Saturday, August 26th 2006

Windows XP/2000 Tip of the Day

Having installed four different IM/VoIP programs (Google Talk, Skype, Wengo and Windows Live Messenger), I felt it would clutter up my Windows QuickLaunch bar if I added one shortcut for each program. So I thought it must be possible to launch several programs in one go if I create a batch file.

It turned out it wasn’t as simple as I thought. You can’t just simply create a batch file (a text file named *.bat) with a list of paths to each exe file. You have to use the START command. And you have to use quotation marks if the paths contain spaces. And if you use quotation marks for the path, windows cmd.exe (which runs the batch file) will interpret the path as a title for the command window… so you have to add a random title to these lines, straight after the START command. To cut a long story short, my batch file looks like this:

@echo off
START C:Program FilesWengoPhoneqtwengophone.exe -b
START C:Program FilesSkypePhoneSkype.exe /nosplash /minimized
START “blah” “C:Program FilesMSN Messengermsnmsgr.exe” /background
START “whatever” /MIN “C:Program FilesGoogleGoogle Talkgoogletalk.exe” /autostart
exit

The @echo off on the first row is to keep the command window clean while running the coming rows of code. The exit on the last row closes the command window. Also, you should make sure you have each of the START command rows on single rows without line breaks.

As you can see, I’ve added a few tricks here too. Wengo, Skype and Windows Live Messenger all have switches that tell the applications to automatically minimize to the system tray. Google Talk doesn’t really, but the /autostart switch seems to do the trick some times. (Don’t ask me why it only does sometimes, but it does.) For the times that it doesn’t, I’ve added the /MIN switch to the START command, so it’ll at least be minimized to the Task Bar.

Screenshot of Windows System Tray with IM/chat applications. Google Talk, Windows Live (MSN) Messenger, Wengo/Wengophone.

It’s very nice not to have all the windows flood your screen when you launch them. I hope this little tip can be of help to someone!

Edit: I have noticed now that the /background switch for Windows Live Messenger only means that the signing in is done in the background. Once done, the contact list will show up on the screen unless you have a) set it to start automatically with Windows and b) unchecked Open WLM main window….

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