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NANY 2011 Release: Cautomaton

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NANY 2011 Entry Information
Application NameCautomatonVersionv1.0.1Short DescriptionAutomating actions that are hidden away in the context menu of a file.Supported OSesWindows XP+, 32 and 64-bitWeb PageWebsiteDownload Link(open directory of released versions)System Requirements
* Windows XP+
* 32-bit: Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package (x86)
* 64-bit: Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package (x64)Version History
* 2010-11-15 Cautomaton v0.8.1
* 2010-11-15 Cautomaton v0.8.2
* 2010-11-16 Cautomaton v0.8.3
* 2012-02-23 Cautomaton v0.9.0
* 2014-12-23 Cautomaton v0.9.5
* 2015-01-03 Cautomaton v1.0.0
* 2015-01-21 Cautomaton v1.0.1Author worstjeScreencast
* [url=]Official NANY 2011 Cautomaton screencast
There are many applications that stick themselves into that little corner in a files context menu, yet offer no way to automate their otherwise wonderful functions. Cautomaton is the answer that allows you to automate context menu actions using a simple commandline syntax that nevertheless tries to aim to support every possible action one might want to make. Through the means of crumb matching, where Cautomaton follows the crumbs of information you lay out, nothing is beyond your reach! :)

Or you can simply abuse it to call up a popup menu of your liking. I wouldn't know why, but the possibilities are endless!


* three different action sources:

* Popup (/p) a menu - pick your option like you would in explorer!
* Verb (/v) - Select a verb, the Windows way of picking a menu item.
* Match (/m) - Throw down some 'crumbs', and let Cautomaton match them to the menu.
* a builtin analyzer (/a) advices you on (the best?) parameters to use for this file and action
* a noop modifier (/n) makes it possible to test matching without stuff happening
* quiet mode (/q) - sometimes it is nice not to spam your errors and other messages around
* debug mode (/d) - for when you think the bugs are nibbling your crumbs, your crumbs have grown feet or stuff simply isn't happening. (Mostly meant for me, the author, to try and help people with bugs they might come across.)
* expansive help screen (/?) mentioning all the options briefly.
* stylish like a gentleman should be - hat included! removed in v1.0.1, sorry!
v1.0.1 (2015-01-21)

Cautomaton is a tool meant for the automation of actions that have ended up
being difficult to automate because the functionality in question is accessed
through the so-called context menu by right-clicking on a file.

Thus, Cautomaton allows for easy ways to scan particular files for viruses,
check the integrity of archives, set images as your wallpaper or whatever
other functionality is stashed away in the context menu.

It is not a tool for all occasions, however. If you can just as easily call
upon your anti-virus program directly, that may be more reliable. I consider
Cautomaton itself to be very dependable, but the ecosystem it is used in
determines its practical worth. Programs (ab)use the context menu in many
silly ways, and due to Cautomaton's invasive (automating) nature, those
programs may stumble even if you are not even attempting to interact with them!

That said, I consider such programs a challenge, as it means Cautomaton could
probably do an even better job than it already does. So if Cautomaton does not
seem to get the work done despite indicating that it should in fact work, feel
free to let me know and I'll do my best to find a solution for you.

-Jan Wester


Make sure to use the proper build for your system. While the 32-bit executable
works on a 64-bit machine, you likely do not have the proper context menu
extensions installed for the 32-bit (WOWSYS64) subsystem. End result is that
items will be missing where you might expect to see them.

(All 32-bit applications suffer this - try a 32-bit explorer some time.)

Cautomaton relies on the 'Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package'.
You will need to install the version matching the build of Cautomaton you use.

To download the 32-bit (x86) version, visit:
To download the 64-bit (x64) version, visit:


Getting started with Cautomaton is easy. There are two basic steps involved:
identification and invocation. In order to perform (invoke) an action on a file
for you, Cautomaton needs to be able to identify it.

To help with this, Cautomaton can analyze an action you perform. For example,
run the following in a commandprompt:

  cautomaton.exe /p /a ReadMe.txt

This will tell Cautomaton to popup ('/P') a context menu, and analyze ('/A')
the choice afterwards. Choose one of the menu items. For example, open it.
The file 'ReadMe.txt' will now be opened in your program of preference.

(If you do not want this to happen, you can add an extra '/N' parameter to
have Cautomaton do nothing with the chosen item.)

At the end of the technical analysis Cautomaton performed is a recommendation
on how to use Cautomaton. Whatever it recommends is almost always the best way
to go about repeating your actions. For example, it will say:

  Recommended Cautomaton parameters: /v open

The recommended parameters would instruct Cautomaton to use the 'open' verb on
the file(s) in question. Now, try out the recommendation to see if it works:

  cautomaton.exe /v open ReadMe.txt

You should now see 'ReadMe.txt' be opened in your program of choice. At its
essence, that is all there is to using Cautomaton.

With these basics in mind, simply opening up a command-line and experimenting
with the different options should help you on your way. For a list of all the
things Cautomaton can do, try:

  cautomaton.exe /?

There are a lot of options to fine-tune Cautomaton's behaviour, but most of
the time, you will not need them. But if you do... well, they exist!

One final word of caution regarding '/M': this option is very flexible, but is
also unreliable at its core. For example, menu text might be translated to
German for someone who uses the German language on their computer, so matching
against English text won't work. In a similar vein, the positioning of items
can vary depending on a multitude of factors, and the internal IDs are even
more fleeting. Please be aware of the assumptions you make when using '/M'!


1) Using '/A /P', and choosing an item in the 'Open With' menu will cause the
     analysis to throw out an incorrect first crumb ('&Choose de' as opposed
     to the correct 'Open wit&h'). Other action sources work fine.

2) Canceling a 'delete' verb operation gives Cautomaton an error code it
     cannot recognise, which it then treats as a standard failure that can
     only be recognised when running in debug (/d) mode.

3) On Windows versions that pre-date Windows Vista, a context menu that applies
     to multiple files may be different than one Windows Explorer conjures up.
     Items may be missing, doubled and/or mispositioned. For most invocations
     (/P, /V or /M using text-matching) this should not be a problem, however.


REQUEST TO TESTERS (#1): Please try out the multiple files support! If there
  are differences between a context menu for the same files in one directory,
  and a context menu for these same files being in separate directories, make
  sure to let me know! If it is at all in my power to make these two cases
  consistent with one another, I will do so!

REQUEST TO TESTERS (#2): Windows versions pre-Vista may have a weird / glitchy
  context menu when applied to multiple files. I can't really test on such
  systems anymore, but I am very interested in hearing about the state of
  Cautomaton's new functionality on those systems. Let me know!


As Cautomaton's version history was getting rather lengthy, it has been put
into its own file. Please see 'Changelog.txt' for more information.


Copyright (c) 2015 Jan Wester

This software is provided 'as-is', without any express or implied
warranty. In no event will the authors be held liable for any damages
arising from the use of this software.

Permission is granted to anyone to use this software for personal use, and to
redistribute it freely, subject to the following restrictions:

1. The origin of this software must not be misrepresented; you must not
   claim that you wrote the original software.
2. All original parts must be intact and unmodified.
3. This notice may not be removed or altered from any source distribution.

If you wish to obtain a license for commercial use, please contact the author.


Thanks to...

* JoTo for mentioning a certain very buggy shell extension @

* mouser for his request @

* Raymond Chen for his awesome blog & series on context menus @

* Nikos Bozinis for encouraging my masochistic tendencies @

* as a whole @

* Rui Lopes for his sample project on per-pixel alpha-blending @

* for solving those issues I have before I have them @

* the Oxygen Project for having nicely licensed icons @


Extract the zip archive anywhere you'd like. Or just the one file you need for your Windows to shine. (See the Readme above why this is important.)

Using the Application
Open cmd.exe, powershell or whatnot. Go to the directory where you extracted the proper file for your architecture. Run it with the universal /? help parameter, and get started on automating the actions you need automated. :)

Just delete the files you extracted. That's all, folks! :)

See attachment.

I am *extremely* excited about this.. i was unsure how feasible it would be and i'm delighted to test it!

After figuring out how to use it (readme could use some simpler intro), i have to say it is working!!! WOW! GREAT WORK and CONGRATULATIONS!

Really really cool that you figured out how to do this.

This works wonderfully with my Drag and Drop Robot, to provide easy batch execution of a right-click command on a list of files:

You can see from this screenshot that D+D Robot is just invoking Cautomaton with the /m command and a $pattern, meaning text to match a substring of the context menu.
In my sample screenshot i put "Scan with" as the pattern, which matches against my context menu entry for scanning a file with Eset.

For those who don't know, Drag and Drop Robot is meant to help you perform commandline actions on large batches of files/folders.

It works great with Cautomaton, EXCEPT the only thing I never anticipated with Drag and Drop Robot is that it won't let you specify DELAYS between calls on files.  Because Cautomaton doesn't block while the process launches, you would get all processes running at the same time.  I'll add a delay option, and maybe worstje can see if he can add an option that says "don't exit until launched process exits" which would be even better.

I think ill make a custom version of Drag+Drop robot made specifically to work with Cautomaton, preconfigured to use it.

I am glad Cautomaton is of such good use to you. Definitely makes the time I put into it so far worth it. :)


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