Automating Windows: ITworld's quick guide

How to save time by automating every task on your PC.

By , ITworld |  Software, automation software

We all have boring, repetitive PC routines: Launching applications just to perform some menial steps and close, copying files from one place to another, remotely managing servers... the list goes on. If it seems like you're wasting time performing these steps over and over, you're right.

What if you could automatically sync a folder to your USB thumb drive at a specific time? How about inserting commonly used text phrases just by hitting a shortcut? Or what if Windows would just clean-up data junk after you're done working with it? Automated tweets, anyone? You got it.

[ 15 incredibly useful (and free) Microsoft tools for IT pros ]

In this article, I'll introduce some of the more popular software for automating Windows and show you just how much time you can save by delegating tasks to Windows. The idea is that, through creating common scripts or by recording a macro, you can tell Windows (and your programs) what steps to perform at a specific time or in a specific situation. So let's take a look at some of the solutions and then dive right in for some hands-on automation!

Automation software

RoboTask
The first automation tool I used extensively is RoboTask ($119.95 per license). And while it hasn't really been updated in recent years (version 5 hasn't brought major new features to the table), RoboTask is actually still quite a powerful tool with a variety of example scripts (such as FTP uploads, junk cleaning, ZIP compressions and custom messages). Plus, RoboTask developer Oleg Yershow answers all forum questions regularly and helps users create automated scripts.

I wish, however, there were more pre-defined actions and less coding involved in order to get some more complicated stuff done -- it's ideal for the IT pro (with very rudimentary coding skills), but I fear that the average user in need of automation will feel left out.

WinAutomation
WinAutomation 3.1 ($149), which offers a strikingly similar interface to RoboTask, is a viable alternative and comes with more than 180 actions (compared to the 130 actons Robotask offers). For example, WinAutomate supports Excel and features over 38 Twitter actions. WinAutomate also sports error handling and several debugging mechanisms that help you solve problems that may arise while running scripts.

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