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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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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AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: The Eval() Function for Hotkey Math Calculations and Text Manipulation

The Classic Eval() Function Solves Problems You Didn’t Even Know You Had by Calculating and Resolving AutoHotkey Functions and Expressions Found in Text Strings!

When I work on particular AutoHotkey solutions, often I find myself in the middle of a treasure hunt—picking up hidden gems along the way. Although operative for years, I didn’t know these valuable tools existed until I went searching for answers to a seemingly unrelated problem.

EvalfunctionMsgBox2For example, the simple question about capitalizing sentences led me to the RegExHotstrings() function discussed last time. As I dug deeper into the math-side of dynamic Hotstrings, I discovered the Eval() function. While many old AutoHotkey hands have employed the Eval() function for years, I didn’t understand its power until I used it in the investigation. (Even now the Eval() function does way more than I comprehend. I’ve only scratched the surface of its capabilities.) 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: Adding Icons to Menus the Easy Way(?)

Inserting Icons into Your AutoHotkey Menus Makes Options Standout and Easy to Navigate, But You May Need to Prioritize the Methods for Adding Icons

I’ve employed icons in my QuickLink.ahk script for many years, but the process I used for adding them to menu items always felt awkward and messy—too much special-purpose code.

I want the script to standalone without needing much tailoring. Most changes should occur in Windows File Explorer by creating folders or editing shortcuts. Then the QuickLinks.ahk script should read all the Menu items from that folder/file structure—including menu icons. However, my implementation of icons gets a bit sloppy. For my own QuickLinks, I added numerous special lines of code to deal with the inconsistencies in how Windows deals with folder and file icons. I’ve never felt comfortable with how it worked.

My recent work implementing the Switch/Case statements has prompted me to return to my original goal of producing a script needing little or no adapting. That means not only constructing the AutoHotkey menu directly from the folder/file structure shown in Windows File Explorer, but the menu icons themselves should load from those folders and shortcut files without requiring additional unique lines of AutoHotkey code in the script.

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AutoHotkey Tip of the Week: Add Temporary Hotkeys to MsgBox Windows—September 23, 2019

Isolate Hotkeys to Only Operate for an Open or Active Window

In the Weekly Tip, “IfWinActive Versus #IfWinActive“, I recommended isolating Hotkeys to specific windows. This time I offer a practical example.

hotkeycover200For more information, see “Chapter Two: Block Windows Shortcuts with AutoHotkey” and “Chapter Three: AutoHotkey #Directives for Context-Sensitive Hotkeys—#IfWinActive” of the book AutoHotkey Hotkey Tips, Tricks, and Techniques.

The #IfWinExist directive offers a number of advantages when creating temporary Hotkeys:

  1. The Hotkeys activate only when AutoHotkey opens the controlling window.
  2. If other conflicting Hotkeys exist, the temporary Hotkeys take precedence as long as the window exists.
  3. After closing the controlling window, the Hotkeys deactivate minimizing interference with other possible Hotkeys or shortcuts.

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Total the Numbers Found in Any Document (AutoHotkey RegEx Tips Part 5)

For a Quick-and-Dirty Calculator, Use Regular Expressions (RegEx) to Pull Numbers from Documents or Web Pages and Total Them Up—Plus, a RegEx for Removing (or Extracting) Numeric IP Addresses

Shifting gears, I end the discussion of the MultiPaste.ahk script which parses copied data into component parts for easier paste operations into other documents. With this blog, I start working on another tool for simplifying a Windows task—addition.

Sometimes I see a list of numbers in either a document or a Web page which I would like to quickly total without loading a separate calculator. For example, the shopping cart program I use for my book sales offers a summary table of all recent sales. While I can use a reports section of the site to get more information (e.g. monthly sales), I want a tool to quickly highlight the desired entries and give me the total of the individual sales. To do that I use a Regular Expression (RegEx) specifically for extracting those sales numbers. Continue reading

Parsing and Pasting One-Line Street Addresses (AutoHotkey Multi-Paste Trick)

Another Pet Peeve…the Windows Copy-and-Paste Doesn’t Make It Easy to Insert Street Addresses and Postal Codes into Forms

I’ve noticed that many applications and Web pages list street addresses on just one line:

Jack Dunning, 1234 Main Street, Any Town, MI  90571

This makes sense and saves space when compared to a three or four-line address listing:

Jack Dunning
1234 Main Street
Any Town, MI  90571

However, when using the Windows Clipboard for a copy-and-paste operation, a person still needs to jump between the two windows a number of times—unless he or she uses a parse-and-paste tool such as MultiPaste.ahk. 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

Wrapping Up the DateStampConvert.ahk Script (AutoHotkey Tips)

In Previous Blogs, I Used Regular Expressions to ID Dates Formats in Documents and Simulated Case/Switch Statements to Convert Month Names to Numbers. Now, I Build the Standard DateTime Stamp, Check for Valid Dates, and Deal with Two-digit Years, Plus Use the Function ByRef Method to Bypass Local Variables.

While in conversations with a reader who uses AutoHotkey to calculate the time span between two dates for figuring out new leases, I realized that a tool which captures formatted dates from any document and converts them into the DateTime Stamp format (yyyymmdd) would make using the HowLongYearsMonthsDays.ahk script even easier. That prompted me to write the DateStampConvert.ahk script. Continue reading