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Using Visa Task Scheduler as Your Own Reminder System

written by: Rebecca Scudder•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/31/2009

Vista's Task Scheduler runs in the background, setting up updates for programs when your computer is idle, or running defrags for you weekly. Here is how to use Task Scheduler to actively help you, with reminders and one time messages.

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    Vista Task Scheduler

    The Vista Task Scheduler is a powerful application, one that normally runs in the background all the time, doing tasks like updating other applications when the computer is idle or sending an update from your computer when any user logs on.

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    Find Vista Task Scheduler

    Vista Task Scheduler can be run from a graphical interface from the Control panel, or for more advanced users, from the command line interface. This discussion will primarily be about using the Task Scheduler from the Control Panel. To start Task Scheduler, go to Start → Control Panel → Administrative Tools → Task Scheduler, and double click the icon. If you have UAC enabled, it will ask you if you want to continue. Click yes, and the Task Scheduler will open up.

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    A Brief Examination of Vista Task Scheduler

    Task Scheduler will open up with Task Scheduler (local) highlighted, and will show a brief description of Task Scheduler, and an overview of tasks that have started in the last 24 hours. It will also show a summary of the total, how many succeeded, and how many failed. Below that, it will show you a list of all active enabled tasks.

    If you pull the Task Scheduler window wider, and scroll through and across the active tasks window, you can see the names of the tasks, next scheduled run time, and the triggers that start the tasks.

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    Task Scheduler Tree

    In the left hand pane, below Task Scheduler (local) you will see Task Scheduler Library. Here you can see ready tasks that are in the Library at the top of the task tree. If you click on the highlighted triangle in front of Task Scheduler Library, you can begin expanding the tree. Navigate to Microsoft → Windows → Multimedia, and you can now see a task that shows up in the scheduler library window. This task is SystemSound, and it triggers when any user logs on to the computer. Close the branches we just opened until you are back at Task Scheduler Library. At the top of the tree you can see tasks which are not related to Microsoft’s branch. Three of the current ones are recently created by me, and one was set up by Google.

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    MIcrosoft task to start when any user logs onMicrosoft task tree
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    GoogleUpdates Task

    I highlight the GoogleUpdates task to see what it does. To see this, I pull the Task Scheduler window open wide enough to show the whole description. From looking at the task trigger in the top window, and reading the description in the lower window, I see that the tasks runs when user Rebecca is logged onto the computer and the computer is idle. I see that this is used to keep Google applications on my computer updated, to make sure any security vulnerabilities are fixed, and that the task uninstalls itself if no Google software is using it.

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    GoogleUpdates task
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    A lightweight use of Vista Task Scheduler

    Now, I am going to use Task Scheduler to schedule a onetime event.

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    Timing a Cake

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    Creating a task

    I am baking a cake, and I need to check it in 30 minutes. I open the Task Scheduler GUI from Control Panel. Click on “Create Basic Task.” A "Create Basic Task" wizard will open.

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    Name your task – check cake. Put in a brief description- nothing fancy because this is a one time task. Check cake to see if ready. Click next.

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    Select a trigger

    The next page of the wizard is “Create Task Trigger.” I check one time for when do I want the task to start. Then click next.

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    Pick a time for the task to start

    My next page in the wizard is labeled “One Time.” Here I need to choose when the task will start. The default is today’s date and local time for my computer. I leave the date alone, and move the time 30 (29 now) minutes ahead. Click next.

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    On the next page, we will look at selecting an action, instructing the action, and setting conditions for our task.

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    How to Use Windows Vista Task Scheduler to Schedule Tasks: Page 2 Bright Hub explains how to schedule tasks. In this article, we will look at additional steps for creating a one time task in Task Scheduler, and how to delete the task when it is over.
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    Selecting an action

    Now the wizard asks me for an action. I have a choice of: start a program, send an email, or display a message. I choose start a program because I want a noticeable action - I am going to have Windows Media Player start playing a song. Because I made start a program my choice, the wizard gives me a page where I can type in a program or script, or browse for a program on the computer. I browse until I find Windows Media Player in C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player, and look for the executable file, which is wmplayer.exe. Because there is a space in the name of one of my folders, I enclose the whole address in quotes.

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    Instructions for the action

    Now I need to tell Windows Media Player what to play. I open the documents file on my computer, and navigate to where I have mp3 files stored in my music folder. When I have opened the folder where the song I want to play is stored, I check the address bar for the location. It shows Rebecca > Documents> Music. I want the actual path in the computer, so I click on the folder icon at the left of the bar. It now reads C:\Users\Rebecca\Documents\Music, so I highlight that and copy it. I paste this into arguments in the input box below the name of the program. After music, I add \ and type in the name of my song, as shown in the folder. This is Placebo – Pure Morning.mp3. My argument now reads "C:\Users\Rebecca\Documents\music\placebo – Pure Morning.”

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    Summary page

    I close the documents window I had open because my desktop is getting cluttered. Click next in the wizard. There is now a summary page showing the task, name, description, trigger and action. Below this is a box to check, if I want to open the properties dialog for this task when I click Finish. I check this box. Click finish.

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    In the box that pops up, labeled “check cake Properties,” I see tabs for each variable of the task. I click on Conditions. I have choices for starting the task only if the computer is idle, and for Power. I am going to unclick the defaults of Start the task only if the computer is on AC power, and the box for Stop if the computer switches to battery power, because I am using a laptop, and it would be possible for the AC cord to come out accidentally. I go ahead and check wake the computer to run this task, in case I have stepped away from the computer and it goes to sleep. We will not worry about the rest of the tabs for this scenario. Click OK.

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    Check the library for your task

    In Task Scheduler Library, I see check cake as the bottom task, with the time for the trigger showing. It is actually fairly close now, after all of this. I close Task Scheduler.

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    In about ten minutes, I hear Placebo start playing Pure Morning, and I put the laptop aside and go check my cake.

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    One time task result
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    Delete your task

    This task was a onetime creation, so I do not want it cluttering up the Task Scheduler Library. I open Task Scheduler, highlight Library, Highlight the check cake task, and click Delete in the right hand panel.

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    Task to be deleted
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    In the future

    Task Scheduler is capable of running much more complicated and system related tasks, which will be a subject for another time.

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    In the next article, we will look at scheduling reoccurring tasks, and changing some of the additional items in the tabs for the task we create.