Use the GoTo Command to Traverse Long Subroutines (Part Four: Finishing AutoHotkey GUI Scripts)

Sometimes the GoTo Command Makes Life Easier without Creating Perverse Effects

This next portion of the InstantHotstring.ahk menubar implementation did not go as I had expected. I thought that I would break up the routine launched by the Save Hotstrings button into separate subroutines or functions, then call each as appropriate for the corresponding Save/Append Hotstrings menu items (as seen in the image). I didn’t look forward to it because I knew it could get a little confusing. Some items would require multiple subroutine calls while others would need to just run—depending upon the menu selections made by the user.

I didn’t want to write redundant subroutines, but separating the various features of the complete routine required more than merely adding Return commands to encapsulate the code. I finally ask myself, “Why not insert AutoHotkey Labels into the main Save routine and use the GoTo command to jump my way through the decision points?”

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Sensing AutoHotkey Editing Changes for Instant Save (Part Three: Finishing AutoHotkey GUI Scripts)

By Detecting Modifications in Edit Data We Know When to Activate Instant-Save Routines

Any change too active Hotstrings appends an asterisk (*) to the current open filename and enables the Save option.

In the last blog (“GUI Menu Bar “Save” Item Complications (Part Two: Finishing AutoHotkey GUI Scripts)“), I discussed the need to add a special header to a unique type of data file—InstantHotstring generated Hotstrings. This header helps to differentiate between AutoHotkey .ahk files—which you may not want to overwrite—and files generated by the InstantHotstring.ahk script.

When adding a Save option (instant-save using the CTRL+S key combination) to the menu bar, many Windows apps concatenate an asterisk (*) to the file name in the title bar—alerting the user to changes. In this blog, I add a similar change-detecting feature which both displays the appended asterisk and enables an instant-save routine.

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GUI Menu Bar “Save” Item Complications (Part Two: Finishing AutoHotkey GUI Scripts)

Most Menu Bars Include Both “Save” and “Save as…” Options in the File Menu—Each Requires Special Considerations

As I mentioned last time, the act of adding a menu bar to a GUI can force the rethinking of many routines in the script. This time the consideration of the Save option(s) compelled me to reconcile potential problems when attempting to run the Save routine in the expected manner. First, knowing the actions activated by the Save Hotstrings button in the InstantHotstring.ahk script provides an understanding of the items required in the GUI menu bar.

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Radically Improving AutoHotkey GUI Apps with Menu Bars

While GUI Menu Bars Make Your AutoHotkey Apps More User-Friendly, the Benefits from Adding One to Your Script Go Far Beyond the Obvious

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This blog represents the first in a series that revisits the InstantHotstring.ahk script introduced and developed in previous posts—starting with “Create Instant Hotstrings Using the AutoHotkey Hotstring() Function.” In this new endeavor, I add a GUI menu bar which significantly alters my view of the app. The benefits of implementing a GUI menu bar greatly exceed its functional use.

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I consider most of my scripts demonstrations of how to implement AutoHotkey possibilities—not completed applications. I rarely go back to do all the little things that will make a script a finished product—in two senses of the word: virtually completed and fine-tuned. Many of my favorites (QuickLinks.ahk, MousePrecise.ahk, SynonymLookup.ahk, AutoCorrect.ahk, ChangeVolume.ahk, etc.) don’t require much additional work—if any—although, a script rarely achieves perfection. Most of my scripts use menus, Hotkeys, or Hotstrings while running in the background—not requiring extra visual bells and whistles. However, once you base an AutoHotkey script on a GUI (Graphical User Interface) pop-up window, the need for additional finishing touches increases—especially if it opens and saves files.

One of the best methods for finishing an AutoHotkey GUI app involves adding a menu bar. (You might also argue that the writing of a GUI script should start with a menu bar. It creates a road map to the finished product.) On the surface, a GUI menu bar makes the app more user friendly, but, more importantly, the process forces you to rethink the design and structure of your script.

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AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Cramming a Multitude of Controls into a GUI

AutoHotkey GUI (Graphical User Interface) Controls Gives Us Powerful Tools for Building Apps, But Sometimes We Need to Get Creative to Solve the Space Problem

WebPageLinks

My book AutoHotkey Applications: Ideas and Tips for Writing Practical AutoHotkey Scripts introduces the various GUI (Graphical User Interface) Controls available in the Windows operating system. I offer practical examples of how you can use single controls in a script. Yet each GUI control comes with its own particular limitations. Sometimes it takes a combination of techniques to get the full benefit from a unique control feature.

For example, you may find it a challenge to pack a multitude of items into a single GUI without expanding it beyond the screen. Many controls such as an Edit and ListView control allow you to limit the size of the control—then add scrollbars when the volume exceeds the confines of the space. Not so for AutoHotkey GUI Link controls.

In my last blog, “Cull Web Links from a Web Page and Activate Each in a Pop-up GUI“, I built a GUI pop-up window listing the external links scraped from a Web page (WebLinkFindURL.ahk script). In some cases, the number of links far exceeded the space allowed on my computer screen. Since the GUI Link control does not support scrollbars, I added Tab controls to expand the available GUI space without overwhelming the screen. Continue reading

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: Tricks for Tracking and Activating Target Process Windows

When Implementing Various AutoHotkey Techniques Sometimes We Need to Find Our Way Back to the Proper Window

Most AutoHotkey applications don’t require complicated tracking of process windows. Hotstrings, Hotkeys, and most other techniques do their work in the currently active window. Generally, menus and GUIs automatically return to the original on-top location once they close. However, occasionally circumstances force us to move to other apps or tools—deactivating the current window—before returning to the original target. AutoHotkey offers a couple of techniques for getting back to the right spot on our Windows Desktop.

piechartcartoonFor example, the MousePrecise.ahk app (for precision movement of the mouse cursor) allows users to temporarily enable the mouse accuracy tool in new windows with either a Hotkey combination or a right-click selection from the Windows System Tray icon menu. Since the Hotkey doesn’t change window focus, it works fine, but the act of selecting an item from the System Tray icon menu deactivates the original window. Therefore, before AutoHotkey can include the new app in the active group, it must refocus on that process window and capture its title. Continue reading

AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Quick Menu for Activating Open Windows

With a Few Modifications, the WindowList.ahk Script Pops Up a Menu of Open Windows for Quick Activation—Plus, How to Detect When a Windows Opens or Closes

I originally used the WindowList.ahk script as a demonstration of how to use the GUI DropDownList control as a list of selection options for activating open windows (included in the Digging Deeper Into AutoHotkey book). Once, while testing someone’s script, it proved very useful. I could not find the GUI window generated by the code. The script had placed the target window somewhere off the screen. The scriptwriter originally used a second monitor—which I didn’t have. The WindowList.ahk script moved the window back into my view.

As I reviewed the script, I realized that building a pop-up menu of open windows could serve a purpose similar to the QuickLinks.ahk script—except, rather than launching apps and Web sites, the menu would activate open windows. Now, that’s something that I can use!

I often keep numerous windows open simultaneously. Generally, I locate a window by hovering over the Windows Taskbar then selecting the image which looks right. It takes a second for the thumbnails to appear, then hovering over each helps me make my selection. But what if I could maintain a menu of all open Windows available in a menu for instant activation? Continue reading

AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Use the GUI Menu Bar for Instant Hotkeys

Rather than Creating New Hotkeys and Isolating Them Using the #IfWinActive Directive, Simply Add Keyboard Accelerators Using a GUI Menu Bar

Note: This week’s keyboard accelerator tip is not the same technique as adding an ampersand before any letter in a menu item—although that trick still works. The beauty of this technique lies in the fact that you can embed and execute a multitude of active window Hotkey-like actions in a menu bar without ever opening the menu itself.

In almost every one of my books, I discuss using the Menu command to build free-floating selection lists for a wide variety of tasks. I use menus for the HotstringMenu.ahk script, the QuickLinks.ahk favorites app, SynomynLookup.ahk, and numerous other purposes. In the GUI ListView control examples found in the AutoHotkey Applications book for the to-do list, the address book, the calorie counting app and listings of icon images, the right-click context menu pops open for individual action items. Menus provide an easy method for adding features to AutoHotkey scripts while saving space. I’ve always known that you can add a menu bar to the top of any AutoHotkey GUI (Graphical User Interface) but had little to say about it—until now.

ToDoListINI
The Ctrl+T in the menu bar item creates an accelerator key combination which, whenever pressed, acts as an active window Hotkey for instantly executing the option—even without opening the GUI menu bar.

While working on my latest to-do list script (ToDoListINI.ahk), I realized that I wanted to add a couple more options to the app, but I didn’t like the idea of inserting more buttons into the GUI. I naturally turned to a menu bar at the top of the GUI which could include many more actions while taking up minimal area. After a quick glance at the Gui, Menu command, I realized that I had routinely overlooked one of the most important aspects of Gui menu bars: accelerator keyboard combinations. Continue reading

AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: AltSubmit Prevents One-Click Field Editing in GUI ListView Control

Sometimes Adding More Capabilities to a GUI Eliminates Other Features

coverepub-250

Chapter Ten “More To-Do List App (Resizing and Positioning the GUI)” of  the AutoHotkey Applications book discusses “Direct Editing in the First Column Field of ListView.” This convenient feature mirrors the one-click editing you get when working with Windows File Explorer—the same effect as selecting Rename from the right-click context menu or hitting the F2 key. The feature makes it easy to change the name of a file or folder. I find this technique much simpler than editing text in a separate edit field then clicking an Update button, however, you can accidentally disable one-click editing in a GUI ListView when attempting to add other useful features by including the AltSubmit option. Continue reading