Automating Things with Batch Files

They Work on Today’s Computers Too!

If you’re familiar with MS-DOS at all, you’ll recall that it’s a command-driven operating system that performs functions issued at the C: > prompt. The only way to get an MS-DOS computer to do something was to type a command at this prompt and if you can imagine, it was a rather cumbersome way to use a computer.

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As an example, to load up Microsoft’s simple editing program, you had to type the name of the drive that the program was on, the directory that the program was in, and then the name of the program. So if Microsoft Edit was in a directory or folder named “Process, ” you could start the program by typing, “C: >process\edit. com” Then, and only then would the program load up for use.

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This is a small command, but just imagine if you had a program that was deeply nested within a series of folder. You could end up typing a command as wide as your computer screen or worse, long enough that the entire command would have to wrap onto the next line! Now imagine having to type these long commands every time that you wanted to start a program. Yikes!

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That’s one of the reasons why batch files became so popular. Batch files are small text-based documents that contain a bunch of these commands on their own lines. When executed, they would process each command without the user having to type each and every one of them.

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When Windows was developed, the need for typing commands was essentially eradicated thanks to the introduction of the point-and-click (mouse) interface. But this didn’t stop the batch file fever that started under MS-DOS - and in some small circles, batch files are still as popular as they were in the beginning.

Even though you may use Windows XP or Vista, batch files can save you tons of time by automatically starting multiple programs and performing different tasks at the single click of a button. They don’t require any extensive programming background and they don’t need to be encrypted with some weird, expensive compiler. Batch files are plain text files, and you can build one for your own personal use with Windows’ Notepad.

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You could make a batch file that loads up your favorite websites at once for example , or you could make a batch file that fills your desktop with the most important applications for the day. To do so only requires a little knowledge about the locations of these applications.

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Let’s say that every day we need to load up the Yahoo web browser, Microsoft Word, and then the calculator that comes with Windows. Instead of doing this by hand, we could write a batch file to do it for us.

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