Automation and Terminal Emulation: Hotspots

One of the most striking characteristics of terminal based host interaction, particular for those users who only have experience with Microsoft Windows or Apple operating systems is the fact that interaction with the host is entirely keyboard driven. Many solutions have been devised on both the host and client side with the aim of bringing a modern and user friendly look and feel to host systems. In TTWin one of the simplest and most effective tools to achieve this is what we call Hotspots.

What are Hotspots?
A Hotspot is a way of dynamically creating button like clickable areas on the terminal display which the user can interact with using the mouse. Once clicked the Hotspot can trigger a client side action, such as a simulating a key press, sending a string to the host or running a TTWin menu command. For more advanced tasks a Hotspot can trigger a macro or TTWin Basic script.

What can be done with Hotspots?
Since, essentially, a Hotspot provides a mouse driven trigger for a client side action such as a macro or script what can be achieved with a Hotspot is only limited by the capabilities of these tools. For detail on what you can do with a macro or a script check out these earlier blog posts.

Some examples of how a Hotspot might be used are automating navigation, such as traversing a menu system or automating user input, such as displaying a pop-up window requesting user input and sending that input back to the host.

A common use of Hotspots is on the Hewlett Packard HP2392 terminal. A characteristic of this terminal is the display of a number of status labels across the bottom of each screen in a fixed position. Hotspots are easily used to turn these status items into clickable buttons which allows the user to easily toggle the terminal state (see the before-and-after picture below).

How are they implemented?
Hotspots, before and after.

Hotspots can be set up in two basic ways: a permanent fixed position, such as described in the Hewlett Packard terminal example above, or by matching text on the terminal display. In this case, when TTWin detects specified text, for example ‘exit’ or ‘home’ along with specified pre and post match characters it will automatically overlay the text with the clickable Hotspot. This is particularly useful for making various screen elements such as menus on your host application more user friendly.

There is also an option to autoexecute a Hotspot rather than wait for a user mouse click. A good example of a situation where this is useful is matching a text string like 'login' which, when detected, could trigger the sending of a username/password or a login script to automate the process.

Visually a Hotspot can be configured to adopt a number of predefined button styles and colors.

How useful and appropriate Hotspots will be for your particular situation will largely depend on the nature of the host applications you are running. Think of Hotspots as merely one more tool in your kit which can help to automate user interaction with a host system. For other options, check out previous posts on macros, TTWin Basic scripting and ActiveX.

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