NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2009
Vista Task Scheduler
Written by Vinny LaBash,
member of the Sarasota Personal Computer Users Group, Inc., Florida

vlabash (at) comcast.net (click to email author)

s article has been obtained from APCUG with the authorís permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Windows draws its share of critics, but one thing the wizards of Redmond did right was to redesign the XP Task Scheduler for Vista. There were no radical revisions, simply a combination of small changes that made a big difference. The tool is easy to access, easy to use, easy to modify if necessary, and easy to tell it to go away when you donít need it anymore.

Why would you want to use it? If your computer activity includes doing anything on a regular basis, whether it is daily, weekly, monthly or some other time variant, Task Scheduler could be useful. For example, I need to remember to take medication usually at a time when Iím busy doing something else. Task Scheduler throws a message in my face reminding me to pop my pill at the appropriate time. If Iím not at home, my smart phone relays the message. But at home or elsewhere, itís Vista Task Scheduler that gets the message to me. Of course, when I leave the house I have to remember to bring my medicine with me, but thatís a tale for another article.

Iím seriously thinking of creating a computer game for senior citizens called ďThe HereafterĒ. It starts out with the player walking into a room and wondering ďWhat am I here after?Ē Task Scheduler will play a big part in this.

Letís say you use the calculator a lot and you would like it to start up whenever you turn on your computer. Here's how to set it up:

1. Click on the Start Orb.
2. Click on Control Panel.
3. Click on System and Maintenance
4. In the Administrative Tools section, click on Schedule tasks. (You may have to scroll down).
5. At some point you may be asked to supply an Administrative Password. Provide it and continue.

You will now see a dialog box with a very intimidating appearance. It doesnít bite and wonít tell anyone if you stayed up past your bed time.

Letís examine it briefly to understand whatís going on in the dialog box before we proceed. In the left pane, the top item which is marked (local) tells us that what we see in the middle pane are Task Scheduler items assigned to the machine you are currently using.

If your machine is not part of a network it has no other significance. The middle pane is divided into three parts:

Overview of Task Scheduler: Overview is a brief description of what you can do with the tool and where the tasks are stored. The folder labeled Task Scheduler Library can be expanded to display the Console Tree. Ignore this for now.

Task Status: This section covers four time periods. Tasks that have run in the last hour, 24 hours, 7 days or 30 days. It tells you how many tasks have started during the period, how many are currently running, how many are complete, how many are stopped for one reason or another, and how many have failed. Obviously, this section is used for troubleshooting.

Active Tasks: This section tells you what Task Scheduler is doing right now. Letís leave it at that.

The right pane is the section we came to play in. For our purposes there is no important difference between Create Basic Task and Create Task.

1. Click on Create Basic Task.
2. The Create Basic Task Wizard opens.
3. Type the name of your task. You could try something original like Start Calculator. Create a description if you want. Then click the Next button at the bottom left of the dialog box.
4. Tell the Wizard when you want the task to start. You have several choices. For this exercise choose Daily. Again, click on the Next button when youíre done.
5. Tell the Wizard what day you want the calculator to make its first automated appearance on your desktop.
6. Now tell it what time of the day to start. Be careful you donít choose a time when youíre sleeping. Click Next.
7. The Action box makes its appearance. You arenít sending an email; neither do you want to display a message. Start a program is the correct choice. Click Next.
8. Type calc.exe in the Action text box. Click Next.
9. Check the Summary dialog box to make sure that everything is the way you want it.
10. Click Finish, and youíre done.

There are two important concepts at work when you run tasks using the Task Scheduler. The first is the trigger, the event that causes a task to run. The second is the action, the work that is carried out when the task is triggered.

There are three main actions associated with running a task: sending an e-mail, running a program, and displaying a message. Many actions can trigger a task. Among the most common actions are starting the computer, the computer entering an idle state, the occurrence of a specific time and date or the computer performing some specific function. Think about how you use your computer and you can probably find a productive use for the Task Scheduler.

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