How to create an AutoRun menu for portable applications

What is a portable application?
Portable applicationsA portable application (portable app) is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use it on any computer. It does not require any installation, you simply plug your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod, iPad or other removable drive into the computer and run the program. A portable application can be a game, or a utility program such as a text editor, email client, web browser, antivirus software, backup tool etc. or similar.

A portable application gives you access to your software and personal data just as you would have on your own PC. However, all the portable application settings and data are stored on your external drive so when you unplug it, none of your personal data is left behind. Furthermore, the computer you run your portable application on does not get affected as all data is saved on the drive from where you run your application.

A portable menu will give an easy access to the portable applications
A portable menu will provide you with a simple way to access your portable applications. You only have to plug in the device and open the menu interface, and thereafter all applications are just one click away. You don’t need to browse the drive and its folders using Windows Explorer (or similar software) to find a particular application.

An AutoRun menu will make it even simpler
USB stickAn AutoRun menu will take this one step further. You don’t need to open the portable menu manually – the menu interface will be opened automatically when your portable device (for example a USB stick) is plugged into the computer. And thereafter you can launch one of the portable applications with just one mouse click.

Create an AutoRun menu with USB Menu Creator
SamLogic provides you with an easy solution to create an AutoRun menu for your portable applications: USB Menu Creator. USB Menu Creator gives you the possibility to create an AutoRun menu for USB sticks / flash drives. That means that your created menu will be shown automatically on the screen after plugging your USB stick into the computer’s USB port. All you need to do is to choose the application you want to run.

With USB Menu Creator you can easily design and personalize your portable application’s menu interface so it fits your needs and desires. USB Menu Creator offers you a wide range of effects such as shadows, glass effects, 3D effects, a large palette of graphical button styles, it allows you to place hyperlinks, hotspots, images or videos in your menu and even add different music and sound effects. The picture below shows an example of how an AutoRun menu interface created with USB Menu Creator may look like:

AutoRun menu for portable applications

When you want to start an application, just click on one of the buttons in the menu interface.

Wait a minute; doesn’t Microsoft removed AutoRun support for USB sticks?
That is correct. Window’s AutoRun function does not work with USB sticks anymore. So if you plug your current USB stick into a random computer, nothing will be run automatically. But we have developed an alternative system that gives back Autorun to USB sticks. If you use our USB Menu Creator software to add menu interfaces to USB sticks, they will support AutoRun.

Compatible with Windows 8, and Windows XP / Vista / 7
USB Menu Creator can create menu interfaces for portable applications that are compatible with all modern Windows operating systems, including Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista. The menu interface picture above shows an AutoRun menu, created with USB Menu Creator, that is run in Windows 8.

More information
More information about USB Menu Creator is available on the tool’s product page:
> SamLogic USB Menu Creator – Product Page

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Which image format is best for email newsletters?

JPEG / PNG / GIFToday there are many different image file formats to choose from for your pictures; for example BMP, TIFF, EPS, JPEG, PNG and GIF. Image formats are often designed to be used in specific contexts, and applying a particular image format in a wrong context usually leads to a poor result. That is why it is important to choose an image format that is suitable for the particular environment and context that your picture intends to be used in. But which image format is best for email newsletters?

New article
We have published a new article on our website that gives you an answer to this question. Among others, we explain the pros and cons of different image formats. You can easily access the article by clicking at the link below. We highly recommend you to read the article as it contains a lot of useful information, especially relevant for those sending out email newsletters with our email marketing software MultiMailer or any other email newsletter tools:

> Which image format is best for email newsletters: JPEG, GIF or PNG?

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Do you know that we have a newsletter?

We have an international newsletter that is targeted for our international customers and where we publish information and news related to our products and our company. We send the newsletter about 1-2 times / month. In the newsletter we publish for example:

- Information about our software and our company
- Tips and tricks for our programs
- Technical and non-technical articles
- Videos (tip videos and information videos etc.)
- Special offers

If you want to take a closer look on our newsletter, you find a list with the 5 last issues below:
> 06/2014 – How to use the setup dialog boxes in Visual Installer
> 05/2014 – How to create an AutoRun menu for a USB stick
> 04/2014 – SamLogic now has a new Facebook page for international customers
> 03/2014 – ComponentSource is a new reseller for SamLogic’s products
> 02/2014 – How to use the Picture Gallery in CD-Menu Creator 2014 to show videos

Subscribe to our newsletter
If you want to subscribe to our newsletter you can visit the web page below. On that web page you will also find more issues of our newsletter to preview:
> Subscribe to SamLogic Software’s newsletter

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What is the difference between the Standard and Professional version of Visual Installer?

SamLogic Visual Installer is an easy-to-use installation tool that can be used to install software, documents, Excel sheets, videos, etc, and there exist two versions of the tool: Standard and Professional. In this blog post we will describe the difference between these two versions.

Visual Installer / Standard
The Standard version of Visual Installer is designed to handle smaller setup projects. It is also very suitable if you want to install documents, Excel sheets and videos, and other file types that are not software. The Standard version is very easy to use and no programming is ever needed.

Visual Installer / Professional
The Professional version of Visual Installer is designed to handle larger setup projects and it is specialized to install software. It is also more flexible than the Standard version of Visual Installer thanks to the powerful scripting language that is included in Professional. The scripting language will give you a great control over the installation and can be used to handle all special cases that may happen when dealing with complex installations. It is not necessary to use the scripting for most tasks, but if the normal settings are not enough for your installation project, you can always include powerful script commands that will handle these circumstances.

The Professional version is also necessary if you need to handle prerequisites during an installation. From Visual Installer / Professional you can run other installations during the installation process in a controlled manner. If you need to install 64 bit applications, you must also use the Professional version. The Standard version only support installation of 32 bit applications.

Summary – Major functions that are included only in Visual Installer / Professional
Below is a list with some major functions that are only included in Visual Installer / Professional:

- A script language that can be used for advanced installations.
- A project manager that keeps track of your created project files.
- Functionality to create multiple levels of menus with shortcuts in Windows.
- Functionality to install 64-bit applications.
- Functionality to handle prime number based license keys.
- Functionality to send messages to Twitter.
- A special tool, SamLogic Selector, which can create system dependent program starts.

See also
> SamLogic Visual Installer – Features
> Visual Installer’s Scripting Language
> Tips & tricks for SamLogic Visual Installer

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SamLogic now has a new Facebook page for international customers

We have a new international Facebook page that is targeted for our international customers and where we will publish information and news related to our products and our company. For example, information about new program versions, tips, articles, white papers. In our Facebook page you can also ask us questions or just post comments. Some topics that we cover right now (in the Facebook page) are:

- How to use SamLogic’s Windows applications on a Mac
- Do you want information about our products in other languages?
- How to use the Picture Gallery in CD-Menu Creator to show videos
- How to create an AutoRun USB flash drive
- Is it possible to create an online installer with Visual Installer?
- Updated Visual Installer handles multiple MSI installations easily
- How to create newsletters for mobile devices

All texts that we publish on Facebook page are in English. If you want to visit our Facebook page, click on the link below:
> SamLogic Software’s international Facebook page

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How do I create an AutoRun menu for a USB stick?

USB sticksWith USB sticks it is easy to distribute a large number of files, or large files, to other persons. For example software, videos, documents, drawings, etc. USB flash drives are also fast (especially USB 3.0 drives are very fast), so it does not take long time to copy (or install) the contents on a USB stick to a hard disk. But navigating can be a problem if the USB flash drive contains lots of files. The user can have problems to locate all of the files on the drive. The solution to this is to create a menu interface.

AutoRun menu interfaces
There exist many menu designer tools on the market that can create menu interfaces for USB flash drives. But what about AutoRun menu interfaces? Menus that open automatically? Is this even technical possible?

Menu interface for a USB stick

Microsoft disabled the AutoRun function for USB sticks
Microsoft disabled the AutoRun function for USB sticks a few years ago, so it does not work as with CDs and DVDs, as it did before. Until the year of 2011 you only needed to add the filename of the menu to an Autorun.inf file (that you put on the USB flash drive) and the menu would open automatically when somebody inserted the USB stick into a USB port. But today this method does not work. If you try the same today, the menu will not open automatically. Instead will Windows AutoPlay window be shown on the screen, and you must click on the Windows Explorer option in the AutoPlay window to open Windows Explorer, and thereafter manually locate the menu program file on the drive and run it.

Does it have to be in this way?
Does it have to be in this way? Is there really no way to create an AutoRun menu and have the menu be opened 100% automatically? We will give you the answer to this question in this new article on our website:

> How to Create an AutoRun Menu For a USB Flash Drive

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Is it possible to create an online installer with Visual Installer?

The answer is: Yes, it is possible.

With the installation tool SamLogic Visual Installer you can create a simple installer with no or very little user interaction. You can turn off all setup dialog boxes, or maybe leave one information dialog box visible that informs the user that this is an installation. The rest of the installation can be run silently, with no dialog boxes and no user interaction. If the user chooses to run the installation directly on the webpage instead of saving it, the installation will be made very smoothly. By creating a self-extracting setup file (one single compressed EXE file) the user only need to download one file, and only click on one file, to start the installation.

Visual Installer

Code sign your setup package
Sometimes the installation needs administrator privileges to install some files, and Windows will ask the user for permissions to install, but if you code sign your setup package also this will be a smooth process. Read more in these two web pages:
> What is Code Signing / Digital Signature / Digital Certificate? (Q&A)
> Visual Installer – Can create a code signed setup package

More information
> Tip: How to create a silent installation
> Tip: How to create a self-extracting setup

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How to complete MSI installation #1 before #2 starts (when running multiple installations)

Sometimes it is necessary to run and complete one MSI installation before the next MSI installation starts. This may happens if your software is dependent of some specific prerequisites, also during the installation. One common problem is that one component can not be installed and registered in the system, in a proper way, before some basic components that it needs are installed first. The installation of these basic components must be completed first, otherwise the next installation may fail.

It is possible to create setup packages where one installation is completed before the next one starts, but this can normally be tricky to achieve. But with the new script command MSIEXEC that we have added to Visual Installer, this is very easy done.

The MSIEXEC command is used to install MSI packages and MSIEXEC has a parameter with the name %Wait that is useful when multiple MSI setup packages need to be installed, and they must be installed in a specific order. If you set this parameter to WAIT Visual Installer will pause its own setup process until the installation of the MSI package is completed. Thereafter the installation (for example processing of more script lines) will continue.

Example
Below we will show you an example of how to use the MSIEXEC command.

MSIEXEC

In this example Visual Installer will first install MSI file #1 (MySetup1.msi), waits until the installation of the MSI file is completed, and then install MSI file #2 (MySetup2.msi), and wait until this installation is completed, and then continue the rest of the installation.

(The script command MESSAGE can be used to inform the user what happens during the setup process. If the MSI installations are time consuming it can be a good idea to inform the user that another installation is running for the moment.)

More information about MSIEXEC
For more details about the new MSIEXEC script command, and for more examples of usage, see this tips & tricks page:
> Tip: Run MSI installation from script

See also
> Visual Installer: New script command that handles MSI installations

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Visual Installer: New script command that handles MSI installations

We have added a new script command to Visual Installer’s scripting language that handles MSI installations (Windows Installer installations). The name of the new script command is MSIEXEC and it is very flexible in its use. Via this script command you can for example start a silent or visible MSI installation, and you can choose whether Visual Installer should pause it’s own installation until the MSI installation is completed, or if the MSI installation and Visual Installer’s installation should be run in the same time (a parallel installation). And by combining the new script command with conditions, you can make Visual Installer run different MSI setup packages depending of the operating system.

MSIEXEC

We have added a tip page to the tips & tricks section of our website that explains in detail how to use the new script command. You can open the tip page by clicking on the link below:
> Tip: Run MSI installation from script

To use this script command, you must have Visual Installer 2014 / Professional version 10.0.15 or later installed in your computer.

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Why does not AutoRun work with my CD / DVD drive?

Since Windows 95 all versions of Windows has supported the AutoRun technology. This technology allows programs and menu interfaces, that are distributed on CDs and DVDs, to be opened automatically when the disc is inserted in the computer’s drive.

But sometimes, in some computers, nothing happens when an AutoRun CD or DVD is inserted in the drive. Or, a window with the title “AutoPlay” is shown on the screen with a list with options, and you must click on the program or menu name to open it. A window similar to this is shown on the screen:

The AutoPlay window
Why is that?

The reason why the AutoPlay window is shown instead of the program or menu is run automatically is that there is a system setting available in Windows (in Windows Vista and later) that decides how AutoRun and AutoPlay will work in the operating system. If the AutoPlay window is shown instead of the software is run automatically, the setting in Windows is very likely set to “Ask me every time”. If nothing happens at all, the setting in Windows is probably set to “Take no action”.

The setting can be changed
This setting can be changed to something else, for example to allow full AutoRun. You can change the default behaviour for AutoPlay via the Control panel in Windows. You can change the setting by following these steps:

If you have Windows Vista or Windows 7:
1. Open Windows Start menu
2. Click on the Control Panel option
3. Click on Hardware and Sound
Hardware and Sound option

4. Click on AutoPlay
AutoPlay option

5. Locate the Software and games combo box
6. Change the setting to “Install or run program from your media”
Install or run program from your media

7. Click the Save button

If you have Windows 8 or Windows 8.1:
1. Open the Start screen
2. Type “autoplay” (this opens the Search screen)
3. Click on Settings
4. Click on AutoPlay
5. Locate the Software and games combo box
6. Change the setting to “Install or run program from your media”
7. Click the Save button

Summary
If you choose the “Install or run program from your media” option, your Windows will support full AutoRun. And when you insert a CD or DVD in your drive, the program or menu will be run automatically.

Notes
There may be situations when the steps above is not enough. Read this article for more details:
> How to Enable / Disable Autorun for a Drive (using Registry)

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Visual Installer: How to add a shortcut to an application

If you use Visual Installer to install an application, it is very likely that you want to add a shortcut to Windows’ Program menu, and maybe also to Window’s desktop, that starts the application when the user clicks on the shortcut.

List - Shortcut (icon)

We have published two tips on our tips & tricks pages for Visual Installer that describes how to create a shortcut to a program that is installed with Visual Installer. The first tip explains how to add a shortcut to Window’s Program menu, and the second tip explains how to add a shortcut to the desktop in Windows. Click on the links below to read the tips:

> Tip 1: How to add a shortcut to a program file
> Tip 2: How to create a desktop shortcut

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Visual Installer: Where do I handle my setup dialog boxes?

The setup dialog boxes (the setup wizard) is a very important part of an installation. Via these dialog boxes you can give the user important information about the installation and let the user choose for example an installation folder, drive, program group, or ask for a license key or password. The setup dialog boxes are also a good opportunity to give your users a great first impression of your product or your company.

In our installation tool Visual Installer the setup dialog boxes are handled in the Dialog boxes tab of the editor (see the picture below).

Visual Installer

The following tip page will explain for you in detail how to choose setup dialog boxes to an installation, how to add text to the setup dialog boxes and how to change image for the setup dialog boxes. If you are new to Visual Installer we recommend you to read this tip page:

> Setup dialog boxes: How to choose dialog boxes, add text & change image

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