Scriptable System Preferences

Mac OS X Leopard introduces a number of newly scriptable system preference panes, including: Accounts, Appearance, CD & DVD, Desktop, Dock, Expose and Spaces, Network, and Security.


System Preferences Application

It is not necessary to script the System Preferences application to get or set the parameters for scriptable system preferences. Scripting of the preferences is done directly by using the preferences suites included in the System Events application dictionary.

However, occasionally you may wish to launch the System Preferences application and switch to a specific pane or tab for user review or interaction. Here are sample scripts for controlling the System Preference application:

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script for quiting the System Preference application:
 

-- QUIT SYSTEM PREFERENCCES APPLICATION
if application "System Preferences" is running then
 tell application "System Preferences" to quit
end if

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to open a specific system preference pane, how to get the names of the anchors of a pane, and how to switch to a specified anchor (tab):
 

-- OPEN SYSTEM PREFERENCES TO THE SPACES PANE
tell application "System Preferences"
 activate
 set the current pane to pane id "com.apple.preference.expose"
 get the name of every anchor of pane id "com.apple.preference.expose"
 --> returns: {"Main", "Spaces"}
 reveal anchor "Spaces" of pane id "com.apple.preference.expose"
end tell


Accounts Preferences

The scripting support in the Accounts Preferences is read-only, meaning you cannot use scripting to generate new users. You can use scripting to set the image used as the current user's picture.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationThe accounts preferences are read-only except being able to change the picture of the current user:
 

tell application "System Events"
 -- ACCOUNTS (Read-Only except picture of current user)
 get the properties of the current user
 --> returns: {class:user, picture path:file "Mac OS X:Library:User Pictures:Animals:Cat.tif", home directory:file "Mac OS X:Users:sal:", name:"sal", full name:"Sal Soghoian"}
 get the properties of every user
 --> returns: {{class:user, picture path:file "Mac OS X:Library:User Pictures:Flowers:Yellow Daisy.tif", home directory:file "Mac OS X:Users:sal:", name:"sal", full name:"Sal Soghoian"}}
 set the picture path of current user to alias "Mac OS X:Library:User Pictures:Flowers:Yellow Daisy.tif"
end tell

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to add login items for the current user account:
 

tell application "System Events"
 -- LOGIN ITEMS
 get the properties of every login item
 -- {{class:login item, path:"/Users/sal/Desktop/View Remote Screen.app", hidden:false, kind:"Application", name:"View Remote Screen"}}
 -- Adding a login item for the current user
 make new login item at end of login items with properties {path:"/Applications/Dictionary.app", hidden:false}
end tell


Appearance Preferences

You can now script the look and functionality of basic user-interface controls.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get and set the appearance preferences.
 

tell application "System Events"
 tell appearance preferences
 get properties
 --> returns: {scroll arrow placement:together, font smoothing limit:4, recent applications limit:10, scroll bar action:jump to next page, double click minimizes:true, recent servers limit:10, appearance:blue, recent documents limit:10, highlight color:{46516, 54741, 65535}, class:appearance preferences object, smooth scrolling:false, font smoothing style:automatic}
 set properties to {scroll arrow placement:together at top and bottom, font smoothing limit:4, recent applications limit:10, scroll bar action:jump to here, double click minimizes:true, recent servers limit:20, appearance:blue, recent documents limit:20, highlight color:{0, 0, 32000}, smooth scrolling:true, font smoothing style:light}
 end tell
end tell


CD & DVD Preferences

Using scripts, you can determine the actions performed when various discs are mounted by the computer.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get and set the properties of inserted disks:
 

tell application "System Events"
 tell CD and DVD preferences
 get the properties of video DVD -- Also: blank CD, blank DVD, music CD, picture CD, video CD
 -- > returns: {class:insertion preference, custom script:missing value, insertion action:open application, custom application:file "Mac OS X:System:Library:CoreServices:Front Row.app:"}

 -- OPEN APPLICATION
 set properties of video DVD to {insertion action:open application, custom application:"/System/Lirabry/CoreServices/Front Row.app:"}

 -- RUN A SCRIPT
 set properties of picture CD to {insertion action:run a script, custom script:file "Mac OS X:Users:sal:Library:Scripts:Import Photo CD.scpt"}
 end tell
end tell


Desktop Preferences

By manipulating the scriptable Desktop Preferences, you can control how images are used as desktop backgrounds.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get the properties of the current desktop:
 

tell application "System Events"
 -- GET DESKTOP PICTURE SETTINGS
 tell current desktop
 get properties
 --> returns: {display name:"Color LCD", random order:false, pictures folder:file "Mac OS X:Library:Desktop Pictures:", picture rotation:0, class:desktop, change interval:60.0, picture:file "Mac OS X:Library:Desktop Pictures:Aqua Blue.jpg"}
 end tell
end tell

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to set the desktop to display a folder of images in random sequence:
 

tell application "System Events"
 -- RANDOM ROTATION OF A FOLDER OF IMAGES
 tell current desktop
 set picture rotation to 1 -- (0=off, 1=interval, 2=login, 3=sleep)
 set random order to true
 set pictures folder to file "Mac OS X:Library:Desktop Pictures:Plants:"
 set change interval to 5.0 -- seconds
 end tell
end tell

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to set teh desktop to display a specific picture:
 

tell application "System Events"
 -- SET DESKTOP TO SPECIFIC PICTURE
 tell current desktop
 set picture rotation to 0 -- (0=off, 1=interval, 2=login, 3=sleep)
 set picture to file "Mac OS X:Library:Desktop Pictures:Plants:Agave.jpg"
 end tell
end tell

Although scripting support is not integrated into the Screen Saver preference, you can use scripting to start the current Screen Saver:

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch the ScreenSaver
 

-- LAUNCH SCREENSAVER
try
 tell application id "com.apple.ScreenSaver.Engine" to launch
end try


Dock Preferences

You can use AppleScript to control the way the Dock appears in Mac OS X:

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get and set the properties of the Dock preferences.
 

tell application "System Events"
 tell dock preferences
 get properties
 --> returns: {minimize effect:genie, springing delay:1.0, dock size:0.428571432829, magnification:false, springing:false, location:bottom, class:dock preferences object, magnification size:1.0, animate:true, autohide:false}
 set properties to {minimize effect:scale, location:right, autohide:true, magnification:false, magnification size:0.5, dock size:1.0}
 end tell
end tell


Expose and Spaces Preferences

Using scripts, you can read and set the values of the Expose and Spaces parameters.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get and set the properties for Expose:
 

tell application "System Events"
 tell expose preferences
 -- SCREEN CORNERS (top right screen corner, bottom left screen corner, bottom right screen corner, top right screen corner)
 get the properties of the top right screen corner
 --> returns: {activity:show desktop, class:screen corner, modifiers:{}}
 set properties of the top right screen corner to {activity:show desktop, modifiers:{control, option}}

 -- EXPOSE SHORTCUTS
 get the properties of the all windows shortcut
 -- {class:shortcut, mouse button:4, function key:F9, function key modifiers:{}, mouse button modifiers:{}}
 get the properties of the application windows shortcut
 -- {class:shortcut, mouse button:0, function key:none, function key modifiers:{}, mouse button modifiers:{}}
 get the properties of the show desktop shortcut
 -- {class:shortcut, mouse button:0, function key:F11, function key modifiers:{}, mouse button modifiers:{}}

 -- DASHBOARD SHORTCUT
 get the properties of the dashboard shortcut
 -- {class:shortcut, mouse button:0, function key:none, function key modifiers:{}, mouse button modifiers:{}}

 -- SETTING A SHORTCUT
 set the properties of the application windows shortcut to {mouse button:3, function key:left control, function key modifiers:{none}, mouse button modifiers:{command}}
 end tell
end tell

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch Expose
 

-- LAUNCH EXPOSE
try
 tell application id "com.apple.exposelauncher" to launch
end try

You can use scripts to determine how Spaces is implemented.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationAn example script that enables Spaces and sets various parameters:
 

-- GET AND SET PROPERTIES
tell application "System Events"
 tell expose preferences
 tell spaces preferences
 set spaces enabled to true

 get properties
 -- {spaces enabled:true, spaces rows:1, arrow key modifiers:«class

 -- SET THE PROPERTIES AND APPLICATION ASSIGNMENTS
 set properties to {spaces rows:1, spaces columns:3}
 set application bindings to {|com.apple.Mail|:1, |com.apple.AddressBook|:1, |com.apple.Safari|:2, |com.apple.Xcode|:3}

 -- SET MODIFIERS OF SWITCHING KEYS
 properties of arrow key modifiers
 -- {class:spaces shortcut, key modifiers:{control}}
 set key modifiers of arrow key modifiers to {command}
 properties of numbers key modifiers
 -- {class:spaces shortcut, key modifiers:{control}}
 set key modifiers of numbers key modifiers to {command}
 end tell
 end tell
end tell

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch Spaces
 

-- LAUNCH SPACES
try
 tell application id "com.apple.spaceslauncher" to launch
end try


Network Preferences

Script the Network preferences is focused on getting and changing the current location setting:

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get network properties and the name of the installed set of locations, and how to change the current location:
 

tell application "System Events"
 tell network preferences
 get properties
 --> returns: {current location:location id "51BD3FB7-50D1-4859-9649-9138E7FF1ECA" of network preferences, class:network preferences object}
 get the name of every location
 --> returns: {"Automatic", "Sprint Card"}
 set current location to location "Automatic"
 end tell
end tell


Security Preferences

Basic security preferences can now be read and set with scripts.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script demonstrating how to get and set the basic computer security settings:
 

tell application "System Events"
 tell security preferences
 get properties
 --> returns: {require password to wake:false, class:security preferences object, secure virtual memory:false, require password to unlock:false, automatic login:false, log out when inactive:false, log out when inactive interval:60}
 set properties to {require password to wake:false, secure virtual memory:false, require password to unlock:false, automatic login:false, log out when inactive:false, log out when inactive interval:60}
 end tell
end tell


Launching Spaces, Expose, Dashboard, and the Screen Saver

In Leopard, you can use scripts to launch Spaces, Expose, Dashboard, or the current screen saver.

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch Spaces
 

-- LAUNCH SPACES
try
 tell application id "com.apple.spaceslauncher" to launch
end try

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch Expose
 

-- LAUNCH EXPOSE
try
 tell application id "com.apple.exposelauncher" to launch
end try

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch Dashboard
 

-- LAUNCH DASHBOARD
try
 tell application id "com.apple.dashboardlauncher" to launch
end try

Click to open example in the Script Editor applicationA script to launch the ScreenSaver
 

-- LAUNCH SCREENSAVER
try
 tell application id "com.apple.ScreenSaver.Engine" to launch
end try

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