rb-appscript is cool

Posted by Tom on 2007-03-21

After a small typo in the Hobo manual was reported in the forum (thanks!), I decided I’d like to automate the process of updating the manual.

I had two awkward bits that I was doing manually - conversion from Markdown to HTML, and conversion from Markdown to PDF.

“Eh?” I hear you cry? Manually converting Markdown to HTML? Have you never heard of BlueCloth? Well, I chose not to use BlueCloth because it, er, didn’t work. It choked on my markup, which looks fine to me, and converts just fine in Textmate. But today I somehow stumbled across Maruku which works great, and even has some nifty markdown extensions which I’m sure I’ll use.

One down, one to go - conversion to PDF. The trick here was that I really wanted a solution that allowed me to customise the style of the generated PDF. I really wanted to get to PDF via HTML+CSS. I thought I’d try and ask Safari to do the job for me via AppleScript. It worked!

Of course, I wouldn’t dream of trying to actually code AppleScript. If you’re on MacOS, go have a play with rb-appscript. It’s good stuff. The cool part is that because it’s all Ruby, you can fire it up in irb and make all your desktop apps jump around at your interactive command.

In order to get Safari to save a PDF at my slightest whim, there was one more trick required - I needed a “PDF File” printer (there’s no way to access the “save a pdf file” feature from AppleScript). I eventually found cups-pdf for Mac which works great. All my apps now see “PDF File” as a virtual printer.

Here’s the Ruby code that gets Safari to do the needful:

require 'rubygems'
require 'appscript'
safari = Appscript.app('Safari')
safari.documents[0].print(:with_properties => {:target_printer => "PDF File"})

That documents[0] looks a bit dodgy, but I couldn’t figure out how to say “the document I just loaded”.

So bring on your typos! I’ve so got it covered.