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Multi-program launcher: Do it yourself, Part 1
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology 
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Multi-program launcher: Do it yourself, Part 1 

Bit Player for May 31, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers

I'm sometimes asked to recommend a utility that would allow a modern Windows PC to launch many Internet programs all at once after the PC has connected to the Net. Such utilities (small programs that help you do minor tasks) are indeed available, but you don't need one. Windows 95 and 98 have that capability already.

All you need to do is create a batch file. This week and next, I'll tell you how to do it. Don't shy away: Batch files are just instructions placed line by line in a text file. You run a batch file by double-clicking it or by opening a DOS window and typing the name of the batch file and hitting the Enter key.

By writing your own batch file a special way, you can even control how these programs start up. The secret is to have the batch file run shortcuts, not programs. Because shortcuts can specify how programs run—full screen or minimized, for example, instead of running in a normal window—you have full control over everything.

Start by creating a shortcut to the icon that dials your Internet Service Provider. Open My Computer and then open Dial-Up Networking. Click your right mouse button on the icon for your Internet connection and drag it to the Desktop, Let go and choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. Immediately press the F2 key and type "Dial" (without the quotes). Press Enter. You'll have a shortcut icon on the Desktop called Dial that dials your ISP.

Now find the shortcuts for the programs you want to run—your Web browser, your e-mail program, a chat program, a weather program and so on—and copy them to your Desktop. (You won't keep them there, but take this step anyway.) They should be in your Start Menu.

Under Windows 95, click the right mouse button on the Start button and click Open. Your Start Menu folder will open. Find the programs you want. Their icons might be visible already, but they're probably within other folders, so you'll probably have to double click other folder icons to find them. Then do this: For every program icon you want to run, right click the icon and drag it to the Desktop, then choose Create Shortcut(s) Here.

Under Windows 98, left click the Start button and locate the programs you want. Right click each program icon within the Start Menu and drag it to the Desktop, then choose Create Shortcut(s) Here.

Give each of these shortcuts that are on your Desktop a short name. Do that by clicking once on the icon, pressing F2 and typing a short name (eight letters or less), then hitting Enter.

The next step is writing down the names of these shortcut icons so you can use them later. Jot them down on a piece of paper or in your word processor; it doesn't matter.

You don't want these new icons on the Desktop. You want them squirreled away somewhere. The Windows folder is fine. Open the Windows folder and move the all the new icons into it. (Double click My Computer, double click the C: drive icon and find the Windows folder. Keep it visible. Left click each new icon on your Desktop and drag each one to the Windows folder. If you know how to select them all, do that and drag all of them at once.)

Here's what you've done so far. You've created shortcuts for dialing your Internet provider and for running your main programs and given them short names. You've moved them into your Windows folder so they'll be easy for the batch file to find.

Next week, I'll take you step by step through the creation of the actual batch file that does the work.

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