Tuesday, 28 August 2007

List all your custom Windows hotkeys

Inspired by my previous blogs about using Windows hotkeys, by now you have created many useful shortcut key combinations, I am sure. In fact you have so many of them, that you don't find them all back. Some of the shortcuts are on your desktop, some on your Quick Launch Bar, others in your Start Menu. You don't know which key combinations are still free to use.
Use this little program to find them all back. Free for you.

You might want to read my other articles on Windows custom hotkeys

Windows hotkeys bug remedy

In an earlier article I wrote about how to use keyboard key combinations together with vbs scripts to make your life easier. Using windows hotkeys can speed up significantly your daily tasks. In general, using the keyboard rather than the mouse will also help you to avoid repetitive strain inuries, especially if, like me, you work at a computer all day long.

Unfortunately, some people have given up using windows hotkeys, because there is a little bug (in Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP, I haven't tested it in Vista). Today I want to present you a programme (vbs script) that remedies this bug. But let me first describe the bug.

Let's say, you have created a shortcut on your desktop to your favorite program (Internet Explorer?) and assigned the key combination Ctrl+Shift+X to it (x for x-plorer). So now, every time you press Ctrl+Shift+X, Internet Explorer pops up (re-read my blog on shortcuts if you want to know how to create such PC keyboard shortcut keys).
Now let's say, you have become weary of Internet Explorer and you don't need that shortcut anymore. So you delete it and you also empty your Recycle Bin immediately afterwards, because you like to keep your computer clean. So far, so good.
In the meantime, MS Excel has become very important to you. So, naturally, you create a shortcut to Excel on your desktop and you want to assign Ctrl+Shift+X to it (x for x-cel). It won't work. No matter how hard you try, Windows won't accept Ctrl+Shift+X as a hotkey combination anymore. That's the bug.

My solution to this problem is this script: RepairHotkeys. It makes the key combination available again. As always, this is free.

Now, you may wonder what the proper way of deleting a shortcut is. According to Microsoft, you need to "unassign" the key combination (i.e. assign the "space" key) before deleting the shortcut. Not very intuitive, is it?

So now you don't have an excuse anymore, use the hotkeys!

You might want to read my other articles on Windows custom hotkeys

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Find the PC that a certain user is logged on to

Locate a user - Find PCname by username

As an IT guy (or girl) nowadays there is a lot of things you can do to help users with their computer problems remotely. You can take over their PC, you can install software, check and adjust certain parameters, all from a distance. The one thing that remains difficult is to find out the name of the PC that the user is currently working on. ("Fritz" is not an unusual answer when you ask users for the name of their computer.)

Provided the username, this script uses the command "nbtstat -c" in combination with a "net send" to find out the computername of the remote PC. Several vbs and DOS batch scripts exist
already to this end.

This vbs script is more, it is a dashboard. It provides buttons for
  • taking over the user's PC (using remote assistance or remote desktop)
  • listing installed printers
  • showing mapped Network drives ...
You can easily add buttons for tasks that you routinely do on remote PCs . I will give you more examples in some upcoming blogs (deleting temp files, finding out the pst folder location, launch a silent installation of software on a remote PC, etc.)
I have used this script for several years, and I has proven very useful.
Enjoy, and tell me how it works for you!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Windows hotkeys and vbs

RSS is a modern abbreviation with many possible meanings. One is "real simple syndication" which probably brings my blogs to you, another one is "repetitive strain syndrome" which I am going to fight with today's blog. I am encouraging you to use your keyboard rather than your mouse!
Windows has a cool feature that can save us a lot of time. I am talking about Windows shortcut keys. I don't want to go into the details, a lot has been written about it already (e.g. here; a little warning).
I'd rather like to explore how you can use it in combination with vbs scripts. Say, you want to see your Outlook contacts every time you press the key combination Ctrl+Alt+C.
You also want it to open the Find box, so that you can start typing the name of the person whose phone number you want to look up. Here is how I do it:
I have a vbs script that does all of the above. Now I need to assign the key combination Ctrl+Alt+C to that script.
1. Place the script in My Documents/Productivity scripts (or any folder you like).
2. Create a folder "Hotkey shortcuts" in either of the following locations:
  • your desktop
  • your "programs" folder
  • your taskbar
(it won't work in any other location)
3. Create a shortcut to your script and place it in the folder "Hotkey shortcuts".
4. Rename the shortcut (remove the part "shortcut to").
5. Right click on the shortcut, choose "Properties" and go to the tab "shortcut". Place the cursor in the field "Shortcut key" and simultaneously press Ctrl+Alt+C. Press OK.

Voilà le travail.

You might want to read my other articles on Windows custom hotkeys
  • Repair a bug that comes with Windows custom shortcut keys.
  • list all your custom Windows shortcut keys.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Export/Import MS Word Outlines from and to Shadowplan - fast

Here's one for all Shadowplan users.
The macro "ExportShadowXML" exports an Outline, that you have created in MS Word, to a Shadowplan xml file.
From there it will immediately be uploaded to your Palm/Treo/??.
It's substantially faster than the one from vjornes, because it doesn't use
The macro "ImportShadowXML" imports a ShadowPlan file to MS Word.
See also my article on using MS Word as an Outliner.

Using MS Word as an outliner

You don't need OneNote, Omni Outliner, Ecco outliner or any other outliner software. You already have the outliner and note taking tool you need - MS Word. Discover it. Download an open-source outliner template for Word to add the functionalities that Word lacks.
Diesen Artikel gibt's auch auf Deutsch

What is an Outliner?
To me it's a Text Editor that allows you to organize ideas in a tree structure. You can use Notepad to create outlines: simply write up the main ideas, one on each line. If you have additional information for one main idea, then insert a new line beneath, press tab to indent the text in this line, and write up the sub-idea. And so forth. The picture shows an example.
Not all ideas can be organized in a tree structure, but you will be astonished how often it works, once you get warmed up.
At times, you might want to hide all the sub ideas and only see the main ideas. You cannot do that in Notepad, but you can do it in Word (I'll describe later how to do that).
When and idea belongs to more than one main idea, then you should organize the information in a table. That's the good thing about Word - you can insert tables in your outline, and you already know how to do it.
Computer scientists use a different variant of outlines to have computer systems communicate with each other, they use XML files. The rss feed of my blog is one example. If you open an xml file in Internet Explorer it will get displayed as an outline. So outlines are quite a modern concept.
A special case of outlines are mindmaps. When the whole Mind Mapping wave broke loose I was one of the first on board. I created lots of mindmaps until I realized that a PC screen was always too small for my mindmaps, let alone the screen of my Palm. That's when I became interested in outlines - the little brother of mindmaps. There are lots of special programs out there, but the easiest one is to use MS Word. (How to use Word's outline view - check this or this).
There are only some disadvantages:
  • The font sizes decrease rapidly the more you indent an item.
  • There is no feature to collapse or expand all items at once
To amend these drawbacks I created this template. I have adapted the font sizes of the styles "Heading 1", "Heading 2" etc. so that the Outline looks nice. It also contains macros for collapse and expand.

I've already placed some example items in the template as an illustration.

Use the following keys:
TAB to demote an item
SHIFT TAB to promote an item
+ to expand an item
- to collapse an item
These key functions are already "built in" in MS Word.

The template recognizes the following additional key combinations (those are macros I added):
CTRL + to expand all items one more level
CTRL SHIFT + to expand all completely
CTRL - to collapse all one more level
CTRL SHIFT + to collapse all items completely

You can assign other key combinations to these macros if you want to:

  • In Word go to Tools/Customize
  • Press the "Keyboard" button
  • Under "Categories" choose "Macros"
  • Under "Macros" choose the "CollapseAll" Macro
  • Place the cursor in the field "Press new shortcut key"
  • Simultaneously press the keys Ctrl, Shift and - (Minus)
  • Press the "Assign" button

From now on, whenever you press the key combination Ctrl, Shift and -, the CollapseAll Macro will be called.

If you use the "Getting Things Done" methodology, then there's a little extra for you: the macro called "List Next Actions" extracts all subitems of items called "Next Actions". They are displayed in a Internet Explorer window, with buttons that allow you to create an Outlook appointment or task immediately.

For those who can't download Word templates here's the source code for the
Word Macros.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Keep your Outlook calendar clean and tidy

A Reminder is a Zero-Duration appointment

2 years ago I had a "Calendar Collapse". Let me explain. I have a memory
like Swiss cheese, so I use my Outlook calendar a lot. I put all my meetings
in there, but also little reminders like "Call pharmacy and order vitamins",
"Post letter for Charles" or "Buy eggplants on the way home". This works so
well, that my calendar became cluttered with reminders. One day my boss
called and asked me if I had 1 hour or so for him. I opened my Outlook
calendar and ... I was lost in the jungle of reminders.
In order to avoid such embarrassing situations I came up with the "clean and
tidy calendar". It's easy:
1) Assign 0 minutes duration to all appointments that are nothing more than
reminders. Therefore I created a special button in Outlook that calls the
following Macro.
2) Create a new view on your Outlook calendar called "Duration > 0" that
displays only appointments with a duration > 0. This view will show you all
your important meetings and hide the little reminders.

How to create a Zero Duration filter?
  • Go to Outlook Calendar
  • Go to View/Arrange by/Current View/Define Views
  • Click on "New"
  • Name it "Duration > 0"
  • choose Type of View "Day/Week/Month", press OK
  • Click on "Filter"
  • Go to the Advanced Tab
  • Click on "Field"
  • Choose "Date/Time Fields/Duration"
  • Under "Condition" select "is more than"
  • Under "Value" type "0"
  • Click on "Add to List"
  • press OK twice
  • press "Apply view"

How to create a custom button for your reminders?

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Show all open reminders

Show open Reminders

Lists all your open reminders in one Window (also recurring reminders). Useful, if like me sometimes, you have a lot of open reminders. This script calls snoozeall.vbs that makes all open reminders snooze (for a timespan of your choice).

Advantages over the Outlook Open Reminders Window:
  • you can resize the reminders window to show them all.
  • You can copy and paste the list of pending reminders or print it out

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

An E-mail "Reply" button that does more ...

Reply and Forward

A reply button that automatically figures out the first name of your correspondent and fills in "Hi [first name]" and your signature. All you have to do is write your reply text. As I am working in a multilingual company, I went a bit further: it places the greeting and the signature in the language of my correspondent.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Redirect your mail4life twice a day ... automatically

redirect mail4life

So you have an e-mail forwarding service that redirects all incoming e-mails . You will have to choose if the e-mails are forwarded to your home address or to your work address. Do you? What if you could change it automatically, say in the morning at work and in the evening at home? Here is how it's done.
You might even tell your Outlook that it should launch the "redirect script" when quitting.
The script uses "scripted browsing", i.e. it opens web pages, fills in forms and clicks submit buttons. To do this, one must know how to handle the HTML DOM.

Trouble finding a time slot that suits all participants?

fuzzy auto pick next

In Outlook, when you schedule a meeting, you have the handy "auto pick next" button that finds a time slot that suits all participants. However, if you are planning a big meeting with tens of participants, this button will often propose a date far in the future, when the everybody's calendar is still empty. The featured Outlook macro will "auto pick next" dates under the condition that only 85% (or any other percentage) of the participants are available. So you can still hold your meeting soon, with the trade off that not everybody will be available to assist.
What do you think?

Monday, 4 June 2007

A taskmanager for remote PCs


Today's script is another example of how useful Internet Explorer can be in combination with vbs scripts: it features several buttons and it displays more information than would fit on a msgbox window.
What this script does: it displays all tasks running on a remote PC and let's you kill tasks.
I have often used it when users reported that a specific application on their PC is frozen.
You can easily extend the script to display the CPU load and so forth. Again, I don't want to bring you complete solutions, just point you to the right direction.
Have fun and don't abuse it!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Yearly Calendar view for Outlook

A year view of your Outlook calendar

YearlyCalendar - download the code (free)

*** NOTE: new version available here ****

Castellano Deutsch Français Nederlands Italiano

You want to display, print or share more than one month of your Outlook Calendar? You want to view an entire year in the Calendar?
You'll love this macro, then. I couldn't find any free tool like this on the Internet, so I made one.

You can specify to view 1, 2, 3, .... 12 months at a time.
Your calendar will be displayed in an Internet Explorer window (but you can also open it in any other browser, as it is a simple html file).

  • If you want to print out your calendar, you can use the view options of IE (view/text size/smallest) to squeeze a maximum of info on a page.
  • You can easily adapt the code to filter out certain categories of appointments (contact me if you have trouble).
  • You can decide to not display private appointments.
  • Print out an empty calendar and use it for handwritten scheduling.

outlook-tips.net says
"The following blog lists a VB Code sample for a yearly planner style calendar. It reads your default Outlook calendar and creates a HTML calendar. Supports up to 12 months. Code can be adapted to filter out categories. [...]
I tested it with Outlook 2007 and it works great. You can create a 1 -12 month calendar and print it, email it, or publish it to the web."

Other interesting articles
  • "Ciao Graziella," - A Reply button for your Outlook that fills in the recipients first name and greets them in their language.
  • Scheduling a big meeting? The only date where all participants are available is next year? How about a date where 9 out of 10 invitees are free?
  • Is your calendar so full of little reminders that you can't find your meetings anymore? How to hide the forest so you can see the big trees.
  • Print out your open reminders.
  • Getting Things Done - with Word and Outlook. Write up your projects in Word Outline mode, extract Outlook appointments and tasks for you Next Actions automatically.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Browse your registry even if regedit doesn't let you


Here's a vbs script that replaces your good old regedit.exe ... well, partly. Why would you use it? Maybe because...

  • you get an error "registry editing has been disabled by your administrator". But then again, you could simply activate registry editing with this script. If you cannot access regedit.exe then you can download regedit.exe and place it on your desktop. (For example if you get the error "Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permissions to access the item.")
  • you don't need to have administrator rights to read your registry
  • you don't need to install anything. It's a script. Just copy and paste the code to a text file, name it regexplore.vbs and double click on it.
  • you find it easier to use than the registry editor
  • it let's you browse the registry on a remote PC (if you have access, of course)
  • you can copy and paste registry paths easily.
  • it displays Binary Keys as readable text
  • it is "read only" and you don't want to overwrite anything in the registry

TIP: Browse HKEY_USERS\[your subkey]\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\ with this script. There are a lot of binary keys that will immediately be displayed in readable text form.