Sunday, 8 June 2014

Windows Desktop Automation

Have you ever needed to have your mouse click over and over while you were not there? Do you want to set up hotkeys to auto-complete a piece of text, (like an email sign-off) that you find yourself doing over and over each day?

I downloaded nine different piece of software and "Auto Clicker", though commercial, did seem to be winning.

I wanted something that could click three buttons, in order, with a 10 second pause between loops. Most importantly it had to be able to loop until I stopped it.

Then I found AutoHotKey. It was not the easiest to use. I did have to read the amazingly well written manual, (and in this day-n-age it seems that no one wants to read manuals, or rather RTFM==design_flaw.)

It reminded me of NSIS (Nullsoft Scriptable Install System) and one I got used to it, (about five minutes) I started to see just how powerful AutoHotKey is. First of all I added:

F6:: Reload ; why isn't this in the default script?

So that I could reload the changes as I hacked them. You see AHK is powered by a simple, yet hugely comprehensive, scripting language.

But wait - there's more! I was thinking, "wouldn't it be nice if I could train AHK." I wanted to be able to do the clicking on the screen and have it just learn. I didn't want to have to use the "Window Spy" that came with it. Well with v1.0.48.05 there is, ( C:\Program Files (x86)\AutoHotKey\AutoScriptWriter\AutoScriptWriter.exe which will do just that!.

So if you have written a program, (or even just a bash script) then AHK will be simple. If email confounds you then www.asoftwareplus.com 's "Auto Clicker Typer" might be more your speed, (though it would not loop for ever, I could get close with ACT by using copy-n-paste to duplicate my three buttons many times, (a few hundred) and then setting the Loop option to over nine thousand.) The biggest problem with ACT was the errors when it tried to access the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\AutoClickerTyper\AutoScript entry in the registry, (though clicking Continue seemed to work in most cases.)

So AutoHotKey is officially added to my list of "good stuff" in the windows software category. Thank you Chris Mallet and others.

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