A tool for acessing CodeProject and have instant notifications of Codeproject's
Say good bye to refreshing browser pages! Now you finally have a tool and can
beat up Nishant posting rate!
With Desktop Bob, you can continue working and Bob will alert you on your
systray when there's something new. Before I enter in more details, it is
interesting to notice that Desktop Bob was developed on my free time and it's a
tool to fit my needs. But I think most CPians may have interest on it.
I won't enter in boring details of how to use Desktop Bob, because it's so easy
that all of you should be able to figure out how to install and use
immediately. Instead, I will show you the main features of Desktop Bob and some
of the design guidelines and decisions I made when developing it. It can be too
a nice sample for .NET and C# begginers of a small size, real world application
which shows how to:
- Use Web Services
- Asynchronous Web Services calling
- Systray Notifications
- Isolated Storage
- Saving/Reading user preferences
- Using the ListView
- Using Windows Forms Layout manager
- Creating a popup window like Messenger
- Using timers
Message Board Monitoring
Desktop Bob will continuously monitor CodeProject's message boards. Here it is
showing you some of the latest additions to CodeProject.
Quick Forum Access
Now, creating a new thread on a forum or opening a forum is just a click away!
Preferences and Filters
- You can choose whether you want to show Desktop Bob's window on single or
- You can choose whether you want to popup notifications (Messenger style)
- You can choose a WAV file to be played for notifications. If you leave this
field blank, Desktop Bob will be mute. I strongly suggest that you use the
ALAdmin.wav that comes with ICQ. It's Bob's voice!
- You can filter messages on the Post monitor window:
- All Messages
- Message Board Messages plus Updated Articles ("Ignore Article Messages")
- Only Message Board Messages
"New Post" Notification
On the left, we have the normal Desktop Bob's state: no new posts have been
added to CP. It shows you the tooltip of Desktop Bob too. On the right, we have
Bob with a balloon: this means something was added to Codeproject that interest
you. Naturally, Bob will only alert you of filtered messages. So, if you are
ignoring Articles, it won't notify you if a new article appears.
New Messenger-style notifications:
This version still only supports the taskbar in its default position, i.e., in
the bottom of the screen. A future version will support the taskbar in any
position. The number is the count of posts updated.
"New Post" follow-up
When there are new posts, they appear just like above, with an yellow
Signature Rotation Tool
If you provide Desktop Bob with a XML file containing your signatures, you can
select "Random Signature" on the tray icon menu and Desktop Bob will put a
random signature on your clipboard.
The format of the XML to be provided is:
<sig>This is a signature</sig>
<sig>This is another signature</sig>
<sig>This is yet another signature</sig>
There's a "validation feature" of the signature file on Desktop Bob: if you
provide an invalid XML signature file, Desktop Bob crashes. Nothing
serious, just correct the file and restart Desktop Bob. See "Intented Future
Features" for more details.
If you've been using Codeproject for some time, you already know what a Clickety
is. You may be even have been caught by the Clickety Police. If
not, a Clickety is one of those stylish links you'll find in the forums.
Codeproject message editing already has a Clickety feature, but sometimes you
want a Clickety with a different text, instead the default one. Editing a
Clickety is a mess, specially for the not so simple URLs. Smart
Clickety provides this. The URL should be in clipboard, and the resulting
clickety is put on the clipboard, too. The resulting Clickety will look like
When you post some code, specially C++ code, sometimes you have some characters
that don't go well with HTML, like
>. The HTMLizer
gets the contents of the clipboard, allows you to edit it and, if you click ok,
put a HTML-friendly version on the clipboard for you. Really useful for posting
code on forums. This way, it's fast to put code like this on articles and
if (clip != null)
clip = clip.Replace("&", "&");
clip = clip.Replace("<", "<");
clip = clip.Replace(">", ">");
Design Decisions and Considerations
When developing Desktop Bob, I considered doing much more than this: It is easy
creating some HTML scrapping code and create a really nice tool for accessing
CP and give you a lot of power. I didn't ask Chris about this, but I can
imagine the answer: this wouldn't be considered good behavior. Chris managed to
build a nice web site for all of us and part (or most?) of his income comes
from advertisers. If I were Chris, I wouldn't like someone doing a tool which
lowered my income.
So, the main guideline for developing Desktop Bob is: every single CP
interaction has to be made by using the WebService or by using the browser.
This way, we do not interfere on CP normal functioning and continue being good
guests. If Chris decides to extend the CodeProject's webservices, I would
gladly extend this tool to accomplish more than it do by now.
Stability & Use of resources
This is a light .NET application. It was my first desktop .NET application and I
can say I'm really impressed of how little impact on the system it can have,
although the working set of the application seems to be quite big (20 Mb on
Task Manager). I'm using it for days long and it does not appear to have any
memory leaks, resource leaks or any other stability.
In an AMD Athlon 650 MHz, 256 Mb RAM, it did not affect the overall system
performance noticeably. It seems quite stable, though it did not went through
any formal stress test. After some days of continuous use, Task Manager shows a
use of only 15 seconds of CPU. If you open the main CP page, you may spend more
Intended Future Features
Some ideas I have and/or some people suggested and which will be implemented
when I have more free time:
- A RSS browser for news feeds
- A message editor with auto-preview and spell checking (using Word's spell checker)
- Signature file validation
- Signature file editor
- A visible timer for updates on main window (maybe on a status bar?)
- Improved filters
- Creating a "how it works" article for beginners
I tested this program on Windows XP and Windows 2000. But I have reasons to
believe it also runs on Windows 98/ME. If you successfully run it on these
platforms, please leave me a note!
Desktop Bob will start browser instances for some of Codeproject's interactions.
So, if you use Internet Explorer as your default browser, check if it is
reusing browser windows, since this affects Desktop Bob behaviour when
launching multiple Posts. On IE, go to Tools/Internet Options/Advanced and
check/uncheck this option:
- 27/10 - Version 1.3. Added some clipboard manipulation tools: the HTMLizerTM, the Smart ClicketyTM and the signature rotation tool. Added the Changelog to the article, too.
- 22/10 - Version 1.2. Bug fix when starting IE right after showing the new Messenger-style notification.
- 20/10 - Version 1.1. Added support for sound notifications and Messenger-style notifications. Faster updates. The about box comes to the scene!
- 12/10 - Initial Version
The standard disclaimer
As I said before, I tested this on my machine and it works fine. Use it at your
own risk: if you use it, you can loose data, profit, have hardware problems,
cause radioactive contamination and start a nuclear world war. But, for me, it
works fine and never had a problem.
Well, the code in this article is free for you to use any way you want. If you
improve it, drop me a note, so I can keep the code in sync. If you make money
with this code, you are a genius! You deserve the money. Just remember to send
me a "thank you" and give me some tips on money-making. I will not reject any
money you send me too.