Automate Desktop

Overview of Tasks

Chapter 3 | Automate 101

The Automate Task Builder is the foundation of the Automate product. This video will show you how to build and use tasks in Automate with a step-by-step tutorial. You’ll also learn about actions, the pre-built software robot components that make Automate such a powerful tool. Pat Cameron, Director of Automation, will teach you how to create a basic task and run it in Automate. In this video, you’ll:

  • Use a pre-built, drag-and-drop action
  • Build a sample task with the Run Action
  • Run your sample task
  • Add comments in a task to document what you’re doing
  • Use and store snippets to save multiple steps

Watch this chapter now and start creating tasks with Automate.



[Pat Cameron:] In this session, we'll talk about the Automate task builder. This is kind of the foundation of the Automate product. Across the top, you have a ribbon with a number of different actions. You can change the view that you have. We'll talk about some of these options. As you're building your tasks and testing them, you can use [00:00:30] all of these options to help with your testing and building and how you want the screen to look. We've put some options up here to make things easy for you while you're building.

Over on the left side of the screen then are the pre-built actions that are shipped with Automate. This top section is My Actions, and this is where you can put recently used actions, your favorites. If you have certain actions that you use often, you could store these up here. [00:01:00] Then also snippets, which we'll take a look at. You might have multiple steps that you use often in different tasks, and I'll show you later on how you can use those snippets to cut down on the amount of actions that you need to perform.

These are all the prebuilt actions that you have, and what you do is you select the one that you want to use, drag it over to the work area, and then it will open up a template that you fill in with all of the options, depending on the action that you want to take. This one is used to [00:01:30] connect to a database, and we'll be covering that in some later videos.

Another action that's used pretty often is the email action. You can use Automate to send email or to monitor incoming email. You just take and drag the email option over to the screen, and then go through the steps. First off, we would create a session. Select the type of protocol that you want to use, [00:02:00] the authentication that you need to use for that server. Again, it's the same. Drag your option or action into the work area, and then fill in the steps that you want to perform.

Down at the bottom, there's a search window that makes it a lot quicker to be able to find some of those actions instead of scrolling up and down within the window with the actions in it. I always use that search window at the bottom.

[00:02:30] Excel is another action that a lot of our customers use. You can create new spreadsheets, you can compare spreadsheets, update spreadsheets maybe from a SQL database, and so it's easy to find those Excel actions that you need to take.

What I'm going to do is I'm going to build a quick task just to show you how it's done. I'm just using the Run action that I can use to run any kind [00:03:00] of a script, and I'm just going to open up Notepad as the beginning of this task. I just put in the executable, and I would change any options here that I need.

The next thing that I'm going to do then is I'm going to add a variable for the date. I can click on that, create your variable name. This one's just going to be var_today. Then I want to format that. How do I want to see that date format when I use it in my notepad [00:03:30] task that I'm going to run. You can find the format, and then we have a bunch of different formats for date and time. You can create your own as well and add that to the list of actions that I want to perform. I'm going to populate that date variable when this date and time get formatted.

The next thing that I'm going to do then is I'm going to select the input. What am I going to do once Notepad opens [00:04:00] up? We have an input option that you can use to send the keystrokes. Now, I'm just doing it to Notepad, but you can certainly send those keystrokes to any other application where you might be able to enter some data.

I'm just entering, this is the message, and then I'll show you how you would select that variable. The percent sign is available in any field where you could add variables. I'm just going to add that, so we just going to put in today's date so you can see that your tasks can be very dynamic. [00:04:30] Then I'm going to enter the Enter key.

Let's run this task now and see what it does. You can just select the Run, and it will run this task in a kind of a debug mode. As you can see, it opened up Notepad, and then it sent those keystrokes to the Notepad file.

What I'm going to do now, I'll put some delays in here. I'm going to look for a wait, and you can wait for different events. I'm just going to wait for a few seconds between some of these steps. It's just easier to see, [00:05:00] especially when you're testing. You can kind of slow things down so that you can see what each step is doing. I'll just drag that "wait for duration" and put in the duration over into the task and slow it down when it's running.

The other things you'll want to do is you'll want to add some comments into the task. These can be throughout the task. It's good to document what you're doing, what your expectations are for this task, and some of those steps, and then also, [00:05:30] if anybody else wants to maybe use this or see what it's going to do, you'll have some good documentation there so that they can see exactly what it is that your task is doing.

The thing I'm going to do is organize this task into different regions. It helps to make it a little bit more clear as to what actually is happening. You can select the steps that you put in a region. I'm going to create one for variables. Again, you might have a task that's got a [00:06:00] hundred steps in it, so this is a good way to be able to get it organized. You can clean up the screen as well. I can close up each of the regions and just clear up the screen a bit.

Then I'll create another one for processing. This is one of the best practices that we recommend that you organize your task into different areas, maybe setting up variables, next one might be accessing servers, and the next one, processing files. [00:06:30] It's a good way to ... It's another piece of documentation, actually.

Now, what I'm going to do is use that snippet that I've got, so I just drag that over to the bottom of the task, and I've got a snippet created for email. I have three different steps that I use to log into the email server, here's the first one, so I can store all of that into a snippet. I've got my email server stored as a variable, and then I'm going to send a message, so [00:07:00] I've got the To and the From. I could change the subject line here, and I could change maybe an attachment that I want to send along, but I've got all of that logging in information stored, and then I'm going to close up the email. That's what a snippet does, allows you to save multiple steps, and then you can just drag them over, and it will add each of the individual steps.

Now, for testing, you might want to run just a selected step, and that's what I'm doing. I'm just going to run those first few [00:07:30] steps. As you can see down on the bottom, we've got an output file that's outputting each step, whether it was successful or not, and if the task itself was successful. That's great when you're testing to be able to see each step and where you might have an error occur.

That's an overview of the task builder. We'll see you next time.


Ready for the next chapter?

Chapter 4: Overview of Workflows