1 Key Browsing (for Firefox and Chromium browsers)

Recently, I found a browser called qutebrowser that uses keyboard commands extensively. I used it for a while before I discovered similar add-ons for Firefox and Chrome that are based on the VIM Linux editor.

I was about to make a time commitment to learn VIM but then thought “why not write a program that truly uses one letter commands to navigate pages and tabs?” The resulting AutoHotkey program works with both Google Chrome and Firefox (and other browsers based on them).

To install just place the contents of this Zip file 1KeyBrowsing into any location and run the 1KeyBrowsing.exe file. The two ico files are the program’s icons and the gif file is the quick help accessed by pressing the ? key when the Quick Keys are On or active.

The program’s right click menu is quite short. There are two modes of use: Heavy Browsing or Heavy Typing. If you are editing/typing a lot during browsing then use Heavy Typing as it keeps the Quick Keys Off unless you turn them On. Or, if you are scanning news pages, doing a lot of reading and have a lot of tabs open then set it to Heavy Browsing which keeps Quick Key On.

You can type a semicolon any time to temporarily turn off Quick Keys. Pressing Insert or Ctrl + semicolon will turn them back on. Selecting “Sync with Enter” from the menu below will allow the Enter key to put the program back to your preferred usage mode. [ Warning – it can take some getting used to having Quick Keys on as we’re all so used to the Mouse. ]


Choosing “1 Key Browsing Info” will display basic help.

After this information is displayed, users are asked if they want to see the key commands list.

This list is displayable any time by pressing the ? key when a browser is active and Quick Keys are On.

After starting 1KeyBrowsing, whenever Firefox or Chrome are active, the program will display either “Quick Keys (OFF) or Quick Keys (ON)” in the browser’s title bar. Pressing the Insert key will turn Quick Keys on and off.

With Quick Keys On, press t to open a new Tab then press the n and the p keys to move to the next and the previous Tabs.

Refer to the Quick Keys Commands List and it won’t take long to learn a keyboard method to control your browser.

[Source code for this program is here 1KeyBrowsing source ]

InfoWarp – A small multipurpose launcher with text store, hotstring and reminders capabilities

InfoWarp – A Multipurpose Windows Launcher

Synopsis: This program’s first use allows users to collect their most used programs, web links, documents and folders into a small grid so they can be quickly launched or switched to if they are already running. It’s second use is to let users add textual items which are displayed when the mouse passes over them. The third use of the program is the creation of Hotstring items. The fourth use is to add popup Reminders to any Text items. A Hotstring is a short sequence of characters that expands to a phrase or even several paragraphs after being typed.

The program is a Document, Folder, URL and Program launcher with these capabilities:

  • Manage and Launch all the types of Windows shortcuts: Files, Folders, URLs, Programs.
  • Launch any item via mouse, keyboard or a Hotstring.
  • Create Hotstrings to enter standard texts with a few letters.
  • Display the current Hotstrings.
  • Add Reminders to any Text items.
  • Display the current Reminders.
  • Display and open Recent Files/Folders.
  • Store and quickly display or search on Textual items.
  • Display a Rich Text editor for quick notes via the F9 key.
  • Set items on any Tab to have characteristics of typical ToDos or a Kanban board.
    (These items can be moved Left and Right via right-click to change their status from ToDo/Backlog to Doing to Done. For Kanban items, several other status codes can be set and the text color will change. Mousing over the items will also display their status.)

Updated to v1.54 on 12/15/18: Added additional Statuses for Todo, Kanban items that are also color-coded, Moved Display items into Tools Menu bar. Added Display ToDo/Kanban report in Tools menubar. Added Display Basic Statistics report in Tools menubar. Fixed Resetting of Text Colors after a Reset Found is done. Sorting now leaves ToDo and Kanban Tabs alone and also does an Auto Backup before it starts. Small change on Silencing Reminders during Sleep/Awake, updated Stats report. [Also switched to a different file compressor to cut down on false positives from antivirus programs.]

Updated to v1.45 on 10/14/18: Fixed: some minor issues and brought back the use of Icons in the program’s menus because I like them. If an older computer doesn’t have some of the icons, no errors will be displayed. Fixed: The status bar now displays Double-Click here to enter Edit Mode whenever the mouse is not over a button. Added: some more help text in Features and an option to go to the Blog Page from the Tray menu. A few screen shots in this page have also been updated.

There are two installation options:

    1. Here is a Setup Zip file which runs a traditional installation program. This version should be less prone to setting off antivirus warnings. It will place InfoWarp and a sample file into your Programs folder. setup
    2. Here is a Zip file with the InfoWarp program and a sample file that you can drop into any folder you like. InfoWarp

While looking through some free software sites, I came across an older program called Pigeonhole Organizer. It allows users to store a lot of text through small labeled buttons. As the mouse is moved over buttons the underlying text is automatically displayed in a pop up window. Users can drag items around, color them and search them. A link is here pigeonhole. In my opinion, this is a pretty neat idea, but way too many buttons on one page.

Since that program hasn’t been updated in 11 years, I decided to write something similar in AutoHotkey. In this version you start with 30 items  in three columns of 10. The font style and size are adjustable. Users can select from 1 to 6 columns. Also, to make it more versatile, additional Tabs can be used to help organize items. The screen shot below has several Tabs organized by the type of items.


Clicking on the + tab will prompt to add another tab.

The program lets users click on any empty (gray) item and create one of the following:

  1. Text item – users type or copy/paste into a small text box. This box will automatically display as the mouse moves over Text items. You can also turn on a capability to Monitor Clipboard Copies which enables you to select then copy text (Ctrl C), the program will see the new text on the clipboard and prompt you to create a new Text item. If you click Yes then that text will become the new item. This feature is not intended to remain on always, but, just when you are trying to quickly build up Text items.
  2. Program item – enter the program name and click the button to select the desire program OR just drag and drop the program icon over the InfoGrid.
  3. Document item – same as number 2, drag and drop is easiest.
  4. Folder item – enter manually or drag and drop.
  5. Link item – shortcut files (ending with .lnk) can link to any of the above items and are converted to one of them.
  6. URL item – these files are created by dragging from the address bar in a browser into a folder.
  7. Batch item – if you want to launch many of your items with one click, just create a batch item and it will let you check mark any set of items to launch. It’s a great time saver and won’t relaunch items that are already open.
  8. Hotstring item – hotstrings are short sequence of characters that are replaced by much longer text. For example, typing addr1 can enter the address below. Hotstrings can also be used to launch any item.
    ACME, Inc.
    100 Main Street
    Anywhere, USA 00000

Users can edit, delete, cut and paste items. Since the program allows for additional Tabs (page of items), items can be Cut the moved from one page to another. After clicking Cut click the empty location where you want to move that item to and you will see an additional Paste option.


Item are colored as follows:

Green – Folders
Dark Blue – Programs
Light Blue – Text items (mouse over to reveal their contents)
Olive – Documents (Word, Text, Excel, etc.)
Purple – Hotstrings (Text inserted with just a few letters)
Black – Batch item (allows many items to be run with one click)

Adding a Text item – click an empty item then choose Text. This window will be displayed. At your text item name and contents then Save it.


When you mouse over any Text item, it’s contents are displayed.

If you need to resize the window or grab any text from it then press a Shift key or double-click the status bar to enter Edit mode. You can do anything with the window until pressing Shift again to leave Edit mode. The status bar and window title will change to let you know when you are in Edit mode.

Program Menus

The program’s menu options are easily understood.

Users can backup and restore their items file to/from any folder. All data is stored in InfoWarp.ini which is in the same folder as the InfoWarp program. An Auto Backup is also done every minute to your Temp folder in case you delete items you didn’t mean to. To do an Auto Restore, just right-click on the Tray icon and choose that option.


You can Delete ALL will start with an empty grid, if desired. Sort ALL will sort each Tab (page) individually by the items names.


Choosing Find Text Only will ask for the search text and highlight items that match. When the mouse moves over items containing matching text, the program will select the first match. Below the word Hotstring was searched on.

Find Any search item names, folder names, text, etc. on the current Tab and highlights them.


Users can Add, Delete and Rename Tabs from the menu or by double-clicking an existing Tab or using the menu. The font size and the number of columns are also changeable. When going to a lesser number of columns the program will prompt to Sort items and it will let you know if not all items will be displayed. Items will not be lost by Sorting or reducing columns.

Drag / Drop interface to add items

Dragging a program shortcut onto InfoWarp displays a prompt for the name you want to call it. Then it is added to the grid where you dropped it or in the first available empty spot. You can select a lot of shortcuts at one time and drag them over the grid. You will be prompted for a name for each item, the default will be a short name based on the item’s filename. Once a grid is full, you will be prompted to add another column. The program can maintain up to 6 columns. Or, you can add additional Tabs or pages which can keep the number of columns small.

Launching items just with the keyboard

Users can press Win-Alt-I to show the program, then press the number of the Tab they want to display and then press the Space bar to show letters by each item. At this point, pressing a letter will launch the desired item. [If you get here by mistake then press the ESC key to remove the letters.] Clicking on other Tabs or pressing numbers is disabled until you type in the letter of the item you want or press ESCape. This behavior is normal. The picture below (camera shot) shows the quick access letters. My apologizes for the quality. While InfoWarp is waiting for a quick letter to be pressed, I was unable to take a normal screen shot.

For non Text items, their path is displayed in the status bar while the mouse is moved around. This is helpful if the item name isn’t self-explanatory.


Users can drag any type of shortcut, program or folder over the main window and it will create corresponding items.

Creating Hotstring Items:


For the Address 1 Hotstring, it was created as shown below:

Typing addr1 will send the address text to whatever program that is active. So, typing Addr1, addr1, ADDR1 will all cause the Hotstring to fire. If you want a Hotstring to only be active in a particular program then enter its name under Hotstring Condition (i.e. notepad.exe would only make a Hotstring active in Windows Notepad, as above).

To create a Hotstring for a program, folder or document, simply place the Hotstring inside brackets as shown here. Typing ntpd will run Notepad, typing prt will display the Printers Control Panel. *IMPORTANT* If you create a Hotstring and it doesn’t immediately activate you can go to File, Restart or Search, Display Hotstrings and click on Restart to reactivate all Hotstrings.


You can also create use a Hotstring to launch a program as shown below. Normally, it’s better to drag and drop programs to create their items. But, for some portable applications, the program used to launch them is not the same name as the program themselves. In the example below, the program is started with PortableToDoList.exe which runs ToDoList.exe. This causes switching to ToDoList to not work properly. But, one can add a Run ToDo (rtd) Hotstring like this and it will activate any running copy of ToDoList.

* Additional more powerful Hotstrings in version 1.30 *

In this version Hotstrings may contain commands that move the cursor around, click the mouse and activate other keys like Ctrl, Alt, Win and Shift.

If you wanted a Hotstring to always move to the top of your document before entering text, you can use ^{Home} to do a Ctrl – Home command. The Hotstring would look like:

^{Home}To whom it may concern,{Enter}{Enter}This is a test letter for anyone.{Enter}{Enter}Sincerely,{Enter}{Enter}

This would produce:

To whom it may concern,

This is a test letter for anyone.

Sincerely,

The underlying AutoHotkey scripting language has a Hotstring section with lots of help info online.

Adding Control Panel items:

When adding a Program item, you can select from a bunch of Windows Control Panels or click the button to navigate to a program to add.


Adding Batch Items:

Creating a Batch item will display all items for you to check mark the ones that are part of the batch. In this instance, Sample Batch is the name and it will run the checked items with a click or by typing 0bt which is its Hotstring. Every item has an ID assigned to it, so if you move items to different Tabs, batch items will still work properly.


New Hotstrings do not always activate but you can Restart the program to take care of that. Using the Search, Display Current Hotstrings will so the ones you have created.


Using the Hot Apps Launcher v1.23+:

Since the typing of Hotstrings can interfere with some applications or overwrite say a cell in Excel, users can press both Shift keys to display the Hot Apps launcher window. From here, just start typing a Hotstring. When a complete Hotstring is entered this window will close and the application will be launched.

If you start typing a Hotstring, the list will narrow down. Once you have entered a complete Hotstring that item will launch.

Adding Web Pages (URLs):

For web pages, most users will just save bookmarks and/or several start pages and be just fine with that. But, for the sake of completion, I added the launching of Web pages via their URLs as well. URL items only need a name and a URL to launch a web page. If the web page title and browser are saved the program can crawl through all open web pages looking for the one you want before opening a new browser tab. To store the extra info, just press Shift Ctrl F12 when the web page is active. Some web pages don’t work in every browser so this lets users specify the browser to use to fix that issue.


Certain settings can be changed or turned on and off if you wish by right-clicking the Tray icon and by using the program’s Menu bar. Items starting with AutoStart are either checked or unchecked and are remembered when restarting the program.


New v1.23 menu items are in Red.

The menu setting called Window Follows Mouse is for users that have 2 or more monitors. If this is turned on whenever the program window goes from hidden to shown, it will appear next to the Mouse pointer. So, if you have two monitors and the mouse pointer is on a different one since the program was last made visible then it will move to that window. (Using Win – Alt – I, double tapping Ctrl or Alt keys or whatever hotkey you have set.)

There is more information in the program menus and also a Tutorial section.

Since InfoWarp is primarily a launcher, it can be set to hide when items are clicked or by clicking on its Tray icon. The default Hotkey to show/hide the program is to press the Windows, Alt and I keys together. You can also turn on double tapping the Ctrl and the Alt keys to show the program.


Several settings will restart the program (deleting Tabs, sorting, turning Hotstrings on and off, etc.) which is normal.

To summarize, the two main uses of InfoWarp are to launch programs, documents and folders AND to store lots of frequently referenced text for rapid display. Please read through the purpose, features and the Tutorials for more information.

The new Quick Notes editor in v1.33 is accessed from the menu bar or the tray menu or by pressing F9. All of the most typical word processing formatting is available in this window. You may use up to 16 tabs (notes) and click on the Gear to set names for them. If you use week days for names then pressing F8 will take you to today’s note. Pressing ESCape or clicking on the X will save changes and hide the window.

Right-click in the window for the formatting menu.

Click on the (?) in order to see quick help.

Clicking on the magnifying glass will display the Find Toolbar so you can search for text.

Additions for v1.41:

Setting and Displaying Text Reminders –

Adding a time or an interval to a Text item will cause a popup to be displayed.

 


This will display popups at the bottom of monitor 1 as below. Click on reminders to close them. You may silence Reminder popups by choosing Silence Reminders from the right-click tray menu.

ToDo / Kanban tracking –

By naming Tabs specifically, tracking of simple ToDos or Kanban flow can be done. In a two column setup, ToDos will start in status TODO then change to DONE when they are moved to the right. In a three column setup, Kanban items will start in TODO status and go to DOING then to DONE by moving them to the right two times. Right click items to move them Left or Right to the topmost empty cell. The default Tab names for this feature are ToDo and Kanban. Other names can be entered with Set ToDo/Kanban labels on the Right-click Tray menu. This is shown below.



Kanban items work the same way, but, require three columns for TODO, DOING and DONE. This labeling merely helps users to remember the status of each item and is not part of the Item’s name.

*New* Additional Kanban status codes are available. Right-clicking on a Kanban item will display other codes you can use to track progress on it. If you use any of these status codes, the item’s text color will change. You can switch back to the simpler Column based status as long as you have at least three columns for Kanban items (Backlog, Doing, Done). Using these status codes allows you to have fewer columns and still track the items.


ToDo items have less additional codes.

*New* ToDo/Kanban reports from the Tools, Display Current ToDos/Kanbans option.

*New* Statistics The program can now display a summary by item type by choosing Display Basic Statistics from the Tools menu.

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions.

Constant Info – Notifications and Reminders for one user or for small groups

Click here to download Constant Info Pro. 

[If you wish to try the SQL Version click here. Constant Info Pro SQL. It will place sqlite3.dll into the same folder when you launch it. That DLL contains the SQL functionality required for this version. There are some different prompts in this version.]

[Version 1.58 (01/06/18) – Changed Info Update window to remove Bold text, reduce the font size and added a “Stop Showing This Notice” button. This function is the same as choosing “Suppress Update Notices” from the program’s right click menu.]

Version 1.57 (12/23/17) – A lot more testing and tweaking since version 1.52. Version 1.51 (11/17/17) Fixed: An issue with some repeating items showing as blank. Tweaked file saving. Version 1.50 – Added un-hiding of the scroll window and items whenever a computer comes out of Sleep or Hibernation. Version 1.48 adds Advanced Notification of dated items and Weekly repeats. After extracting the Constant Info Pro program from the Zip file, just double click it to run.

After completing the first release of Constant WORD, I kept thinking there was some other uses for displaying text in a banner (ticker) format. At work, we use a program to track our tasks and it categorizes tickets by severity or importance and by location. We frequently get emails related to big issues going on or for upcoming changes.

I felt the banner format could be used as an early notification system for teams or work groups. Using severity codes 0 to 5 the program can display important items (issues) and let users know how quickly they need to be addressed or how widespread they are.

The program has grown since then to include more information. Users can now input the following:

  • Item Description – enter a short description of the reminder, task or issue. This text is what displays in the scroll window.
  • Item Date – (displays on a specific date unless Repeats are used) which can also be left blank in order to continue showing the item until it is deleted.
  • Item Repeat – (blank, Monthly, Biweekly or Weekly). Monthly displays the item on the same day of each month until changed. Biweekly displays the item if today’s date is a multiple of two weeks from the stored date. Use Advance Notices from the menu to see items 1 to 7 days ahead of time.
  • Item Link –  Users can click on the three dots button (…) and then select a file or click on “HTTP” to have the program enter http:// into the link field. Copy/Paste any desired web link into the edit box. When items are being displayed, they will be surrounded with asterisks if a link is present (i.e. *This is a test*). Users can right-click the item and choose Open Link or hold down the CTRL key then double-click the item to open the linked file or web page.
  • Item Priority – Choose a number from 0 to 5 to prioritize the item. This number determines what color the item is displayed with.
    • The colors are as follows:
      • 0 – Info – Gray
        1 – Sev1 – Red
        2 – Sev2 – Maroon
        3 – Possible Issue – Olive
        4 – Resolved – Green
        5 – Notice – Teal
    • Items may be prefaced with Labels or those may be turned off. [In a future release, Labels will be changeable by users.]
  • Item Extra Text – A much longer section of text detailing each item can be entered into this field. Items containing extra text are surrounded with brackets (i.e. [this is a test]). Right clicking on the item and choosing “Show Extra Text” will display the text in a separate window.
  • When items are added, the program also adds the current user name. This is only for display and isn’t changeable. It serves as an audit trail for team users of this program. However, it will be deleted when the item is deleted. Perhaps in the future a regular audit log will be kept separately.

When the program is first run, it will prompt for the folder you want to save the Info file into. The file is called ConstantInfoPro.txt.

The info file is created with sample data and starts scrolling at the top, middle part of the main monitor. You will also see these basic instructions:

At the top, you will see the scroll window:

Placing the mouse over the window displays some help text:

If an item has a Link or Extra Text, the popup window will note it. Right clicking on the window will display a small menu that is appropriate for the item. In this case, you can choose “Open Link” to display a local text file, if desired. You can always right click and Add new items and Edit all items.

If you are using the program for Reminders, you can clear a reminder in two ways: 1) delete the reminder or 2) right-click the reminder and choose “Hide this Item” to signify you have read it. Hiding items doesn’t delete them, it only hides them until you restart the program. At any time, you can unhide all hidden items by choosing “UnHide Items.”

Right click the window and choose “Add new Item” or use the menu option to add new items.

Double clicking on the window or choosing “Edit Items” will display the following list:

Double click an item to Edit or Delete it:

The Edit Info window has a number of options that make it easy to enter an item:

*IMPORTANT* – By using a calendar control to enter a date, remember that it will automatically insert today’s date UNLESS you click on the “Click Here for No Date” button. This will make sure the date is blank. If you want an item to only appear for a day then make sure the Date Repeat is blank. If you want to see an item the same day of every month then choose Monthly. If you want to see an item every other week on the same weekday then choose Biweekly.

For the scrolling window, you can change its Width, Location, Font Size, Font Style (Normal or Bold), add a Border, have the window Fade after 30 seconds so you can see underneath it (pointing to it will remove the fade) and change the scrolling speed. You can also hide or show the window by clicking on the program’s taskbar icon. The Ins, Delete, Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys can be used to quickly move the window into 6 areas. Just click on the window first then press a key. If you have multiple monitors, mouse over the window, hold down the Shift key then drag the window to any screen you desire.

All of these items are in the right click menu. The all on One Line option is just an experiment. It shows items separated with vertical bars and flashes the appropriate color for each item.

If you are using the program with other users on a network, you will see this window whenever they make changes. Sometimes you will see it also after Adding or Editing items. If this is too intrusive then click the Stop Showing button.

If you try to Add or Edit items when someone else already is then you will see this message. You can wait a little while or click cancel and try again later.

There are four basic mouse uses with the scrolling window:

  1. Double-click to use the Edit/Delete options
  2. CTRL Double-click to Open any item Link
  3. ALT Double-click to Add a new item
  4. Right click to use the item menu

The easiest way to learn the program is to edit the demo items and see the results. Whenever there are no items or no dated items that match then the scrolling window will disappear.

 

Automating Windows

[Release 1.18 is here, Shortcuts Creator. Users can now drag and drop multiple files onto the main window and it will process each one appropriately. It supports: 1) Program EXEs, 2) Windows Shortcuts, 3) URL files saved from browsers, 4) Folders and 5) other Documents. I still need to add editing of single shortcuts instead of opening the entire My Shortcuts file. That will be coming soon.] You will need to install the small AutoHotkey interpreter for this program to work. It is here, AutoHotkey Download. Just click on download and use the installer. The program doesn’t do anything until an AutoHotkey script is run.

For quite some time I have been interesting in speeding up my interaction with both Windows programs and the operating system itself.

The common repetitive actions to be automated are:

  • Launching or switching to an application
  • Entering repetitive single and multi line text
  • Opening files and/or folders
  • Displaying regularly visited Web pages
  • Searching through recent files/folders/programs and web urls

In order to do this, the following scripts have been written:

  1. Shortcuts Creator – creates the types of shortcuts above without programming knowledge and adds them to
  2. MyShortcuts – a text script file that contains all of your shortcuts as well as some required functions to display and launch them.
  3. Multi-Launcher – a program that runs in the background gathering your recently launched programs, recently opened folders and documents, and keeps a history of recent web pages. You can quickly search through these lists and switch to or relaunch any item.

After you have created your main shortcuts, you will only run Shortcuts Creator when necessary. MyShortcuts will be running and contains quick access help and your shortcuts. Multi-Launcher is optional but I feel quite valuable since many of us do not bookmark a lot of web pages we may need later on.

For example, to create a shortcut called ffox to launch the Firefox browser, simply enter ffox in item 1, enter a description in item 2 then click on Launch-File. Browse to either an existing shortcut or the Firefox program file. This will create a keyboard shortcut called rffox. File and Program shortcuts start with the letter r since you are running them.

This adds the shortcut to your myshortcuts file. You can click Display Current Shortcuts and see it listed.

You can use it in three ways: 1) type ffox inside any edit window or box, 2) click the My Shortcuts icon then double-click on rffox or 3) press both Shift keys to display the Launcher. From the Launcher enter rffox. The Launcher will close the Firefox will run.

For now, if you need to change a shortcut, you can use Edit Shortcuts. This does expose the underlying script language. I plan to add Edit and Delete shortcut options soon.

You can also make shortcuts to Open Folders (they start with the letter f), shortcuts that launch web pages (they start with the letter w) and shortcuts that are replaced by either single or multi line text (they start with the letter t).

For example, typing taddr could enter:

John Doe
100 Main St.
Anywhere, USA

There are tons of uses for shortcuts and used properly they will save you a lot of time. For files, folders and programs, shortcuts will only launch the item the first time; afterwards, typing those shortcuts will make those windows instantly active.

A secondary application called Multi-Launcher can also be access from Shortcuts Creator. Between the two programs you can effectively launch all of your standard programs and documents AND search a history of recent files, folders, programs and web pages.

I will post up the actual applications in a few days.

 

Multi-Launcher v1.36 – A different type of program/file launcher

NEW RELEASE on June 30th 2018. Version 1.36 can be downloaded here Multi-Launcher. There is no install. Just copy the contents of the zip file to a folder of your choice and run it. The program still needs the Web Updater added. After a little more testing it will be released with one. Version 1.31 contains About Multi-Launcher in its tray menu and a link to this blog page. It also has a Blog Web Page menu item to bring users here.

Changes since 1.31:

v1.36 – Users can add another Hotkey in Multi-Launcher.ini [under Settings add Hotkey= using ^ (ctrl), + (shift) and ! (alt). For example, Shift-Ctrl-L would be Hotkey=+^l
v1.35 – Added Flashpeak SlimJet as a recognized browser
v1.34 – Fixed restoring of some apps that are minimized
v1.33 – Added Restore window when relaunching a program that has been minimized
v1.32 – Fix to A_MyDocuments going to OneDrive folder instead of c:\users\username\Documents

One of my co-workers frequently mentions how scattered all the files and the web pages seem to be. And I agree that keeping track of everything can be daunting even with the conveniences of newer versions of Microsoft Windows.

I used this need as a starting point for what I believe is a very different type of launcher application. While I originally called the program WH4 which stood for Which, What, Where and When, I finally picked the name Multi-Launcher. The program tracks four types of information: 1) Which applications you have been running, 2) What documents you have opened (local, network share or other connected storage like flash drives), 3) Where you have been looking or the folders you have accessed and 4) When you were browsing various web sites. The four lists are stored under My Document in Programs, Documents, Folders and URLs files with a CSV ending.

As you can see below, there are four parts in the standard window or tabbed view.

As you go about your work, the program gathers this information. Later on, you can launch any program, document, folder or Web URL by double-clicking on it. If a matching window is already running, the program will bring it to the front. For web browsers this only works if the double-clicked item matches an existing tab in the browser. The program will go through all tabs and browser instances. If it doesn’t find a matching page (same Title), it will add a New Tab and retrieve that web page. [This still isn’t 100% working which is why I’m keeping the program as beta for a while yet.]

So, the most typical use of the program is to press the SHIFT and PAUSE keys, enter some search text then double-click the desired item to launch it. Or you can open the window and sort on any column to find the item you need and launch it.

Each list is always sorted with the most recently used items at the top for easy reference. And it serves as a memory jogger as well. The Time is in Year-Month-Day-Hour-Minute-Second format which makes for proper sorting. When you are working in the program’s window, you can resort on any column by clicking it. But, when you leave the program, the list will resort by date and time.

Visual indicators of the active list are shown with a different color Tab background. The Tabbed view is also resizable. The windows size and position are remembered. You may also switch to the Stacked or vertical view which is shown below.

Entering search text will filter each list for matches. This makes the program into a database of sorts and frees your mind for other tasks. The search window has gray boxes for backgrounds. When you clear the search text, the original lists reappear. Multi-Launcher continues to update each list even if search values are being displayed.

Clicking on the program’s Taskbar icon will either Hide or Show the window. You can also use the middle mouse button to Roll Up the window into just its Title bar. Other options are to have the window be Always On Top of other windows.

While getting the active program’s title and process name and the title and folder path were pretty simple to do, I had to do more research for open documents and web URLs.

Someone had already written two functions to get the URL from an active browser and they work well for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. If your browser opens several pages on startup then you will have to click on each page to make it active. This allows the program to quickly store the page Title and URL. It also stores the browser path as many of us use multiple browsers to cover our bases when different web apps. When launching web pages, the program looks to see if the source browser is running, if not it starts it. Otherwise, it will search each Tab to see if there is a matching page.

The last piece, getting the name of open documents (like a Word or an Excel document), turned out to be beyond my programming skills. I did a good bit of research on this part. The only utility I could find that would create a list of all open files along with their path is called OpenedFilesView. However, I was recently reminded that Windows for years has tracked recently accessed files and folders. By filtering out the folders I was left with recent files. The documents list updates whenever any file in the %appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent folder is updated by Windows.

Other settings for the program are contained in its right-click menu as below. Items that are checked are currently active. You may switch views by selecting “Use Tabbed View” which requires the program to restart. Unless you change it, the program will stick with the last chosen view. You may also adjust how many columns are displayed by choosing “Show Details.”

Clicking Hide After Launching will automatically hide the Launcher window after you double-click any item. This keeps you from having to click the icon or pressing ESC to hide the window and make using the program more unobtrusive.

Choosing AutoStart will add a shortcut for the program to your Startup folder. You can deselect Show Details to hide some of the columns and the headers to make the window more shrinkable. You can Rollup the window to just the Title bar height. If you use multiple monitors on different PCs and the main window is off screen then choose Recenter Window. If Firefox is not grabbing URLs properly then uncheck Use Firefox Legacy. You may also restart from the menu.

The program automatically saves the four lists in your c:\temp folder to reload the next time it is run. For convenience, you may right click any item and delete item from a list (not from disk). You can also filter out items, especially web URLs that are redundant. Many web pages go through several title changes while loading. You can filter out all but the final page to keep things a bit cleaner. All Filters are stored in the Multi-Launcher.Ini file. This may change later and a filter list for easier management will be added.

       

The program now saves backups of each list on startup (.bak) and allows users to backup/restore from any folder. For the Recent Documents list, users may also remove invalid or old links. The program defaults to showing up to 100 Recent Documents.

Password Helper – Generating more secure passwords

[Version 1.35 of Password Helper for Windows 7 and higher is available here Password Helper]

Password Helper runs standalone and uses two lists of embedded phrases and one small words dictionary file to generate up to 4 different passwords. Enter your own phrase or use one from the two supplied lists then click on Generate to see the passwords. Three random passwords are also shown for those who like to use those (i.e. Nerds).

On home PCs and others not on a corporate network, you will see this prompt when starting the program. The only way  the program can change the password for you after you have chosen one is to have Administrative privileges. You do not have to enable this as you can always write down any suggested password then press Control Alt Delete and choose Change Password to set a new one.

After making your choice the main screen appears. There will be an asterisk (*) in the Status bar when the program is running as an Admin.

In this example, I have clicked on the second long phrase which enters it into the phrase box. After clicking Generate you will see:

Since the “Enforce 16 character maximum length” checkbox is checked, the program is only showing two possible passwords:

  1. The password #07Abbfybbased on the first letters of the phrase “A bigger bang for your buck” is shown with extra Prefix and Postfix additions. By default, the current Month is part of the Prefix and the current year of part of the Postfix. And the # and the * are added front and back. Together this makes a password of 14 to 16 characters, but, you only have to remember the phrase to figure out the letters.
  2. The second password is based on two random words chosen from a list of 7,000 common words. The words are either 4 or 5 letters long. If the “Enforce 16 characters” isn’t checked then the words will be up to 6 letters in length. Slang terms were removed but some funny combination show up nevertheless.

Remembering an easy phrase or two easy words is about as much help as you can get to create a reasonably strong password.

If you uncheck the “Enforce 16 characters” password length then click Generate again you will see more password suggestions starting with the original phrase without spaces. After some password testing I have found out that the three longer passwords are about equal in strength. The first one is far easier to remember. Using longer than 16 characters is purely up to what your computer(s) or websites are able to handle.

When you click on any password button you will be prompted three times. The password will be copied to the clipboard first. The second prompt is to save the password. The third is the “Are you sure?” prompt.

If you didn’t start with Admin privileges on a home PC then you will see this prompt.

You are still allowed to restart as an Admin now, but, if you like that clicked on password remember to write it down now because it won’t be saved. You can also click No below then use Ctrl-Alt-Del to change the password.

This will restart with Admin privileges. It is much easier to do this when first starting the program.

*IMPORTANT* If you are on an office network then this step is not necessary as the password will be changed with a small program called setpassword. The program will prompt you for your current password and then change your network account password to the new one.

There are a lot of phrases supplied that work with the first letter password scheme and there is a smaller list that works within the 16 character limit.

Clicking Generate repeatedly will always create more Two Word passwords and more 8 character random passwords. Just click until you find one that you can easily remember.

You can also changed the Prefix and the Postfix characters and choose an interleaving character if you desire.

I hope this helps many of you to start using stronger passwords with your computers and websites.

Data File Search and Copy utility

[v1.67 – after a search, a summary by file types is shown (click the status bar at any time to re-display it), added PDFs when clicking on Check MS Office data in the Edit File Types window.]
[v1.66 – some tweaks, users can add additional file types easily, creating settings file on first start, additional file types, ability to search on Data Documents and Other Files together, ability to search any fixed or removable drive in additional to C drive]

For users who wonder were some of the files may have gotten off to, this utility will search for common file types in either the user’s profile folders (drive C) or anywhere on other fixed or removable drives.

Once you choose the drive and the areas to search, the program quickly finds matches based on the chosen file types. You may right click and copy selected files or the matching files from selected folders to any other media. Here are some screenshots. And here is the program for anyone who is interested. Data File Search and Copy Just drag the file out of the ZIP file and run from anywhere. 


You can choose from any fixed or removable drive to Search.


Tool tips appear when hovering over each item. Searching on files named list finds 37 matches.



A summary by file types is also shown.

Finding all Office type documents finds over 4,000 files. There are 11 on my desktop folder.

Eleven files are also shown when I click on the Folders button to summarize by folders.
Right-clicking allows files or folders to be copied.


The results of the folder copy are here:


The summary by folders shows:

If you wish to search on all files first then you can still find those with list as part of the path name by using the Search in Results field.

You may modify the search file types by click on Create Settings File or Edit Types. The program has preset files to search to spare you the trouble to figure them out.


Choosing to Edit File Types displays a laundry list of common file types. You can check / uncheck as desired. Use UnCheck/Check All buttons to speed up the process. Clicking ‘Check MS Office Data’ will deselect all data document types but the ones with MS (Microsoft) as part of their description. This makes it easy because there are so many. Be sure to click ‘Save Changes’ when you are finished or the Red X for no changes. [New – you can ‘add your own’ file types to either section now. Just make sure to separate the type entries with commas. If ‘add your own’ is blank then once you click Save, it will be displayed as (none) afterwards.

You may also change the background color, the font name and the font size for the lists.

Simple Reminders software

[Version 1.29 (01/31/21) is available for download here, Simple Reminders – The prompts displayed when Pausing/Resuming Reminders and when Pomodoro Timer is running have been changed so as to not use Windows 10 toast notifications which are too noisy. Pomodoro Work time prompts are blue and Break time prompts are yellow. The other prompts are green.]

As usual there is no installer required, just open the zip file and copy the Simple Reminders to any folder or to the desktop and run it. If Windows prompts to run, just click Run anyway.

In 2017 there have been a lot of articles detailing why sitting for long periods of time is very bad for one’s health. Having written a program call Get Exercise last year, I thought perhaps a smaller, more generic Reminder program may get even more use. Get Exercise has had about 2,000 downloads and has a lot of options, lots of pictures / diagrams for stretching and eye exercises, but, it may be overwhelming for some users.

A smaller program that can still reminder computer users to get up, walk, stretch, take out the trash, attend a 10am phone meeting, etc. will hopefully be easier for everyone. For those who want more bells and whistles, the other program will remain available.

The new program is called Simple Reminders and allows users to create up to 9 reminders that are displayed at specific times each day or are shown after user-defined timers go off. Several screen shot will help show how easy this is to setup. Reminders will be displayed as below, either from the bottom left side or right side:

The About Simple Reminder window has general info plus several examples of ways to setup reminders.

There are a couple of extra features borrowed from Get Exercise which has its blog page here.

The initial Reminders are set as follows.

You can uncheck ‘Left-side Notifications’ to display reminders at the Right-side of the window. In order to edit the Labels, Colors and Delays, you need to uncheck ‘Disable Advanced Fields’ as shown below:

Clicking on the program’s icon in the system icon area of the Task bar will display a mini list of the currently set reminders.

Pausing Reminders from the menu will stop notifications from appearing, but, doesn’t stop the timers from running.

For more info on ‘Do Breathing Exercise’ and ‘Pomodoro Timers’ refer to the page on Get Exercise.

If you want more sound when a reminder is displayed then check ‘DOUBLE Sounds.’ Or you can TURN OFF all sounds.

 

Memory Hogs v1.45 – A PC performance activity monitor and alert system

[Note: v1.45 is online.  Fixed a couple of typos. Fixed window sometimes popping up dead center instead of chosen corner. Added popup menu when left clicking on Tray icon. Download from here MemoryHogs]

While noticing how slow my browsing sessions at home could get, I thought it would be nice to try and monitor the situation and ‘diagnose’ what is going on. I use Firefox routinely, It is a one process browser and can grow to use a lot of RAM. I’m talking 900 megabytes, 1200 megabytes or more. And sometimes when it gets that high, it is a runaway process that needs to be killed. I highly recommend an add-on called “YouTube – Flash HTML5.” With it, you switch between Flash videos and HTML5 videos. Sometimes Flash just goes wild and crashes Firefox.

While searching for clues on writing an application to monitor processes, I came across the basic code for getting a list of process names, RAM usage, Path, etc. I created the basic program around that. I later saw some AutoHotkey code for a CPU Load graphical monitor. And I also read up on Win32_Process more. I filtered the list on only processes that have a window associated with them. Other processes are service or ‘background’ processes, for lack of a better word.

Currently, users can choose how many processes to display, the RAM and the CPU Thresholds, over which the Memory Hogs window will be displayed.

Memory Hogs can alert users of the following:

  1. When any process uses more than a certain amount of RAM.
  2. When any process is ‘Not Responding’ a Tray Tip window will be displayed.
  3. When the CPU Load is over a certain percentage.
  4. When free Disk space is below a certain amount.
  5. When Used RAM is above a certain percentage.
  6. When Used Pagefile is above a certain percentage.
  • Item 1 will be checked if a process is over the threshold.
  • Item 2 will be displayed at the bottom right corner if a process has been Not Responding for at least 9 seconds. This value can be changed in the settings file.
  • Item 3 will flash the CPU Load when threshold is reached.
  • Item 4 will only be displayed when the computer name is added to the settings file using the ShowDiskSpaceForPCsNamed variable matches the current computer. (Since fixed disk space is rarely an issue today this alert is not enabled by default.) [For some systems like Virtual Desktops, the amount of disk space may well be 10gb or less and free space would be important to track.]
  • Item 5 defaults to Used RAM greater than 90% and will flash an alert.
  • Item 6 defaults to Used Page File greater than 90% and will flash an alert.

Double-clicking a process will allow it to be killed. Right double-clicking will display the process folder in windows explorer. It can run in Stealth Mode and log these events for you to check later on.

Some screen shots and more information are below.

Main Window showing 10 Top Processes, 800mb Process alert and 90% CPU Load alert.

Setting Process Threshold to 150mb shows two processes over the limit

General Program Info

Program Icon right-click menu

Mouse over the Program tray icon to see current settings and CPU Load / Top Process at the bottom.

View Settings File

View Logs for Not Responding, CPU load and Free Diskspace

Double-click a process to Exclude it from the Not Responding tray alerts. Excluded processes will be highlighted like you have clicked them in the list. This is just a quick visual indicator.

Later on you can double-click the same process to Include it in alerts again.

The help instructions from the program are below.

v1.29 –
Pressing ALF-F at the Main window will Freeze it so you can make changes to the numbers and double-click any processes to Exclude them from or Include them into the Not Responding alerts. Click Update then press ALT-F when you are finished to “Thaw” the display.

v1.28 –
Added two more Memory alerts to the main window, Used Physical RAM percentage and Used Pagefile percentage.

v1.27 –
Create a shortcut for the program with parameter, either s or S, and it starts in Stealth Mode with no visible output. (i.e. command line is memoryhogs.exe s)

v1.26 –
Changed Refresh button to Update. Now you can change the values then click Update to see the effect without the program restarting. Pressing Escape key hides the window and set AlwaysShow OFF.

v1.25 –
For processes that frequently go Not Responding you can Exclude them from showing alerts by double-clicking them and choosing EXCLUDE. They will be displayed as gray or highlighted color to denote Excluded. If your double-click them again you can choose INCLUDE and they will alert on Not Responding. Processes that go over the RAM Threshold displayed with a checkmark.

v1.24 –
Users can click on the Tray icon to Show or Hide the main window now.

v1.23 –
Added a limiter for Not Responding processes called aProcessSeconds. It defaults to 9 seconds a process has to be hung to display an alert. This is three times through the normal 3 second scan interval. This can be added to MemoryHogs.ini and changed there (i.e. aProcessSeconds=12 would be 12 seconds before an alert). This is to cut down on very brief Not Responding periods for processes which caused a lot of flashing popup messages in the system tray area. This number should be a multiple of 3 since the refresh cycle is 3 seconds between re-displaying the processes.

Memory Hogs v1.22:

A small program that lists processes when one or more of them are using more memory than a desired threshold. If the process is run away or frozen, left double-click it to close it. Right double-clicking will open the folder the process is running from. You can set the number of processes to list, the memory threshold then Refresh the window. The Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys may be used to move the window quickly to any corner. You may also right-click on the program icon and choose Always Show to have the window remain visible even when no processes are over the threshold. The processes are updated every 3 seconds.

Recent changes:

v1.22 –
Added auto updater code

v1.21 –
Added Stealth Mode to hide the program completely but log all types of activity. Previous Alert statuses are saved when going to and from Stealth Mode. You can type @mhoff to turn off Stealth Mode.

v1.20 –

Added Hotstring commands to augment right-click menu for keyboarders.

@mhs    – Show On/Off
@mhh    – Hide (Show Off) or press ESCape
@mhi    – Show Program Info
@mhr    – Restart/Refresh
@mhca   – CPU Alerts On/Off
@mhda   – DISK Space Alerts On/Off
@mhra   – Used RAM Alerts On/Off
@mhpa   – Used Pagefile Alerts On/Off
@mhnra  – NOT Responding Tray Tip Alerts On/Off
@mhvl   – View Logs
@mhvs   – View Settings
@mhas   – AutoStart On/Off
@mhex   – Exit/Quit Program
@mhon  – Stealth On
@mhoff – Stealth Off

v1.19 –
Use View Log Files to pull up each file into Notepad

v1.18 –
Added Log All Alerts option to the menu. If selected, then CPU, Disk and Not Responding Alerts are logged into three separate files under c:\temp.

MHOG-CPU.csv
MHOG-Diskspace.csv
MHOG-NotResponding.csv

v1.17 –
Program always alerts on Memory Hog processes but now has a menu for CPU, Disk and Not Responding Alerts that can be turned on and off.

v1.16 –
Program has an AutoStart menu option now.

v1.15 –
Some menu item name changes.

v1.14 –
Optionally, if you set a PC name in the MemoryHogs.Ini file, the program will track free disk space and alert when it is too low. Set or add ShowDiskSpaceForPCsNamed to your computer name and you will see the window displayed if your PC has less than the desired diskspace.

v1.13 –
Process Status is now displayed. Background (window less) processes are no longer shown. Active is good, Not Responding is bad if it persists.

v1.12 –
The program starts in Always Show mode to set your initial values.

v1.11 –
An additional alert has been added for CPU. If the CPU is 90 percent loaded then the window will be displayed and the CPU percent will flash. You can set the CPU Load as you like. Some text formatting changes have also been made. CPU Load is shown when the mouse is over the program tray icon.

Still under development! hogversion hogchanges

Process Monitor / Window Logger – AutoIT scripts

WINDOWS LOGGER

In late summer of 2015, I was looking at some programming videos and ran across one showing how simple it is to run a script in the background that grabs keystrokes. This type of application is called a key logger and are usually used for “up to no good” activities. I was interested in whether I could apply this to logging how much time users spend in each application and log that information when they switch from one program to another.

My daughters are older now, but, this type of program could be used to monitor where young people (or old :-)) go on the internet, for example. Still, I thought I would pursue writing a script that I call Windows Logger. The basic theory is that the script grabs the current program name and window (document) title. It starts a timer and when it detects a different active window, it saves a log entry with the last program used and the time spent there. Some hotkeys control various features of the script as it runs unseen in the background. The program can be set to run on startup. If users request it, I can make the function key assignments changeable.

A couple of screen shots are below. The PDF documentation and executable are in here. windows-logger

process-monitor-help

windows-logger-2

 

PROCESS MONITOR

At work, we sometimes have users whose computers are very slow or have applications that frequently are hung or “Not Responding.” I felt it could be good to have a program log those events for the purpose of knowing which application(s) are misbehaving. Process Monitor is very similar to Windows Logger but it only logs entries for processes that are frozen, hung or “Not Responding” for say 20, 30 seconds or more. Many, many programs go unresponsive when computers start up or when programs are loading the first time for the day. By looking only at process that remain hung for a while, one knows that they are not working properly. Some hotkeys control various features of the script as it runs unseen in the background. The program can be set to run on startup. If users request it, I can make the function key assignments changeable.

A couple of screen shots are below. The PDF documentation and executable are in here. process-monitor

process-monitor-help

process-monitor-stats

 

 

process-monitor-csv