Using Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Tools to Automatically Fill-in Web Forms (Part 1)

Analyze Web Page HTML Code to Find Control Names and/or IDs for Writing Javascript Expressions for Automating Web Forms Using the Chrome.ahk Library

Logging into online accounts ranks as one of the most common motivations for AutoHotkey users automating Web pages. Using screen-level AutoHotkey Web page automation can get cumbersome. For more reliable and accurate solutions consider source-level automation using the AutoHotkey Chrome.ahk Library of tools. However, before automating any Web forms with these functions, you need to accomplish two tasks:

  1. Analyze the Web page to identify the target HTML controls’ name or id (e.g. text fields, buttons, etc).
  2. Write Javascript action expressions for use with the Chrome.ahk library.

In this blog, I introduce how to identify the controls required to fill in a Web form. In my next blog, I’ll address the more complex task of writing the Javascript expressions for Web page input.

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Installing Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Web Page Automation Tools

Although It Comes with a Bit of a Learning Curve, the Chrome.ahk AutoHotkey Library Offers More Precise Source-Level Web Page Automation

(Updated November 5, 2020) Last time, I highlighted the limited techniques available for automating Web pages at the screen-level. The Web browser insulates the user from the underlying HTML and Javascript page code preventing the use of control names for automating Web pages.

This time, I introduce source-level Web page automation running a short test script after installing a set of Google Chrome AutoHotkey source-level Web page automation tools—Geekdude’s Chrome.ahk Library. I’ve set up a test page called “Jack’s AutoHotkey Chrome Test Page” for a quick trial of the tools. (When initially viewing the test Web page, you should see a set of three empty input fields: First Name, Last Name, and Street Address.) In this blog, I discuss how to install and set up the Chrome.ahk tools—then access the setup by running a sample AutoHotkey script that automatically fills in the three input fields:

The test script inserts data into the three input fields, then displays a Chrome message box displaying, “Hello World!”

If you can get this test script running with your Chrome browser, then a totally new world of Web page automation opens up.

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Automating Web Pages with AutoHotkey

When Automating Tasks, Browser Web Pages Present Special Problems

Due to the nature of the Internet and the function of Web browsers, AutoHotkey users encounter particular issues when automating Web pages. AutoHotkey GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) and many older Windows programs allow direct access to controls for automation. Newer apps tend to use ribbon menus which usually include accessible Alt+key shortcuts. However, Web browsers contain built-in protections which insulate users and make controlling operations more opaque. The average Web surfer only has access to what appears on the screen. Getting to the inner workings of Web browsers requires special tools.

After receiving a request from a Web browser, the Web server sends code consisting of HTML and JavaScript to that Web browser. The Web browser interprets the code and sends the results to the computer screen in the form of text, images, links, and controls. The Web browser sends back any user actions requiring server action.
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