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Graphical user interfaces

The graphical user interfaces (GUI) capability is one of the most important parts of FastTrack and is one of the things that makes it very different from all other scripting languages.

User interfaces are important because that is what users see, and based on what they see, they will make judgment of your work. They cannot appreciate your implementation details of a script; they can only judge your work by what is presented to them.

Traditionally scripting is GUI-less for a number of reasons. One being that few network admins have any graphics skills or sense of good form layout at all. FastTrack Scripting Host has pre-build professionally looking user interfaces that can all be used simply by writing a single script line - and with your company name on them.

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GUI Elements

Graphical user interfaces of FastTrack

Department of Commerce Booking Kpmg Aspen Dental Hamilton Beach Toyota Disney Kawasaki Goodyear Maersk NOAA

Create a logon script with your own logo in 30 minutes without writing a single line of code! Visit fasttracklogon.com

The content on this page is valid from version 6.5. Most user interfaces can be seen in the live video of the demo script. Click the blue demo script button to the right to watch the demo script that ships with FastTrack Automation Studio.

DemoScript

ShowMessage command

The ShowMessage command is probably the most commonly used graphical user interface and is used to show a basic message. ShowMessage must be supplied with a message to show, and can optionally be supplied with a header caption and an icon name. In its simplest form, a ShowMessage script line can look like this:

ShowMessage Installation complete.

The ShowMessage will by default have the header caption of "Information" and a default icon is used. Our script line above will look like this:

Message box with FastTrack
ShowMessage Command

Icons

Most graphical user interfaces use one or more 64x64 pixel icons and each interface is using a specific one by default. The icon used can always be overruled simply by giving the name of another icon as a parameter. The icons that are possible to use, can be seen in the script editor by selecting the "Icon Explorer" tab that is by default located as a tab next to the Context Helper:

Using icons with FastTrack

Custom icons can be included by using the AddCustomIcon command. Icons must be 64x64 pixels (or less) and preferably in png format. In the case of ShowMessage, a third parameter can be supplied that contains the name of an icon to use instead. This means that for instance "Screen" can be appended to our initial ShowMessage example like this:

ShowMessage Installation complete.,Information,Screen

Our message now uses the "Screen" icon instead, as shown to the right below.

ShowMessage Command - Default Icon ShowMessage Command - With "Screen" Icon

The company name and logo

Most user interfaces on this page have a company name note, as is the case above with ShowMessage. The name "Acme Corp Ltd" is replaced with your company name, so if your company name is "Rock America", the interfaces will have a "Rock America" note printed on them instead.

By default the company name will be the company name from your license key, but the name can be overruled with the SetCompanyName and SetDefaultCompanyName commands. If preferred, the text can be removed in general by using the DisableCompanyName command. Using these commands will have effect on all subsequently shown user interfaces. The same way, commands for your corporate logo can be set by using the SetCompanyLogo command. This will use your company logo on all user interfaces, unless another logo or icon file is explicitly used.

Customizing appearance

Apart from the ability to decide the company name displayed on the user interfaces, you can also customize just about everything else. If you look under "Graphical User Interfaces" and "General Settings" in the script editor Engine Browser tree, you will find an array of commands to customize the appearance of the user interfaces. You must issue one or more of these commands prior to displaying a windows to change the default appearance. Below is a complete list of commands from version 8.2; please consult the Context Helper in the script editor for more details on each command.
SetScaling/SetDefaultScalingSets a scaling percent of all graphical user interfaces. (Default: 100%)
EnableTopMost/DisableTopMostEnables or disables displaying windows on top of other windows. (Default: Disabled)
EnableMenuSorting/DisableMenuSortingEnables or disables sorting of menu items. (Default: Disabled)
EnableSplashFlash/DisableSplashFlashEnables or disables flashing of text on Splash and SmallSplash screens. (Default: Disabled)
EnableCompanyName/DisableCompanyNameEnables or disables showing the company name on windows. (Default: Enabled)
SetAskTimeout/SetMessageTimeoueSets number of seconds, where default button is pressed for Ask/ShowMessage, if user does not react. (Default: 0)
SetScreenPos/RestoreScreenPosSets or restores the window position for all windows, except for message boxes.
SetWindowSize/SetWindowScaleSets the size of windows. Especially useful for menus.
SetNextWindowSize/SetNextWindowScaleSets size of windows, but only for the next windows that is displayed.
RestoreWindowSizesRestores window sized back to default sizes.
SetBodyColor/SetBodyFontSets the color or font of body text and menu text.
SetMenuItemBackColor/SetMenuItemForeColorOverrules the default colors for individual menu items.
SetBackgroundImage/ResetBackgroundImageSets or resets the background image on all graphical user interfaces.
SetHeaderColor/SetHeaderFontSets the color or font of header text.
SetCompanyName/SetDefaultCompanyNameSets the company name shown on user interfaces. Is by default your licensed company name.
SetCompanyLogo/SetDefaultCompanyLogoSets the company logo shown on user interfaces.
SetMenuDefaultPre-selects a menu item. Especially useful for selecting the default printer in printer menus.
SetMenuHeaderIconOverrules the icon displayed in the header of list menus.
SetFadingWindowEffect/SetExpandingWindowEffect/
SetRollingWindowEffect/SetSlidingWindowEffect
Sets the visual effect for showing and hiding windows. By default, a 200 millisecond duration fade effect is used. The effect and duration can be set using these commands.
RemoveWindowEffectRemoves the visual effect for showing and hiding windows.

ShowErrorMessage and ShowWarningMessage command

The commands ShowErrorMessage and ShowWarningMessage are the same as ShowMessage, except that they use a different pre-selected icon. An example could look like this:

ShowErrorMessage The installation of Microsoft Office 2010 has failed.[Return][Return]Please contact HelpDesk.,Installation Failed

Note how the Return function is used to break the text into multiple lines. Our example above will look like this:

Error message with FastTrack
ShowErrorMessage Command

Menus

The Menu function is used to present a list of choices to the user and perform an action based on the choice. The menu function takes a list of parameters and each parameter can be prefixed with an icon name, in which case icon name and display value must be split by a pipe sign. The example below is from the demo script that is located in the installation directory of FastTrack Automation Studio. For simplicity, only the first three menu items are included the script below.

Set WebDoc=[Menu Select a topic of interest,Find|Documentation Overview,Getting Started Guide,Defrag|Working With Logical Paths]

The first parameter is the caption and the next three parameters are the first three menu items. Items one and three are prefixed with the icon names "Find" and "Defrag" before the pipe sign to overrule the default icon. The full script line from the demo script that uses the Menu function looks like this:

Graphical menu with FastTrack example 1
Menu Function

Another example of using a menu actively is the HelpDesk Application example that looks as shown below. Please click here for script details.

Graphical menu with FastTrack example 2
Menu Function

ListMenu function and List command

If a list is preferred over a menu with graphical icons, the ListMenu function can be used much the same way, except that it does not have the option of icons. The List command is the same as the ListMenu function except that is does not return the selection.

A list menu has an icon at the top, which can be overruled with the SetMenuHeaderIcon command. In the example below, the "Printer" icon is selected to overrule the default icon.

SetMenuHeaderIcon Printer

Set Location=[ListMenuForced Select location,Main Building - Conference Room,Main Building - Sales Office]

The example above will display a list of printer locations and then printers should be connected based on the selected location. Expanded a bit, the above could look like this:

Graphical list with FastTrack
ListMenu Function

The variable "Location" will contain the full name of the selection. When working with the Menu function, variables will naturally be short, but when using ListMenu, the listed options can be long and unfit as variable values. If the returned variable value is preferred to be different than the displayed value, values can be prefixed with a variable name and a pipe sign. If the value "Reception" was specified as "Rec|Reception", then "Reception" would be shown, but "Rec" would be the value of the location variable, if "Reception" is selected in the list.

The default selection can be set with the SetMenuDefault command prior to using any type of menu. In this case, if the previous printer location was saved to registry, then the last selected location could be selected by default. Menus are not sorted by default, but sorting can be enabled for any type of menu with the EnableMenuSorting command.

CheckListMenu Collection

If multiple items must to be selected in a list, a collection named CheckListMenu is available. It will return the checked choices, if any. If we were creating a user in a script and we need to ask the Help Desk employee using the script for post-adding of special groups, it could look like this:

CreateCollection Roles = Domain Admin,Accounting,Sales USA,Sales Canada,Sales Europe

ForEach Item in [CheckListMenu Select roles,[Collection Roles]]

  ShowMessage [Var Item]

End ForEach

The script just prompts out the selections for demonstration purposes. Inside the ForEach iteration, a Switch construct could be used. The above example looks like this:

Graphical checklist with FastTrack
CheckListMenu Collection

DoubleListMenu function and DoubleList command

DoubleListMenu is similar to the ListMenu function, except that the list of values must be in pairs of two, where the left-side value is returned as the selected value. The first parameter is the header text and the next two parameters are the left and right column header names. All subsequent parameters must be in pairs of two as the list to display, meaning that every second value is displayed to the left. The DoubleList command is the same as the DoubleListMenu function except that is does not return the selection.

The script listed below is a modified version of the documentation menu from the demo script. The list of choices is stripped down to the first and last option for readability.

Set WebDoc=[DoubleListMenu Select documentation item,Name,Description,Docs,Online documentation,Exit,Exit the demo script]

The header can be changed with the SetMenuHeaderIcon command, as explained the previous section with ListMenu. Selecting "Documentation Overview" will thus return "Docs" in the WebDoc variable, if selected. The full script line from the demo script looks like this:

Double list menu with FastTrack
DoubleListMenu Function

Progress command

The Progress command is used to show the progress of a lengthy process with multiple steps, for instance an installation. The progress command is expected to be called a number of times during execution to update the percent completed and optionally the caption and body text.

Progress user interface with FastTrack
Progress Command

Below is a slightly tweaked version of the progress lines from the demo script. The sleep statements are there only to simulation consumption of time instead of doing actual work. The first parameter is the only mandatory parameters and updates the progress completion percent. The rest of the parameters are for optional updating of the header caption, body text and the displayed icon.

Progress 0,Preparing installation of the Acme Corporation software.,Installing Acme Corporation Software

Sleep 4

Progress 20,Installing the Acme Corporation software.[Return][Return]Remaining time: Approx. 4 minutes.

Sleep 4

Progress 60,Downloading updates for Acme Corporation software.[Return][Return]Remaining time: Approx. 2 minutes.

Sleep 4

Progress 80,Applying updates for Acme Corporation software.[Return][Return]Remaining time: Approx. 1 minute.

Sleep 4

Progress 100,Cleaning up...

Sleep 3

RemoveProgress

There is also a command called ProgressTo. This command will set up a timer that will gradually increase the shown percent within a certain timeframe. This is useful for installations, where it is possible to make a qualified guess of the total time that will be consumed before the installation is complete.

Splash screens

A splash screen is another method of telling the user that something is going on, usable for for instance a logon script as shown in the movie here. There are two splash commands: Splash and SmallSplash, as shown below. Splash can be skinned by giving the name of an image skin file or an icon file that must be up to 128x128.

Splash screen with FastTrack
Splash Command

Small splash screen with FastTrack
SmallSplash Command

Ask condition

The Ask condition asks the user a question and the condition will then be entered only if the user selects "Yes". An example Ask condition could look like this:

If Ask Would you like to see the online documentation?,Demonstration complete Then

The first parameter to Ask is the message/question. Header text and icon name can optionally be supplied. In the example above, the message/question and the header text were set and it looks like this:

Asking a question with FastTrack
Ask Condition

CountDown condition

The CountDown condition tells the user that an action, typically a forced reboot, is required. If the user is not present or for other reason does not react within a defined number of seconds, the condition is true. If the user does cancel within the number of seconds, the condition is false.

If CountDown Then RebootForced

You can enter parameters for the number of seconds, the body and header message and the icon. If you do not enter any parameters, a reboot within a minute is assumed and the above parameter-less condition will look like this:

A count-down GUI with FastTrack
CountDown Condition

There are two similar commands that look similar: WaitForAcceptance and CloseApplication. WaitForAcceptance is used to wait the user to accept a reboot or similar within a certain timeframe. The CloseApplication command will ensure that an application is closed. If it is not, a progress screen looking like the one above will be shown and if the user does not close the application within a certain timeframe, the application is forcibly closed.

Input and InputPassword functions

The Input function asks the user to enter a text string. The InputPassword function is the same except that is hides the text entered in the text field and a different icon is shown by default. In the demo script, the Input function is used to ask the user to enter job title:

Set Title = [Input Enter your job title]

The header text and icon name are optional parameters and in this case we have only supplied the body/question text and the default "Information required" is used as caption:

Input string interface using FastTrack
Input Function

InputText function

The InputText function is similar to the Input function, except that it allows the user to enter multi-line text. If for example we would like to ask the user for comments about the IT department in a login script, we could ask and the save the answer to a text file:

Set Feedback = [InputText Please enter your feedback about the IT department,Feedback]


Input text area interface using FastTrack
InputText Function

MultiInput command

The MultiInput command is used, when more than one value must be entered. The first parameter is the header text and all subsequent parameters are presented as separated fields. When MultiInput is closed, a variable will be created for each field with the caption as the variable name. If a different variable name is preferred, the field name can be split by a pipe sign, where the left part is the new variable name and the right part is the displayed name. If any variable contained a value at the time of MultiInput execution, the field will be pre-filled with the current variable value. The example below is from the HelpDesk Application example, where the UserName parameter is split.

MultiInput New User,UserName|User name (Initials),First name,Last name,Password

The above script line in action looks like this:

Multi input dialogue with FastTrack
MultiInput Command

Fields are mandatory by default, but can be overruled by using the SetMultiInputOptional command. Issuing "SetMultiInputOptional First name" before executing MultiInput in the example above, will make the "First Name" field optional. Notice that the key is the variable name. There are are many commands available to control apperance and behavior of MultiInput fields. Here is a complete list:
SetMultiInputOptionalMakes one or more fields optional.
SetMultiInputMandatoryMakes one or more fields mandatory (default).
SetMultiInputCaptionSets a caption at the top of the window. Used to pass information to user about the form.
SetMultiInputBackColorSets the background color of one or more fields.
SetMultiInputForeColorSets the foregroud color of one or more fields.
CreateMultiInputTextFieldMakes one or more fields appear as password fields (default). Used for resetting field types.
CreateMultiInputMemoFieldMakes one or more fields appear as a memo field (multi-line text field).
CreateMultiInputPasswordMakes one or more fields appear as password fields.
CreateMultiInputCheckBoxMakes one or more fields appear as checkboxes.
CreateMultiInputDropListMakes one or more fields appear as drop-down lists; must be issued one time per field passing the list of drop-down values.
To detect if the user clicks the cancel button, use the condition MultiInputCancelled. A simple example of using MultiInput is the Help Desk app shown here. An example of advanced use using most of the above settings is the Outlook Signature App shown here.

ShowWebPage command

The ShowWebPage is used to show a web page to the user and halts the script until the user clicks OK. This can be used for instance in a logon script to show an intranet page to users once or once a week. The demo script shows the documentation overview page from this web site, which looks like this:

ShowWebPage http://www.fasttrackscript.com/Docs,FastTrack Automation Studio Online Documentation

This example will look as shown below - observe that the screenshot is scaled to 50%. On the executing computer, the windows will scale to fit the screen resolution.

Showing a web page with FastTrack
ShowWebPage Command

ShowRemoteDesktop command

FastTrack can act as a remote desktop client. You can for example create a menu with choices and then upon a valid selection show the correct remote desktop with the ShowRemoteDesktop command. Once the user clicks the "Close" button, the script continues.

Remote Desktop with FastTrack
ShowRemoteDesktop Command (Scaled to 50%)

The script to produce the above result looks a shown below, where the name "FastTrackServer" is an internal server. For a full-screen remote desktop, the ShowFullRemoteDesktop can be used instead.

ShowRemoteDesktop FastTrackServer,FastTrack Remote


SyncDir and CopyDir commands

The SyncDir and CopyDir user interfaces are listed under "Backup and Replication" and "Directories" in the engine browser, because these are user interfaces that are the result of I/O operations. For more information on SyncDir and CopyDir, please click here. The FTP counterparts SyncFTPDir/CopyFTPDir and the web counterpart DownloadFile are also using the same user interface. SyncDir in action looks like this:

Using SyncDir with FastTrack
SyncDir Command


The console

When working with console applications, FastTrack has a build-in console, as shown below. Please refer to this page for more information.

Console window


Graphical user interfaces summary

Watch Senior Technical Writer Steve Dodson from Binary Research International walk you through the basics of the material presented on this page.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

"Use this as a replacement for VBScript and PowerShell"

"It's easy to include attractive GUI elements in FastTrack scripts, beyond the basic dialog boxes and text input that VBScript offers ... Another powerful feature is the ability to distribute scripts as Windows Installer (.msi) or standard .exe files. Although interesting in its own right, this ability results in a much more intriguing capability: to repackage -- or wrap -- software installers as .msi files without using snapshots. If you've ever created an .msi installer file from before-and-after system snapshots, for use with a software distribution system such as Group Policy or System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), then you know how hit-and-miss the results can be."

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Rating: 8 out of 10

"Faster than the rest"

"We found the FastTrack syntax to be more transparent and easier to learn than Microsoft's PowerShell – the editor in particular provided good support in this regard. Scripting mode offers a large number of options from the command set through to simple output of graphical elements, which cannot be achieved at all with PowerShell or other solutions or only with a significantly greater level of effort."

"Anyone wanting to tackle the many hurdles in everyday admin and especially anyone for whom logon scripts and client automation is a priority will benefit from the variety of functions offered by FastTrack."

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