Automating tasks in Windows


This article was started in August 2009 by comparing AutoHotKey (AHK), AutoIt, WinBatch, and KixStart but it might include other solutions later on.

AutoIT vs. AutoHotKey?

AutoIt was first released in 1999, with a lot of the syntax and ideas coming from ScriptIt, a Microsoft project itself based on WinBatch.

The core of AHK was written from scratch, but includes some AutoIt3 code to implement some commands.

The AutoIt community feels that the AHK author didn't give enough credit when forking the code, and since then, no love is lost from the AutoIt community towards AHK.



More infos:





No PDF or CHM for tutorial?

How to handle time out? WinWaitActive("- Task", "",10)

Timeout = seconds or ms?

How to prevent compiling if undeclared variables?

Compile vs Build vs Go? No way to get Scite to run compiled app?

WinWaitActive() vs. WinWaitActivate()?

Getting Started

In addition to the online docs, wiki, the CHM files, and the forum, information can also be found in Learning To Script with AutoIt V3, AutoIT 1-2-3, and O'Reilly's AutoIt v3: Your Quick Guide by Andy Flesner.

As of version, AutoIT consists in the following programs:

To tell Scite where to locate the user's include files: Tools > SciTe Config

Sample code

It's a good idea to set the following option in all scripts: Opt('MustDeclarVars', 1)

Accessing Outlook


$oOutlook = ObjCreate("Outlook.Application")

OutlookEX UDF

After installing OutlookEX UDF per its Readme, run Outlook, and use the following script to read the data from its To-Do List panel, sorted through Last Modified:

#include "OutlookEX.au3"
Global $oOutlook = _OL_Open()
If @error <> 0 Then Exit MsgBox(16, "OutlookEX UDF", "Error creating a connection to Outlook. @error = " & @error & ", @extended = " & @extended)
$aFolder = _OL_FolderAccess($oOutlook, "", $olFolderToDo)
Global $aResult = _OL_ItemFind($oOutlook, $aFolder[1], $olTask, "", "", "", "EntryID,Subject,LastModificationTime")
If @error Then
    MsgBox(16, "OutlookEX UDF - _OL_ItemSearch Example Script", "Error running _OL_ItemSearch. @error = " & @error & ", @extended = " & @extended)
Editing Contacts in Outlook with OutlookEX
  1. Download and unzip the latest release of OutlookEx UDF (help thread and wiki)
  2. Copy OutlookEX.au3 and OutlookEXConstants.au3 into AutoIt3\Include
  3. If using the Scite editor, copy au3.user.calltips.api into AutoIt3\SciTE\api (append if file already exists), and copy into AutoIt3\SciTE\properties (ditto)
  4. Launch Outlook
  5. Run this code:

To use control keys






To set/get clipboard contents

#include <Constants.au3>

#include <MsgBoxConstants.au3>

#include <Date.au3>


Local $sClipboard = ClipGet()

MsgBox($MB_SYSTEMMODAL, "Clipboard", $sClipboard)

How to interact with controls

Besides the Control*() functions, there are also: StatusbarGetText, WinActivate, WinGetClassList, WinMenuSelectItem.

ControlSend("Untitled - Notepad", "", "[CLASSNN:Edit1]", "This is some text")

ControlSetText("My Window", "", "[NAME:textBoxFolder]", "C:\Some\Folder")

ControlClick("My Window", "", "[ID:254]")

ControlClick("My Window", "", "[CLASS:Button; TEXT:Finish; INSTANCE:2]")

Note: ControlSetText() sometimes doesn't work as expected; If that case, try ControlSend() instead.

To record an action

Go to \Extras\Au3Record\, and launch Au3Record.exe to record an action that Au3Record will then save as source code that you can use in your scripts.

Caution: Code generated Au3Record isn't always reliable, as some functions won't work. YMMV.

Note: _WinWaitActivate() is not part of AutoIT; Its code found below must be included in the script.

Note: "AutoIt Recorder utility is not available from AutoIt Version" (source)

CHECK To have Au3Record generate all the code, you have to start the AU3Record program from inside SciTE, with an AutoIt script open in it, or start the recorder with the /o option to get that checkbox to appear.

To edit a script

Launch the SciTE editor in install\SciTe\SciTE.exe, where you can copy-paste the action you just recorded with Au3Record.exe.

To find information about a window

Use install\Au3Info.exe.

Difference between native WinWaitActive() and external _WinWaitActivate()?

In SciTE-Lite's Tools menu, what's the difference between Compile and Build?

Why doesn't Scite-Lite Compile/Build find syntax errors such as missing closing bracket?

For/Next Loop

For $i = 5 To 1 Step -1

    MsgBox($MB_SYSTEMMODAL, "", "Count down!" & @CRLF & $i)


To comment a line

Use ";"

To comment a block of text



If using the AutoIT-provided SciTE editor, select the block of text, and hit Edit > Stream Comment

To display a messagebox

MsgBox(64, "My title", "My text")

Locating a window with partial text

Note: You may use Opt() as an alternative to AutoItSetOption().

AutoItSetOption ("WinTitleMatchMode",2)

Opt("WinTitleMatchMode", 1) ;1=start, 2=subStr, 3=exact, 4=advanced, -1 to -4=Nocase

To handle time-out when a window doesn't show

Func _WinWaitActivate($title,$text,$timeout=0)

        $result = WinWait($title,$text,$timeout)

        if $result = False Then

                MsgBox(16,"Bad...","Window not displayed")




        If Not WinActive($title,$text) Then WinActivate($title,$text)



To pause for a few seconds

Sleep(1000) ; sleep for 1s

To move the mouse at the center of the screen

#include <Misc.au3>

CHECK MouseMove(@DesktopWidth/2, @DesktopHeight/2)

To send keys to window/control

(only as last resort)

To find a window with just part of title/text

Opt("WinTitleMatchMode", 1) ;1=start, 2=subStr, 3=exact, 4=advanced, -1 to -4=Nocase

More information here.

To put the focus on combobox



To set or refer to the content of a variable: (Const/Global/Local/Dim) $myvar = "test"

To refer to environment variables: @ComputerName

To require explicit declaration of variables: Opt("MustDeclareVars", 1)

Including files

To include files: #include <myfile.au3>

To include an external file into the AutoIT output EXE à la NSIS: FileInstall(Source,Destination[,flag])


The array.au3 UDF offers extended functions to handle arrays, eg. _ArrayDisplay($myarray)


For $index=1 to 1



To pause for one second:





Using SQLite


#include <SQLite.au3>

#include <SQLite.dll.au3>

Global $DB

_SQLite_Startup ()

$DB = _SQLite_Open("sqlite.db")

_SQLite_Exec($DB, "CREATE TABLE TABLE1 (Text);")

_SQLite_Exec($DB, "BEGIN;")

For $i = 1 to 1000 Step 1

    _SQLite_Exec($DB, "INSERT INTO TABLE1 VALUES ('Some text');")


_SQLite_Exec($DB, "COMMIT;")




#include <Array.au3>

#include <SQLite.au3>


_SQLite_Startup() ; Load the DLL

If @error Then Exit MsgBox(0, "Error", "Unable to start SQLite, Please verify your DLL")


Local $sDatabase = @ScriptDir & '\SQLiteTestDatabase.db'

Local $hDatabase = _SQLite_Open($sDatabase) ; Create the database file and get the handle for the database


_SQLite_Exec($hDatabase, 'CREATE TABLE People (first_name, last_name);') ; CREATE a TABLE with the name "People"

_SQLite_Exec($hDatabase, 'INSERT INTO People VALUES ("Timothy", "Lee");') ; INSERT "Timothy Lee" into the "People" TABLE


Local $aResult, $iRows, $iColumns ; $iRows and $iColuums are useless but they cannot be omitted from the function call so we declare them


_SQLite_GetTable2d($hDatabase, 'SELECT * FROM People;', $aResult, $iRows, $iColumns) ; SELECT everything FROM "People" TABLE and get the $aResult

_ArrayDisplay($aResult, "Results from the query")




Desktop shortcut

To run a desktop shortcut:


Send() can't identify a window

The Send() function sends a string to whatever window is active, ie. it's not possible to tell it to only send data to a specific window. So if you're using a loop, add a WinWaitActive() to make sure you're no sending stuff in a totally different window:

for $index = 1 to $pages
    ;Just to make sure we are sending keystrokes to the right window
    WinWaitActive("Acme - Iron")
    $url = "" & $index & "{ENTER}"
    ;Wait 5s. There might be a better way to check that page download has completed

Concatenating strings

You must use "&", not "+":

$myvar = "First line " & @CRLF & "Second line"


Here's how to clear the clipboard, and copy data to it:

#include <Clipboard.au3>


The PCRE regex engine that AutoIT uses is single-line by default. If you need to find a pattern in a multi-line string, you must tell PCRE explicitely:

"$array = StringRegExp($data, "(?mi)^(\d+) some text", 3)".

There is apparently no way to configure PCRE externely for the duration of a script, ie. without adding settings to every single pattern.

Here's how to extract the second part in a two-item string with a TAB delimiter:

$array = StringRegExp("John" & @TAB & "123", "\t(\d+)', 1)
for $i = 0 to UBound($array) - 1
    msgbox(0, "Items found", $array[0])


AutoIT can be used to write graphical applications. As of 2018, there are two ways to do this: Either by writing your own code directly, or by using any of the numerous GUI creators such as the Koda GUI designer.


What's the difference between a window title and a window text?

Script built with Au3Record.exe doesn't run

myscript..au3 (1) : ==> Unknown function name.: _WinWaitActivate("classname=TfrmPref","")

If you just copy/paste the output instead of what's actually saved in a file, you'll be missing some User-defined functions (UDF) that Au3Record relies on:

#region --- Internal functions Au3Recorder Start ---
Func _Au3RecordSetup()
Func _WinWaitActivate($title,$text,$timeout=0)
        If Not WinActive($title,$text) Then WinActivate($title,$text)
#endregion --- Internal functions Au3Recorder End ---

Script built with Au3Record.exe can't find application window

There is a bug with release 3.3 which uses "classname=myclass" instead of "[CLASS:myclass]".


Getting and displaying clipboard

Clipboard =

Send ^a

Send ^c

Stuff := Clipboard

MsgBox, Some title`n%Stuff%

Working with SQLite

;Download the sqlite3.dll and store it in the script's folder


;Download the following AHK include file from the AHK forum

#Include Class_SQLiteDB.ahk


MyDB := New SQLiteDB



MyDB.Exec("INSERT INTO MyTable VALUES (55, 'blablah')")



Why choose Winbatch?


Why choose KixStart?