running, allowing you to ascertain its state at a glance. A menu attached to the icon allows you to open Script Timer, turn the scheduling engine on or off, or quit the status monitor. Using the status monitor means that you can easily access Script Timer without having to take up valuable Dock space with its icon.

    Figure 5: The Status Monitor Icon and Menu

    Status Monitor Icon and Menu

    Top of Page