Computer use involves a lot of repetition, and I’ve found that some simple automation tools can save lots of time and hassle. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the easiest low-cost and free ways to automate workaday tasks on a Windows system.
One of my favorite ways to get the job done in Windows is a little application that you can download for free called StrokeIt. The program lets you associate mouse gestures with actions within applications. It’s like a very free-form variation on a macro recorder.
StrokeIt lets you define actions and gestures that you want to use on a per application basis. In other words, within, say, the AIM instant messenger, a gesture may mean one thing, and in your word processor, it may mean another. There are also preconfigured gestures and commands for many applications.
One of my favorite uses of StrokeIt comes when browsing the web. I’ve associated gestures with moving up and down pages, and back-and-forth between pages. It’s much handier than using scrollbars and arrow icons–very useful.
For automating regular tasks within Windows, I’m always surprised by how few people use the Scheduled Tasks module that Microsoft already supplies in Windows’ Control Panel. For example, if you operate a web site you can easily automate site testing and monitoring tasks, or you can automate backup routines. To use the Scheduled Tasks module just double click on Add Scheduled Tasks and follow the prompts in the dialog boxes.
Of course, recording macros is also a great way to automate many tasks. For Windows users, Workspace Macro is a very easy way to record several steps in a task and play them back on demand. It lets you quickly become quite sophisticated at creating your own little stable of handy .EXE files. You can get the program for under $25.
Do you have any tips on automating routine tasks?