How to Draw Lines with AutoHotkey Using Windows GDIPlus Graphics

After Laying an Invisible Graphical User Interface (GUI) over Your Computer Screen, You Can Use Windows GDIPlus to Draw Smooth Lines and Shapes

In my last blog (“Replace Hotkeys with the AutoHotkey GetKeyState() Function“), I explained a Hotstring replacement trick as well as introducing GDIPlus graphics drawing functions from an AutoHotkey post by Hellbent. After comparing the functions in the GDIP_All.ahk library with those from Hellbent, I noted that while many were identical, Hellbent added a few more functions which seemed to make the process easier. Although, I haven’t analyzed the details of each function, I have made them work in the MouseMeasure.ahk script. Here I offer an overview to guide you in how to add an invisible GDIPlus graphics drawing overlay to your computer screen.

Since these GDIPlus functions (included in the script) contain the individual DLLCall() functions, they make it easier to implement on-screen graphics without understanding each enigmatic DLL call. A general understanding of how the MouseMeasure.ahk script works with GDIPlus will help you to implement your own AutoHotkey graphics.

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Replace Hotkeys with the AutoHotkey GetKeyState() Function

While Digging into On-Screen Graphic Line Generation, I Discovered a Number of New AutoHotkey Techniques to Add to the MouseMeasure.ahk Distance Capturing Script

Last time, I looked into adding a line drawn on-screen to visually represent a linear measurement (“Drawing Lines on Screens with AutoHotkey“). However, I didn’t feel that the drivers I used presented the result I wanted for the MouseMeasure.ahk script. The line jittered too erratically and I found holding down the left-mouse button while dragging awkward and lacking precision. Therefore, I didn’t post the final product—although I did provide a download for the curious.

I have since drawn upon the expertise of other AutoHotkey Forum users to revise the script and create a much more robust app. The new script includes the following improvements:

  1. Only one Hotkey combination (Ctrl+LButton) activates both the calibration and measuring subroutine.
  2. The script no longer requires holding down the left mouse button while positioning the end point of the measurement. The end-point remains attached to the moving mouse cursor.
  3. The more advanced GDIPlus graphics used to draw the line make the line smoother and more robust.

The MouseMeasure.ahk script now uses Windows GDIPlus graphics to draw a red line between the start and end points of the on-screen ruler. The end point of the line moves with the mouse cursor until pinned with either the Shift or Alt key.

I pulled these improvements from a number of sources.

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Drawing Lines on Screens with AutoHotkey (Graphics Tips)

Although a Little Tricky, You Can Add and Manipulate Windows Graphics on Your Computer Screen with AutoHotkey

In the blog “Capturing Computer Screen Measurements (An AutoHotkey Tool)“, I added a calibration method to an on-screen ruler for extracting distances from any image. It works well for capturing straight-line measurement from a computer display. However, when following the mouse cursor, it lacked a discernible tracking line between the start and stop points.

The green line anchors at the start point and moves with the mouse cursor.

With a search, I found an old post about how to generate a line on-screen. I copied the code and turned it into a function for displaying the green line shown in the image above.

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AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Cull Web Links from a Web Page and Activate Each in a Pop-up GUI

This Time I Combine a Number of AutoHotkey Techniques to Put Active Links in a Graphical User Interface (GUI) Pop-up Saving Space with GUI Tabs

As I pondered the GetActiveBrowserURL() function from last time, I looked for more ways to use this unique function by reviewing Chapter Ten, “An App for Extracting Web Links from Web Pages” from A Beginner’s Guide to Using Regular Expressions in AutoHotkey. By combining the function with the UrlDownloadToFile command and a couple of GUI controls (Link and Tab), I quickly wrote a script for collecting all of the external links from a Web page into a pop-up window displaying a list of active links—merely, click to follow one.

WebPageLinks
The GUI contains 10 tabs—most with 20 hot links each scraped from the ComputorEdge Free AutoHotkey Scripts page.

This process included a number of learning points worth discussing:

  1. I found the GetActiveBrowserURL() function more reliable and robust than using the Standard Clipboard Routine.
  2. Depending upon the target Web site, you may need to tailor your Regular Expressions (RegEx) to produce the most useful results.
  3. The GUI Link control creates hot Internet links for immediate action.
  4. The GUI Tab control wraps long lists for scenarios where no scroll bars exist and column wrapping proves impractical.

In this blog, I offer the script with a short discussion of the Regular Expressions (RegEx). In a future blog, I’ll discuss how to build a GUI pop-up window with an unknown number of hot Weblinks (almost 200 in the example at right) while not letting it get out of hand. But first, my thoughts on the GetActiveBrowserURL() function.

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AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Capture Web Page Addresses (URLs)

When Browsing the Web This Special Function Copies the Page URL without Any Extra Effort

Normally, you can find a Web page address in the URL bar at the top of the browser. Click in that address field and copy it with CTRL+C. That simple act may make the subject of this blog look redundant. However, when applied to last week’s CopyRegTagWin.ahk script, the GetActiveBrowserURL() function can save numerous keystrokes.

By using the user-defined GetActiveBrowserURL() function, a modified version of the CopyRefTagWin.ahk script can include both the title of the source window and, if from a Web page, its URL. If collecting data for research, this feature makes reconstructing sources much easier—without any extra effort. Continue reading

AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Guidelines for AutoHotkey Function Libraries

When Using Function Libraries, You Don’t Need to Embed Your Functions into Each of Your AutoHotkey Scripts—But Sometimes Keeping Them Close Works Out Better

In the past two blogs, “Dynamic Regular Expressions (RegEx) for Math Calculating Hotstrings” and “The Eval() Function for Hotkey Math Calculations and Text Manipulation“, I highlighted two different powerful, auxiliary (not built-in) AutoHotkey functions: RegExHotstrings() and Eval(). Normally, you might embed a user-defined function inside your script but these two functions take up quite a few lines of code. Plus, you might want to use those same functions in a number of different scripts. Adding them to each script can get a little cumbersome—even when using the #Include directive.

Fortunately, when loading a script, if AutoHotkey doesn’t find a directly called function inside the script, it automatically searches the special Function Libraries. But, before you race to put all of your functions in one of those Libraries, you should consider a number of factors. Continue reading