I have been trying to get some internet macro’s working, and being challenged by the process. Along the way I have picked up some handy productivity tips that I’d like to share.
Macro testing free tools
First, I need to highlight a few downsides to things. I am developing a macro to automate opening up my Blog site, so I can start a post straight away. I have a link on my Quick Access Popupmenu to quickly load the .exe file to run it.
I am using Pulover’s Macro Creator (PMC) that does a fine job. It looks daunting at the beginning but in fact I like the workflow. I moved on to this from the Tiny Tasks macro recorder, which basically follows your mouse and key strokes. A fine tool, but you can’t refine it to speed it up (you can practice the mouse movements so you’re more proficient). I wanted to see if I could get some more transportable code that I could use on any machine.PMC runs on top of AutoHotKey(AHK)which I think is a brilliant free tool.
When I have been running the PMC macro from the PMC screen, it works fine. You can then export it to a .AHK file extension, and if you have AHK on your machine you can right click the file and 1/ Run it, 2/ Edit the file, 3/ Compile it to a .EXE file.
Well, the .AHK and >EXE files do not work. In AHK posts there seems to be an issue with AHK and Win10. One solution is the run the programme in Administrator. [ I was wrong, a NOOB ERROR, I’d started the .AKH and or the .EXE file but had not activated them with, in this case, the F4 key..oops!].
So it looks like I will get some more transportable code after all.
I started using a mouse to activate things, then found that Firefox had a lot of Keyboard shortcuts built in, so I could use these instead. One reason for the Keyboard shortcuts is that on Firefox trying to find active areas using the equivalent of UiPath & AutoIt Finder Tool, which is Au3_spy.exe (found in the directory where AHK loaded) could not find any unique codes for these zones.
I found this video interesting on uses for AutoHotKey (and I note he has PMC on his computer too). I am interested in the autocorrect/convert abbreviations to full strings interesting as I do do some standard typo’s that would be great to have auto-corrected)
FireFox Keyboard shortcuts
This is a link to the FireFox Keyboard shortcuts page. The ones I found most useful were under the Windows & Tabs heading, and included Ctrl + T (open a new tab) and Ctrl + L which takes you to the address bar. Well worth a look as some of these keys can speed things up .
FireFox Bookmarks Keywords
This I think is really great. I sort of came across this as I was setting up WOX and Launchy. I think its brilliant, no more delving into the Bookmark toolbar folders for commonly used URL’s. It definitely speeds up getting to places in Firefox.
Quick and easy to set up on existing bookmarks and definitely fast to use.
Greenshot is another screen capture tool. I saw it in John Rettinger’s video. It seemed to be similar to Snagit but free. I found ShareX a bit daunting on its setup and have not got far with it (I only downloaded it to try the Gif’s. Still on my to-do list).
You can set it so after you take the screenshot it automatically opens in the editor, and then it saves the file to a pre-selected destination and file type and with unique file name by putting date or other information in the file name. That saves me about 7-8 steps in my normal screen capture process. It took me a little while to get a workable configuration and for number colour/sizes and speech box and text box altered to what I want, but well worth it. It also saves the file and name to clipboard. This is not something that I thought i wanted, but its quite a handy little tool.
There are plugins for it, I haven’t explored them yet. The screenshots on this page are taken with it. I have assigned Hotkeys to it so 1/ It loads when windows starts, and has a quick hotkey to fire it up. I need to explore it further (eg Plugins) but I’ll be using this tool for screen capture in future.
I also found a blur button and thought “that’s cool” then went back and looked at Snagit and saw there was one in that programme too (that I’d never used, and at times it would have been very handy too!)
I went looking for a video on this and came across another showing 5 other free Screen capture tools. The first video is Greenshot, the 2nd one shows the other tools:
I quite like the Monosnap programme as it seems to do video recording too.
Double Commander (free File explorer tool)
Double Commander is a dual pane File Explorer. Hearkening back to the old DOS Norton Commander in screenshot below. That was a cool programme.
I came across Total Commander but found that it is a paid tool, not that clear on the website. Then I found Double Commander which is free.
It seems to have all the features of the old Norton Commander plus a few more features such as tabs. I’m still fumbling around with it but will configure a hotkey for it and use it instead of File Explorer.
I must admit that I had real difficulties transitioning from Norton Commander to File Explorer. Im now used to File Explorer, but a lot of actions are copy/move and its nice to see the 2 panes that you are copying from and the to pane too, so I’m looking forward to playing with this. I think this with Quick Access Popup will really suit my navigation on the PC.
Nice to see the coloured folders still show.
Update 20th Jan 2019. The Quick View with spacebar to view files (mentioned in a previous productivity post) does not work in the programme. I’m finding that I’m using the QuickView to look at images from GreenShot just to make sure I’m uploading the correct one to my post as it does it by date, so not so clear on what is in the file, but spacebar checks so quickly. This is a bit of a negative for the programme. I’m switching between using this programme and file explorer.
Remove Background Online for free
A bit of frippery. Remove Background asks you to load an image, (it must have a person in it) and it processes it and returns the figure without the background. You then have to do a captcha before it’ll upload the file and then it asks you where you want to save it. Below is an example of one I uploaded. A pretty good job. I tried loading a flower, a statue (of a person, or is that a non sequiter? Are all statues people? No, wiki).
Rather fun. If you have an image programme that works on layers (eg Gimp (free)) you can bring a different background. Actually, a simple handy photo editing programme with layers would be handy, I may have to search for one of those. Gimp does my head in using it as its got so many tools. I didn’t want to download a lot of programmes and found this article 23 Free Online Photo Editors of which I chose number 6 Photopia to put the 2 images on different layers.
This is one of those websites that does one thing, and does it well. If you need any further trimming you can always do it in a photo-editing programme. The initial process is pretty fast. I found it on this post in my RSS feed on Free Technology for Teachers.
When I found out about the FireFox bookmark keywords I was so excited. Then you realise that you have been so inefficient for so long and then you think “why didn’t anyone tell me about these?” (paranoia?). So now I have 2 to 3 letters to type into the address bar instead of mousing around to find the bookmark that I want in a folder somewhere.
I think I’ll uninstall ShareX screen capture and try a couple of the other ones to see if they are as good as, if not better than GreenShot, which has already saved me a lot of time in my screenshot process for my articles.
Double Commander I’m looking forward to using and will update this post with feedback from things I hope to find on it.
The macro’s that I’m developing for logging into my sites are coming along “slowly” but I’m getting to grips with them. I’m interested in developing an abbreviation file to speed up on some of the typing I do.
Tools I’m currently using
Quick Access Popup is definitely moving into first place, and I like Wox and Launchy. I’m using these more frequently as time goes on. The Firefox bookmark keywords I’ve already mapped on all my PC’s/2:1’s. I haven’t done it on my phone yet. That may be useful.
The Macro tools I’m trying to get my head around (as you can see from the beginning of the post) but have great hopes for them.
I tried setting up AutoIt for Firefox browser but ran into a few obstacles on that. It used to need the mozrepl firefox add-in that is now discontinued. The newer process seems that you use a WebDriver UDF and a ghekodriver but that is an .exe file and and Firefox plugin is looking for a manifest, so I didn’t get too far with that, so I moved over to PMC and AHK for the time being.