Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Deploying user-specific desktop shortcuts

So you've got a networked database and you need an easy way of deploying customised desktop shortcuts for it to your users. Here's a cunning method.

The basis for this method is the use of Visual Basic scripting in the form of a VBS file - saves you having to build a setup.exe file or anything strenuous like that. Now VBS files have had something of a bad press, mainly because script-kiddies have used them to write viruses. Don't let that put you off.

Anyway, create a file in the text-editor of your choice and name it something intelligent like install_production.vbs - note the extension. Now the script shown below does the following:

  1. Prompts the user to confirm their database username - since I use the user's Windows username for their database username, this is shown as the default response. If you're not using user-level security you can skip this step.
  2. Creates and names the shortcut, checking the Registry to look-up the location of the user's version of Access (you can hard-code the Access executable's location if you'd prefer)
  3. Sets the "run in" directory
  4. Sets the shortcut icon
  5. Sets the shortcut's window style

In the example that follows:

  • MyApp is the name of the database application
  • \\srvr\share\fldr\myapp.mdb is the location of the database file
  • \\srvr\share\fldr\system.mdw is the location of the workgroup information file
  • \\srvr\share\fldr\myapp.ico is the location of the application icon file

Okay, here's the script:

Set WshNetwork = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Network")
Dim strI
strI = InputBox("Enter your MyApp database username here. If a default has been suggested, please " & _
    "check it before you proceed, amending as required." & Chr(10) & Chr(13) & Chr(10) & Chr(13) & _
    "NOTE: leaving this blank cancels the installation!", "Shortcut personalisation", WshNetwork.Username)
If Len(strI)>0 Then
    Dim WSHShell
    Set WSHShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
    Dim MyShortcut, DesktopPath, AccessPath
    DesktopPath = WSHShell.SpecialFolders("Desktop")
    Set MyShortcut = WSHShell.CreateShortcut(DesktopPath & "\MyApp - production.lnk")
    AccessPath = WSHShell.RegRead("HKCR\.mdb\")
    AccessPath = WSHShell.RegRead("HKCR\" & AccessPath & "\shell\new\command\")
    AccessPath = Replace(Left(AccessPath, InStr(1, AccessPath,"/", 1) -1), """", "")
    MyShortcut.TargetPath = AccessPath
    MyShortcut.Arguments = "\\srvr\share\fldr\myapp.mdb /wrkgrp \\srvr\share\fldr\system.mdw /user " & strI
    MyShortcut.WorkingDirectory = "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\"
    MyShortcut.WindowStyle = 3 '1=normal, 2=minimised, 3=maximised
    MyShortcut.IconLocation = "\\srvr\share\fldr\myapp.ico"
    Msgbox "Installation completed successfully.", 64, "MyApp"
    Msgbox "Installation was cancelled.", 48, "MyApp"
End If

Note that your users may get prompted to confirm that they want to run a VBS file, depending on their PC/environment security settings. Like I said before, this is a security measure to help prevent the feeble-minded exploiting the power of Visual Basic scripting to be malicious.

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