I was doing a search on free automation tools and nothing came up so I tried free RPA tools on YouTube and came up with this video:
And the one that caught my attention was Open RPA. On looking into the YouTube vids a bit further I see that Anders Jensen has a YouTube playlist on OpenRPA tutorials. He has a few on AHK and I’ve seen he has some on UiPath too, so I think this is a tool worth exploring.
you can run it on a server with NodeRed, which is a sort of a background service that I’ve fiddled with before that is free, so it looks like it might be an interesting thing to explore.
So free software to setup , and if you use NodeRed (free too I think) you can then have it up and running in the background. I think it has some potential for automating tasks and is worth exploring. So I think I’ve a new tool and project to explore.
There is online documentation here. And can be downloaded here as an .msi
Project 1 – Login on test site with Edge, load Browser plugin too
I decided to load up OpenRPA and am doing this tutorial:
In the tutorial there is no using a new Tab, that got shitty when I put in 1 (Boolean) when I was trying to do in Firefox. So I used Edge instead and then the OpenRPA Plugin for Edge was not installed so I had to do that (interesting in that it downloaded plugin from Chrome store).
So finally got the simple login done in the browser but buggy as hell. It doesn’t seem to like Firefox and also prefers to open fresh, from start, not in a separate tab. I suppose that is sensible.
Had another go after loading onto Surface Pro and got it to work with firefox. It opened in a new tab and also the abbreviation for Firefox is “ff” , so that was why it wasn’t working with “firefox” or “Firefox”. A couple of things to note as reference for later:
“chrome, “ff”, “edge” names for browsers
new Tab “True” (not in quotes)
Prelim- Node Red on Server if program is useful
With the RPA you need to have it listening for an event, eg a folder has been updated, a webpage changed etc , so for that you have 3 alternatives.
You can run the desktop program at intervals, where you open the program and run it, a long and messy process unless you have it open all the time
run on a trigger( event- called “Detectors” in OpenRPA) or at the same time each day
You have it running in the background and listening checking at intervals) for when the even happens
For the 2nd & 3rd things to happen you really need the program to be running continuously on a server. The way you do this is to have, in my case, a NodeRed server running and OpenRPA open so that it is constantly “alive” so that it can listen all the time.
To do this I would need to install Node.Js on my Contabo server and then install NodeRed and also OpenRPA. Then I’d be able to run a few Automations as I need.
In fact, I have a similar thing happening with Automation Workshop at the moment, but I’m not using it for any really useful things at the moment.
So after I’ve tested OpenRPA and maybe have found some RPA processes that I’d like to run then I can go down this path and test them out.
With this you would most probably need to connect , or have some method of notifying an event, such as sending an email that would inform you that the event had occurred. Actually, this is sounding very much like my weather Zapier that I’ve had sending me weather reports daily for years. It would also be a bit like Coda where you can string a few things together.
Some tutorials and workflows to be developed across programs
I’ve got to get a few things running across different applications so that I can develop some useful workflows.
There are ones where you email yourself a load of stuff but I’m not that interested in that. The weather one with Zapier was a good exercise , but for the free there were only 3 steps. I want a more sophisticated process. Maybe the morning blog would be something that could be partially automated, or adapted for a different reporting method.
I think I need to focus on 3 areas at the moment:
Capturing Data – eg web scraping
Processing that data and formatting it , eg putting into a form or spreadsheet
displaying data , eg email, notepad, blog post
There is a tutorial on web scraping from Amazon, I think I’ll give that a crack:
Then I’ll need one with Excel or Google Sheets. There is an interesting one that grabs from Excel and puts into a Google form.
I tried to do the above tutorial, about 20 times and couldn’t get the inner getElement and assign to work. So not impressed with tutorial. I wrote a comment about this on the post. Really, if you can’t get a tutorial like this working then its pretty disappointing, this is the real baby step stuff.
I also need to explore displaying info, activating an app like Notepad to write and show results. Just learning how to activate and get to correct position to input data to correct fields.
I quite liked playing with UiPath and am keen to find an RPA process tool. I’d dropped it when there were no free tools (or the ones out there were not to great). So This may be the tool to play with.
Apparently it looks like UiPath as it has the same back end build to it. Using NodeRed rather than the proprietary one UiPath does for its bots.
Its not that intuitive, nor is the documentation that easy to navigate, but it is a pretty feature rich program and I think may be worth my time learning. Some of the inbuilt variable names are not that obvious.
The program asks for VB code , so if you are familiar with that then I suppose it would be a lot easier to use as a beginner.
I need some clear tasks to work out what I want, with UiPath I was playing with the 3D PDF’s but they seem not to have taken off so I don’t think I’ll do them, although they did have potential for opening Adobe , extracting , then opening Excel to filter and export data too. So a longer process that had some interesting parts to it.
I see there are some OCR ones and PDF processing which may be worth exploring for things like data capture (invoicing etc) and other methods too.
Very frustrated after trying the web scraping exercise (that I couldn’t get to work).
After fiddling with it, even though its buggy, presumably once you have process figured out it should run reliably, just a matter of debugging at the beginning.
I’m comparing it with AutoHotKey and the preliminary things I can do in that, although being fair about it, AutoHotKey took me a long time to learn. I can schedule things in AutoHotKey with Task Manager and some other triggers I can use too. Not sure about listeners,. but you can have AutoHotKey running in background ready to trigger.
One thing with AutoHotKey is that its easy to test. I think the bots from open RPA are supposed to run 24/7 in the background on the server so the initial setup time is a one off until you have a reliable bot then you just leave it to do its task, you wouldn’t be going back and fiddling a lot. Open RPA to start up and run in test mode is a bit of a pain, you’d need to have it open all the time then test the code as you go. Different setups I suppose.
I’m thinking an interesting project may be to do a weather scrape from NIWA with sunrise/set and moon phase data and other info such as ground temperature for growing and then sending a daily info email, like zapier.
I wonder if you can combine with AutoHotKey to make a more complex automation? See my article on Free RPA programs.