One of the best parts of owning a PC isn't downloading videos, sending email, or playing games. If you ask me, the best tool for your computer is automation. Get it to do some of the mundane things you need to get done in the day or that make your work life just a little bit easier.
One way to do that is to use the built-in Task Scheduler for Windows. A simple, but also strangely satisfying use for Task Scheduler is to fire up all the programs you need to get going during your morning work routine.
In our case, we'll use Excel, Firefox, and Skype as examples. The only thing to keep in mind is that you must be logged in for Task Scheduler to work. If you shut down your PC or log out every night, you'll want to make sure Task Scheduler is set to go to work after you login.
To launch Task Scheduler in Windows 8.1, open the Charms bar by tapping Windows Logo Key + C. Use the search function to look for Schedule tasks and select that option. Windows 7 users can grab the Task Scheduler by going to Start > Control Panel and use the same search term as above.
This will open the Task Scheduler window, as you see above. Now we're ready to get scheduling.
Creating our start-up routine
Make sure Task Scheduler (Local) is selected in the left-hand navigation pane. Next, from the top menu in Task Scheduler, select Action > Create Basic Task...
For our purposes, we are going to create one task for each app, because it's simpler than other methods.
In the wizard that opens, just follow along with the instructions. First, we have to give our task a name and description. Let's set-up Firefox first, We'll call this task "Morning Fox" and for the description we'll say "opens Firefox and Gmail."
Now we have to choose when we want Firefox to open such as Monday through Friday. Select the Weekly radio button and click Next.
Now we have to choose a Start time for our task. Let's pick 8:45:27 AM--the last two digits represent the seconds.
Now, click the check boxes for our working days (Monday through Friday) and ensure that above the days of the week it says Recur every: 1 weeks on.
The next item should already have the Start a program radio button selected, so click Next again.
Now we have to choose what program we want to run, which is Firefox in our case.
Click Browse... to start selecting your program. By default Task Scheduler usually opens File Explorer in Windows > System 32, an unfriendly location if ever there was one.
Let's get out of there by clicking Local Disk (C:) in the left navigation pane in File Explorer. The stuff we're looking for is going to be in one of two folders :C:\Program Files and C:\Program Files (x86). If you have only one of those folders, don't sweat it, that's fine too.
Finding our programs is a matter of going through each Program Files folder and looking for our apps by name.
On my system, Firefox is stashed in C:\Program Files(x86)\Mozilla Firefox. Inside the Mozilla Firefox folder, I just look for the firefox.exe file, click Open and I'm done. The path to Firefox is now visible in the Program/script entry box.
Because we're fancy, we're not going to stop there. We also want Firefox to open to a specific webpage. This is ridiculously easy. Just type the full URL of the website (including https://) into the 'Add arguments (optional):' entry box. In the case of Gmail, we'd enter https://mail.google.com/.
Click Next and you'll see a summary of the task we've created. If you're satisfied with everything, click Finish and you're done.
Rinse and repeat
Now, we just have to repeat the same process for Excel and Skype.
On my system, Excel was in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office 15\root\office15\Excel.exe. Okay, that one wasn't so pleasant, but Skype is much easier: C:\Program Files (x86)\Skype\Phone\Skype.exe.
When you create each new task be sure to separate their timing by one minute each. That will give Windows plenty of time to fire up each app without causing any problems.
That's about all there is to getting your morning programs set-up and running. Just remember your PC needs to be logged in for this to work, so schedule your tasks accordingly.