Reset Hotkeys with Label Name Drop-Through Behavior (AutoHotkey Tip)

Sometimes Not Encapsulating Hotkeys with the Return Command Serves a Purpose

Last time, I discussed how to change the transparency level of any window under the mouse cursor with a scroll of the mouse wheel. The SeeThruWinWheel.ahk works great, but, if you increase the invisibility of the window too much, you might lose track of the window. We need a technique for instantly bringing a window instantly back into view. I did that with a trick from the blog “Understanding Label Names and Subroutines (Beginning AutoHotkey Tip).”

AutoHotkey Library Deal
AutoHotkey Library Deal

While studying the behavior of Label names in AutoHotkey scripts, I came up with the CheeseBurgerRecipe.ahk script which automatically moves to the next Hotkey recipe step with no additional code by dropping pass the next Label name directly into its subroutine. I didn’t expect to find another use for this technique so soon, but when I encountered the problem of losing track of invisible windows, this technique offered a quick fix. Continue reading

Understanding AutoHotkey %Var% Variable Text Replacement (AutoHotkey Tip)

Handy Window Transparency Wheel Using Macro Replacement Quickly Peeks Under a Window without Moving It, Plus the Difference Between % Var and %Var% Made Easy

The AutoHotkey online documentation goes into great detail about the traditional method for retrieving values from variables (%Var%) and the force expression evaluation method (% Var). It can take the new AutoHotkey user a little while to comprehend the differences between the two. In an effort to clarify the variations and help beginners to understand when to use which method, I offer an alternative way to view the operations. For the traditional method, I prefer using the terms macro substitution or variable name replacement. Once, you understand how it works, differentiating when and how to use each technique becomes easy.

The value-added trick comes when creating variables containing new variables on-the-fly by combining the two methods (i.e. forcing an expression % which contain a %Var% variable name replacement). The first step involves replacing the variable with its value, the new variable name (%Var%). The second step requires the forced evaluation of the new variable (% VarValue) as part of an expression.

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Volume Control
Volume Wheel

A while back I installed a volume control operated by the mouse scroll wheel. Simply hover over the Windows Task Bar and scroll the mouse wheel up or down to adjust the PC speaker volume level higher or lower, respectively. A progress bar (shown at right) pops up displaying the changing volume level. I’ve added this convenient tool to my standard AutoHotkey script and use it all the time.

Tranparency Menu
Transparency Menu

At a later date, while playing with window visibility, I set up a menu for changing the transparency level for the active window (shown at left). At the end of that blog, I suggested, “If you want to get really fancy, then you might use the mouse wheel to set the transparency (or opaqueness) level.” I’ve done just that with my new SeeThruWinWheel.ahk script. Now, by holding down the CTRL key while scrolling the mouse wheel, the window under the mouse cursor becomes less opaque (WheelDown) or more opaque (WheelUp). In the course of writing this short script, I implemented a number of AutoHotkey tricks worth discussing. Continue reading

Stop Accidental Deletions with the BlockInput Command (AutoHotkey Tip—Part Two)

AutoHotkey BlockInput Command May Cause Stuck Keys! Fix It with the KeyWait Command

In the last blog, we dealt with the issue of setting the privilege level required to use the BlockInput command. In the BackupText.ahk and IncrementalSaveText.ahk scripts, the AutoHotkey command prevents user mouse/keyboard input while the script selects and copies text to the Windows Clipboard, but it doesn’t work without Administrator privileges. After raising the script to a higher level, we demonstrated how to use Windows Task Manager to bypass the User Account Control (UAC) warning window.

At the end of the blog, I mentioned an additional problem where BlockInput causes keys (usually one or more from the Hotkey combination) to stick in the down position. Here’s the trouble. Continue reading

Stuffing More into AutoHotkey Pop-up Menus (AutoHotkey Tip)

Rather Than Increasing the Length of a System Tray Menu, Add Submenus—Plus, How to Use Menu Names (A_ThisMenu) for Conditional Actions

cheeseburgerrecipeWhen I decided to add two more recipes to the cheeseburgerwhiteicon Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger script, I ran into the problem of adding too many items (one for each step in each recipe) to the System Tray right-click menu. In the original, Cheeseburger.ahk script, I only included four steps in the menu (Ingredients, Prepare, Cook, and Serve). However, after inserting the Animal-Style Cheeseburger and the Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger (Animal Style) into the script, the number of recipe increments jumped from four to 18—plus an additional Print Recipe option for each burger. Also, since many of the steps use the same (or similar names), I needed a method for identifying each step with the proper recipe. When increasing the number of AutoHotkey menu options, cumbersome lists of items commonly crop up. You can fix these bloated menus by using submenus. Continue reading

Create a Universal MsgBox Print Function with ControlGetText (AutoHotkey Tip)

When Nothing Else Works for Copying Text, Try the ControlGetText Command and Create a Global MsgBox Print Function

In a previous blog, I highlighted the Control, EditPaste command. The command helped me solve a particular problem where the standard Send, ^v (Windows paste shortcut) responded too slowly. I’ve since discovered that the complementary ControlGetText command resolves some sticky MsgBox printing troubles. It not only works quicker than the Windows copy shortcut (Send, ^c) but it greatly reduces code. Continue reading

GoTo Command Versus GoSub Command (AutoHotkey Tip)

While the Online Documentation Advises Avoiding the AutoHotkey GoTo Command in Deference to GoSub or a User-Defined Function, You’ll Find Times When GoTo Works Best!

cheeseburgerwhiteicon Not everyone likes their cheeseburger prepared the same way. Some prefer fried onions while others love the crunch of raw condiments. In fact, In-N-Out Burger touts a not-so-secret menu offering cheeseburgers “Animal Style.” The preparation of this option with caramelized onions and mustard fried hamburger significantly changes the cheeseburger experience. That gives us an excuse to add flexibility to our CheeseburgerRecipe.ahk script—first discussed in the blogs “Why AutoHotkey for Chefs and Dieticians?” and “Understanding Label Names and Subroutines (Beginning AutoHotkey Tip).”

Note: I changed the CheeseburgerRecipe.ahk script in a number of ways—a few of which I plan to discuss in future AutoHotkey Tips. For now, I confine myself to highlighting the use of the GoTo command. For specific changes, see the comments at the top of the CheeseburgerRecipe.ahk script.

Adding Options to the Cheeseburger Recipe

I found another recipe at FoodNetwork.com which replicates the In-N-Out Animal-Style Cheeseburger recipe. Copying the same AutoHotkey techniques I used for the Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger, I added the new steps for this recipe to the script. Since the System Tray menu grew too crowded, I implemented submenus for each recipe. (See image below.)

CheeseburgerAnimalStyle
Recipes listed in the System Tray icon right-click menu include submenus for selecting individual steps, then continue displaying succeeding steps unless canceled.

The primary differences between the Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger and the Animal-Style Cheeseburger include caramelizing onions, mixing a special sauce, burgers with no embedded cheese, preparation of the buns, and frying the burgers with mustard. While more involved than the first recipe, the new recipe might satisfy the “Animal” in anyone. But, what if you wanted a Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger Animal Style?

You could write an entirely new recipe for a Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger Animal Style but that would include a great deal of redundancy. By using the AutoHotkey GoTo command, we combine the redundant steps of the two recipes to create a third variation.

CheeseburgerGoTo
Each column represents one recipe subroutine followed by a single Return command at the end. Each box contains the Label name for the location of that individual step within the recipe. After each step, AutoHotkey automatically drops into the Label below since no Return command intervenes until the end of the recipe. The GoTo commands in the third recipe jump to the Label name point (e.g. GoTo, Animal_Onions) in the appropriate recipe subroutine—proceeding as if a totally separate recipe.

For the new Jack Stuffed Animal Style Cheeseburger, the recipe starts at the Label point Stuffed_Animal_Ingredients: which includes the ingredients for the Animal Style Cheeseburger plus the added Jack cheese (for stuffing) and varied meat and cheese amounts. Using the GoTo command, AutoHotkey jumps directly to the Animal_Onions: pointer for caramelizing the onions.

Since the process jumps into the middle of the Animal Style Cheeseburger subroutine, when the Animal Style Cheeseburger – Onions window closes, it automatically drops into the Animal_Sauce: routine. Next, the recipe must GoTo the Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger Label named Prepare: for shaping the burgers with Monterey Jack cheese inside. In order to make this jump decision, AutoHotkey must identify the currently running recipe subroutine: either Animal Style Cheese Burger (no Goto) or Jack Stuffed Animal Style (GoTo).

The initial menu selection tells us which recipe track to follow. The menu name (A_ThisMenu) identifies the Jack Stuffed Animal Style recipe:

If (A_ThisMenu = "StuffedAnimal")
  StuffedAnimal = 1
Else
  StuffedAnimal = 0

Placing this condition into the MessageSetup: subroutine identifies the origin of any mixed-use menu steps. AutoHotkey determines the proper path by checking the value of the StuffedAnimal variable. For example, after the Animal_Sauce: window, the process uses the following check:

If (StuffedAnimal = 1)
  GoTo, Prepare

If running the Jack Stuffed Animal Style sequence (StuffedAnimal = 1), AutoHotkey jumps to the Prepare: point of the Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger routine. Otherwise, the Animal Style Cheeseburger continues dropping through its steps.

This same conditional format creates the jumps from Prepare: to the Animal_Buns: point and from Animal_Buns: to the Stuffed_Animal_Cook: point for the Jack Stuffed Animal Style steps. This process creates a new variation from older recipes without rewriting redundant steps. Often using the GoSub command (for Go Subroutine) works better, but in this situation, GoTo makes the routine act as if it’s one continuous series of steps.

GoTo Versus GoSub

megadeal180goldTo understand the difference between the GoTo command and the GoSub command, know that when a subroutine finishes, the GoSub command returns to the next line in the original calling routine, while the GoTo command does not. In most cases, since it returns to the same spot in the script, you’ll probably find the GoSub command (or a function) more appropriate. But if you know that you don’t want to return to that point, then feel free to use GoTo—but you better know where you plan to end up.

A common usage of GoSub runs the subroutine then returns to the next line after the calling line. For example, I moved the loading of the recipe variables for each step out of the auto-execute section of the script into separate Label subroutines, then replaced each with a single GoSub command. This made the script more readable by greatly reducing the length of the auto-execute section. In place of the code, I inserted the following GoSub command statements:

GoSub, StuffedCheeseburger 
GoSub, AnimalCheeseburger
GoSub, StuffedAnimalCheeseburger

However, using the GoSub command in the mixed recipe scenario for the Jack Stuffed Cheeseburger Animal Style would have caused more problems than it solved. For example, if the GoSub command appeared in place of GoTo, then each call would create a new return point. That means clicking the Cancel button would cause the script to jump to the last GoSub call rather than exiting the thread. In many cases, jumping back would cause unwanted effects (e.g. display an inappropriate step from another recipe). In fact, even running through the entire recipe without canceling would cause an untold number of displays of various steps. After encountering the last Return in the subroutine, the final Return jump executes more GoSub commands—each creating an additional Return point. The GoTo command keeps it clean, allowing an exit with any Return encountered in any recipe sequence. To the user, each recipe (including the mixed) looks like a continuous set of steps.

While probably best avoided if GoSub or a function can do the job, the GoTo command works well in scripts emulating flow charts and plays an important role in decision trees. In those special situations, knowing where you are (and where you’re going) may be more important than where you’ve been.

Why AutoHotkey for Chefs and Dieticians?

cheeseburgerwhiteicon While You Don’t Often See Television Chefs Using Computers, AutoHotkey Offers Guidance When Cooking “Jack Stuffed Cheeseburgers” at Home

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While I came up with a pretty cool barebones recipe script for this AutoHotkey blog, I’m not sure how well computers and cooking mix. From what I’ve seen, professional chefs don’t have much time to mess with technology—except for possibly writing cookbooks—in which case, I would refer them to “Why AutoHotkey for Writers, Bloggers, and Editors?.”

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cheeseburgercartoon

Using a computer while cooking presents a challenging task. Although looking up a recipe on a smartphone works great, poking at the device with fingers covered in cookie dough proves impractical. Ideally, any kitchen machine is lightweight and stands upright on its own.

Although a little pricey, the Microsoft Surface Pro (or another less expensive Windows ultralight laptop computer) might do the job. Large enough to read the screen, yet easy to move around a cooking area, these computers help any budding chef or dietician who needs to check recipes—as long as no one dumps boiling water on the keyboard. For size and convenience, finding equipment more practical than a lightweight laptop proves difficult. Continue reading