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Be George Jetson
His computing life was automated. With a nifty new utility, yours can be, too.
George Jetson, everyone's favorite 21st century cartoon dad, had it made. Other than dealing with a hot-headed boss, Jetson had few complaints about his job because all his work was computer automated. Wouldn't it be nice if you could automate much of your own job-or at least some everyday applications? Perhaps you can, thanks to RtvReco, a great utility that lets you automate virtually any dialog box or window.
Initially, you might question RtvReco's usefulness. But once you take a moment to think about it, I'll bet you can pinpoint all sorts of nagging dialogs you'd rather not deal with or dialog boxes in which you constantly make the same choices. Why not use a utility that will push those buttons for you?
RtvReco is on the Internet at http://www.clearlight.com/~rtvsoft (United States) or http://www.demon.co.uk/rtvsoft/ (United Kingdom). It also is available from online services: On CompuServe, you'll find it in the Win95 library section of the PCUTIL forum as RTV_RECO.ZIP; on America Online search for the keyword RtvReco. The latest release is version 5 beta 8, but a newer version should be available by the time you read this.
RtvReco is freeware, which means you can use it on as many computers as you want, give it to as many friends as you like and not pay a penny for it. However, RTV Software suggests a $10 donation. If you like the software, register your use of it at http://www.sw-reg.com/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/~sw-reg/register.tcl with product ID number 11036. You can also register it on CompuServe in the SWREG forum with product ID 9718.
The RtvReco ZIP archive contains the RTVRECO.EXE program, a companion DLL and a Windows Write file containing instructions and program information. To install the software, create a folder and unzip the files into it. Then, create a shortcut to the RTVRECO.EXE file in your Startup folder. This will launch RtvReco automatically each time you launch Windows 95.
Take a shortcut
To create the shortcut in the Startup folder, right-click on the taskbar and choose Properties. In the Taskbar Properties sheet, click on the Start Menu Programs tab, then choose the Add button to start the Create Shortcut wizard. Follow the wizard's prompts to locate the RTVRECO.EXE file and place the shortcut in the Startup folder.
Essentially, RtvReco checks each window (and dialog box) as it is created or receives focus and parses its name. Create tasks that are associated with specific window names, and RtvReco executes the task when the associated window appears. For example, you can add an entry to automatically push the Connect button in Windows 95's Connect To dialog box, which attempts to complete a Dial-Up Networking connection (see the sidebar "Automated Dialog")
Jack of all traits
What else does this utility do? You name it, since you can automate any window or dialog box identified by name. For instance, you could automate a dialog box that displays the same information each time you launch an application. Or, if you always choose the same menu item after a specific program loads, you could set up a task in RtvReco to select the menu item for you automatically.
RtvReco runs as an icon on the system tray, and double-clicking on the icon presents a tabbed property sheet in which you configure the utility and its assigned tasks. The actions page lists all of the actions you've defined for RtvReco to perform, and lets you remove or add actions. When you click on the Add button, RtvReco presents another tabbed property sheet where you define the action to be performed. With version 5, you can push a button, choose a menu, minimize, maximize or run a batch file when the named window or dialog box appears. The version that should be available as you read this lets you select many other actions.
When you define an action for RtvReco, you specify the name of the window (or dialog box) in which the action will be performed. For dialog boxes, you can be pretty sure the window name won't change. In some cases, though, you can't always know the exact window title. For example, when you open a document in most applications, the window title changes to include the document name as well as the application name. RtvReco has a feature that lets you turn off exact matching, so the search text "Microsoft Word" would, for instance, match the window title "Microsoft Word-My Document."
Also, you can use additional static text to help identify the window. For example, you might use several Dial-Up Networking connections, but only want to automate one or two of them. You can use RtvReco's Additional Text feature, on the Extras page of the task's properties, to hunt for more text on the dialog box besides the window name. In this example, you'd include the Dial-Up Networking connection name as well as the Connect To window title. Then, RtvReco would click the Connect button in the Connect To dialog box only if the correct connection name were listed in the dialog box.
Other options also help you control the way RtvReco performs automated actions. For example, you can configure a task so that RtvReco performs the action only at a specific time of day (in half-hour increments). Additionally, you can fine-tune the text-matching that RtvReco performs for window titles, menus, menu items and command buttons. In other words, tell the utility to ignore an underlined character in a menu or command button, or not match the name of a menu command exactly.
RtvReco isn't perfect. To wit, the program brings the window to the foreground each time it polls, which can be annoying for windows that you prefer to keep minimized. (This behavior should be addressed in the next release.) Overall, RtvReco is one of those utilities I could do without but wouldn't want to. Let me know if you agree.
Contributing Editor Jim Boyce is the lead author of Upgrading PCs Illustrated (Que, 1997). Contact Jim in the "Applications " topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe, or care of the editor at the e-mail addresses here.