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Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger in depth

Part two: Automator, AppleScript, iSync, iCal and Address Book

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iSync

Automator and Script Editor will happily exist in Applications folder sub-folders. Before 10.4, System Preferences had to sit in the main folder, to the annoyance of folk like me who prefer to organise their applications in separate sub-folders by type. In the new Finder-free world of Spotlight, such organisation is unnecessary - seek and ye shall find, no matter how cluttered your Applications folder. Apple has fixed System Preferences, but broken iSync and the various Bluetooth utilities. iSync now has to go at the top level of the Applications folder or syncing breaks, even when you double-click on it. Move Bluetooth Serial Utility, Bluetooth File Exchange or Bluetooth Setup Assistant from the Utilities folder and you won't be able to run then from the Bluetooth menu icon, if you've chosen to make it appear. They do work if you double-click on them, however.

For me, iSync and Bluetooth are integral - I use both to synchronise my Nokia 6600 with both iCal and Address Book. It works now, but it took some fiddling to get it right. I'd advise breaking previously set up pairings and starting from scratch, though my set-up was confused slightly by the use of two separate handsets. Bluetooth seems less able to cope with different devices doing the same thing (not simultaneously, I hasten to add), so if you access phone A from Address Book to dial a number, it's not easy to get Address Book to subsequently dial a number through phone B.

iSync now installs a controller app on the device - at least on Symbian handsets - and the code itself is more tightly integrated into Mac OS X. Apple claims synchronisation is faster as a result, and it certainly felt a little quicker, though without exact before and after timings it's difficult to be certain. Palm synchronisation was slower, however, because iSync defaults to its Force Slow Synchronisation for some reason.

Personal Information Management

Apple Mac OS X 10.4 TigeriSync remains primarily a PIM tool, tying devices into the data maintained by Mac OS X's Address Book and iCal apps. Apple clearly wants to protect iPod, so you can see why there's no iTunes playlist synchronisation, but it's about time that photos and documents were supported. DataViz will no doubt sort out the latter when it ships a version of DocumentsToGo for Series 60 - there's already a version for UIQ handsets like the Sony Ericsson P910i, and Palm OS machines are well supported.

iCal and Address Book are among the apps best supported by Automator. It was a doddle to create a Workflow that summarises the coming week's diary entries and speaks them out loud. It's this ability to string together tasks that makes Automator interesting, rather than its ability to automate repetitive processes. As I say, it really needs more building blocks, though. iSync is scriptable, but where's the Automator action to trigger it?

Address Book gets the Smart Folder treatment in 10.4, though here they're called Smart Groups, matching all your contact entries against a set of criteria. The app's printing options have been enhanced with a rather neat envelope printing option, and what Apple calls a Pocket Address Book, though if you've any more contacts than a dozen or so, you'll end up folding a lot of pages to make it pocket size.

iCal lacks Smart Calendars, which would have been a handy way of, say, listing all the upcoming meetings you have with a specific company or contact. But Calendars can now be grouped to keep related diaries together. You've been able to back-up your Address Book database for some time, and you can now do the same thing with iCal. ®

To be continued...

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