One of the great things about computers is that they’re machines we can use to perform repetitive tasks that would bore human beings to tears. Power users have access to utilities and scripting languages to become incredibly productive, cutting out hours of busy work.

But in the past year, two events have occurred that call into question the future of tools to boost our productivity on both macOS and iOS. Longtime Automation product manager Sal Soghoian had his position at Apple eliminated, and Apple bought the leading iOS automation app, Workflow.

So Apple’s left hand swipes away automation tools while its right hand acquires them. It’s confusing, right? While the future of productivity-boosting tech on Apple’s platforms is in flux, I’m pretty confident that the future is bright.

macOS: What comes next?

AppleScript has been around for a couple of decades and I don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. That said, it’s a niche language that’s clearly been put in maintenance mode—and I say this as someone who is more comfortable using AppleScript than any other scripting language. The future is in other scripting languages, such as JavaScript and Python, and perhaps even in a lightweight approach to scripting based on Swift.

Apple’s Automator

Currently you can control Mac apps using JavaScript, though there are limitations to that approach. Omni Group (which hired Soghoian as a consultant) has begun to ship apps on both macOS and iOS that are internally scriptable via JavaScript. That’s great, but ideally Apple would embrace a systemwide method of controlling apps that goes beyond what we’ve already got. I’m not sure that will happen, but between AppleScript and Automator (not to mention all the support for scripting in the Unix shell, which is accessible via Terminal or Automator), macOS already has a strong set of tools for automation.

And that’s just Apple. It’s easy to lose sight of all the third-party apps that enable productivity-boosting automation. TextExpander can convert keystrokes into surprisingly complex output. Hazel can watch your files and folders and act on them in innumerable ways.

Then there’s one of the most impressive automation tools I’ve used on the Mac in the past few years: Keyboard Maestro. The name sounds like it’s a keyboard-shortcut utility, but it’s much more than that. With Keyboard Maestro, I can automate opening and closing windows, choosing menu items, clicking on specific parts of an app’s interface—all sorts of things that are difficult or impossible to do even with AppleScript.

Between the existing infrastructure Apple built during the first decade of OS X’s existence, and the continued robustness of third-party apps, power users will find no end to their options for automating tasks on macOS.

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