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Author Topic: suggestions for making plug-in use easier for new users  (Read 1447 times)
leblancj
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« on: November 14, 2009, 09:42:25 AM »

I just switched to FARR from Executor. It is just as fast as the latter but a lot more functional with lots of useful add-ons. I'm also very impressed by the active user community and its dedicated author, Mouser. There is one major thing that has stumped me as a newbie and that is the use of plug-ins. Their installation and use has some puzzling features:

First, I can't figure out how to activate some of these. Although the installation instructions are to put these plug-ins into subfolders of the FARR plug-in folder, this doesn't seem to be enough to be able to use it. For example, I'd love to be able to use the TinyEV plug-in but I can't figure out how to activate it. Here is my folder structure:

 Directory of C:\Program Files\FindAndRunRobot\Plugins\Tiny Everything\FARR_TinyEv

2009.11.13  11:40 AM    <DIR>          .
2009.11.13  11:40 AM    <DIR>          ..
2009.06.12  08:31 PM            15,872 farr_tinyev.dll
2009.05.30  06:37 PM               414 readme.txt
2009.05.30  12:50 AM            15,086 tinyev.ico
2009.05.30  06:29 PM               234 tinyev.ini

Is this correct? If so, how do you use it? I presume there is some keyword that should start the FARR command line but there is nothing in the readme.txt file or on the webpage where I downloaded the plug-in to indicate how to do that. This seems to be true for many plug-ins; the authors don't actually describe how to use them beyond a brief description on the download page.

Here is another example of a downloaded plug-in, Google maps:

 Directory of C:\Program Files\FindAndRunRobot\Plugins\GoogleMaps\gmaps

2009.11.13  09:26 PM    <DIR>          .
2009.11.13  09:26 PM    <DIR>          ..
2008.09.22  12:13 PM             1,057 gmaps.alias
2008.09.22  11:31 AM             1,130 gmaps.dcupdate
2009.11.13  09:26 PM    <DIR>          icons
               2 File(s)          2,187 bytes

This one is a real mystery as there is no.dll file. I tried running DCupdate from the context menu of the system tray icon but Google maps didn't show up as an alias that could be updated. Presumably something more needs to be done before it can be used? Again, there are no instructions on how to use it even if it is installed correctly.

Google plus on the other hand does have a useful readme.html file that gives examples. Perhaps all plug-in authors could be encouraged provided such a file for new users.

in the resident help file, it is stated that plug-ins are.dll files. However, when I download them, I often find that they are.JS files. Does this mean that they have to be compiled before they will run?

I think it would be easier for new users if you expanded your already excellent resident help file with specific examples of how to install plug-ins and use them. You could also state that there is some variability in how plug-ins are installed and used (for example, the FSSC package seems to have quite a different approach from other plug-ins by using the FSubScript program) and that users must therefore consult the form page for that particular plug-in to get some help. Otherwise, a new user like me keeps searching the help file as well as the general forums trying to figure out why things don't work or don't seem to follow the uniform pattern described in your documentation. At this point, the resident help file is mainly directed towards experienced users and developers who need to know what functions are available.

For developers, perhaps you could advise them to have a description.HTML file in their plug-in folder with examples that will help new users know how to use their particular plug-ins. As well, there could possibly be a URL link to the specific forum for the plug-in.

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it gives you a sense of where one new user is after about three hours of exploring FARR.

Regards,

John LeBlanc
Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
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mouser
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2009, 03:52:35 PM »

Hi John, welcome to the site and thank you for such a thoughtful first post!  Thmbsup Thmbsup

Let me just ramble off a couple of quick thoughts:

  • 1) you are right that it would be a great help if plugin authors included a complete help file -- i think what happens is that plugin authors tend to be forum regulars, and all of us here often forget that people who download our tools haven't necessarily been following our forum threads religiously at the time they download.  so an author who has been posting about a plugin they've written for weeks sometimes forgets they can't just assume everyone who is using the plugin read through the entire thread.
  • 2) part of the problem is that i really should have built in a more formal way of adding a plugin to a farr install, rather than asking user to unpack it -- some mechanism that would have both walked the user through the automated process but also given them some standardized info about how to use the plugin they were installing.
  • 3) ok more specifically to some of your points -- the Google Maps thing isn't actually a plugin, it's an alias pack, evidenced by the fact that there is no dll.  These should actually go into your Aliases/Installed directory.  The post about google maps alias pack has information on how to use it: http://www.donationcoder....m/index.php?topic=14098.0
  • 4) the tinyev alias is a bit odd since it requires you to have the Everything program installed and running, and so can be tricky to get working.  again the solution in all of these cases is to find the thread about the tool on the forum in the FARR Plugins section: http://www.donationcoder....rum/index.php?board=246.0
  • 5) the .js addons actually DO use a dll, which you actually touched on in your description of FSubScript -- these are scripts that get loaded by a parent dll that you also have to install.  what i can tell you is you aren't crazy in finding these a bit hard to get set up.  it's a flaw in FARR that it doesn't make this easier.
  • 6) i think one real way we can improve this is to have farr come with FSubScript pre-installed so that the user doesnt have to worry about these required helper things.  and if i can improve the updater to offer to help install things so they don't have to be done manually.
  • 7) i made hours and hours of FARR screencasts which you might appreciated, they are here: http://www.donationcoder.com/3ds/ there is even one on installing a plugin and an alias pack.

i hope you'll stick with it for a while at least to see if FARR is right for you -- i'm happy to hear more from your experience and answer questions, etc.   Thmbsup
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leblancj
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 12:42:12 AM »

great reply! This is why I like supporting independent software developers rather than the big companies who couldn't give a hoot about individual concerns. figured out the Google maps and tinyev aliases.

One very useful command that I didn't see in the help file (or at least didn't notice) is "aplugins". This is a great concise reminder of what plug-ins are installed as well as their aliases. Could you display this more prominently in the help file, perhaps in a "quick start" page?

the more I use FARR the more impressed I am. it's much better than the Windows start menu, PC Magazine's fastease start utility and executor.

 thumbs up
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