Best Windows Automation Platforms

Thanks, I Remmah, I definitely miss Hazel and will check out DropIt.

Didn’t realize Flow is included with most of the Office 365 subscriptions. I already have one of those so might as well be using it! A lot more connectors than when I looked at it a year ago, too. Thanks for the motivation! :+1:t3:

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What is Flow? Is it an Automator style app and isnit bundled with Windows 10 or just Office 365? I’m pretty sure my work just buys licenses ca subscribing but am interested in trying it out if possible.

https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/

It’s rather IFTTT like - you can hook up quite a few things compared to the last time I looked!

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Rosemary is correct its very similar to WorkFlow and IFTTT in that you create a ‘Flow’ putting together different services/connectors. The interface is really easy to use and understand. Plus microsoft is making regular updates to the service. Check out the flow blog and the guided learning to learn more.

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I’d be rather daring and say that Windows PowerShell migh be your best bet, but I’m also a huge Shell fan so the validity of my opinion might be null :man_shrugging:

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Just chiming in that our small/medium sized biz is on Office 365, so automation that works with that will be nice to see around here. Going to check out flow again. Looked at it when it launched, but sounds like it’s expanded.

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The biggest challenge I see when showing people flow or any automation is getting in a mindset where you can look at your current work and see if automating all or a portion will work. Our company is big into Lean so I try to compare it to making 2 second improvements in your day. Taking a 10 step process and creating automation that handles maybe steps 1 thru 7 thus freeing up your time to focus on other things.

Keep us up to date on your journey.

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For automating the administration side of Office 365, PowerShell is the way to go.

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You might want to check out Autohotkey. It has a pretty feature-rich scripting language that can do everything from simple text replacement, to window manipulation, to full GUI implementation. The scripting syntax is a bit interesting, but once you get past that it can be VERY powerful.

Looking through my old script file, I have ones in there to move windows between two monitors, resize windows, date and time format pickers, text conversions, open files and programs, set system volume, and even David’s “Thank You” and “You’re welcome” textexpander groups. Happy to share those here if there’s interest.

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I would suggest you definitely share those and even in their own thread - I’m sure a lot of people are looking for them and seeing examples always fires the imagination :smiley:

OK. I’ll start a new thread here in the Windows area. If there’s a better place to put them, I can certainly move the thread.

Similar to a few other people here, I use a combination of macOS/iOS for personal projects and Windows for work. I’m responsible at work for creating and managing things that automate small or large parts of our work. If anyone’s interested, here are a few things I would recommend:

  1. C#/.NET/Visual Studio: I began learning to code in C# about a year ago, previously only having worked with JavaScript and Python for the most part. Compared to those, C# felt like a more serious and complex language at the outset (I had two years of rudimentary Turbo C++ classes in high school and studied advertising at university). To my surprise, I found C# really straightforward. Even more, I fell in love with Visual Studio. It’s one helluva IDE, for its excellent code completion suggestions and gorgeous dark mode alone. Finally, .NET is chock full of stuff to save you from re-inventing the wheel. If I’m ever thinking about writing some complex blob of generic logic, I will do a few searches and usually find some .NET function to use (paraphrasing Steve Jobs, the line of code that never breaks is the line of code you never have to write). This doesn’t even get into NuGet packages, which can make building command line or GUI apps even easier and faster. To learn C#, I found these two videos (1, 2) extremely helpful. Beyond that, I just needed to get my hands dirty and do a few Google searches as time went along (suggested topics: LINQ, extension methods, casting, .NET Standard vs. .NET Core vs. .NET Framework, Regex.Replace, idiomatic C#). It may feel like a heavy hitter of a recommendation, but I rapidly used it over the last year to build a number of tools for myself and others. As an annecdote: I had never before created my own machine learning model. A few weeks ago, I decided to give it a shot. I saw Microsoft had just released the ML .NET framework. With about a half day’s work, I went from never having done this complex thing to having built a model that performed a multi-class categorization task with near perfect accuracy (six minutes of training on a data set of 7,000 elements; mind-blowing and unsettling in how good the results were). Before I end this lengthy bullet, one last tip: If you type in an unrecognized method name or such in Visual Studio, it will underline it in red similar to a misspelling in a word processor. Select the word and hit Ctrl + . to have it suggest “using” declarations or new classes that could be added in a keystroke.
  2. Search Everything: A free utility that literally searches everything on your system very, very quickly.
  3. Google Drive: Much more reliable syncing than OneDrive in my experience, with the added benefit of syncing your desktop if you choose to enable it (many of us use our desktop as a heap of files we need right now).
  4. Flow: As others have mentioned, it’s pretty good. Microsoft has added handy capabilities over time. I use it to send me notifications that meet complex criteria and automatically send emails for certain reports.
  5. Excel: I’m not talking macros, but rather the smorgasbord of interesting function combinations you can use to transform data. Check out Chandoo .org. One excellent thing Excel (and other apps) on Windows have that their macOS counterparts don’t are Alt-commands. Tap and release the Alt key and follow the chain of letters that appear hovering over the ribbon menu to do virtually anything. You’ll very quickly come to memorize a large number of these across Office apps to shave several seconds and clicks off many tasks.
  6. Google Apps Script: Not strictly limited to Windows, but goodness gracious can you work wonders with these. I’m working on fully automating several reports (or automating the most tedious, time-consuming parts of them) with them—converting everything from importing data to modifying it and email delivering it.
  7. Google Sheets: This deserves a special mention because Google has baked in a lot handy functions not found in Excel. For instance, QUERY and IMPORTXML. The best part is that it recalculates things any time a change is made to a sheet (say, by a Flow, Apps Script or Add-On), unlike Excel which needs to be fired up on someone’s computer.

I’ll add in more recommendations as they occur. I also look forward to seeing what you put on here!

Edit: + “vs. .NET Framework” re my edit below

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I should add, with Visual Studio available on the Mac, I’ve begin looking into using it for some Mac automation. There are some differences between .NET Framework (which I’m a tad more familiar with) and .NET Core, but most things should work. It’s easiest to build command line apps with Visual Studio on the Mac, but that may not be a problem for some.

Edit: .NET Framework, not Standard

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Does anyone else use Phrase Expander?
www.phraseexpander.com

It is an uncanny mix of Text Expander, Alfred (or LaunchBar I suppose) and Keyboard Maestro.

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Same, Mac at home ( ) and Windows at work ( certainly better than it used to be).

Last week our email system was upgraded and now my regular Outlook doesn’t work so I’ve been using the web browser version…watched some Lynda.com videos to see what it can do. I want the auto “Categories” but can’t find it in my 365 version. ANyway one of the add-ins you can connect to is Flow and so I just learned of its existence today. At this job I need to send out a few emails with a PDF attached, “Hello, please approve this invoice” sort of thing. It sounds like Flow could help with that?

Have never heard of PowerApps but will go check it out now!

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I go old school and use cygwin to get a bash environment and write my own bash scripts. If you’re from a Unix/Linux background it’s great to get all the familiar tools.

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You should check out the Windows Subsystem for Linux. It’s basically a full GNU/Linux user land environment, on Windows without a VM. You can run Linux binaries without recompiling. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/about

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@BonnieB, the same functionality that phrase expander does can be done very very simply with AutoHotkey. I encourage you to check it out!

I am a teacher. I have 4 different classes. I would like to be able to hit a key (or combo thereof), a different the dedicated to each class, that instructs my laptop to open certain files and URLs (i.e. Smartboard file named “3rd hour Spanish I”, Google classroom for 3rd hour, Quizlet for Spanish 1 and attendance grading program, etc…).

Is there any app or program that works across the platform like this and is not program specific?