Monday 6 August 2018

Make your own E2B 'Launcher' utility

Linasoft's AutoPlay Menu Builder can be used to create your own 'Launcher' executable. You can use an existing template and then make changes to it - perhaps change the language, etc. or add more items.

Although originally intended to create auturun.exe + autorun.inf files for use with CDs that would auto-run when inserted into a computer's CD-ROM drive, it is a useful application to create your own 'Launcher' utility for E2B too (it makes a Windows .exe executable).

Here is a screenshot my current E2B Helper:

The buttons on the left will open a folder in Explorer. This then allows you to drag-and-drop a file onto one of the .cmd files in that folder (e.g. you can drag-and-drop a .GIF file onto the GIFtoIMA.cmd file in Explorer).

The list of items on the right-hand side will run the appropriate command which is located on the E2B USB drive.

Linasoft's AutoPlay Builder utility is only free for personal use, but you need to purchase a licensed copy if you want to distribute the executable, so I cannot provide my .exe to you. However, you can easily make your own launcher .exe utility and change it as you wish (e.g. change the language, add more buttons, add tool tips, etc.).


Here is how to make your own version of E2B_Helper.exe:

1. Install Linasoft's AutoPlay Menu Builder.

2. Download and copy my E2B_Helper.apm file to the \_ISO folder of your E2B USB drive. 
Note: The E2B_Helper.apm link should point to a file which is in the Alternate Download Area - 'Other files' folder if you have problems with it.

Note that the .apm source file is designed to work only from the USB drive's \_ISO folder (not the root folder of the USB drive) and it must be run from your E2B USB drive and not from your internal hard disk. If you want the .exe to be located in the root of the USB drive, you must change all the paths for each of the items (change %CDROM% to %CDROM%\_ISO).

3. Double-click on the \_ISO\E2B_Launcher.apm file which is now located on your E2B USB drive.

The AutoPlay Menu Builder should now run and load the E2B_Helper.apm source file.

4. To force it to create an executable .exe file, we must make a change, so edit the Caption entry and then undo your edit (e.g. add a space and then delete it - see '1' in the screenshot below).

You can now create the .exe file (and overwrite the .apm file) by clicking on the black floppy disk icon which was previously inactive and greyed-out (see '2' in the screenshot below).

Don't worry if you see a 'Cannot create U:\autorun.inf' warning, we don't want it to overwrite the E2B autorun.inf file anyway.

5. You can now either run the \_ISO\E2B_Helper.exe file, or test using the Menu Builder by clicking on the blue arrow pointer (see '3' in the screenshot below).

Note that to run the launcher, only the .exe file is required.
The .apm file is the 'project source file' - keep a copy in a safe place.

Making changes

There is help on the website and also you can press F1 in Menu Builder for help. 

Most of the controls are very intuitive, but here are a few tips:

1. Move the controls by clicking on them (or select a group using the cursor or SHIFT+left-click on each item). Use the cursor keys to move them around or drag them around using the mouse. You can resize a single control or group of controls using SHIFT+cursorkey or CTRL+cursorkey.

2. Use F11 and F12 to quickly change the right-hand side bar from 'Properties' to 'Action'.

3. Use the icons at the bottom of the Builder form (see red+purple arrows in screenshot above) to align your objects nicely.

4. Use %CDROM% where you need to specify the 'root' folder (%CDROM%== USB:\_ISO in our case). Do not hard-code drive letters as the drive letter will vary.

Tip: Type the path as "%CDROM%\..\..\..\..\..\..\..\..\..\" and then treat that as the root. This will work no matter where the compiled .exe is located. e.g. "%CDROM%\..\..\..\..\..\..\..\..\..\_ISO\some file.cmd" will always run the file in the \_ISO folder of the same drive.

5. You can add tool tips to each control.

The 'Comment Shower' control is very useful. It means 'Display comments' (not stand under a waterfall and get showered with comments!). If you place a 'Comment Shower' box on your form, as the user hovers over any control, the comments for that control are instantly shown in the 'Comments' box. This is much better than using ToolTips and allows you to use far more descriptive text to describe the action of each control.

6. To make a new extra control object, it is easiest to use copy and paste rather then create a new control from scratch. This will copy the properties such as font style, font size, colour, size, action parameters, etc.

Good luck and have fun!

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