Will AppleScript and Automator eventually be replaced with Shortcuts on the Mac?

So we know that:

  • AppleScript has faced little to no documentation, development and support in years.
  • Core apps in Big Sur like Messages and Maps are missing AppleScript dictionaries (which makes sense because they’ve basically been replaced with iOS code and implemented with Catalyst.)
  • Apple clearly seems to be moving towards unifying the platforms as evidenced by many mac apps being replaced with Catalyst apps, and the move to Apple Silicone on mac.

This gets me thinking that:

  • Sooner or later Apple will replace most core Mac Apps with Catalyst apps. This gives them more unity for user experience and it gives them less code to maintain.
  • It seems almost inevitable that any Catalyst app will not support AppleScript. Catalyst apps are basically complete replacements for original Mac apps. That would require them to completely rewrite the AppleScript implementation and there is basically no incentive for them to do that.
  • Most likely most mac apps will lose support for AppleScript as they switch over to Catalyst.

Another interesting thing I noticed: Workflow (which is now Shortcuts) was acquired by Apple not long after Sal was removed. Is Apple going to eventually replace AppleScript and Automator with Shortcuts on the Mac?

Advantages for Apple if they are doing this:

  • Shortcuts is designed to integrate with Siri which would make automation more user friendly.
  • If Shortcuts is on the mac, then they have one unified automation platform across all their platforms all powered by Siri.
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One thing I’m curious about this is that if the upcoming Apple Silicon macs can install iOS apps, then it should mean that Shortcuts would then be available on those Macs. Unless Apple places some sort restriction.

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With full support for Javascript on both OS’s I would LOVE to see shortcuts come to the mac! It would be awesome to create automation that works on any device no matter the type!

Applescript and automator are still useful, but feel ancient. And for Apple it would make sense to develop 1 automation system instead of 3


One thing I’m curious about this is that if the upcoming Apple Silicon macs can install iOS apps

I mean they already showed Big Sur running native iOS code in the WWDC keynote. That’s proof enough for me. My guess is that they won’t just bring over all iOS apps to run on macOS but instead they’ll let developers decide if they want their iOS apps available on macOS. Why do I think this?:

  1. They’ve already adopted this approach for Catalyst apps
  2. Apple doesn’t want iOS apps to be running on macOS without any change because it will be a bad user experience. Instead I think they want to offer developers a few options, 1)Don’t port to macOS at all, 2)Run an iOS app natively with minimal code to optimize the UI for macOS, 3)Run an iOS app natively with full UI integration thru Catalyst. (Catalyst isn’t their yet, but I definitely think this is their goal long-term.)

they’ll let developers decide if they want their iOS apps available on macOS

Yes, this is confirmed. I heard it on one of the interviews, I can’t remember which one at the moment.

I don’t see why support for Applescript would go away. It’s not necessary and would break people, productivity wise.

(No, I don’t like Applescript much.)

I agree that it’s not necessary to get rid of AppleScript (and this is the reason why we still have AppleScript even though Apple barely supports it all these years later.) However, iOS and iPadOS have no support for AppleScript, and Apple is clearly heading in a trend of switching many apps over to Catalyst (and strongly encouraging 3rd party apps to do the same). As far as I understand, there is no way for a Catalyst app to support AppleScript, at least not without a ton of rewriting. Catalyst apps are iPadOS apps skinned for macOS.

As far as I know every Apple macOS app that switched over to Catalyst lost AppleScript support, and I highly doubt that that trend is going to stop.

I am 100% with you. As a daily AppleScript user, I am VERY worried about the future of AppleScript. I’m hoping later this summer there will be an episode on the importance of AppleScript because it is a very powerful feature that, at least so far is not even close to being matched by Shortcuts actions and it seems like both hosts use ApplesScript a lot as well and it seems to be being neglected inside Apple so hopefully an episode will remind those inside Apple who listen the importance of Scriptability. I am not hoping for any huge advancements from Apple but as long as backwards compatibility is maintained for existing actions I will be satisfied.

In Big Sur, all the Messages actions are gone which I’m just hoping was an oversight in the first build (haven’t spoken with anyone on B2 yet). Steve Troughton-Smith did some work and we know Catalyst apps can support AppleScript so I see no reason why Messages and other apps wouldn’t support it. (I’d even argue that a good Mac app requires AppleScript support and wouldn’t mind paying more for it.)

As for its, likely inevitable replacement Shortcuts, it is not even close to powerful enough for me and my needs. The actions I use aren’t even close to any of them that exist on iOS.

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Remember the iWork relaunch? No script support
at first, but it came back.

see https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5472161?page=5

at Oct 26, 2013 8:14 AM

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I would hope that the “unifying platform” that we expect Mac to become will have a common automation engine. (And it’s probably going to be Shortcuts and maybe JXA.)

And, yes, I fear Applescript will fade - even if I don’t like the language. “Fear” because of legacy automations - not so much for me but for other users.

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That’s true but what I fear is that that was a different time and things may be different this time around. Plus last year, none of the new apps got AppleScript support, while that is kind of a different case (those were new apps and aren’t really power-user focused), let’s just hope the result isn’t the same.

@AAALLL That’s great news to hear. I did not know that Catalyst apps can support AppleScript. Still the fact that Apple did not have AppleScript in the first build tells me that Catalyst does not have “built-in” AppleScript support. Which means it does not come in automatically. They will have to devote engineers and resources into reimplementing AppleScript which they see as an old feature for a niche audience. Even if Apple devotes the engineers to reimplement AppleScript into apps, if Apple doesn’t do it initially, then inevitably third parties will adopt it even less. Especially indie third party developers who don’t have the money to devote to it. A small handful of automation friendly developers will do it but the majority won’t.

@DandyLyons I agree with you that most apps won’t support AppleScript, thats never been the case but also most apps don’t need AppleScript support. The apps that need AppleScript are those targeted at power users or those that can substantially benefit from AppleScript support (think an app thats basic but can add power user functions like Pages).

Also, I don’t believe AppleScript was ever automatic, developers always had to intentionally add actions so its no different than previously.

I’m worried that Shortcuts will only be available for ARM macs. That’s the one thing that saddens me, new MBP 16" won’t be able to use iPhone and iPad apps unless the developer optimizes for mac or something. I’m not quite sure I understand it correctly but yeah. :sweat_smile:

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I’ll aver the world has got a more reckless place. I don’t think Apple would be reckless in this regard.

On the contrary, I would think the modern world being entirely ARM-based would be a good encouragement for users and developers to make the transition.

I like the fact that it will probably disappear and I don’t like it. It depends on how they decide to implement it, the power of AppleScript is that you can control any element of the UI. Perhaps they will solve it differently…

I’m not sure Applescript is what the future aim should be.
My hope is that Apple decides on a way forward for automation for the platform.
I’m using the singular as I think we’re near a future where Apple devices run a flavour of AppleOS that is differentiated only by the device it is running on.

I rely on Applescript for a lot of automation as well, but if Apple continues to support Javascript, as I think they now do on all platforms, I do not have a problem with transitioning my automation to JS.

I already do most automation on iOS in shortcuts and scriptable anyway, and would applaud a move to introduce the same flexibility on the mac.
Given the low entry point and options already available in shortcuts I think it would expand the automation userbase, and make it that much harder for Apple to ignore (power) users.

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JXA seems a more likely technology to unify across iOS and Mac. And therefore more likely to script the UIs (plural).

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I am on board with a switch to JXA, I don’t use AppleScript because I like the language (it’s difficult to read, etc), I use it for the power that it provides. I’d assume many other are the same way.

If there was a replacement, as long as it’s just as powerful or almost as powerful, I am fully on board. My only objection with Shortcuts is I don’t see how the current implementation could reach that level of power.