A technological solution for unsavvy editors
December 6, 2010 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a good sort of "hack" to help us input information onto our online platform. Is there an easy way to set up a script to automatically click a few buttons and enter information into fields?

My lack of sophistication with this sort of stuff should be obvious from the way I phrased my question.

Here's the situation: we're a team of content developers developing an online course on a platform. Currently, the type of activity templates that we use to create activities need a lot of work, and the development team will be busy the next couple months with other priorities.

One concrete example of a problem we have: we have to create activities with drop-down blanks. This requires creating a drop down menu for each question. This is also means typing the answer option for every blank.

What would be much preferable (and save us hours upon hours of work) would be to have some sort of script set up (something I could just use with my browser) that would allow me to automatically fill those fields and not have to type.

Overall what I'm looking for is some way of scripting a way to fill in forms on a page; this would involve clicking a button to create a new field, filling that in, clicking another button to create a new field to create, etc.

Hope this is clear; let me know if I need to provide more details. Assume I'm starting from zero here.

Thanks in advance!
posted by mammary16 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should add - a good short term solution could be a script that would input text, tab twice, input more text, tab twice, etc. That would solve a few of the problems (although also knowing how to program the script to click a button would also be immensely helpful).

Imagine a column of fields, where I have to enter:


This script would be a way to automatically enter that information I don't have to type it myself.

posted by mammary16 at 8:31 AM on December 6, 2010

So, some short overview answers:

1. Somebody, somewhere has to type it at least once.
2. If you already have it typed somewhere (in a spreadsheet say, or a plain text file), you *might* be able to use that to further you laziness :)

So, what is your platform? It actually does matter! Some are configurable/scriptable in this way, some are not. Some hints that they might be....

* buttons / uploads like : create content from xml/json/csv
* in the platform 'api' docs, sections like 'automagically create course' or similar.

Not knowing more snowflake details, it is hard to say more!
posted by gregglind at 8:34 AM on December 6, 2010

Sorry, should have been more clear.

I'm not looking to script the platform; I'm looking for a way to write a script for my browser so it automatically enters text into fields on the page.

One example would be this:

"Nouns" + tab + tab + "Verbs" + tab + tab + "Adjectives" + tab + tab+ "Adverbs"

Just this script right here would literally save hours of work, silly as it sounds!
posted by mammary16 at 8:41 AM on December 6, 2010

Selenium will do that- it "records" browser input and plays it back. It's meant for load testing, but you can probably make it do you want.
posted by mkultra at 8:44 AM on December 6, 2010

browser automation.

Various ways to implement this. If you can't do this yourself, go to one of the freelancer job sites (freelancer.com elance.com) and describe your requirement. You'll find a dozen providers in as many minutes.
posted by w.fugawe at 8:49 AM on December 6, 2010

iMacros for firefox

It will even read from a .csv and implement string values from that for automated filling, if you ask it to. I use it often for repetitive data entry.

One bit of warning, if you want to be able to implement the same script across multiple pages, you need to "edit" the script and just chop out the http:// part, and it will work universally.
posted by TomMelee at 8:59 AM on December 6, 2010

Another solution is sikuli - if you can see it, you can script it.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2010

I use the Greasemonkey Firefox addon for stuff like that. It allows you to write Javascript that executes after the page loads. You would have to look at the source of the page you want to automate the entry for. You can highlight and fill out fields and even click buttons programmaticly using Javascript.
document.getElementById('fieldID').value = 'Field value.';

posted by Gainesvillain at 12:39 PM on December 6, 2010

Look at AutoIT it can read a file as an input and probably click buttons in a browser as well.
posted by alfanut at 1:22 PM on December 6, 2010

Just to be clear, you don't have any control over the "platform" you describe? No contact with the website behind it, you're just users of the system, interacting with it via browsers?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:32 AM on December 7, 2010

Just to be clear, you don't have any control over the "platform" you describe? No contact with the website behind it, you're just users of the system, interacting with it via browsers?

We're all employees of the same company; problem is that the development team is so overworked on other projects that we on the content side of things have to go it alone for a while.

I used iMacro yesterday, it definitely helped cut alot of corners. What I'd really like to do is get down and dirty and see if I can use Greasemonkey to auto-fill RTE fields with columns, pictures, etc., as well as automatically migrate some data from one field to another whenever I look at a page.

From what I understand, iMacro can't really handle that (particularly, it can't create tables within an RTE field, for example).

Is there a good centralised place where I can find all the java examples I need? I have some basic knowledge of javascript (very basic!) and would be great to have a refresher.

Thanks everyone for your help!
posted by mammary16 at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2010

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