A few pointers for desktop automation
Finally a post I'm happy about. If nothing else this should be useful for me : )
I've said from sometimes that I thing there is a limit around 15 seconds when it comes to users. If the correct action takes more than 15 seconds and the users gets away with anything else then many of them will do it.
So, an obvious take away from this is that we should simplify the correct patch of action to make sure it takes as little time as possible and hopefully even less time than the wrong ways.
Another observation is that it would be even better if the user wouldn't have to think about it at all, e.g.
- if we can remove the need for that action,
- if the correct action happens automatically,
- or at least pops up with sensible defaults ready to review and submit.
With that in mind, here are some pointers:
In the application
Are there scripting possibilities in the application that the user uses? Look for APIs or hooks.
If it is an internal tools, do you have access to ask for modifications?
A number of automation tools exist that can be used to listen to events and run scripts. Here are some pointer in no particular order:
- http://sikulix.com/ (Open source, desktop, cross-platform. Found today as part of research for this post)
- https://a9t9.com/kantu (Open source, browser, but has a cross-platform desktop extension it seems. Found today as part of research for this post)
- Automator (part of Mac OS)
- Automagic (Android)
(I'm very much interested in more alternatives here, feel free to contact me here @firstname.lastname@example.org.
cron (Linux, Unix etc)
Mostly for server use but can be used to send reminders to users as well, ideally in a way that feels like helping them instead of nagging.
In Linux desktops you can for example use dbus-monitor and listen to signals in the org.freedesktop.ScreenSaver interface to fire events on user login or logouts.
Scheduled tasks (Windows)
In my opinion one of a few things that I prefer on Windows. It combines time and event based triggers into one interface so you can put all rules in one place, either something needs to happen at a specific time, at a random time in an interval, when the user logs in, after a period of inactivity etc etc.
: This is not in any way scientific, it is just me trying to put words to some observations I made while I was a sysadmin. And even if you kind of believe it, it still has a number of exceptions.
: Some people are naturally good at following rules.
: For now at least, just pointers with minimal explanations, I might or might not get back with more details later.
: In addition to the things I mention above Windows scheduled tasks appears a lot more userfriendly than cron to me.