Marcus' Macro Blog

Tips and News on Macro Recording and Automating Windows with Macro Scheduler
August 17th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

This is a repost. The original article is here.

Most of the time when we are automating a process we are able to predict the sequence of events. We are working with a deterministic process and a linear flow of actions. But there are occasions when things can happen during a process that we cannot predict precisely. E.g.:

  • We might know that a dialog or window may appear sometime during the process, but we cannot predict exactly when that will happen.
  • We may have a situation where after entering some data into a text field a dialog may, or may not appear.
  • There might be some other software running on the PC which randomly pops up an error box. And we need a way to clear that when it happens.

There are a number of ways we can deal with such situations.

Window Event Schedules

If you have a situation where a known window can randomly appear – say a known error box – which always has the same window title, the simplest approach is to use the Window Event schedule in the Advanced Scheduling properties. Simply create a macro which closes the box – perhaps all it has to do is press enter – and specify the window title under Advanced Options in the macro properties. Then whenever Macro Scheduler sees this window it will run the macro and clear it.

Synchronous Coding

In the case where a window may, or may not appear after entering some data into a field, say a data validation dialog, we could just deal with this after sending the text, in regular fashion – something like:

Send>the_data
Wait>0.5
IfWindowOpen>Verification Alert
  Press Enter
Endif

So we simply send the data then IF the verification window appears, close it. But what if you have hundreds of data fields to enter? Dealing with each one would involve a lot of extra code.

OnEvent Window Event Handlers

Another way is to use the OnEvent function to create an event handler in your main script. There are three types of window events that can be monitored with OnEvent:

  • WINDOW_OPEN – monitors a specific known window title, or window title substring
  • WINDOW_NOTOPEN – fires the event handler when specified window closes
  • WINDOW_NEWACTIVE – fires the event handler when there’s a new foreground window

OnEvent is used to create an “event handler” which is just a subroutine which will be executed whenever the event occurs. So, for example, using OnEvent you can tell the script to run a subroutine whenever a specified window appears, whenever that may be, while the rest of the script is executing.

So let’s say we are working with an application which could, at any time, pop up a warning box titled “Connection Error”, and this can be cleared just by pressing enter to hit the default OK button:

OnEvent>WINDOW_OPEN,Connection Error,2,CloseWarning

..
.. rest of script here
..

SRT>CloseWarning
  Press Enter
End>CloseWarning

Of course there are a whole load of other things you can do. We may have a window whose title is always the same but the content differs and we need to react according to the content. In this case our event handler subroutine would have extra code in it to determine which type of dialog it is. We might do this using the text capture functions to read the text from the dialog, or using Screen Image Recognition to check for the presence of an object.

Maintaining Focus

Here’s an idea for an event handler which ensures the target application is always focused. If another application should steal focus at any point during the running of the script, it just grabs focus back again. It’s always good advice to use SetFocus before sending text. But if you have thousands of Send commands and want to slim down your script and make it more readable you could use this approach. Anyway, it’s just an example:

.. your code here to start and focus the app you want to automate, e.g.:
Run>Notepad.exe
WaitWindowOpen>Untitled - Notepad

//assuming the target window is now focused, get it's handle and process name
Let>WIN_USEHANDLE=1
GetActiveWindow>MyWindowHandle,x,y
GetWindowProcess>MyWindowHandle,pid,MyProcessName
Let>WIN_USEHANDLE=0

//now set up the event that is fired when a new window appears
OnEvent>WINDOW_NEWACTIVE,0,0,HandleNewWindow

..
..
.. rest of script here
..
..

//When a new window that does not belong to our process appears,
// set focus back to our window
SRT>HandleNewWindow
  Let>WIN_USEHANDLE=1
  GetActiveWindow>hwnd,x,y
  GetWindowProcess>hwnd,pid,winProcName
  If>winProcName<>MyProcessName
     SetFocus>MyWindowHandle
  Endif
  Let>WIN_USEHANDLE=0
End>HandleNewWindow

Note how this code gets the window handle and process name of your target window. Then whenever a new window appears the HandleNewWindow subroutine is fired which gets the process name of the active window. If the process name of the new active window is not the process name of your target window (i.e. the new window belongs to some other application) it sets focus back to your original window.

I hope this gives you a useful introduction to OnEvent event handlers and how they can be used to run code at any point during the script in response to events. OnEvent can also be used to detect files, dialog events, dialog changes and keyboard and mouse actions. For further information please see OnEvent in the help file.

August 5th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

Here’s a way to get screen text from any application – even from an image – using OCR and a free open source tool called Tesseract.

First, you need to download and install Tesseract. You can get it here.

Tesseract is a command line utility. The most basic syntax is:

tesseract.exe input_image_file output_text_file

So you could call it from a Macro Scheduler script something like this:

//Capture screen to bmp file - you could instead capture only a window or use FindObject to get coordinates of a specific object
GetScreenRes>X2,Y2
ScreenCapture>0,0,X2,Y2,%SCRIPT_DIR%\screen.bmp

//run tesseract on the screen grab and output to temporary file
Let>RP_WAIT=1
Let>RP_WINDOWMODE=0
Run>"C:\Program Files (x86)\Tesseract-OCR\tesseract.exe" "%SCRIPT_DIR%\screen.bmp" "%SCRIPT_DIR%\tmp"

//read temporary file into memory and delete it
ReadFile>%SCRIPT_DIR%\tmp.txt,theText
DeleteFile>%SCRIPT_DIR%\tmp.txt

//Display the text in a message box
MessageModal>theText

This example simply captures the entire screen. You probably wouldn’t normally want to do this. Instead you could capture a specific window:

//Capture just the Notepad Window
SetFocus>Untitled - Notepad
GetWindowPos>Untitled - Notepad,X1,Y1
GetWindowSize>Untitled - Notepad,w,h
ScreenCapture>X1,Y1,{%X1%+%w%},{%Y1%+%h%},%SCRIPT_DIR%\screen.bmp

Or even a specific object:

//capture just the editor portion of notepad ...
SetFocus>Untitled - Notepad
GetWindowHandle>Untitled - Notepad,hWndParent
FindObject>hWndParent,Edit,,1,hWnd,X1,Y1,X2,Y2,result
ScreenCapture>X1,Y1,X2,Y2,%SCRIPT_DIR%\screen.bmp

Either way you then have a screen bitmap you can pass into Tesseract.

Once you’ve retrieved the text you would probably want to parse it, using e.g. RegEx. Here’s an article on a RegEx expression useful for parsing out data.

August 4th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

Recently someone asked in the forums how to “Automatically Detect MS Office Install Location” so that they could run an Access macro.

Well, there are ways to get the path of an installed Office application, but it isn’t necessary in order to run an Access macro. This is a rehash of my forum answer:

You can run an Access macro via the command line using the /x switch. The ExecuteFile command lets you pass parameters. So you could just do this:

ExecuteFile>%USERDOCUMENTS_DIR%\MyDb.accdb,/x Macro1

This will open the DB and run macro “Macro1″. Note my DB is in my documents folder here so I’m just using USERDOCUMENTRS_DIR but this could be any path.

Here’s a list of other command line switches.

For more control you could use VBScript:

VBSTART
  Sub RunMacro(accessfile,macroname)
    dim accessApp
    set accessApp = createObject("Access.Application")
    accessApp.OpenCurrentDataBase(accessfile)
    'comment next line out if you don't want access to be visible
    accessApp.visible = true
    accessApp.DoCmd.RunMacro macroname
    'you can run a subroutine or function in module code instead if you want:
    'accessApp.run "routinename"
    accessApp.Quit
    set accessApp = nothing
  End Sub
VBEND

VBRun>RunMacro,%USERDOCUMENTS_DIR%\MyDb.accdb,Macro1

This gives you more control – you could make it invisible, and as you can see you could run VBA code instead if you want – or access any of the other methods. Anything you can do inside Access you can do here – by converting VBA to VBScript:

http://help.mjtnet.com/article/19-converting-office-vba-to-vbscript

But if you do really want to get the path, how about querying the mime-type in the registry:

RegistryReadKey>HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT,ms-access\shell\open\command,,accPath
ExtractFilePath>accPath,accPath

Enjoy!

July 25th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

Are your macros reading from other files? Find out how to avoid hard coding file paths and use relative folders:

http://help.mjtnet.com/article/167-relative-paths-for-portable-macros-explaining-scriptdir-and-bmpdir

July 20th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

What would you like to see added to Macro Scheduler? Comment below.

July 12th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

This is a repost from 2006.

One of the best ways to learn to use a software product fully is to try to automate it. Testers and automators have to learn the software’s interface really well, possibly better than the people who wrote it. Ok, the developers know the algorithms better than anyone else, but it is the person automating it who knows the ins and outs, pitfalls and quirks of the interface.

We all know how badly designed some Windows programs are. And in these days of fancy hi-res graphics and snazzy toolbar buttons it’s easy for the designers to forget about shortcut keys and keyboard navigation. The most productive way to use a PC is to forget the mouse and learn the keyboard shortcuts. You can get things done much more quickly. Yet even the most experienced Windows users don’t know half the keyboard shortcuts that exist in Windows (tips for keyboard navigation in Windows could be a post for another day).

Knowing these shortcuts makes automation so much easier and more reliable. Automating an application by sending mouse events and mouse clicks is unreliable and depends on the screen resolution never changing. Although you can use relative mouse coordinates, sooner or later something is going to change and the button you want to click is not in the place it was when the script was created.

The automation/test engineer is the one who figures out the keyboard shortcuts and finds the simplest, most reliable way of navigating an application. People who automate applications regularly have a good understanding of the different ways to move around Windows and Windows applications. Automated Software Testing can help find issues in the interface just from the process of building the automated test, even before the test script has been run. Building an automation routine for an application will help you find those missing or duplicated shortcut keys and other objects that can’t be driven by the keyboard.
Automators spend so much time fiddling with the software’s interface that they will often become more knowledgeable than the “power-users”. Testers also have the great advantage of being allowed to try unusual scenarios that developers never think about or are too busy to try. They are allowed to break things!

So it goes both ways. Find out the windows keyboard shortcuts and the hot-keys for the application you’re scripting and you can create a better script. Build an application with good keyboard support and your application can be automated more easily. If it can be automated easily it will be easy to use!

July 5th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

We have today released Macro Scheduler 14.3. This version has had a UI refresh with new, larger toolbar buttons.

It has also had a lot of behind the scenes work done to make it more usable and look better on Windows 8 and Windows 10 when using high DPI scaling, which is now the default setting when using modern high definition monitors.

There are no functional changes in this release as we wanted to concentrate on the UI changes and DPI scaling issues first, and get this out as soon as possible. The next update will include script engine enhancements and work on that is already underway.

Trial Downloads | Registered Updates/Upgrades | New Licenses

June 21st, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

I thought it was about time for an update.

We are currently working on improving Macro Scheduler’s UI appearance under 4k UHD monitors. These screens are becoming more common, especially since the launch of Windows 10 which includes improved scaling features.

Macro Scheduler needs to be DPI aware in order to perform image recognition on modern high definition screens. The problem is that when you make an app DPI aware, Windows then doesn’t automatically scale it for you. The upshot of this is that the 16×16 toolbar icons amongst other things are then almost too small to see. Some older visual components also don’t cope well.

So we are working hard creating new 32×32 icons and making tweaks to some of the forms and components to ensure Macro Scheduler looks good and is usable on this new breed of high-res monitors.

We also continue to work on script engine improvements and feature suggestions. However, right now we are prioritising the UI improvements and since more and more people are using new 4k screens we plan to release an update with only these UI changes before releasing other changes. This will allow us to get this out more quickly.

Watch this space.

May 12th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

Every now and then someone asks something like “How do I change the font in a modal dialog box?” or “Can I make an Input box multi-line?”.

Well, no, you can’t do those things to the standard Message/MessageModal or Input box functions. But, don’t forget that with Macro Scheduler you have the ability to create your own dialogs and make them act and feel pretty much any way you like. So the answer to the above questions, is “Create your own versions”.

As an example, let’s say you want a modal dialog that looks and acts much like the standard modal message box created by MessageModal. Only you want the text to be green in an italicized aerial font. Here you go:

//this would go at the top - customize as you wish
Dialog>CustomMsgBox
object CustomMsgBox: TForm
  Left = 493
  Top = 208
  HelpContext = 5000
  BorderIcons = [biSystemMenu]
  BorderStyle = bsSingle
  Caption = 'My Message'
  ClientHeight = 170
  ClientWidth = 319
  Color = clBtnFace
  Font.Charset = DEFAULT_CHARSET
  Font.Color = clWindowText
  Font.Height = -11
  Font.Name = 'MS Sans Serif'
  Font.Style = []
  OldCreateOrder = True
  ShowHint = True
  OnTaskBar = False
  PixelsPerInch = 96
  TextHeight = 13
  object MSMemo1: tMSMemo
    Left = 0
    Top = 0
    Width = 321
    Height = 137
    Font.Charset = ANSI_CHARSET
    Font.Color = clGreen
    Font.Height = -11
    Font.Name = 'Arial'
    Font.Style = [fsBold, fsItalic]
    ParentFont = False
    TabOrder = 0
  end
  object MSButton1: tMSButton
    Left = 121
    Top = 143
    Width = 75
    Height = 25
    Caption = 'OK'
    DoubleBuffered = True
    ModalResult = 2
    ParentDoubleBuffered = False
    TabOrder = 1
    DoBrowse = False
    BrowseStyle = fbOpen
  end
end
EndDialog>CustomMsgBox

SRT>ShowMsg
  SetDialogProperty>CustomMsgBox,,Position,poScreenCenter
  SetDialogProperty>CustomMsgBox,MSMemo1,Text,ShowMsg_Var_1
  Show>CustomMsgBox,r
END>ShowMsg

//do this to call your message
Let>MyMsg=Hello world, this is a lovely custom message box
GoSub>ShowMsg,MyMsg

And don’t forget that once created you can call the dialog any time you like. And if you want to use it in lots of scripts then put the dialog block and subroutine into an include file and use Include> at the top of each script you want to use it in.

Now, it’s over to you. Use your imagination and style the dialog any way you like. We have some Custom Dialog tutorials here: Part1, Part2

April 19th, 2016 by Marcus Tettmar

Macro Scheduler Maintenance release 14.2.08 is now available for download.

Links: Version History | Registered Downloads | Trial Downloads | New Licenses

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