Saturday, September 21, 2013

Launchy + PowerShell = easy navigation between project folders

Like most programmers at GHRI, I do work in a multitude of different directories.  Different projects store their programs & data in different folders, and there are numerous different folders that that are important to my data infrastructure work.

When I'm called upon to navigate to these different folders I typically have to remember where they are & then 'cd' over to them (if I'm at a command line) or type into explorer's address bar one component at a time, waiting for the auto-complete (or attempting tab completion at the command line).  This can be cumbersome--especially when I'm not physically connected to the network.

At some point I decided to set some environment variables for myself so I could just type, e.g., %myproj% into the Run window or Explorer's address bar or an Open File dialog & be taken there instantly.  I found this very helpful--no more having to remember where things lived, just my nicknames for them.

Then after adopting powershell as my preferred command-line & discovering functions, I created a parallel set of functions that just did a 'cd' into the proper directory.

Then my machine was repaved & upgraded to Windows 7, and I lost my environment variables.  Around the same time I read a lifehacker article on the Launchy utility & decided to try that.  So rather than set up the environment vars I just created a special folder called Shortcuts into which I put shortcut files pointing to the various folders, named after my nicknames for the projects.  I like Launchy quite a bit, but I did miss my environment variables for the odd Open File dialog.

So today I decided to delve into powershell scripting a little so that I could put all the information in a script, and have it generate:
  • The environment variables I missed,
  • the ps functions I wanted, and
  • the Launchy shortcuts I wanted.
Here's what I came up with--it seems to work pretty well.

$WinShell = New-Object -comObject WScript.Shell
$shrt_dir = "C:\Users\Roy\Desktop\shortcuts"
# nicknames and locations of my projects
$projects = @{"grif"  = "\\some_server\griffin\stupid name" ;
              "cupid" = "\\other_server\projects\cupid" ;
              "prod"  = "\\data_server\management\programs\"

foreach($prj in $projects.GetEnumerator()) {
  # Create a shortcut named for the nickname that points to the dir in the value.
  $shrtfile = $shrt_dir + '\' + $prj.key + '.lnk'
  $shrt = $WinShell.CreateShortcut($shrtfile)
  $shrt.TargetPath        = $prj.value
  $shrt.WorkingDirectory  = $prj.value

  # Create an environment variable for each.
  [Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable($prj.key, $prj.value, "User")

  # Create a function for each nickname
  $this_func = "function " + $prj.key + "() {Set-Location '" + $prj.value + "'}"
  Invoke-Expression $this_func

Next up I want to change my prompt function so that those project folders show up as e.g., ::cupid:: in the prompt rather than the whole long thing.  I'm already replacing $env:home with a '~', so I should just be able to loop through that $projects dictionary to make similar substitutions.