AppleScript, Numbers, and receipts

You have, no doubt, already seen Shawn Blanc’s receipt organizing AppleScript. He takes photos of his receipts with his iPhone and uploads them to Dropbox.1 This triggers an AppleScript folder action that puts the receipt photos into Yojimbo with appropriate tags.

Because I don’t use Yojimbo, I can’t use the script, but it did get me thinking about how I might improve the receipt-handling workflow I started using a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been using JotNot Scanner Pro on my iPhone to take, straighten, and enhance photos of receipts and email them to me. When I’m back in the office, I drag the photos onto an expense report template in Numbers. That makes my expense reports self-documenting—no need to staple receipts to them and they’re already in a form that can be emailed to those clients who need to review them before approving payment.

What would be nice, I thought, would be if my receipt photos would automatically insert themselves into the expense report spreadsheet. JotNot can upload photos to Dropbox, too. Unfortunately, the version of Numbers I have, ’08, doesn’t support AppleScripting. Numbers ’09 does have an AppleScript dictionary, but

  1. I don’t want to buy an application that’s three years old and almost certainly going to be updated shortly.2
  2. I’ve seen screenshots of the Numbers ’09 dictionary, and it doesn’t look like an insert command was included. So even if I were inclined to upgrade to Numbers ’09, it wouldn’t do what I want.

Which is a shame. Apple’s blown hot and cold on AppleScript over the years, and we’re currently in the middle of an Alberta Clipper. Sandboxing threatens all kinds of Mac automation tools,3 and it’s simply not clear what sorts of inter-application scripting, if any, will be allowed in the brave new iOSified world we’re heading toward.

You might well argue—and Apple seems to be arguing through its actions—that because the great majority of Mac users will never use automation, it should be cut from the system in the name of simplicity and security. I would argue that the minority of users who do write scripts and Automator workflows are Apple’s unpaid proselytizers, spreading the Good News to the unwashed and helping to inspire many people to switch from Windows. Pissing them off isn’t going to do any good for Apple.

In the meantime, I’ll bookmark Shawn’s clever idea in Pinboard and hope that Numbers ’12—with decent support for inserting graphics—is in the offing.

  1. Actually, the uploading is done automatically by his phone app, QuickShot

  2. Please? 

  3. David Sparks has a typically lucid post on sandboxing today.