Another month another side project.
TL;DR - I created an Alfred extension in Ruby, it’s easy you can fork my base to create your own.
If you just want the Spotify finder extension download it
I love Alfred,
It’s a great tool - I use it for tons of different stuff: Running programs, controlling my music, basic math and as a file manager. A couple of months back we wrote a small extension at work that talks to Flobot our bot that manages the TVs in the dev rooms so you can command it from Alfred. It was a nice experience but I didn’t get the chance to do anything else since then.
Yesterday someone approached me at work and asked me if there’s a way to control the Spotify player from Alfred. I showed him the extension that’s hosted on the Alfred site. He thanked me, but then asked if theres a way to actually play a specific song - I liked that idea and couldn’t find any extension that does, So I wrote one.
I knew that what I wanted to build was a simple extension that receives a track name in the Alfred query and just plays or queues it into your Spotify app, simple.
play [track name]
I started by checking the Spotify API and quickly found that they have a really nice API for searching for tracks and that it responds with something called a Spotify URI which is a unique identifier for a track, album or artist ALA spotify:track:6ZWn1MVUaBH2HNQobhMYeE
I went on to see what ways I have to control the Spotify player, I found that it supports some very basic commands in AppleScript and that one of those commands is a play command that receives a spotify URL and plays it.
There was also something called Libspotify but it was a lot more complex to set up and wouldn’t be relavent in an Alfred extension.
So after testing both API’s seperatly I started working on integrating them. I checked if there was an easy way to send a http request from the AppleScript so I could just query Spotify from the same script that controls the player I couldn’t find an easy way to so I decided to try and write the script in Ruby.
I wrote a small Ruby script that takes a search query as the program argument, send a http request to the Spotify API and parses the first track URL from it. I then found the supported command to run an AppleScript from the command line and using Tempfiles integrated both parts.
I now had a script that searched for a query, got the URI, created a temporary AppleScript that when run using the
osascript command plays the track that was found.
The only thing left was to package it into an Alfred extension.
I wanted my extension installation to be as simple as possible, Alfred extension are always really easy double-click installs and I didn’t want the fact that I used Ruby to make it any worse.
I found a cool extension that also ran Ruby - the conversion extension script and decided I liked the way they got around this issue - They created a temporary ruby file with the contents of the script, ran it and then removed it.
So I started working on a shell script that unloads my script into a tmp ruby file, runs it and deletes it.
To make that shell script I wrote a third ruby script
wrap.rb that will help me in development - what it does is take a ruby script and create a shell script from that that when run reopens the ruby file and etc.
I started writing code that read a Ruby script and tries to compress it into a single line without quotes until I figured out I’m heading towards the wrong solution.
I found that I can use a HEREDOC to write a multiline string into a file in the shell :)
> cat FILENAME <<EOF this is SPARTA! EOF
So my wrapper script is real simple, it just reads the content of the original script
run.rb and wraps it in 5 lines of shell that create a tmp file, dump the content into the tmp file, run it using
/usr/bin/env ruby $filename and then delete it - that’s it.
To “build” the extension all I have to do is run the
wrap.rb file it converts the
run.rb file into an
extension.sh file which I use to create an Alfred extension.
The only caveat is that I assume Ruby installed on the system which is builtin in the latest OSXs and I don’t rely on installed gems.
The script is easily replaceable and I can use this system to write more Ruby Alfred extension - and you can to. Just check out the GitHub repo.
PS. 10 Bonus points if you checked what song I embeded earlier when talking about the Spotify API