Moving Forward with AutoHotkey Chrome.ahk Tools

My Last Three Blogs Offer a Basic Introduction to Installing and Running the Chrome.ahk Web Page Automation Tools—Find More Resources for these Useful Functions

In my earlier blogs, I posted a beginner’s introduction to GeekDude’s Chrome.ahk Web page automation tools:

I wrote these columns to bridge the gap between the novice-level user and the videos produced by GeekDude and Joe Glines—even causing me to take time to allow the techniques to ferment in my brainpan. While the videos provide excellent information, they assume a certain level of user experience. Hopefully, my blogs provide enough insight to allow new users to:

  1. Develop a basic understanding of how Chrome.ahk functions facilitate the completion of Web forms while highlighting the complications from HTML and Javascript code.
  2. Make a decision about whether they will continue to pursue these Web automation techniques.

After this reference blog, unless someone asks me specific questions about Chrome.ahk, I intend to move on to other topics.

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Using Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Tools to Automatically Fill-in Web Forms (Part 2)

How to Write Javascript Code for Web Page Automation Using AutoHotkey Chrome.ahk Tools—Digging into the Quirks of Javascript

In my last blog (“Using Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Tools to Automatically Fill-in Web Forms (Part 1)“), I discussed how to reveal Web page control names in the source code. This time, I explain how to use those control names to write Javascript expressions for inserting data into text fields and activating menu items and buttons.

Javascript Code

HTML code creates the Web page structure—including editing fields, menus, and buttons. We use Javascript commands to initiate action within the static HTML Web. The functions found in Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey tools use Javascript expressions to send commands to the active Web page by channeling those directives through a Chrome debugger channel. You must use Javascript to communicate with the Web page.

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Using Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Tools to Automatically Fill-in Web Forms (Part 1)

Analyze Web Page HTML Code to Find Control Names and/or IDs for Writing Javascript Expressions for Automating Web Forms Using the Chrome.ahk Library

Logging into online accounts ranks as one of the most common motivations for AutoHotkey users automating Web pages. Using screen-level AutoHotkey Web page automation can get cumbersome. For more reliable and accurate solutions consider source-level automation using the AutoHotkey Chrome.ahk Library of tools. However, before automating any Web forms with these functions, you need to accomplish two tasks:

  1. Analyze the Web page to identify the target HTML controls’ name or id (e.g. text fields, buttons, etc).
  2. Write Javascript action expressions for use with the Chrome.ahk library.

In this blog, I introduce how to identify the controls required to fill in a Web form. In my next blog, I’ll address the more complex task of writing the Javascript expressions for Web page input.

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Installing Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Web Page Automation Tools

Although It Comes with a Bit of a Learning Curve, the Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Library Offers More Precise Source-Level Web Page Automation

(Updated November 5, 2020) Last time, I highlighted the limited techniques available for automating Web pages at the screen-level. The Web browser insulates the user from the underlying HTML and Javascript page code preventing the use of control names for automating Web pages.

This time, I introduce source-level Web page automation running a short test script after installing a set of Google Chrome AutoHotkey source-level Web page automation tools—Geekdude’s Chrome.ahk Library. I’ve set up a test page called “Jack’s AutoHotkey Chrome Test Page” for a quick trial of the tools. (When initially viewing the test Web page, you should see a set of three empty input fields: First Name, Last Name, and Street Address.) In this blog, I discuss how to install and set up the Chrome.ahk tools—then access the setup by running a sample AutoHotkey script that automatically fills in the three input fields:

The test script inserts data into the three input fields, then displays a Chrome message box displaying, “Hello World!”

If you can get this test script running with your Chrome browser, then a totally new world of Web page automation opens up.

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Automating Web Pages with AutoHotkey

When Automating Tasks, Browser Web Pages Present Special Problems

Due to the nature of the Internet and the function of Web browsers, AutoHotkey users encounter particular issues when automating Web pages. AutoHotkey GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) and many older Windows programs allow direct access to controls for automation. Newer apps tend to use ribbon menus which usually include accessible Alt+key shortcuts. However, Web browsers contain built-in protections which insulate users and make controlling operations more opaque. The average Web surfer only has access to what appears on the screen. Getting to the inner workings of Web browsers requires special tools.

After receiving a request from a Web browser, the Web server sends code consisting of HTML and JavaScript to that Web browser. The Web browser interprets the code and sends the results to the computer screen in the form of text, images, links, and controls. The Web browser sends back any user actions requiring server action.
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AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: WinMenuSelectItem for Windows Automation

While It Works Only for Classic Style Windows Menubars, the WinMenuSelectItem Command Makes Changing App Settings Easy

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A Multitude of AutoHotkey Tips and Tricks

In Chapter 8.1.7 “Control Windows Program with the WinMenuSelectItem Command…Maybe” of the book Jack’s Motley Assortment of AutoHotkey Tips, I discussed the use of the WinMenuSelectItem command for Windows automation. While it has its limitations (it doesn’t operate with programs using ribbon-style menus), its power makes possible simple setup changes in apps such as Notepad, Notepad++, IrfanView image viewer/editor, and, most importantly, AutoHotkey GUI (Graphical User Interface) pop-up apps with menubars—such as one of my favorites,  CodeQuickTester by GeekDude. If you work with one of the compatible programs, then the command offers a number of advantages. Continue reading