Measure Multiple Line Segments with an AutoHotkey On-Screen Ruler

Taking the MouseMeasure.ahk Script to the Next Level, We Add Multiple Calculations for Going Around Corners

The original MouseMeasure.ahk script captures a single-length in a straight line—as a crow flies. While this works great for many applications, roads and highways generally wind over travel distances. Depending upon where you’re going, this can cause a significant variation in the total calculation. To return a more accurate overall estimate, we must break the measurement line into shorter segments.

Start the measurement with the Ctrl+LButton Hotkey, then click the left mouse button for each new leg of the journey. Press the Shift key to terminate the last leg and display the total distance.

The original form of the MouseMeasure.ahk script only allows for a sole straight line. To add more legs to our journey (at different angles), we must implement AutoHotkey techniques for:

  1. Terminating one segment and starting a new one.
  2. Tracking the position of each segment, its length, and the total distance traveled.
  3. Refreshing the screen to include all past legs as well as the new leg.
  4. Sending multiple saved data items for each leg to documents and forms.
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Pass-Through Hotkey Combinations to Prevent Shortcut Blocking (AutoHotkey Tip)

Sometimes You Want AutoHotkey Hotkeys to Block Other Program Shortcuts While Other Times You Want Both to Work

One of the effects of AutoHotkey Hotkeys includes blocking action for key combinations in Windows and other programs. While often desirable, occasionally you want both the Hotkey and the program shortcut to work. To do this we put a squiggle (tilde prefix ~) in front of the Hotkey combination.

In the MouseMeasure.ahk app, use the cursor keys (Right, Left, Up, Down) to move the mouse cursor one pixel at a time for accurate placement of both ends of the graphic measurement line. Delete to clear the line and ToolTip.

When I added the Arrow keys to the MouseMeasure.ahk script as Hotkeys for precisely locating the mouse cursor onscreen, it triggered the undesirable side effect of blocking the text cursor movement associated with those same keys in editing screens. By placing a tilde (~) in front of each Hotkey, I can accomplish both accurate mouse cursor placement in the invisible GUI and continue using text cursor movement in an editing window without disabling or closing the MouseMeasure.ahk app. (See “Replace Hotkeys with the AutoHotkey GetKeyState() Function” for an introduction to the GDIPlus version of the script. See “How to Draw Lines with AutoHotkey Using Windows GDIPlus Graphics” for information on the GDIPlus functions used in the script.)

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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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Capturing Computer Screen Measurements (An AutoHotkey Tool)

Calibrate the MouseMeasure AutoHotkey Tool to Grab Calculated Lengths from Your Computer Monitor

Recently, a reader asked, “Do you think it is conceivable to create a screen ruler in AHK that can be calibrated to my native application ruler. The problem I have now is that I take tons of measurements off the screen and then I have to type that number back into a document. I would love to make a ruler that can basically calibrate with the native app ruler once and make the data from the AHK ruler transfer automatically to the clipboard or better yet straight to the document.”

I responded, “The application you’re looking at is quite conceivable. You can pick coordinates off the screen with the MouseGetPos command and save them. Then you can possibly use two clicks to calculate the difference between the two in pixels then convert it to your scale. There are a number of methods for sending data to documents. It is certainly within the realm of possibilities.”

I then searched the AutoHotkey board only to find that he had already posted the same Ruler question in the “Ask for Help” forum. Fortunately, AutoHotkey Forum user colt had already posted a response. With the heart of the work completed by colt, I decided to add an onscreen calibration method.

Pythagorean Theorem

Pythagoras gave every high school math student a reason to remember his name. He provided the method for calculating the hypotenuse of a right triangle. For most people, the formula fell into the toolbox of things-I’ll-never-do-again. But for anyone who wants to measure distances on a computer screen, the Pythagorean Theorem returns with a vengeance.

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Saving Default Data in the Windows Registry (Part Six: Finishing AutoHotkey GUI Scripts)

Many AutoHotkey Users Save Settings in an INI File…However, the Windows Registry May Offer More Security and Stability

We tend to feel nervous about working with the Windows Registry. After all, a wrong step could conceivably cause harm to the operating system setup. Yet when taking the appropriate steps, this built-in Windows database can offer us a number of benefits:

  1. The Windows Registry is always there.
  2. It’s not easy to accidentally delete a Windows Registry entry.
  3. The average computer user won’t know where to find these special data entries.
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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