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: Windows Trick for Adding Embedded Folder Icons to QuickLinks Menus

This Technique Accesses Icons Embedded in Windows Folders for Inserting into Pop-up Menus—Plus, the New Combined Switch/Case Statement QuickLinks QL_GetIcon() Function

I completely rewrote the functions from the last blog for adding icons to the menus in the QuickLinks.ahk script combining the two into a shorter prioritized list using Switch/Case statements. In the process—after investigating how to read icons embedded in Windows folder/directory listings—I discovered an interesting Windows secret. It turns out that this procedure requires a totally different Windows maneuver than that used for reading Windows Shortcut file icons.

The Windows Desktop.ini File

UnHideFiles
Ryan’s UnHideFiles.ahk script makes Windows Registry changes to hide and unhide files.

When you embed an icon into a Windows folder (right-click on the folder name in Windows File Explorer, select Properties and the Customize tap, then click Change Icon… and browse for icons), rather than saving the icon path and icon number in the folder itself—as Windows does for shortcut files—it creates a special hidden file named desktop.ini in that same folder. With Windows set to Show Hidden Files, folder and drives in the View tab of the Folder Options window, you can view the hidden desktop.ini file in that folder. (Tip: You can use Ryan’s UnHideFiles.ahk script to hide and unhide files and folders.) 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: Understand How Hotstring Activating Text Works

Sometimes We Limit Our Scripts by Not Grasping How AutoHotkey Features Respond

In AutoHotkey, we use Hotstrings for automatic text expansion and replacement—as in the extensive list of common misspellings found in the AutoHotkey AutoCorrect.ahk script. After loading this series of Hotstrings, if you misspell one of these words, AutoHotkey instantly corrects it. I’ve included this as a standard part of my main AutoHotkey script and often watch the Hotstrings in action when they correct one of my typos or misspellings.

Beginning AutoHotkey Hotstrings 200pxWhenever a Hotstring fires, it resets and waits for the next one. Most commonly, this occurs when we type a space, period or other punctuation as a Hotstring recognizer. One might fall prey to the misconception that every such space or punctuation key press causes a Hotstring reset, but not so. Hotstring monitoring only resets when a Hotstring event occurs (or with a mouse click or cursor movement). That means we can include spaces and punctuation in the activating strings (or Hotstring definitions) which appear after the first double-colon.

Light Bulb!Most AutoHotkey users might understand this fact about Hotstring activators, but I write about it here for those of us who either never fully realized the importance of this aspect of Hotstrings or we just forgot. Knowing this fact allows for a number of additional types of Hotstrings rather than limiting ourselves to standard text expansion and replacement. A perusal of the AutoHotkey AutoCorrect script lets us peek into how we can take advantage of this aspect of Hotstrings. Continue reading

How to Send E-mail Directly from an AutoHotkey Script

Using Windows CDO COM, You Can Send E-mail Without Opening Your E-mail Program

RobotEmailCartoonIn my last blog, I wrote a short script for extracting data from a Web page without using a Web browser (“Quick and Dirty Web Data Extraction Script“). As a demonstration, I showed how to quickly download and cull a daily horoscope from an astrology site for display in a MsgBox window. It occurred to me that rather than using a Hotkey each time I wanted to view my horoscope, I would prefer to receive it each morning in an e-mail. That way I could set up the script to run automatically and push the data to me at the same time every day. Plus, I can view an e-mail on any device (e.g. smartphone, tablet, or non-Windows computer) without any special programming. This requires sending an e-mail via an AutoHotkey script. Continue reading

How to Move a Message Box (MsgBox) Window (AutoHotkey Trick)

Sometimes a MsgBox Window Just Pops Up in the Wrong Place—Here’s How to Relocate It

I’ve experienced this problem a couple of times. I use the MsgBox command to display script information at specific spots in a script. If in the modal mode (always-on-top), the pop-up window obscures my view of the window underneath it. I want the MsgBox to open elsewhere on the screen but AutoHotkey MsgBox command does not provide options for placing the window at an alternative location.

instanthotstring overwrite
The MsgBox command does not allow options for relocating the window on the computer screen.

The WinMove command can relocate the MsgBox window, but only after the window exists.  Since the MsgBox command stops the processing of the current thread, inserting the WinMove command after the MsgBox command doesn’t work. AutoHotkey won’t run the command until after closing the MsgBox window. I need a way to initiate a separate processing thread which relocates the MsgBox window after it comes to life—without closing the MsgBox window. Continue reading

Beginning Hotstring Tricks for Expanding Acronyms (AutoHotkey Tips)

Hotstring Techniques for Expanding Abbreviations Only When You Need Them, Plus How to Sound British…Sort Of

One benefit I’ve discovered when using my InstantHotstring.ahk script includes quickly checking the effects of the various Hotstring options. Without re-editing and reloading an AutoHotkey script, I can test the assorted options and see how they modify the behavior of each Hotstring. This helps me understand how to solve some Hotstring problems. Continue reading