Understanding Mac scripting can make managing your company’s Apple-based mobile devices easier. Learn the basics of scripting and see samples to better understand how this instruction system operates. You can create basic commands or better comprehend how your IT staff works with Mac scripting. Find out more below, including the basics of scripting for Apple devices and what these can do with mobile device management (MDM) systems.
What Is a Script?
Before you can use scripts for a mobile device management system, you should understand what they are, what they can do and what they cannot do.
When interacting with Apple’s Terminal, you typically type in individual commands. Each command directs the computer to do a single thing. However, creating multiple commands every time you want to perform a multistep task is tedious and time-consuming. This situation is where scripts come in handy.
A script works as a small program for the computer. It gathers multiple commands in one file and sends the computer to that file to execute the task. The primary benefit of using scripts is that it saves time by reducing the separate commands that you need to type into Apple Terminal or actions you must perform. Scripts direct the computer to execute one or more commands within the text file the script refers to.
Scripts work best for small, routine procedures that you want to automate — a job that you would otherwise need to perform through multiple actions happens with a single click when using a script. Creating a script does take time upfront, but it will save you a great deal when you use it to reduce the work required to make the computer perform a series of tasks. However, don’t confuse a script for a full computer program, as scripts are simple and best used for performing basic functions.
With scripting and a mobile device management system, you can quickly conduct several tasks on a group of devices.
What Scripts Can Help You Do
Scripts have three main benefits for those who use them, allowing users to execute complicated tasks in a way that’s quick, easy and accurate.
First, scripts make the job of doing several tasks faster. Because the script combines multiple commands into a single file, it automates their execution. This application makes using scripts much faster than doing the job manually with individual tasks. When applied to mobile management, scripts let you direct all mobile devices in your company’s management system to access a single program. Therefore, you only need to execute the script from the MDM system instead of manually accessing the program from every single device.
Another benefit of scripts is their accuracy. Typing in multiple commands several times will inevitably lead to an error somewhere along the way. The more times the task needs repeating, the greater the chances of mistakes from manual input. However, a script executes the exact same tasks every time without the risk of human input error. As long as the script is created correctly, it will continue to perform the same work every time the computer uses it.
Lastly, scripts are easy. Even if you need to execute a very complex series of tasks, you can use multiple scripts to reduce your overall effort. The scripts break down jobs into manageable pieces, making them an easier option than trying to manually enter multiple commands or interact with several devices. When combining the power of scripts with an MDM system, you make controlling all your Apple work devices almost effortless from a single interaction.
How to Use Scripts With a Mobile Device Management System
As useful as scripts are on their own, pairing their use with a mobile device management system opens new timesaving opportunities. The combination of scripts and MDM reduces time wasted in setting up all the Apple devices your company uses. You can control the setup of every device from a single point with scripts run through the MDM system. Specific applications for the use of scripts depend on the type of MDM software you use. However, there are innumerable timesaving benefits to using any MDM with Mac scripts.
For instance, with an Apple MDM system and scripts, you’ll be able to configure all the devices your company uses at once. You can specify apps to install, network settings, system settings to enable, restrictions and filters on the devices to optimize them for your company’s needs.
By using the various types of scripts, you can direct the MDM to customize the installation of apps on your company devices. Understanding these types of scripts and how to leverage them to optimize installation is the next step in boosting the benefits you get from an MDM system.
Types of Scripts
When using MDM solutions to customize your company’s devices, you need to know how to use the various types of scripts as effectively as possible. These scripts are ideal when you need to configure apps on devices or perform various tasks prior to installation. Pre-install, post-install and custom scripts let you direct what the devices do with an app at various points of the installation process.
First, you have the option to create pre-install scripts for apps that you install through MDM. These scripts let you perform cleanup on devices to free space for new apps. Cleanup tasks may include removing old versions of apps, removing licenses for unused apps, clearing caches and freeing space in databases.
Another task frequently assigned to a script is configuring mass installations of apps from the MDM. The script can direct the program to look for a file that will configure the app during installation. This use of scripts speeds the setup process of apps that require pre-installation changes.
You can also create configuration scripts to run after initial installation but before the software is launched. One example of this type of configuration is setting up user preferences and opting for automated updates for the software. Combined with an MDM system, these types of scripts reduce the post-installation time needed for workers to start using the new apps to a few minutes. Post-install scripts provide more control and faster deployment of new apps on devices.
Customized scripts are also important for conducting tasks that don’t fit neatly into pre-install or post-install categories. These types of scripts can run continuously or only once and include any type of script that your macOS supports.
When implementing any type of script, always test it in a virtual environment to ensure it will work as expected. You could do irreparable damage if you run an untested script directly from Apple Terminal.
Scripting requires practice and learning new commands and information. Like a programming language, scripting has rules that dictate what specific commands do. To fully understand the process, start with the basic definitions of terminal commands, shell scripts and examples of those scripts before writing or running any files of your own.
What Is a Terminal Command?
First, you must understand the most basic aspect of scripting, which is a terminal command. Apple Terminal is the program Mac devices use as a command line interface (CLI) program. This is a system that advanced device users can work with to create specific commands to send to the device.
You should only use the Terminal if you feel well-practiced in using commands and scripts, and be sure to test any new commands or scripts you intend to use in Terminal using a virtual machine first. This cautionary practice ensures that your commands and scripts work without putting your actual Apple device at risk.
Typing individual commands into the Terminal sends the directions to the system’s shell, which relays them to the computer in a format the system can understand. Each command directs a single action. Therefore, if you need to execute several actions or complex tasks, you need a script.
What Is a Shell?
The shell is an important midpoint between the Terminal and the operating system. When you type commands in English into the Terminal, those commands don’t directly go to the OS because the computer cannot understand them. It needs the commands translated or interpreted into a form it can comprehend. This interpretation is the job of the shell.
The shell is like a translator for your Terminal in that it converts your commands into operating language so the computer can execute the tasks. For devices that run on macOS, that language is UNIX. When creating scripts, you also communicate with the shell, hence the name shell scripts.
The default shell used by macOS depends on the specific generation of operating system you have. Apple uses two types of shells for its devices — Z-shell (zsh) and Bourne-again shell (bash). Catalina and later editions of macOS use zsh as the default while Mohave and earlier default to bash. Despite the change in default, bash remains the most commonly used among IT professionals. For systems that default to zsh, you can readily switch it to use bash.
What Are Mac Shell Scripts?
Mac shell scripts reduce the number of commands that you have to enter into the Terminal to complete a task. With a shell script, you don’t have to directly interact with the system multiple times — just set the script to run, and the system will execute the tasks you give it.
A shell script consists of a text file with all the commands in UNIX needed for the operating system to conduct the provided tasks. Any commands that you could put into Terminal, you can execute with scripts. As noted, using shell scripts instead of commands reduces your effort and time required, especially when using them with MDM to make changes to multiple devices at once.
Mac Shell Script Example
Mac shell scripts always start with the character pair of #!. This combination of characters is known as shebang and indicates that you are referencing a shell script. If you want the screen to display the text, “Greetings, Humans!” your shell script would be:
echo “Greetings, Humans!”
The #! indicates that you are referencing a shell script. The bin/bash refers to the interpreter used, or the shell, with bash indicating the shell used to run the command. Other types of shells within the Bourne-compatible group include sh, zsh and ksh. In fact, bash is an extension of the sh shell. The term echo indicates that the following words will show up on the screen.
By adding variables and requirements for executing certain actions, you turn basic, single steps into automated, complex series of tasks that best fit the use of shell scripts.
How to Run a Shell Script on a Mac Terminal
To run a bash script on Mac devices, you need to learn the basic commands and how to combine them into a script. Just like you would use a database program for creating data files, you should use a script editor to create shell scripts. You can readily find free script editors to work with online.
In the Terminal, you will want to indicate that you are referencing your script with the shebang combination and point the system to the bash shell. Therefore, your first line should be:
Next, use a script editor to create a series of commands. Save the file with the file extension “.bash”, being sure to place a period before the extension. You must use the correct extension, or your file will become lost in the system. For example, you can save this file as practice.bash. Also, note the location of the file within the overall directory. One simple way to start is saving it in a “MyScripts” folder on your Desktop so you can find your practice scripts from the Terminal.
Once you’ve created and saved the script, use a virtual testing environment and enter the chmod command to execute the script as a program. Since the file is located in the MyScripts folder on the Desktop, you would type the following in the Terminal to tell the system to run the script:
Chmod +x ~/Desktop/MyScripts/practice.bash
Hit enter after typing the above command into the Terminal and the system will do the rest.
Contact Pickorchard for Help With Mobile Device Management
The above only introduces the basics of creating and running scripts. There are many things you can accomplish with this capability, and you should take time to explore your options and the things that scripts can do. Practice what you learn with script editors and virtual machines until you feel confident that your scripts will run correctly and you can run them in the Terminal.
To make the process of using Mac scripting easier for mobile device management, choose Pickorchard. Our team will help you prepare your Apple mobile devices for your employees. We provide solutions that enhance the security of your employees’ devices, optimize their usability for your business and keep your systems updated. With our over-the-air solution, you can prepare all your employees’ devices for deployment without needing to interact with each one directly.
Find out more about how Pickorchard can help your business manage your Apple mobile devices. Request a quote for our mobile device management services today.