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Macro Express utility can help to automate routine

Macro Express utility can help to automate routine

I have a confession to make: I still use the old Recorder utility from Windows 3.1.

I may be the only person on the planet who still uses that crummy little macro utility. Years ago I published a method to keep using Recorder, which vanished when Windows 95 came out. (Copy Recorder.exe, Recorder.dll, and Recorder.hlp from a Windows 3.1 installation into a folder containing Windows 95 or later. Recorder macros work in virtually every application.)Of course, Recorder must be the least-used utility Microsoft ever brought out. Its worst flaw is its inability to edit its own macros.

What Recorder does, however, is so handy that I'm amazed Microsoft killed this utility without replacing it with something better. Everyone has a long address or a company boilerplate phrase that is tedious to manually type. Yes, there are macro languages in many Office applications, but they work only within that one application. What we need is a way to run commands in any application.

So at last I am replacing the creaky old Recorder with Macro Express, a far superior product. Macro Express automates not only text-block insertion but almost any Windows action you can think of. It works under Windows NT as well as Windows 95 and Windows 98. And its macro wizards turn the recording process into a series of steps easy for almost anyone.

I can hardly think of a feature that isn't included in Macro Express. Some of the things it can do include the following:

Associate a macro with any key combination you like, such as Ctrl+Alt+ARemap the primary keyboard characters, in case you never use, say, a caret (^) and you would like to have this key to insert something such as the copyright ((c)) symbolMake a macro run automatically when you type any predefined combination of letters or numbersSchedule a macro to run when you want it to: once per day, once every five minutes, only after five minutes of inactivity, and so onWait for a certain application window to appear, then run a macroMake a pop-up menu of macros and other actions appearRun, resize, and close windows and applications automaticallyDefine macros that other users on a network can run, with file-locking capabilities for administratorsMacro Express' wizards make all of these features easy to find and quick to implement. Merely installing the program gives you first-hand experience with a wizard, because the setup routine assumes you want to create a macro. After setup, you are just a click away from macros that connect to network drives, play audio and video, change display resolutions, and log off, along with myriad other predefined actions.

Macro Express is as strong with editing macros as the old Recorder was weak. The Scripting Editor displays the commands within a selected macro in plain English. You can easily insert commands from a list of dozens of actions. For example, you can have a macro jump to the next track of an audio CD, change the default printer, or minimise all applications. And you can build macros by using a series of other prerecorded macros.

Many keys on your keyboard are ripe for redefining. My favourite is F10. Microsoft set aside this key in the early days of Windows to activate menus for people without a mouse. Because that's nobody these days, F10 makes a great key for your favourite macro. Another good choice is Shift+Backspace, a key combination I've never seen used by a program.

I have even redefined the sacred F1 key. This key has launched Help forever. But every time I'm perplexed enough to need Help, my hand is on the mouse anyway. So who needs to waste a whole key when I can just click Help? Until the Help gods strike me down, I now use F1 to minimise all applications and get straight to the desktop.

In case you're worried about redefining a key combination that an application really needs, Macro Express includes a "system macro" that displays all the key redefinitions of whichever application is in the foreground.

A free evaluation copy of Macro Express is available at http://www.macros.com. The registered version costs $34.95.

Send tips to brian_livingston@ infoworld.com. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.


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