Macro Express in Olin LTS
Macro Express is a program which allows the user to assign almost any sequence of commands to a simple key combination. It is especially useful for performing repetitive functions in a given workflow, reducing keystrokes, and lowering the risk of discomfort or injury. For example, if a staff member is processing library materials, and frequently has to type a particular note in the records (e.g. “Ask at Circulation”), they can program Macro Express to type that note whenever they strike “Ctrl+ Q”, or some similar combination that is not already assigned. More complicated examples may be assigned to copy data, switch to a different application, select a certain menu command, etc. LTS managers encourage staff to ask questions or experiment with the program, particularly if a useful new macro may result.
Within LTS, a standardized set of macros is installed on each staff member’s machine. This core set is called “LTS Master 2011”, and includes the most commonly-used macros in our various workflows (cataloging, receiving, inputting, etc.).
When you open the ME3 window on an LTS computer, the LTS Master list of macros should appear in the “Macro Explorer” window. Staff should make sure it’s the appropriate LTS 2011 file, or equivalent (with .mex extension). The path name appears just below the main toolbar. The list is sorted into 3 main columns:
1. The Nickname column summarizes the task each macro performs.
2. The Activation shows the key-combination required to trigger the macro
3. The Scope column shows in which windows or programs the macro can be used. For example, a macro may work only in a certain window, so its scope may be “Window Specific”, and the user selects which window it will function in. The same command in a different window may have a separate purpose altogether. Another macro may show a “global” scope, which means the macro will execute the same set of commands in any window or program.
Clicking on any individual macro will open the Scripting Editor for that macro, where all of its individual commands will be listed, in order, in the “Macro Script” section on the right-hand side.
On the left-hand side is a list of commands the user can choose from to create or modify a macro, subdivided by category. The categories are too numerous to cover here, but one of the most commonly used is “Text”. Among its different sub-options is “Text Type”, where you can assign the text a macro should “type” when it is triggered. Another Text option is to automatically type the current date, and the user can specify the exact way it should appear (e.g. x/y/zz; or xx/yy/zzzz, among others). Other options include repeating certain operations, waiting for certain windows to appear, etc.
Below the toolbar of the Scripting Editor window, there are 5 folder tabs, with the active window corresponding to the ‘Script’ tab.
The next tab over (“Properties”) allows the user to create or change the Nickname for the macro, as well as its icon and activation keys, if desired. In addition, a macro can be activated by either a “Hot Key” (which uses an activation key such as Ctrl, Alt, or Shift), or a “Short Key” which uses a set of strokes in a particular order (e.g. “;;x” or “,,f”).
The “Scope” tab allows the user to set which windows or programs the macro will function in (see above), and any setting more limited than ‘Global’ can be specified in the respective options (“Global Except” ; “Window Specific” ; or “Program Specific”). The subsequent 2 folder tabs (Security and Notes) are seldom used in LTS, but may be useful for protecting certain macros with a password, or for adding additional explanatory notes not easily covered by a macro’s nickname.
For additional details on working with the Scripting Editor, Properties, and Scope tabs, see “Useful How-To’s in Macro Express”, below.
It is important to note that the “building blocks” of many macros are combinations of basic commands in the Windows environment that can be performed with either a keyboard or a mouse. Some familiarity with keyboard-based navigation can be of great use, not only when creating macros, but also to further reduce mouse usage and its associated risks. For example, menus can be activated by pressing the “Alt” key followed by the arrow keys, or one can move the cursor forward with the Tab key, backwards with ‘Shift-Tab’, etc. If you’d like to learn more about keyboard equivalents to mouse-related commands, please consult the relevant Windows-related websites, or ask your supervisor.
LTS supervisors encourage staff to share macros (or ideas for macros) whenever they think it may be useful. Your idea could increase the overall efficiency of the department, so don’t be shy with your suggestions! If you have an idea for new macro, please let your supervisor or a netadmin know, describing what you would like the macro to do.
If you’ve already created the macro you would like to share, you will need to export it to the shared location:
- Open ME3
- Highlight the macro you would like to share
- Go to the File MenuàExportàExport Macros…
- A small window will appear with the title “Export Macros”, containing a list of all of your macros.
- Highlight the macro(s) you’d like to share from the list.
- Click the ‘Save File’ button.
- You will be prompted to save the macro (as a file with .mex extension) to a certain location.
- Browse to the “Shared Macros” folder (Library30:\Macro Express\Shared Macros).
- Give your macro file an appropriate name, and save it to the folder.
To add a macro to your list, you can import it from either an e-mail attachment, a disk, or from a file on your hard drive, such as the shared Macro Express folder (see “Exporting Macros” above). Assuming you know the location of the macro, follow these steps:
- Open ME3 to the Macro Explorer. You will see the main list of macros in your .mex file.
- Go to the File menu, click on Import, and select “Import Macros”. A small window titled “Import Macros” will appear.
Important: Do not use the "Open Macro File" command in the same menu as an alternate way to open your file. Doing so could result in your losing access to your main mex file.
- Select the “Open File” command in the small Import Macros window, and browse to the appropriate location of the macro you would like to import. If you’re not sure where the macro may be, ask an ME team member for assistance.
- Select the appropriate .Mex file you want, click "open." One or more macros will appear in the small “Import Macros” window.
- Select the macro(s) you want to import.
- Click on Import
Now, look in your Macro Explorer window, and you should see your old macros, plus the one(s) you added. The new macro now be in your list. Make sure that its activation does not conflict with any existing macros already in your main file.
As mentioned previously, macros can be edited and customized to suit changing workflows. There is little sense in creating a macro from scratch, if most of its commands are already used in a separate macro which can be copied and adapted. There are several ways to modify a macro, but the preferred method in LTS is to use the Scripting Editor:
Double click on the macro you want to edit. This will automatically open up the Scripting Editor, and will list the commands that make up the current macro on the right side. If the Scripting Editor does not appear when you double-click the macro, you can choose it from the vertical line of buttons on the left of the screen.
- Note carefully the different commands in the list, and which one(s) you want to change.
- Double-click a line you want to edit, or simply highlight and right-click to move, delete, modify, etc.
- Depending on the type of command selected, double-clicking will open the selectable parameters for that command (i.e. timing delay options, text type options, etc.)
- Click OK when you’re finished modifying the command, and it should appear in its previous place in the Scripting editor.
Experienced Macro Express users may choose to create or modify macros using the Direct Editor and Capture modes. Direct Editor allows the user to enter a macro’s individual commands in a window that does not list the steps vertically, or explain what they do. The result is a view of the commands that looks more like strings of programming language, and is not a user-friendly interface, particularly for beginners. Similarly, the “Capture” mode allows users to create macros by “recording” a pre-arranged sequence of key-strokes, mouse-clicks, menu selections, etc.
- It is generally agreed that the step-by-step nature of the Scripting Editor is the best method to create and modify macros in the LTS environment.
1. How to map the macro to a different key or key combination for activation.
o Highlight the macro to change.
o Double-Click the Macro to activate the Scripting Editor View, or simply choose “Scripting Editor” from vertical list on the left side of the screen.
o Click the “Properties” tab near the top left, to open the Properties screen for this macro.
o You’ll find the options to change the Hot-Key activation, if you prefer one that is different from the current one, OR you can change the activation to a short-key instead (such as “,,g” or “++a”).
o Be prepared to answer questions about the macro, and share with others as appropriate.
2. How to set a new icon:
o Double click on the macro to change. Click on the Properties tab. Click on the “Change” button next to the Icon, and select your new icon from the resulting list.
3. How to sort the list of macros:
o Simply click on the column headings you want to sort by (Activation, Nickname, Scope, and Modified).
4. How to abort a macro in progress:
o Occasionally, a macro may get “stuck”, or get caught in a loop. This will not only prevent the current macro from completing its task, but will also prevent other macros from working at all. When this occurs, you’ll find that the blue “M” icon in the system tray (usually at the lower right of your screen) has changed to a small running figure. Right-Click on the small “running man” icon to abort the macro in progress, and click “OK” to confirm the termination of that macro. This will bring back the “M” icon, and re-enable Macro Express functionality.
5. How to disable a macro:
o Highlight the macro you would like to disable, and select “Disable Macro” from the Macros menu. Alternatively, you may right-click on the highlighted macro, and click “Disable Macro” in the resulting menu.
Experience has shown that it is better NOT to delete any macros, but rather to simply disable those macros that you know you won’t need.
- Stick to keyboard equivalents as much as possible when creating each constituent command in a given macro: it’s easier to follow what the macro is doing, and less susceptible to malfunction.
- Be wary of Voyager-specific keyboard equivalents when mapping to keys -- i.e., F9 for delimiters, so you don't accidently change the function of one of these "Voyager pre-defined" function keys, (Ctrl+M, Ctrl+N, and Ctrl+B), are examples of this.
- Use the "Home" key to get to the top of a pull-down list in Voyager. This trick only works for pull-down menus with the little triangle icon, not for those with the little arrow icon.
- When including commands such as “Save”, or others that require an extra second or 2 to “take”, you may need to insert a ‘delay’ in the macro before the next command, or lessen the overall macro speed, for the macro to work properly from beginning to end. There are no hard and fast rules for this, and success may require some trial and error.