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date 15.Feb.2018

■ xplorer² major version upgrade introducing programmability and automation

xplorer² has been in constant development for 16 years exactly but, like a person born on the 29th of February, is only just getting its 4th candle on its birthday cake: introducing version 4.0. Mature way beyond its nominal version number, it is inevitable that the "next big thing" should be quite advanced — but hopefully within the reach of the average xplorer² user.

Macro commands for UI automation
xplorer² dialogs and processess are well designed, but you may find yourself ticking and selecting options repeatedly. The new macro feature helps you save time by automating operations, stringing together different dialogs etc. For example you can combine a search for documents modified last year with exporting the search results in a CSV file, in a single macro "program". You spend some time writing and correcting the macro, but from then on this find+export chore is as easy as a toolbar button click!

Macros are not a programming language; you won't need to be expert in WSH or VBA to write a macro script. The commands let you access menus, toolbars and dialog controls, and do whatever you can do with the mouse and keyboard. You just need to translate your everyday actions (reaching for menus, clicking buttons etc) into the macro notation. Getting familiar with the notation will take some effort, but there is good documentation and sample macros to get you going. It is possible to debug (single-step) macros, helping you figure out why things won't work as you expected.

Macros are also the death blow to MenuHack, a tool many of you use to put menu commands without icons on toolbars. Instead of defining a user command menuhack 33501 to access Edit > Export CSV menu command, just press <F12> key to define a new macro:

COMMAND "export csv"
and save it with a name, then drop it on a toolbar. No more relying on external tools and looking up cryptic command numbers!

Programmable detailed information column
You may be familiar with DeskRule's desktop detective panel that enables searching with combinations of file properties and attributes. xplorer² (ultimate edition only) new programmable column is an extension to this concept: it allows you to combine file properties, boolean and arithmetic operators and a few functions into expressions, whose result is the value of the Programmable [S] stock column. This result can be then used as any other column, for display, sorting, filtering and searching for matching files. It is really versatile and the possible uses are too many to enumerate — just use your imagination!

Here are a few examples of "user defined file attributes":

${Modified} - ${Created}
will show the number of days difference between the modification and creation dates of a file

IF(FBYTES(1,3)="50.4E.47", png, "")
use bytes 2-3-4 in files to detect if they are PNG format; show PNG if they are and nothing otherwise. To understand what the values 50.4E.47 mean use the xplorer² quickviewer in HEX mode while a PNG is selected (tick Text only in the draft preview pane context menu).

The expressions that define the programmable column again remind one of "programming", but it is just a mathematical formula similar to MS Excel spreadsheet cell formulas. Simple property names are the "variables" and boolean and arithmetic operators turn them into results — a yes/no answer, a date, etc. Inevitably some reading of the fine manual will be required to make the most of this new powerful feature.

There are lots of other smaller but useful additions to v4. For example window layouts are now true workbenches, reproducing all the folders and tab settings exactly as you saved them. OneDrive folders are improved. For more information please see the full changelog.

Upgrade information

A little over 3 years since the last paid upgrade, version 4.0 is reaching for all loyal customers and begging their pardon for asking their xplorer² approbation in monetary terms. It is all my son Achilleas fault, who consumes an extraordinary amount of food for his size <g>. Everyone will need to obtain a new unlock key for v4.0, but many people will get it for free or with a discount.

The upgrade process is as painless as can be; you just try to purchase a new key then xplorer² should guide you in case you are entitled to a free or discounted upgrade. Here are a few possibilities:

The upgrade will be easier if you install v4.0 over your existing one (in the same folder), so xplorer² can recognize you have an older valid license file in there. Alternatively you can upgrade semi-automatically using this form — but you'd need to dig up that email with your full unlock key.

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