Sunday, June 4, 2017

Why I use Autoit 3 for many of my projects

My next post appearing in a couple of minutes is a programming project I first did in 2009 about using Excel to create notes in Evernote.

I wrote the tool in a scripting language called AutoIt.  Autoit is not generally thought of as a tool for developing applications.  I started to explain in the post why I chose Autoit, but the explanation was getting lengthy, so I decided to have just a brief statement in that post, and then link to a longer explanation.

This post is that longer explanation, and also a recommendation of Autoit for certain users and tasks.

Let's take a look at what is Autoit and why I chose it.

Look for a future, far more ambitious project being done in Autoit coming in several weeks (to a couple months--you know programming projects!)

What is Autoit?

Wikipedia describes it :

AutoIt is a freeware automation language for Microsoft Windows. In its earliest release, the software was primarily intended to create automation scripts (sometimes called macros) for Microsoft Windows programs but has since grown to include enhancements in both programming language design and overall functionality.

Wikipedia goes on  to list some of its primary features.  I've pared this list to the ones relevant for my choosing it for the Keep project and others like it.

  • Scripting language with BASIC-like structure for Windows Desktop Environment.
  • Add-on libraries and modules for specific applications.
  • Create GUI interfaces, including message and input boxes.
  • Play sounds, pause, resume, stop, seek, get the current position of the sound and get the length of the sound.
  • Manipulate windows and processes.
  • Automate sending user input and keystrokes to applications, as well as to individual controls within an application.
  • Scripts can be compiled into standalone executables.
  • 64-bit code support from version

Why did I use it for my apps?

I did not want to distribute the app as an executable.  So many executables come with spyware or adware as part of the them (Thanks!) users are justifiably cautious about downloading executables.

That left a scripting language.  I am learning Python and this app would have been a wonderful learning experience.  However installing the Python language would be daunting for many users.

Autoit is not daunting at all to install.

And it is simple to program in.  I cut my teeth as a young person in the BASIC interpreter.  By far my most enjoyable programming time was on Visual Basic 3.0.

Autoit is very reminiscent of Visual Basic 3.

Someone could take my scripts and use parts of them for their own purposes.  Newcomers to Autoit can read my scripts and learn from it.

And finally, and most importantly, Autoit is suitable for the task at hand.  Sure, other languages might do it faster, take fewer lines of code, and just be more "elegant" but Autoit does the task at hand and it doable for me program in.

One caveat:  There does not seem to be active development occurring.  The last update was in 2015.  And even the developer's last forum entry was in January of 2017.  But, the forum is active and Autoit can be improved by people simply creating their own User Defined Functions.

And when I asked about this on their forum, I was assured development of the interpreter was only taking a break and would resume at some point.

Since I'm not building a business around these apps, and just having fun while building a few small utilities, that is not of great concern.

How can you get Autoit?

It comes with an excellent Windows Help File, or you can read the same documentation online.

Are their any tutorials for Autoit?

The Autoit website lists these tutorials.

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