Using Parts to Build a New AutoHotkey Script (HowLongInstant.ahk)

While Many Users Find the Original GUI Based HowLong Script Valuable, Combining Snippets of Code Creates a New Instant HowLong Script

Last time in “Extracting Multiple Dates from Text Using AutoHotkey RegEx,” I wrote a Regular Expressions (RegEx) that copied the first and last date (in a variety of formats) found in a selection from a document or Web page. (I recently updated that RegEx to make it more robust.) That represented the first step in building an instant HowLongYearsMonthsDay.ahk script. The goal, as defined by the reader, included highlighting a section of text which bounds two dates, pressing a Hotkey combination, then immediately calculating and displaying the timespan—no delaying the process with an input GUI or clicking a calculate button. As with many new scripts, I took pieces of it from other scripts and integrated them to produce a new one.

The chunks I used to produce the new script included:

  1. The Standard Clipboard Routine for capturing the selected text.
  2. The RegEx for identifying and capturing the target dates. (Discussed in my last blog.)
  3. The DateConvert() function found in the DateStampConvert.ahk script for formatting the parsed dates as the standard TimeDate stamp (YYYYMMDD).
  4. The HowLong() function found in the HowLongYearsMonthsDays.ahk script for calculating the timespan between the two TimeDate stamp parameters.
  5. A MsgBox for instantly displaying the results.
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Extracting Multiple Dates from Text Using AutoHotkey RegEx

While Not Simple (and a Little Bit “Greedy”), the RegEx for Two-Date Parsing Only Requires One Selection

I received the following query from a reader:

Regular Expressions in AutoHotkey
Regular Expressions (RegEx) can be mysterious in any language.

Hi! Is it possible to highlight the entire date range (e.g. 16 March 2021 to 21 May 2021) when the Hotkey is triggered, feed it into the timespan ahk, and share the timespan as result?

Working with AutoHotkey Date Formats and Timespan Calculations

Yes, it is! You’ll find using Regular Expressions (RegEx) to simultaneously parse the two dates from the text the key to success. Plus, you’ll want to streamline the process by eliminating the GUI and feeding the dates directly into the HowLong() function found in HowLongYearsMonthsDays.ahk script. Implementing the instant calculation requires three steps:

  1. Writing a RegEx for identifying and capturing the target dates. (Discussed in this blog.)
  2. Using DateStampConvert.ahk code to format the parsed dates in the standard TimeDate stamp (YYYYMMDD).
  3. Calculate the timespan by running the HowLong() function using the two dates as parameters.

This approach should provide you with an instant timespan calculation between any two dates matched in a text selection.

I have not done all the work, but I have developed a RegEx which locates the first and last date in a text selection;

sx)(\b[[:alpha:]]+.?\s\d\d?,?\s\d?\d?\d\d|\b\d\d?[-\s]?[[:alpha:]]+[-\s]?\d\d\d?\d?|\b\d\d?[-/]\d\d?[-/]\d\d\d?\d?)
.*(\b\[[:alpha:]]+.?\s\d\d?,?\s\d?\d?\d\d|\b\d\d?[-\s]?[[:alpha:]]+[-\s]?\d\d\d?\d?|\b\d\d?[-/]\d\d?[-/]\d\d\d?\d?)

Update March 26, 2021: \w in original RegEx changed to [[:alpha:]] to include only alphabetic characters.

While I don’t discuss every aspect of this RegEx here, I cover the important aspects of its construction. (I’ve written numerous blogs and an entire book discussing the basics of AutoHotkey Regular Expressions.)

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Working with AutoHotkey Date Formats and Timespan Calculations

AutoHotkey Date and Time Calculations Require Special Handling—Check Out This List of How-to’s for Working with Dates

Over the years, I’ve written a number of blogs and many chapters about formatting and calculating dates, but one of my AutoHotkey apps that I think most demonstrate the full range of these capabilities include the scripts HowLongYearMonthDay.ahk and DateConvert.ahk.

DateConvertSend
When combined with the HowLongYearMonthDay.ahk script, the DateStampConvert.ahk script directly converts various ambiguous date formats selected in documents or Web pages into the standard datetime stamp format for inserting into the time-span calculating GUI pop-up.

Rather than using AutoHotkey commands for converting the standard datetime stamp into one of the numerous worldwide date formats, this conversion tool does the reverse and reformats selected dates into the universal datetime stamp.

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Sending E-Mail and AutoHotkey

After Working Out the Kink’s, AutoHotkey Sends Individual E-Mails Smoothly

RobotEmailCartoon

The scourge of the Internet, Spam haunts our daily lives—whether in the form of phishing e-mails or unwanted phone calls. While never eliminated, we minimized its impact through filtering and blocking. As a side effect of our efforts, we now commonly check our Spam folder when searching for an errant missive. Due to this problem e-mail providers now add layers of protection to their servers—usually in the form of what content we can transmit, message size, and the number of e-mails sent in a specific period of time.

Generally, we never think about these limitations because our local e-mail program restricts us enough to prevent our abusing the system. This confines us safely within the parameters of our e-mail provider. Only setting up our own e-mail server removes these restrictions.

It is important to understand that sending a mass email through your Gmail does have some limits (a total of more than 500 recipients in a single email and or more than 500 emails sent in a day). There is a maximum of email recipients a user can have in one single email, as well as a maximum amount of emails a user can send in 24 hours. It will not work by sending them at 11:50 pm and again at 12:05 am; the system requires a full 24 hours to pass.

How to Send Mass Email in Gmail – Few Easy Options
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Adapting Web Scraping Routines to Changing Web Pages (AutoHotkey Tip)

When the Horoscope Web Page I Use for E-mails Altered Its Format, I Quickly Adjusted the Script

Last year, I wrote a script that e-mails a daily horoscope to my wife, “E-mail the Daily Horoscope to Yourself (AutoHotkey Trick).” Every morning she receives on her tablet an e-mail containing her daily horoscope. (I don’t send it to myself because I don’t want to know that much about my future—and I don’t listen to advice.) Recently, she pointed out that the e-mail started coming up blank. I immediately realized that the target Web site had changed its source code. (I’ve experienced the same problem with the SynonymLookup.ahk script.) I knew I could repair the Regular Expression (RegEx) in the broken script fairly quickly by following some basic steps:

  1. Access the source code for the target Web page and locate the key text.
  2. Copy the critical portion of the source code, including any unique HTML tags surrounding the target text, then paste the selection into Ryan’s RegEx Tester.
  3. Adjust the RegEx to include key unique tags surrounding the text—then extracting the paragraph.
  4. In the script, replace the old RegEx found in the RegExMatch() function with the new one from Ryan’s RegEx Tester.
  5. Make any necessary adjustments to the RegEx—primarily escaping double quotation marks.

The new horoscope e-mail script now includes more details and a link to the site.
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Turn Web Addresses into Hotlinks for the AHK File Peek Window (AutoHotkey Tip)

Using the AutoHotkey GUI Link Control to Display AHK File Notes Allows You to Turn Web Links Hot

While perusing the notes in various .ahk scripts using the subroutine ReadNotes—which I had added to the AutoStartupControl.ahk script and discussed in my blog “Peeking at Notes Inside Auto-Startup AHK Script Files (AutoHotkey Startup Control)“—I noticed that many scripts included URLs to reference sites. A common practice used by scriptwriters when giving credit to another script or offering additional information about the source, these sites can offer valuable insight or resources. Usually, a Web address appears as a complete URL including the HTTP(S)://. I wondered, “Wouldn’t it be great to just click a link in the Notes window to load the page?”

Since we write AutoHotkey scripts in plain text, attempting to provide hotlinks inside the file using HTML code (or other techniques) doesn’t make much sense. I can open the file and copy the Web address—pasting it into my browser, but a hotlink in the Notes window would save a lot of time. I immediately switched from using the Text GUI control to the Link GUI control. By inserting the Link control into the AutoStartupControl Notes GUI window, I can turn any URL into a hotlink—as long as I use a Regular Expressions (RegEx).

The Link GUI control in the Notes window can turn any fully formed Web address into a hotlink for immediate access.

Using the Link GUI control comes with a couple of foibles, but, for the most part, it behaves in a manner very similar to the Text GUI control.

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Peeking at Notes Inside Auto-Startup AHK Script Files (AutoHotkey Startup Control)

We Can Track Numerous AutoHotkey Scripts Added to the Startup Folder, But Can We Remember How They All Work? Add a Peek Capability to the Auto-Startup Menu as an App Reminder

With so many different AutoHotkey scripts running, the problem of remembering how they all work arises. I may know that I have an app running but not recall the Hotkey combinations needed to access its features. Each new app creates a new set of memory challenges.

I could write one huge help message, but keeping it up-to-date turns into an unwieldy problem. I need a method for quickly peeking at an apps notes without forcing myself to open the .ahk file.

To accomplish this feat, the new ScriptNotes subroutine in the AutoStartupControl.ahk script must:

  1. Load the shortcut’s target file into a variable.
  2. Extract the script notes from that variable.
  3. Display the extracted notes in a pop-up MsgBox.
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Fixing AutoHotkey Web Lookup Scripts

If a Web Page Changes Format, the Data-Extracting Regular Expressions (RegEx) May Need Updating—Fixing the SynonymLookup.ahk Script

When writing a blog, I tend to use certain words over and over again. While rereading early versions, these redundant words jump out at me. Not only do they point out my limited vocabulary, but the repetitions tend to render my blogs a little more starchy and boring. That’s why I often resort to my always-loaded SynonymLookup.ahk script. This app saves time while making me look a little smarter.

The current version of SynonymLookup.ahk script lists more possibilities and marks antonyms (most of the time) with a caution sign (). (Click image for expanded view.)

After I discover a duplicated word, I highlight it, then hit the Ctrl+Alt+L Hotkey combination. A menu of possible replacements pops up. I click on the one that best fits my intent and the new term immediately displaces the original text. I habitually use this script.

When the SynonymLookup.ahk Script Breaks

Over the life of the script, I’ve encountered the menu shown at right a couple of times. This menu pops up whenever the script downloads and scans the source code 10 times without getting a RegEx hit—usually the result of code changes made by the source page Webmaster.

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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: Repeat Words and Phrases with RegEx Hotstrings

Save Time with This RegEx Hotstring for Inserting Repeated Words or Sentences—”Blah!” Instantly Turns Into  “Blah! Blah! Blah!”

regexrobotcartoonAt the end of my last blog, I postulated the possibility of a word duplicating RegEx Hotstring. While I don’t know how many people would ever use it, I do remember a time when the technique would have come in handy (as shown in the cartoon on the left). I thought that I would leave the problem as a reader’s challenge and move on, but I found that I couldn’t just abandon the loose end.

While this trick may not embody the most essential Hotstring, the technique might stimulate other AutoHotkey users to venture forward with their own variations on RegEx Hotstrings. I would love to hear about other innovative applications of the RegExHotstring() function—doing things that prove difficult (or impossible) with either traditional double-colon Hotstrings or the built-in Hotstring() function. Continue reading