iCalTV 0.7 released, and an AppleScript date object gotcha

Written . Tagged AppleScript, OS X.

Squashed a bug in iCalTV and bumped the version number to 0.7.

Download version 0.7 (276 KB).

The bug was an interesting example of the fact that computers do what you say, not what you mean.

Creating date objects with AppleScript

iCalTV inserts events into iCal by generating and running an AppleScript. In the script, each event is constructed and then inserted into the proper calendar. Each event has a start date and an end date, where “date” includes time of day.

As far as I know, there is no pleasant way of creating date objects (or of doing anything else :>) in AppleScript. AppleScript would prefer for you to create them from a localized string – Script Editor will replace

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set myDate to date "2007-01-31 22:00"

with

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set myDate to date "onsdag 31 januari 2007 22:00:0"

for me, with a Swedish-ish date locale, when I run a script.

In fact, you must (according to AppleScript: The Definitive Guide) specify dates in one of the formats defined in your International preferences. So the way you create date objects isn’t necessarily portable to another account. Joy.

A way around this is to modify a date property by property. That is what iCalTV does. It creates a date object by the time of day alone, which results in an object representing that time today. (Probably using 24-hour time isn’t portable either, but that’s where I draw the line.) Then I modify the year, month and day property by property.

This is how the iCalTV-generated AppleScript would create a date object for tomorrow, February 1 2007, at 21:00:

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set myDate to date "21:00"
set year of myDate to 2007
set month of myDate to 2
set day of myDate to 1

Dates gone bad

I noticed that the iCal Events Widget wasn’t displaying any reminders for the next couple of days, even though I knew there should be a few. Tracing through my code, I eventually found that the reminders were being set, but they were off by one. Month. My February 1 reminders were scheduled for March 1.

I played around in Script Editor. Setting the date properties like that would indeed create a March date. I ruled out zero-indexing (month 0 corresponding to January, 1 to February and so on) by testing. Setting the month to 1 would create a January date.

The solution

Eventually the cause of the bug became clear, and it was this. The date object was constructed as 21:00 today, January 31. The year was set to 2007, which in this case did not in fact change anything. The month was set to 2. This is where my intuition and programming logic diverged. Since there is no 31st of February, the modified date object was March 3. Changing the day of the month to 1 then turns it into March 1.

The simple solution was to set the day property before setting the month property. So this works as expected:

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set myDate to date "21:00"
set year of myDate to 2007
set day of myDate to 1
set month of myDate to 2

I can’t think of any similar calendrical quirks that would require me to specify the year last, especially since leap days are separated from turns of the year by a couple of months on either side. Schedules aren’t available to iCalTV more than about two weeks ahead of time, to my knowledge, and it defaults to a far smaller lookahead. If there is such an event, though, it’d be an interesting acquaintance, so I’ll leave the order of properties like this and see what happens.