Accessing Accessibility Objects with Hammerspoon
Objective-C Lua Makefile C
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NOTE: Version 0.7alpha contains initial support for observers; it should be considered very experimental. Some modifications were also made to the core module to facilitate the observers, but the changes shouldn't affect the existing syntax or functionality -- if you think that it has, please revert to version 0.6.1 to verify and submit a bug report with the details.

This is still very much a work in progress, and whether or not it makes it into Hammerspoon core in its current form is still undecided. However, as there has been some interest expressed in the module, I have finally gotten around to cleaning it up some and creating a reference document for it.

I am leaving the rest of the file as is for now, while I determine which examples are worth keeping and decide on a proper way to show what I have figured out, what I haven't, what still needs to be done, etc...

A precompiled version of this module can be found in this directory with a name along the lines of axuielement-v0.x.tar.gz. This can be installed by downloading the file and then expanding it as follows:

$ cd ~/.hammerspoon # or wherever your Hammerspoon init.lua file is located
$ tar -xzf ~/Downloads/axuielement-v0.x.tar.gz # or wherever your downloads are located

If you wish to build this module yourself, and have XCode installed on your Mac, the best way (you are welcome to clone the entire repository if you like, but no promises on the current state of anything) is to download init.lua, internal.m, common.m, common.h, observer.m, and Makefile (at present, nothing else is required) into a directory named "axuielement" and then do the following:

$ cd wherever-you-downloaded-the-files
$ [HS_APPLICATION=/Applications] [PREFIX=~/.hammerspoon] make install

If your Hammerspoon application is located in /Applications, you can leave out the HS_APPLICATION environment variable, and if your Hammerspoon files are located in their default location, you can leave out the PREFIX environment variable. For most people it will be sufficient to just type make install.

As always, whichever method you chose, if you are updating from an earlier version it is recommended to fully quit and restart Hammerspoon after installing this module to ensure that the latest version of the module is loaded into memory.

Newer Examples

These will probably move to the examples folder at some point, but since they have been mentioned in Hammerspoon GitHub issues, I want to put them in here as well so that I can easily find them again if I need to...

Activate Dock item by position in Dock #953
ax = require("hs._asm.axuielement")
d = hs.application("Dock")
iconNumber = 1 -- position in the dock, starting with 1 being the furthest left item
icon = ax.applicationElement(d)[1][iconNumber]
if icon:roleDescription() == "application dock item" then
    print ("not an application")
Dock Item context menu #887
ax = require"hs._asm.axuielement"
SPDockItem = ax.applicationElement(hs.application("Dock")):elementSearch{title="System Preferences"}[1]
Toggle Dictation Commands window when Dictation is enabled, used in my personal setup
-- get all of the Dictation windows with buttons
local dictationWindows = hs.fnutils.ifilter(hs.window.allWindows(), function(_)
    return _:role() == "AXButton" and _:application():name() == "Dictation"

-- if there is only one, it's the "Show" button of the hovering microphone
-- otherwise, look for the window with a Close button
target = (#dictationWindows == 1) and dictationWindows[1]
             or hs.fnutils.find(dictationWindows, function(_) return _:subrole() == "AXCloseButton" end)

-- whichever we got, "press" it
ax = require("hs._asm.axuielement")

Previous Documentation, untouched (for now)

Note to self: need to look closer at hs.uielement and see if there is any way to merge/combine... initial review seemed to suggest approaches are too widely divergent, but that was before I had a handle, tentative though it may still be, on what exactly was going on with AXUIElement objects.

Playing around with AXUIElements in Hammerspoon...

Don't know if this will become a module or not; its mainly for playing around right now.

Some interesting things of note:

ax = require("hs._asm.axuielement")

2016-01-09 additions:

ax.log.level = 0 -- turn off log output for missing Safari types (believed to be AXTextMarkerRef, and AXTextMarkerRangeRef, but they are private as far as I can determine so far, so... no joy for now.)

print( ; z1 = ax.applicationElement(hs.appfinder.appFromName("Safari")):elementSearch({}) ; print(, #z1)

print( ; z2 = ax.applicationElement(hs.appfinder.appFromName("Safari")):getAllChildElements() ; print(, #z2)
  • z1 - uses lua based elementSearch to grab all AXUIelements from the starting point and put them into an array.
  • z2 - uses Objective-C function to do the same. Runs an average of 3-4 times faster (15 seconds vs 60 seconds for one test)

Array returned from either can be used in further refinement searches that only search within the array, rather than recurse through AXUIelements the slow way each time -- e.g. z2:elementSearch({role="AXWindow"}) to get just the window AXUIElements from the z2 array.

Considering putting z2 version in a separate thread and callback with the array so doesn't block Hammerspoon even for the reduced time period.

Latest Examples:

btn = ax.applicationElement(hs.appfinder.appFromName("Hammerspoon")):
          elementSearch({role="AXWindow", subrole="AXStandardWindow"})[1]:

a = hs.drawing.rectangle(btn:frame()):setFill(false):setStroke(true):setStrokeColor{red=1}:show()

btn:doPress() ; a:setFrame(btn:frame())

Check out inspect(ax.browse(ax.systemWideElement()))... it's really quite interesting... and long. Working on more targeted query wrappers/functions.

Can perform actions: move mouse pointer over desktop background (i.e. the Finder background) and type:


Older (Menubar) examples:

> for i,v in ipairs(ax.systemWideElement():attributeValue("AXFocusedApplication"):attributeValue("AXMenuBar"):attributeValue("AXChildren")) do print(v:attributeValue("AXTitle")) end

> for i,v in ipairs(ax.systemWideElement():attributeValue("AXFocusedApplication"):attributeValue("AXMenuBar"):attributeValue("AXChildren")[2]:attributeValue("AXChildren")[1]:attributeValue("AXChildren")) do print(v:attributeValue("AXTitle")) end
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