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Author Topic: auto create .lnk shortcuts for all currently installed Windows Store Apps  (Read 673 times)

Nod5

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Coding Snack request
a script/tool that auto creates .lnk shortcuts for all currently installed Windows Store Apps.

Background
Users of Mouser's Find And Run Robot (FARR) requested an easy way to launch Windows Store Apps. The problem is that those apps do not create .lnk shortcut files FARR can find when searching files and folders. Users can manually create .lnk shortcuts one by one. But an automated method would be more user friendly. A standalone tool could also be useful for people who don't use FARR.

Research done

1. syntax for .lnk shortcuts to Windows Store Apps

Windows Store Apps can  be run from .lnk shortcuts with a target that has this format
explorer.exe shell:Appsfolder\<AUMID>
where AUMID (Application User Model ID) is a special string for each app.
For example on my PC we can launch Windows Calculator with
explorer.exe shell:Appsfolder\Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App

2. Powershell command to get a list of AUMID
The Powershell command
get-StartApps
returns a list with an App name and its associated App AUMID on each line.
More details here https://docs.microso...-of-an-installed-app

3. Making .lnk shortcuts programmatically
AutoHotkey has the command FileCreateShortcut, https://autohotkey.c...leCreateShortcut.htm

What has already been tried
I didn't find a working way to use AutoHotkey to run Powershell with the get-StartApps command and output the resulting list to a .txt file.
I get this error
'get-StartApps' is not recognized as the name of a cmdlet

Instead of banging my non-powershell experienced head more against powershell error message walls, perhaps someone else here can think of a quick fix or different solution, using AutoHotkey, Powershell or some other method?  :)

4wd

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Simple Powershell script, it'll create an "Installed-Apps" folder on the Desktop and populate it with shortcuts for installed ... err ... apps.

For this purpose it regards any AUMID that contains a ! and doesn't end in .exe as a valid app - as distinct from every program installed.

Run it from a Powershell console using: .\Apps2Shortcut.ps1

For some reason I couldn't get it to run from a shortcut but that's probably my fault.

You will probably get an error if you run the extracted script from the archive due to Execution Policy, there are 3 solutions:
  • Copy/Paste the script below as a new script
  • Mark the script as trusted, (it has a zone identifier in its ADS which marks it as not from the local machine)
  • Change your Execution Policy using Set-ExecutionPolicy

Standard Disclaimer: Works for me  :)

Code: PowerShell [Select]
  1. <#
  2.   Apps2Shortcut.ps1
  3. #>
  4. Function Create-Shortcut {
  5.   param (
  6.     [string]$name,
  7.     [string]$aumid
  8.   )
  9.   # Create a Shortcut with Windows PowerShell
  10.   $WScriptShell = New-Object -ComObject WScript.Shell
  11.   $Shortcut = $WScriptShell.CreateShortcut($name)
  12.   $Shortcut.TargetPath = "$env:SystemRoot\explorer.exe"
  13.   $Shortcut.Arguments = "shell:Appsfolder\$($aumid)"
  14.   $Shortcut.Save()
  15. }
  16.  
  17. $DesktopPath = [Environment]::GetFolderPath("Desktop")
  18.  
  19. if (!(Test-Path "$($DesktopPath)\Installed-Apps")) {
  20.   New-Item "$($DesktopPath)\Installed-Apps" -ItemType Directory | Out-Null
  21. }
  22.  
  23. $apps = (Get-StartApps)
  24. for ($i = 0; $i -lt $apps.Count; $i++) {
  25.   if (($apps[$i].AppID).contains("!") -and (($apps[$i].AppID).Substring(($apps[$i].AppID).Length - 4) -ne '.exe')) {
  26.     Create-Shortcut "$($DesktopPath)\Installed-Apps\$($apps[$i].Name).lnk" $apps[$i].AppID
  27.   }
  28. }

Hopefully you'll end up with something like this:

2019-04-01 10_38_59.pngauto create .lnk shortcuts for all currently installed Windows Store Apps

To run a Powershell command from AHK you'll probably need to use: powershell.exe -C "Get-StartApps | Out-File D:\test.txt"

Use -C to run commands directly, -F to run a script.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2019, 02:37 PM by 4wd »

Nod5

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Simple Powershell script
Great!

To get the script to work on my PC I had to do these things
- the multi line comments at the top gave errors, but changing /* and */ to <# and #> fixed that.
- run the cmd window as administrator
- add the Bypass argument, like so
powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -F C:\folder\Apps2Shortcut.ps1
Then it works and outputs .lnk shortcut files in the desktop folder "Installed-Apps". Nice!

But I can't get it to run within AutoHotkey, even as administrator. I've tried
Run powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -F C:\folder\Apps2Shortcut.ps1
Run powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -NoExit -F C:\folder\Apps2Shortcut.ps1
RunWait powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -NoExit -F C:\folder\Apps2Shortcut.ps1
and some other variations without success. Similarly, this and variations of it also do not work
Run powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -C "Get-StartApps | Out-File C:\folder\test.txt"
I don't have to use AutoHotkey of course. But remaining issues I'm trying to solve are
1. how to automatically run the script at least every time Windows starts, to keep the .lnk files up to date?
2. how to make it easy for end users (ideally not running as administrator) to set this up once and for all?
And also
3. is there some way to add the matching icons to the shortcuts?

edit:
This handles issue 1 above. Run the AutoHotkey script as administrator creates a scheduled task that in turn on each logon runs the powershell script to create .lnk files.
RunWait schtasks /Create /SC ONLOGON /TN Apps2Shortcut /TR "powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -F C:\folder\Apps2Shortcut.ps1"
The same task can also be created manually (and deleted if no longer needed) through the Task Scheduler (win+I and search for "schedule tasks").
Not a very end-user friendly way to set this up though.

edit2:
This Python solution works for me without running as administrator https://stackoverflow.com/a/43635956
I had to use Python 2. The .lnk shortcut files also get icons (issue 3 above).
Perhaps the approach there can be reproduced without Python.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2019, 11:03 AM by Nod5 »

4wd

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To get the script to work on my PC I had to do these things
- the multi line comments at the top gave errors, but changing /* and */ to <# and #> fixed that.

Ooops, my bad, I added the comment after pasting into the post ... should've tested it.
I've updated the code/archive.
 
- run the cmd window as administrator
- add the Bypass argument, like so

Wasn't necessary if run from a PowerShell console, even just right-click on the script and choose Run with Powershell but you'd bump up against the ExecutionPolicy restriction - which does get to be a real PITA sometimes.  In theory you can right-click->Properties and select something like Trust this file under the Security tab ... but I haven't seen it for awhile so I may be mis-remembering.

Shouldn't need Admin privileges since you're only writing to a directory that the user owns anyway ... just tried it here, no Admin required, just had to answer '(Y)es' to the ExecutionPolicy question that pops up.

The same task can also be created manually (and deleted if no longer needed) through the Task Scheduler (win+I and search for "schedule tasks").
Not a very end-user friendly way to set this up though.

Perhaps this post which shows setting/deleting a scheduled task in Powershell may help?

Give the task a static name and have the script just check if it's there at each run using schtasks /query <taskname>, implement if it isn't and have an optional argument to the script Apps2Shortcut.ps1 -Remove to remove it if the task is no longer required.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2019, 12:07 PM by 4wd »

mouser

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Very cool -- thank you for this  :up: :up:

4wd

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Changed it a little w.r.t. what's regarded as an App.

4wd

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This Python solution works for me without running as administrator https://stackoverflow.com/a/43635956
I had to use Python 2. The .lnk shortcut files also get icons (issue 3 above).
Perhaps the approach there can be reproduced without Python.

Just as a matter of interest, what is the shortcut Target that is generated by the above script?

Does it use explorer.exe shell:.... or does it resolve to the executable?

ie. It would be easy to add an icon to the shortcut but you'd need to resolve to the executable to fetch it.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2019, 06:31 AM by 4wd »

Nod5

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what is the shortcut Target that is generated by the above script?
Does it use explorer.exe shell:.... or does it resolve to the executable?
It isn't an ordinary .lnk shortcut file. The target field is greyed out in the file properties window. This is for Calculator app:

grey.png

The target field contains only Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App, so the Explorer.exe shell:Appsfolder\ part from the regular shortcuts isn't there.

When I open the .lnk in HxD Hex Editor it decodes to among other things this path string
C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_10.1902.42.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
which is a protected folder that contains these files
AppxBlockMap.xml
AppxManifest.xml
AppxSignature.p7x
Calculator.exe
CalculatorApp.winmd
resources.pri
WinMetadata
and subfolders
AppxMetadata
Assets
The .lnk file also contains strings that are paths to .png icons files in the Assets subfolder above.

I'm not familiar enough with the Windows API and python stuff in the StackOverflow code to understand what it is doing line by line.

4wd

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I thought it might be looking at the PNG images in the Assets folder, I can get the path and executable via PowerShell but none of the executables contain an icon according to Windows.

Trouble is working out which PNG to use since due to standards the names aren't standard.

The PowerShell commands to get all the info pertaining to Apps are:
Get-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackageManifest

Also, the manifest for some apps, (eg. Photos & Video Editor) is the same since the only difference is the entry point into the app which you can see in the shortcuts my script above created:

Photos:        C:\Windows\explorer.exe shell:Appsfolder\Microsoft.Windows.Photos_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
Video Editor: C:\Windows\explorer.exe shell:Appsfolder\Microsoft.Windows.Photos_8wekyb3d8bbwe!SecondaryEntry

Below is a small script that gets the App name, ID, path, executable, and logo:
Code: PowerShell [Select]
  1. cls
  2. $apps = (Get-StartApps)
  3. #$apps | Get-Member
  4. $j = 0
  5. for ($i = 0; $i -lt $apps.Count; $i++) {
  6.   if (($apps[$i].AppID).Contains("!")) {
  7.     $j++
  8.     Write-Host "Name: $($apps[$i].Name)"
  9.     Write-Host "  AppID: $($apps[$i].AppID)"
  10.     $package = Get-AppxPackage -Name ($apps[$i].AppID).SubString(0, ($apps[$i].AppID).IndexOf("_"))
  11. #    if ($package.SignatureKind -eq "Store") {
  12. #      $package | Get-Member
  13.       Write-Host "  InstallLocation: $($package.InstallLocation)"
  14.       $manifests = Get-AppxPackageManifest -Package $package
  15.       foreach ($manifest in $manifests) {
  16.         foreach($app in $manifest.Package.Applications.Application) {
  17. #          $app | Get-Member
  18. #          Write-Host "  Id: $($app.Id)"
  19.           Write-Host "  Executable: $($app.Executable)"
  20.           Write-Host "  Logo: $($manifest.Package.Properties.Logo)"
  21.         }
  22.       }
  23. #    }
  24.   }
  25. }
  26. Write-Host $j

The remarked lines are just me experimenting with trying to narrow down the list.

Output
Code: Text [Select]
  1. Name: GetThemAll - Video Downlaoder
  2.   AppID: NimbusWeb.GetThemAll-VideoDownlaoder_p5fjnfwkc9ns0!App
  3.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\NimbusWeb.GetThemAll-VideoDownlaoder_2.3.2.0_x64__p5fjnfwkc9ns0
  4.   Executable: NativeMessagingFFMPEG.exe
  5.   Logo: Assets\StoreLogo.png
  6. Name: Microsoft Edge
  7.   AppID: Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe!MicrosoftEdge
  8.   InstallLocation: C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe
  9.   Executable: MicrosoftEdge.exe
  10.   Logo: Assets\MicrosoftEdgeSquare50x50.png
  11.   Executable: MicrosoftEdgeCP.exe
  12.   Logo: Assets\MicrosoftEdgeSquare50x50.png
  13.   Executable: MicrosoftEdgeCP.exe
  14.   Logo: Assets\MicrosoftEdgeSquare50x50.png
  15.   Executable: MicrosoftEdgeCP.exe
  16.   Logo: Assets\MicrosoftEdgeSquare50x50.png
  17.   Executable: MicrosoftPdfReader.exe
  18.   Logo: Assets\MicrosoftEdgeSquare50x50.png
  19. Name: Connect
  20.   AppID: Microsoft.PPIProjection_cw5n1h2txyewy!Microsoft.PPIProjection
  21.   InstallLocation: C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.PPIProjection_cw5n1h2txyewy
  22.   Executable: Receiver.exe
  23.   Logo: Assets\StoreLogo.png
  24. Name: Cortana
  25.   AppID: Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy!CortanaUI
  26.   InstallLocation: C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy
  27.   Executable: SearchUI.exe
  28.   Logo: Assets\Icons\MediumTile.png
  29.   Executable: RemindersShareTargetApp.exe
  30.   Logo: Assets\Icons\MediumTile.png
  31.   Executable: Cain.exe
  32.   Logo: Assets\Icons\MediumTile.png
  33. Name: Mixed Reality Portal
  34.   AppID: Microsoft.Windows.HolographicFirstRun_cw5n1h2txyewy!App
  35.   InstallLocation: C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.Windows.HolographicFirstRun_cw5n1h2txyewy
  36.   Executable: MixedRealityPortal.exe
  37.   Logo: Assets\MixedRealityPortalMedTile.png
  38. Name: Windows Defender Security Centre
  39.   AppID: Microsoft.Windows.SecHealthUI_cw5n1h2txyewy!SecHealthUI
  40.   InstallLocation: C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.Windows.SecHealthUI_cw5n1h2txyewy
  41.   Executable: SecHealthUI.exe
  42.   Logo: Assets\DefenderAppSplashScreen.scale-400.png
  43. Name: Settings
  44.   AppID: windows.immersivecontrolpanel_cw5n1h2txyewy!microsoft.windows.immersivecontrolpanel
  45.   InstallLocation: C:\Windows\ImmersiveControlPanel
  46.   Executable: SystemSettings.exe
  47.   Logo: images\logo.png
  48. Name: Print 3D
  49.   AppID: Microsoft.Print3D_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  50.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Print3D_3.1.2612.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  51.   Executable: Print3D.exe
  52.   Logo: Assets\manifestAssets\StoreLogo.png
  53. Name: Get Help
  54.   AppID: Microsoft.GetHelp_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  55.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.GetHelp_10.1706.12921.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  56.   Executable: GetHelp.exe
  57.   Logo: Assets\Logo.png
  58. Name: Maps
  59.   AppID: Microsoft.WindowsMaps_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  60.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsMaps_5.1812.10071.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  61.   Executable: Maps.exe
  62.   Logo: Assets\AppTiles\MapsStoreLogo.png
  63. Name: Messaging
  64.   AppID: Microsoft.Messaging_8wekyb3d8bbwe!x27e26f40ye031y48a6yb130yd1f20388991ax
  65.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Messaging_4.1901.10241.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  66.   Executable: MessagingApplication.exe
  67.   Logo: Assets\StoreLogo.png
  68. Name: Calculator
  69.   AppID: Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  70.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_10.1812.10048.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  71.   Executable: Calculator.exe
  72.   Logo: Assets\CalculatorStoreLogo.png
  73. Name: 3D Viewer
  74.   AppID: Microsoft.Microsoft3DViewer_8wekyb3d8bbwe!Microsoft.Microsoft3DViewer
  75.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Microsoft3DViewer_6.1903.4012.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  76.   Executable: 3DViewer.exe
  77.   Logo: Assets\StoreLogo.png
  78. Name: OneNote
  79.   AppID: Microsoft.Office.OneNote_8wekyb3d8bbwe!microsoft.onenoteim
  80.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Office.OneNote_16001.11425.20094.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  81.   Executable: onenoteim.exe
  82.   Logo: images\OneNoteAppList.png
  83. Name: Aussie TV FTW!
  84.   AppID: 55758OcelotSoft.AussieTVFTW_jzcqt2s08q53y!App
  85.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\55758OcelotSoft.AussieTVFTW_1.8.0.0_x64__jzcqt2s08q53y
  86.   Executable: AussieTV.exe
  87.   Logo: Assets\StoreLogo.png
  88. Name: Alarms & Clock
  89.   AppID: Microsoft.WindowsAlarms_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  90.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsAlarms_10.1902.633.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  91.   Executable: Time.exe
  92.   Logo: Assets\AlarmsStoreLogo.png
  93. Name: Paint 3D
  94.   AppID: Microsoft.MSPaint_8wekyb3d8bbwe!Microsoft.MSPaint
  95.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.MSPaint_5.1811.20017.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  96.   Executable: PaintStudio.View.exe
  97.   Logo: Assets\Logos\StoreLogo\PaintApplist.png
  98. Name: OverDrive - Library eBooks & Audiobooks
  99.   AppID: 2FA138F6.OverDriveMediaConsole_daecb9042jmvt!App
  100.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\2FA138F6.OverDriveMediaConsole_3.8.0.5_neutral__daecb9042jmvt
  101.   Executable: MediaConsole.Win8.exe
  102.   Logo: Assets\StoreLogo.png
  103. Name: Voice Recorder
  104.   AppID: Microsoft.WindowsSoundRecorder_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  105.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsSoundRecorder_10.1902.633.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  106.   Executable: SoundRec.exe
  107.   Logo: Assets\VoiceRecorderStoreLogo.png
  108. Name: Microsoft Store
  109.   AppID: Microsoft.WindowsStore_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  110.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11811.1001.27.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  111.   Executable: WinStore.App.exe
  112.   Logo: Assets\AppTiles\StoreLogo.png
  113. Name: Photos
  114.   AppID: Microsoft.Windows.Photos_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  115.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Windows.Photos_2019.19021.18010.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  116.   Executable: Microsoft.Photos.exe
  117.   Logo: Assets\PhotosStoreLogo.png
  118.   Executable: VideoProjectsLauncher.exe
  119.   Logo: Assets\PhotosStoreLogo.png
  120. Name: Video editor
  121.   AppID: Microsoft.Windows.Photos_8wekyb3d8bbwe!SecondaryEntry
  122.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Windows.Photos_2019.19021.18010.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  123.   Executable: Microsoft.Photos.exe
  124.   Logo: Assets\PhotosStoreLogo.png
  125.   Executable: VideoProjectsLauncher.exe
  126.   Logo: Assets\PhotosStoreLogo.png
  127. Name: Camera
  128.   AppID: Microsoft.WindowsCamera_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App
  129.   InstallLocation: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsCamera_2019.124.60.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
  130.   Executable: WindowsCamera.exe
  131.   Logo: Assets\WindowsIcons\StoreLogo.png
  132. 23


I can try and find some correlation regarding the image they use from the Assets folder since some folders don't contain images with the same name as other Assets folders - there maybe be something in the manifest I can work from.

EDIT: Think I found where the image is specified in the manifest - can you upload a couple or so of the icons the Python script created?
« Last Edit: April 04, 2019, 03:46 PM by 4wd »

Nod5

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Thanks for continuing this detective work  :)

The Python script doesn't create any icon image files per se. In the hex editor the .lnk contains these relative path strings
Assets\CalculatorMedTile.png
Assets\CalculatorAppList.png
Assets\CalculatorWideTile.png
Assets\CalculatorLargeTile.png
Assets\CalculatorSmallTile.png

The matching Assets folder has for each of the above multiple .png files with the same start name then a dot and some size/color specification. For example
CalculatorAppList.contrast-black_scale-200.png
CalculatorAppList.contrast-black_targetsize-16.png
CalculatorAppList.contrast-black_targetsize-20.png
...
It looks like one or other of the .png that start with CalculatorAppList is used for the icon for the .lnk when I view it in Explorer.

But the .png in Assets are black and white while the .lnk icon is white with blue background. (But maybe the blue is dependent on some Windows theme?)

I examined a few more of the python generated .lnk in the hex editor but can't see any simple consistent pattern in the name of the .png filenames.

Anyway, recreating the look and feel of the icons in the python generated shortcuts involves both finding the right .png to use and transforming its color.

I attach one of the .png files and an overview screenshot from Explorer with many of the image files.

Shortcut files are more complicated that one might have though :o
https://github.com/l...K)%20format.asciidoc

4wd

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Sorry, meant to say upload a couple of the shortcut .lnk files not icons.  :-[

Problem I'm having is trying to get PowerShell to accept what is a virtual path, the FOLDERID_AppsFolder in the python script.

Nod5

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Ok, here are .lnk files for Calculator and Xbox as generated by the StackOverflow python script.

edit: I compared the python generated Calculator shortcut with one made through the context menu in the AppsFolder (win+R and then shell:AppsFolder, right click Calculator, "create shortcut"). The two files are identical except for block (decimal)number 22, which has the value 00 in the python generated file and 08 in the other.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2019, 07:29 AM by Nod5 »