Writing a script to automate various tasks on your system that you would normally have to do manually is something that I’ve become infatuated with recently. Maybe it’s the automation engineer in me, but the idea of having a computer intelligently do what I don’t have time to do is very appealing. That is why I’ve recently started offering some tips on how you can automate your own computer with windows host scripts, typically using Visual Basic script to do things like automate telnet commands or even sending emails.
The reason I like VB script so much is because it’s a scaled down version of Visual Basic itself, which in my opinion is probably one of the easiest programming languages to learn if you’re just getting started as a programmer. That isn’t because the language is limited in features or scaled down in functionality, it’s because using the language is intuitive, and full of objects and components that you can pull in to perform some pretty amazing tasks with your computer.
A VB Scripting Environment
If you want to become a power Windows scripting expert, then you really need an environment that helps you remember the syntax of the language, and provides you with a quick library of functions and objects that are available to you.
VbsEdit Helps You Write Powerful Windows Scripts
If you are writing in VB6 or .Net, then you need to use the Microsoft Studio package that includes the programming environment you need. However, if you’re just a system administrator or a network IT guy, you really don’t want to spend money on an expensive tool just for writing Windows scripts. That’s where VbsEdit comes in handy.
Last week I wrote about the BlueFish editor for web apps. Well, VbsEdit is sort of the all-star tool that is very well-known within the IT community for power-scripting highly functional VB based Windows Scripts. As you can see in the screenshot above, using an editor built specifically for VB scripting gives you the power of color-coded, intelligent sensing of declarations, variables, functions and objects. It gives you pop-up lists for suggested methods, properties and events for different objects, and a whole lot more.
If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about here, don’t worry. After using VbsEdit for a while, you’ll quickly learn how the language works and how much functionality you can add to your Windows Scripts if you write them in this language and use VbsEdit.
The one drawback of the free version of VbsEdit is that it does have a nag-screen when you first launch the application.
It is a functional, free version of the software, but you have to click “Evaluate” every time you start. If you really like it, I would suggest buying a copy, as it is really inexpensive. Otherwise, just click Evaluate and the software will launch.
There’s a lot available when you use this tool to write Windows Script, but the first thing that I recommend you do when you first launch it is to click on the “WScript” button at the top of the main window. This enables all of the VBS features that I’m going to describe here.
The first thing that I want to point out is that when you start defining available objects, like the windows scripting object or IHost for networking, those objects appear in the Object Browser on the right side of the window.
When you drop down the Object Browser, you can see all of the elements that are available to you, and you can drill down within those to see what properties or methods are available. If you’re just learning VB scripting, this is an invaluable resource.
Another nice feature is the drop-down lookup, just like you might be accustomed to if you’ve written programs in MS Visual Studio.
Other really nice features of this tool include adding or removing breakpoints. You can do this by clicking to the left of the line where you want to pause the program, or click on the break point icon in the toolbar.
Another nice feature that makes this software just as good as MS Visual Studio is the commenting feature. You can comment entire blocks of text simply by highlighting all of it and clicking on the “comment” icon.
There is also a really nice debugging feature that most programming editors lack. When you click the run button, the program will stop at your breakpoints and you can step through your program by clicking on the various step icons.
At the bottom of the window, you can view active variables and their values while your script is running. When you’re debugging an especially complex windows script, this feature is worth its weight in gold.
The only second drawback to the free version is another nuisance screen that counts down in seconds any time you want to run your script from inside the editor.
Other really nice features of this VB Script editor include (from left to right) the ability to convert your script into an executable, a button to add your newly written code into your own personal “code library”, a useful search button, and finally a series of bookmarking buttons that let you more easily organize and navigate your script.
For the most part, VbsEdit is a much better improvement over using just a text editor for writing Windows Scripts. With VbsEdit, you can quickly see what you want to do, and how to do it. You can test your scripts and get them into production much faster than otherwise possible.
So give VbsEdit a shot and see if it improves your script writing experience. Share your thoughts about it in the comments section below.