Caius Theory

Now with even more cowbell…

Add to iCloud Reading List programmatically

One piece of a larger puzzle I'm trying to solve currently, was how to add a given URL to my Apple "Reading List" that is stored in iCloud and synced across all my OS X and iOS devices. More specifically, I wanted to add URLs to the list from my mac running Mavericks (10.9). I had a quick look at the Cocoa APIs and couldn't see anything in OS X to do this. (iOS has an API to do it from Cocoa-land it seems though.)

I figured Safari.app was the key to getting this done on OS X, given it has the ability itself to add the current page to the reading list, either via a keyboard command, a menu item, or a button in the address bar. One quick mental leap later, and I was wondering if the engineers at Apple had been nice enough to expose that via Applescript for me to take advantage of.

One quick stop in "Script Editor.app" later, and I had the Applescript dictionary open for Safari.app. Lo and behold, there is rather handily an Applescript command called "add reading list item", which does exactly what I want. It has a few different options you can call it with, depending on whether you want Safari to go populate the title & preview text, or if you want to specify it yourself at save-time.

As I want to be able to call this from multiple runtimes, I've chosen to save it as an executable, which leans on osascript to run the actual Applescript. And here it is:

#!/usr/bin/env osascript

on run argv
    if (count of argv) > 0
        tell app "Safari" to add reading list item (item 1 of argv as text)
    end if
end run

Save it as whatever you want (eg. add_to_reading_list), make it executable (chmod +x add_to_reading_list), and then run it with the URL you want saving as the first argument.

$ add_to_reading_list "http://caius.name/"
$ add_to_reading_list "http://google.com/"
# … etc …

(Adding support for specifying preview text and title is left as an exercise for the reader!)

Have fun reading later!

Read Later in a keystroke

I use a wonderful service for saving text to be read later, instapaper.com. It's gotten more wonderful as time has gone on and other applications/service's have gained the ability to save links/articles/webpages there for me to pick up later.

For instance, I'm out and about checking twitter on my iPhone using tweetie and someone tweets a link. Rather than wait for it to load and having to read it then and there I can just hit "Read Later" and it's saved in my instapaper account for me to read as and when I choose to. Recently the legendary mac feed reader NetNewsWire gained this ability too.

There's a few ways to send a feed item to instapaper from within NNW. Firstly you can right-click and click "Send to Instapaper".

Send to Instapaper from contextual menu
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Secondly there's a menu item for it in the News menu, which also provides my chosen way of instapapering an item—the keyboard shortcut! ⌃P (control-P).

Send to Instapaper from News menu
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So, in NNW I'm happily sending stuff to instapaper with the handy ⌃P shortcut, but that doesn't exist in the third place I mark things to read later–Safari! Up until now I've been using the standard "Read Later" bookmarklet that instapaper.com provides, and it's got a spot on my Bookmarks Bar so I can easily click it.

That doesn't really help with the fact I'm hitting ⌃P in NNW, and it doesn't work in Safari. Quite often I noticed myself hitting the key combination in Safari and wondering for a split second why it wasn't sending the item to instapaper. Then the solution hit me!

In OS X you can setup (and/or override) menu items with custom key combinations! Why hadn't I remembered this before. Because the "Read Later" bookmark(let) is nested under the Bookmarks menu, it is a menu item! A quick trip into the Keyboards Prefpane in System Preferences and a new binding later and voilâ, "Read Later" in Safari is bound to ⌃P and I can use it in both Safari and NNW.

Filling in the form to bind the keyboard shortcut
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Quantum Javascript Bug

So I've got some js I've written to update a couple of <select> lists in a form, and it was all working fine for me (under Safari.) John happened to mention it wasn't working for him under Firefox, so I fired up Firefox and took a look. Could reproduce it perfectly, changing the first popup was populating the second one, but then wasn't selecting the right value from the list.

Having no idea what was happened I figured I'd enable firebug and watch it execute to figure out what was happening. Enabled firebug, reloaded the page, selected from the first popup… and voila! It updated the second one and selected the correct row! WTF!!!

Turned firebug off and it didn't work, turned it back on and it worked. Figured it might be something buggy in the Firefox 3.0.5 js runtime, so I grabbed a copy of the new beta 3.5 and tried it in there—still failed to update the page as it should.

Then started poking around the javascript code, the function that was seemingly failing to run was being triggered by a setTimeout() call set to 1 second. We figured it might be the timing causing it, so started playing around with the time, tried anything from ½ a second up to 4 seconds but still no joy in firefox with firebug turned off.

Then John went looking for the javascript errors in firefox (with firebug off) and discovered that it was throwing an error because window.console didn't exist. All of a sudden it made perfect sense! Safari has window.console.log() for writing to the console log, as does firebug. But of course firefox without firebug doesn't!

So the function was just exiting on that error. It was very weird initially to have it work perfectly as soon as the developer tools were enabled!