• United States

Automate with Automate

Feb 03, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Gearhead columnist Mark Gibbs found Automate 5 to be amazing

A few months ago we reviewed an automation product called OpalisRobot. We liked it a lot, and several readers said that if we liked that product, we’d love Automate 5 from Unisyn.

A few months ago we reviewed an automation product called OpalisRobot (see We liked it a lot, and several readers said that if we liked that product, we’d love Automate 5 from Unisyn.

We finally took a hard look at the product and, well, wow!

Automate 5 is amazing, letting you automate a slew of repetitive tasks and going much further than any similar product we’ve seen. It even lets you send keystrokes to applications, add and remove items from the clipboard, move and detect the position of the mouse, and . . . well, the list is huge.

Automate 5 tasks can be triggered by a range of events, including time schedules, key presses, changes to the system (processor load, memory use, available disk space and so on), file operations on directories and specific files (open, close, delete, etc.), specific application events, entries made in event logs and even idle time.

The Automate Task Administrator program provides access to and management of all defined tasks; enables and disables triggers; sets up system configuration; examines the task-activity log; and creates new tasks.

Defining a new task can be done with or without the included wizard. The wizard leads you through naming the task, defining one or more triggers if any are needed (manually launched tasks don’t require triggers) and then editing the task’s script. The latter invokes the Automate Task Builder.

Automate Task Builder presents a window with three panes: the Available Actions pane, which provides a tree-structured view of all actions or operations that can be added to the task; a pane for the task script; and a pane for various debugging displays.

To build a task you select the actions you need and drag them to the script pane. Each action will raise a dialog as it is dropped so you can set the parameters for the action.

For example, for the FTP Download action you only need to set the target site, log in user and the directory and file to retrieve and save to.

For all actions you can set other parameters and error-handling action. The latter lets you ignore errors, take action for specific problems or abort the entire task.

More than 100 actions are defined in the Task Builder. These actions include Internet (FTP operations, HTTP download and post, POP3 retrieval and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol send), File (open, close and read), Network (send message and map drive), Database (SQL query and stored procedure) and Services Control (start, stop, pause, resume, install and remove).

There also are specific actions for program flow including Variables (setting, modifying and deleting), Loop Actions (to examine windows, files and processes) and Flow Actions (if-else and end-if). There are even actions for manipulating the Windows registry, adding to the system log, executing DDE communications, performing text to speech and Basic Scripts.

Basic Scripts underlie the whole script system – the actions you drag to the script panel are code blocks. The version of Basic used is called AML and is similar to Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications. You also can toggle the script pane view to display the script as AML and edit it directly.

Coding AML lets you create, when needed, scripting that goes beyond what can be built using the action drag-and-drop interface alone. That said, what can be created without dirtying your hands with coding is awesome!

Tasks launched by triggers or by using the Automate Task Administrator are executed by what is, in effect, a runtime system running as a Win32 service interfaced to a “stub” executable that runs under the account of the user that launched the task (it shows up in the Windows system tray).

We have few criticisms of the product beyond some details that are missing from the documentation and lack of SNMP actions, and we’d like to see more-detailed error reporting.

We highly recommend Automate 5. It is a remarkable product, and Unisyn has plans to add more actions to improve Internet and network functionality. And for $350 for one copy, it is the best Automation product we’ve seen.

Your task? Write to


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

More from this author