Daily Archives: 2021-12-04

Coding for non-programmers: Why we need better GUI automation tools

Source: Hacker News

Article note: I harp on this a lot. Simple, user-empowering languages (shell scripts, batch files, excel abuse, etc.) are absolutely essential to computers empowering users instead of coercing them. Part of the delight of command lines is that the manual and automated interface modes are homomorphic. There's barely a model for _how_ to do something like that in a GUI, and outside of a handful of Smalltalk and Lisp environments that at least have the ability to view and edit source of running GUI systems, there aren't many serious efforts. As the article notes, Apple has made a few increasingly-limited efforts that all slowly faded, plus there was ARExx for the Amiga and some marginally abusive uses of VB. In most environments it's pretty effort-intensive for programmers/designers to expose GUI controls in a programmatic way (as opposed to trying to automate direct manipulation, eg. xdotool), and the commercial incentives are mostly _against_ doing it; you can't force the user to use your thing in the way you would prefer with algorithmic coercion and ads if they can programmatically alter it. You can't rentseek off of automation features if they're baked in. Etc.
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