Actions & Activities

Overview

The work items performed by a task are called actions or activities. They are the basic building blocks that enable development of intuitive AutoMate tasks without the need to write code. Actions and activities are organized in a hierarchical format in Task Builder, each action containing individual activities (or sub-actions) which are subroutines directly related to the main action. You simply drag-and-drop actions/activities from the Actions panel onto the Steps panel to build a series of steps which collectively make up the task.

Actions and activities perform operations such as starting applications, sending keystrokes, clicking controls, uploading files, and much more. They can be further expanded by the use of variables , constants, and expressions. A task may comprise a single action or it may involve multiple actions and more complex elements such as variables, expressions, conditional logic, looping, and more.

Related Topics

Available Actions

The following table lists all of the actions available in AutoMate along with a brief description. To view more information about a specific action or to access the available activities (or sub-actions) for each action, click the associated link.

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Name

Description

Active Directory

Automates a variety of common Active Directory tasks, such user account creation / provisioning and de-provisioning. Most Active Directory related jobs are often repetitive and time-consuming, so automating them does a world of good to network administrators and their enterprise, in terms of time saved and standards achieved.

Amazon DynamoDB

Allows developers to automate a variety of DynamoDB operations without the need to write code. Since DynamoDB is a service based on throughput, developers can also create tasks to monitor usage and storage capacity.

Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud)

Allows developers to automate the management of EC2 instances, improving efficiency while maintaining a high level of performance. Using these activities, one can optimize the use of compute resources in a variety of circumstances.

Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service)

Provides cost-efficient and re-sizable capacity while automating time-consuming database administration tasks, freeing you up to focus on your applications and business.

Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service)

Provides developers the tools to automate to automate common S3 related operations such as the creation and management of buckets and the objects that reside in them.

Amazon SES (Simple Email Service)

Enables automation of many common aspects of email management, such as creation, verification and retrieval of identities  for a specific AWS account as well as composing and sending email messages based on input data.

Amazon SimpleDB (Simple Database)

Contains a variety of activities that enables automation of common to complex SimpleDB operations, eliminating the administrative burden of performing manual operations such as data modeling, index maintenance, and performance tuning.

Amazon SQS (Simple Queue Service)

Automates the creation of queues and movement of data between distributed components of relevant applications that perform different tasks without losing messages or requiring each component to be always available.

Array

Enables creation of arrays to be used during task execution, allowing a group of objects with the same attributes to be addressed individually. It can also set an array to a specific value or modify the current size of an array.

AS2 (Applicability Statement 2)

Allows users to automate EDI/AS2 related operations, such as creating and sending messages, decoding messages and verifying receipts.

AutoMate

Comprises individual activities that enables automation of common processes that are specific to the AutoMate program, such as writing to the AutoMate log or shutting down AutoMate.

Azure Storage

Enables cloud storage automation with a comprehensive set of Windows Azure Storage activities, including blob, entity, table, queue and message related activities.

BASIC Script

Often used to create sophisticated scripts without the need to write VBScripts, Shell Scripts, batch files or any type of code. In addition, it can also incorporate existing VBScripts, Powershell and other scripts into manageable task flows and add new functionality to old applications with the use of over 500 available actions and activities.

Clipboard

Contains various activities that can automate all Windows clipboard operations. Along with the basic Cut, Copy, Paste and Clear clipboard activities, this action comprises a Get Clipboard activity, which retrieves the current contents of the clipboard as text and places it in a variable, and a Set Clipboard activity, which allows you to set the clipboard to the text specified.

Compression

Automates the ability to compress and/or decompress data in a specific directory. It supports all major compression types, including ZIP, JAR, GZIP, TAR and 7ZIP (among others). Other features include the ability to password protect encrypted data and change the level at which files are to be compressed.

Computer

Allows the ability to automate various Windows start menu power button functions such as Lock, Restart, Shut down, Log off, Suspend and Hibernate.

Cryptography

AutoMate's encryption and decryption of files. Can also create or delete key containers, generating both public and private key files from existing key containers and digitally signing files using newly generated private keys. Supports PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), one of the most widely used cryptography systems.

Database

Enables creation of sophisticated database-driven applications without the need to write code. Supports SQL Server, Oracle, Access, Sybase, DB2 and other ODBC-based database. This powerful tool can automate report generation and distribution, run DTS or similar database maintenance processes automatically and expand tasks to do even more using AutoMate's library of actions and activities.

DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange)

Enables automation of operations that a DDE client usually performs, such as the ability to send requests and commands to DDE Server applications.

Dialog

Contains various dialog activities, each displaying its own unique dialog window during runtime. The type of dialog displayed is dependent upon the desired user interaction. Additionally, a Custom Dialog activity can be used to create your own dialog boxes in situations where a normal Windows message box may not be sufficient enough.

DLL (Dynamic-link Library

Executes the specified method in a managed or unmanaged dynamic-link library (DLL) and stores the return value of the method in an AutoMate variable.

Dynamics CRM

Automates a variety of common CRM operations in order to ensure consistency in how businesses interact with their customers. It can be used for creating, updating or deleting contacts, retrieving audit records, tracking specific information and uploading and downloading attachments.

Email

Combined with the Exchange action, AutoMate presents an effective email attendant that allows you to automate common to complex email operations and simultaneously manage several e-mail accounts from as many mail servers as required.

Environment Variables

Automates the creation, manipulation and management of environment variables in a Windows-based operating system without the use of scripts or the command line. Activities include the ability to get, set, list and delete environment variables as well as append data to an existing environment variable.

Event Log

Allows custom events to be logged in a purely automated fashion. Developers can control the type of event to log by specifying a level value such as warning or error. Furthermore,this action can be used along with the Event Log trigger as a way to launch other tasks upon arrival of a specific event.

Excel

When you work with Microsoft Excel, you usually select one or more cells and then perform an action, such as formatting the cells, entering values in them or retrieving current values. The Excel action encompasses a variety of activities that are capable of automating such operations, thus, saving time and eliminating errors. In addition, this action is capable of running existing Excel macros as part of a fully automated sequence.

Exchange

Comprises a variety of activities that can be used to automate common operations on Exchange objects, such as the ability to create calendars or appointments, delete contacts, modify tasks and retrieve email. This action supports Exchange 2003 which uses the WebDav protocol as well as Exchange 2007 and 2010, which uses the EWS (Exchange Web Service) protocol.

Facebook

More and more organizations are using Facebook as a highly effective business tool to market their products, connect with customers and gather analytics. However, the amount of time people spend on Facebook to perform such activities can be quite immense. The Facebook action can solve this problem by automating various Facebook related activities, including status updates, photo uploads and more importantly, analytics retrieval.

File System

Encompasses a comprehensive collection of activities for automating all file and folder related operations. Activities include the ability to copy, delete or rename files and folders, read from a file and write to a file. Other activities include the ability to retrieve information about files, such as metadata and checksum values as well as the ability to split or concatenate files and synchronize folders (among others).

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

Used to automate any FTP operation including downloads, uploads, renames, folder creations, deletions and more. AutoMate's internal FTP engine is compatible with all FTP connection methods, particularly security-based connections. This includes both explicit and implicit FTPS (FTP Secure or FTP-SSL) that adds support for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) cryptographic protocols.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

Contains activities that are ideal for automating common HTTP operations, such as GET, PUT, POST, DELETE and more. HTTP requests are sent directly instead of automating a browser to perform such operations. This action also supports Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocols, which is a combination of HTTP with the SSL/TLS protocol to provide encrypted communication and secure identification of a network web server.

If

In programming, the If statement is used to run code based on conditions. This allows programs the ability to perform different operations in response to different conditions. AutoMate's If activities encompass the same capabilities but with a more user-friendly approach. They enable complex decision making based on variable data in the context of a task.

Image

Developers and designers must deal with editing and converting many images by hand, which can be time consuming. AutoMate's Image action consists of activities that can greatly reduce the time it takes to perform such a process. For example, you can create a single task that reduces the size of an image, applies a filter for a particular effect and converts the image file to the desired format. In addition, you can integrate loop related activities to run this task on hundreds or thousands of images.

Input

With the Input action, automation of GUI related tasks can be performed by simulating mouse movements, mouse clicks, and keyboard key presses, enabling you to control your PC with simple commands such as start, click and write. You select the proper activities to replicate the actions (i.e. Move mouse, Click Mouse, Send keystrokes) that you would normally perform manually. Once you have entered a few steps, you can save them or easily test playback at the click of a button. This makes you more productive and lets you do something more meaningful or enjoyable with your time. Use this action combines with the Interactivity action to automate simple to complex GUI related operations.

Instant Message

In a business standpoint, instant messaging is essentially the text version of a phone call. Although e-mail is still the prominent form of business communications, more organizations are slowly realizing that instant messaging is also a capable and proficient communications tool. One of the concepts that have been floating around recently is the capability to send automated IM responses. The Instant Message action does exactly this. Its main purpose is to automate the process of sending instant messages upon schedule or when a particular event or condition takes place on the system, saving time for the user and eventually increasing his/her productivity. The Instant Message action supports sending automated messages through Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, AIM, ICQ and Google Talk. Moreover, this action supports sending to multiple recipients simultaneously.  

Interactivity

AutoMate includes numerous interactive related activities that can impersonate object selection or any form of desktop interaction that one would normally perform manually. The Move mouse to object activity simulates moving the cursor to a specific object or control in a window. The Press activity simulates moving the cursor to an object and clicking that object all within one step. Such activities communicate with the target control natively, therefore, the window where the control resides is not required to be in the foreground for the event to occur. Other activities such as Get text and Set text allows you to easily extract text from and input text to a specific window on your desktop. Use these activities combines with the Input activities to automate simple to complex GUI related operations.

Label

Used to label a step in a task with a specific name. A label is used with a Goto activity and/or the On Error Goto option (found in the On Error properties) to allow redirection of task execution to the label specified.

Loop

In computer programming, a loop is a fundamental yet powerful technique that is commonly used in writing programs. A loop is a sequence or "block" of instructions that is continually repeated a specified number of times or until a certain condition is reached. It allows a very simple operation to produce a significantly greater result simply by repetition. Similar to the concept of loops in programming, the Loop action in AutoMate allows repeated execution of a group of steps. Activities include the ability to loop through datasets, files, processes, lists, and more for dynamic automation.

MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queuing)

MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queuing) technology enables applications to communicate with each other in an effective and dependable manner, even in unreliable distributed environments where intermediate servers or systems may not always be available. This is made possible due to the fact that messages are not exchanged directly between applications but rather through a message queue, which is a temporary storage location from which messages can be sent and received reliably. Applications that run at different times can essentially send messages to queues and receive messages from queues at their convenience. AutoMate's MSMQ action provides a reliable and secure way to automate message delivery and retrieval via MSMQ. It contains individual activities that lets you to create, send, retrieve, clear, delete or wait for MSMQ messages on a local or remote machine.

Multimedia

Automates the action of controlling the optical drive, play specific audio and/or adjust the system volume. In an automated environment, these activities can be used as notification tools. For example, a 'Play audio' or 'CD Control' activity can be used in a task as a way to alert the user. They can also be used as an alarm clock or server audio notification.

Network

Contains activities used to automate various network related operations, such as establishing a network connection, mapping or unmapping a network drive or sending a "ping" request to a computer.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

Provides new opportunities and techniques with regards to combining OCR capabilities in an automated environment. It enables you to convert typewritten, handwritten or printed text as well as text contained in images to an AutoMate variable or dataset, making it possible to search for a word or phrase, store text more compactly and apply techniques such as text mining or text to speech.

OpenDocument Spreadsheet (ODS)

The OpenDocument Spreadsheet action is similar to the Excel action. Unlike the Excel action, however, the OpenDocument Spreadsheet action enables creation and management of spreadsheets without requiring Microsoft Excel to be installed on the system. This action not only supports spreadsheet generation and other basic file formatting features, but also supports a number of advanced features such as importing as well as exporting spreadsheet data, reading, writing and modifying XLSX, XLS, ODS, CSV or HTML files. This makes it  much more convenient for developers to manipulate spreadsheet contents, format cells and protect files.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

Automates an assortment of common PDF operations. Activities include the ability to concatenate or merge two or more PDF documents, append new pages to an existing PDF file, extract pages, insert pages at a particular location in an existing PDF file or split one PDF into two or more PDF documents (to name a few). For added Security, this action provides the ability to encrypt and decrypt PDF documents with either 40-bit,128-bit or 256-bit encryption and also specify user passwords for further protection.

PowerShell

PowerShell is a command line shell and scripting language for Microsoft Windows that is built on the .NET framework. PowerShell's task automation framework allows administrators to perform administrative tasks on both local and remote Windows systems. AutoMate enables management and control for PowerShell processing. With the use of the PowerShell action, you can embed existing PowerShell scripts to a task or point to an external .PS1 file to allow for seamless integration with other actions. To run unattended or scheduled PowerShell operations, simply add a schedule trigger.

Printer

Can optimize printing resources and print documents when they are required, not necessarily when they are generated. This action includes activities that can automate print jobs across various print queues, change the default printer or remove a specific printer on the fly. It also contains an activity that can retrieve status sand other properties about any printer across the network so you can better manage which printers and at what time print jobs should take place.

Processes

Enables automation of most process management operations. This action comprises activities that can automate the act of starting, stopping or controlling a process as well as query a process for specific types of information, such as names of loaded modules, number of consumed  handles and sets of threads, start time and much more. You can also adjust the priorities of running programs so that badly behaved processes won't negatively impact the responsiveness of your computer. The available activities for this action supports management of local or remote processes.  

Registry

Encompasses a variety of activities capable of automating many common registry configuration and management operations, such as the ability to create, manipulate, rename and delete registry keys, sub-keys or value data. This action also allows registry values to be read and stored, which is ideal in situations when you may need to retrieve configuration data, for instance, to keep track of the software you install on the computer or save data collected from an external application so that it can be retrieved and used the next time the task is run.

Run

Runs the program, application or document specified. If a document is specified, the application associated with the document will be used to open it. This action comprises some built in conveniences, such as the ability to wait for an application to finish loading (i.e. be ready for input) or wait for it to complete its operation before continuing to the next step. Commonly used to start an application or open a document in preparation to send keystrokes, mouse clicks or other interactive steps.  

Security

Enhances the security of an automation routine by generating a strong password and/or suspending task execution until the user properly authenticates himself/herself by either entering the correct password. Can also be used to suspend execution until a specific a specific user is logged on.

Select

A useful alternative to using an "If" statement in a task. Like any If activity, this action allows decisions to be made during task execution depending on the result of an expression. The difference is the speed and readability of the resulting task when one of several decisions can be reached. For example, for a simple expression such as 1=1 (true) or 1>2 (false), it would be best to use the If activity. For more complex decisions where there are several possible answers such as favorite color=red, blue, green or yellow, Select/Case activities would be a better choice. This is because Select/Case presents the task steps in a manner that is more readable, and at runtime, the evaluation of the expression occurs only once rather than needing repeated If activities with individual comparison.

Services

Provides various ways to automate the management of local or remote services. Using a variety of activities, you can easily automate operations such as starting, stopping, installing or uninstalling services. You can also query for a list of services installed on the system along with their current state.

SharePoint

Comprised of over 40 activities that enables automation of simple to complex SharePoint operations. For instance, this action can automate the creation, management and implementation of SharePoint sites that are discoverable throughout the organization. By further streamlining and automating SharePoint processes, a company's resources can be allocated to other areas, which can lead to reduced costs and greater operational efficiency.

Skybot

The Skybot action enables additional automation capabilities with Skybot through AutoMate. Skybot's integration with Automate will allow users to create server objects (in Skybot) that represent an Automate/BPA installation and have the ability to build jobs that execute a task/workflow on a selected automate/BPA servers. Skybot will be aware of defined BPA/Automate servers, be able to run tasks or workflows on those servers, wait until the task is complete before moving on to the next command in the Skybot job, capture the return code of the task or workflow and capture the command line output and add it to the job log.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)

Used to automate common SNMP commands such as GET, GET BULK, GET NEXT, SEND TRAP, SET and WALK, providing server administrators and IT personnel a means to monitor a complete network infrastructure through simple AutoMate tasks. Also enables integration of AutoMate with products such as Microsoft MOM and others.

Speech

Enables interactions to be performed during runtime via the Windows speech synthesis engine. Common uses would be to create a blind-accessible system to read text data from the screen, create audible reminders and notifications, and web/document reader applications.

Task

Allows task level operations to be automated during runtime. Activities include the ability to start a secondary task (also known as a child task or subtask) from a parent task or start another task as a separate thread. Other activities can disable/re-enable execution of other tasks. For instance, a Disable task activity could be placed at the beginning of Task1 to disable execution of Task2 for the time being to ensure it doesn't interfere with execution of Task1. An Enable task step could be placed at the end of Task1 to re-enable execution of Task2.  

Terminal

Often used to completely simulate the procedures that a user typically performs during a terminal session. The Terminal action allows  legacy systems to be automated in the background without the need for  3rd party software. With AutoMate, terminal servers can be used to run programs, save files, and employ network resources, altogether, working as a bridge to connect terminal and/or legacy systems to Windows networks and computers.

Text

Text manipulation is a way to administer and modify textual data, including text conversion, transformation and extraction. Some common text operations involve stripping of characters or white space, converting words to upper or lower case, adding or replacing characters and calculating character count for the selected text. AutoMate encompasses a variety of activities primarily designed to automate the management, modification and enhancement of text. These time saving activities are the complete solution for any data and text editing procedures that are performed in large quantities or in a repetitive manner.

Timer

A timer can be used to examine the sequence of an event or process taking place. This is an ideal way for developers to gauge the total execution time of an individual task step or series of steps that perform time sensitive operations. A Start Timer activity creates a new session and begins the recording process and a Stop Timer activity marks its ending. The elapsed time is then output to an AutoMate variable. In addition, a Read Timer activity can be used to gauge the execution time between Start Timer and Stop Timer steps. Multiple timer operations can occur simultaneously within the same task as long as each operation is designated by a unique session.

Twitter

Performs automated status message updates on a valid Twitter account. This action can update a status message upon schedule or when a certain event occurs. For example, the Twitter action can be used to perform internal updates on network issues for IT staff or external Twitter communications on new products or other subjects for marketing purposes. This action can also be used to perform a variety of other Twitter operations, such as Get Status, Delete Status, Send Direct Message, Get Followers and much more.

Type

Used to create an Automate object from the defined custom type or web service. This action can also be used to define a custom object type or object types defined in a Web Service or import Web Service or .Net assembly types.

Variable

The Variable action comprises various activities geared for the creation and management of variables and/or arrays. The developer can enter a value to initially populate the variable during creation or the value field can be left blank. Instead, variables can be set with a value using the Set Variable activity, which adds or changes the contents of an already existing variable. Certain available actions that support populating variables can also set or modify a variable's contents, such as the Input Dialog activity, which displays an input box allowing the user to enter a value which is saved to the variable specified.

VMWare Guest

Useful for automating many common operations on a VMware guest operating system, such as running a program or script, managing processes, creating and managing files and  directories, creating screenshots, administering environment variables and much more. With these activities, you can run common tasks on a network where you have multiple virtual machines running on one or more physical machines. AutoMate supports the full suite of virtualization software including ESX, ESXi, Workstation, and Player.

VMWare Host

Useful for automating many common performance and auditing operations on a VMware host operating system. For instance, you can create a task to automate the process of modifying a limitless number of hosts, freeing up time for more strategic activities. AutoMate can automatically generate lists of running hosts as frequently as required as well as automatically register and unregister hosts based on any event defined. Other activities include the ability to start, resume or suspend a VM, take snapshots, revert to a previous snapshot and much more.

Wait

In programming, a wait state is a situation in which a program waits for the occurrence or completion of a specific event or condition before continuing. Because the result of a wait can largely impact task execution, many AutoMate activities have their own built-in wait capabilities. In addition to the built-in wait function, a number of individual 'Wait' activities are also available which can  be used at any point inside a task without the need to write code. These activities provide additional intelligence to AutoMate's already powerful task flow capabilities by allowing execution to pause until a specific date/time, until the existence (or non-existence) of a file or window, wait for a process to start or end or wait for a specific amount of time.  

Web Browser

Can be used to automate basic to complex web based operations. Using these activities, any combination of web related actions that one normally performs manually, such as browsing, form filling, clicking and data extraction, can be simulated at runtime. Many tasks such as order tracking, report generation, database retrieval and payroll management are now web based, which is why the Web Browser action is an essential tool for today's businesses.

Web Service

The benefits of Web Services to any business can be summed up in one word: Efficiency. AutoMate helps leverage this functionality with its Web Service - Execute function activity. This action allows you to automate the ability to execute Web Service calls via WSDL (Web Service Definition Language) URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) path. What is neat about AutoMate is that once you put in a WSDL URI path and click the “Go” button, it automatically evaluates that Web Service and fills in the information for you to select from a drop-down.

Window

Interactive tasks are defined as tasks that simulate mouse movement, mouse clicks, keyboard activity or any type of interaction with the desktop. Performing interactive actions normally requires the use of the Input and Interactivity actions. However, in order for interactions to be performed accurately on a specific window, that window must usually be "focused" or in front of all other open windows. The Window action is used ideally in such situations. It encompasses a variety of activities used to manipulate windows on the desktop such as moving, minimizing, maximizing, hiding, focusing or closing a window. The Window action as well as all other interactivity related actions implement AutoMate’s Window Dissection Technology, which allows the specification of a window based on title as well as objects, controls, and/or text that are inside of it. Window Dissection ensures that all interactive tasks execute with accuracy at runtime.

WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation)

Can be useful for monitoring and controlling managed resources on a local or remote computer, thus, improving manageability of computers in a networked environment. For instance, a WQL Query task can initially determine any issues and direct itself to perform proper activities to correct the problem before proceeding to other steps.

XML (Extensible Markup Language)

AutoMate's XML action enables automation of many common XML related activities, such as transforming, merging, validating and signing XML documents. They are also capable of reading, creating, editing or deleting XML nodes as well as extracting XML fragments (i.e. a collection of XML nodes) and saving them to a file or other means. The XML activities provide all of the features and functionality necessary for managing and manipulating XML.