Mar 10, 2009

Automating Skype through COM

Wow.. finally a technical post again :)

Those of you who knows me knows that I am a firm believer of component technologies.

Personally I really appreciate Microsoft's COM technology; ok, it does has it drawbacks (as everything in life) but when used correctly it proved to be a very powerful way to support software automation and extensibility. Let me briefly explain what those funny words means for those who don't know yet.

Basically, software automation is the process of a software controlling another one. For instance, if you have Microsoft Office installed it's possible to write a program (even a JavaScript script) that creates a Word Document through automation, i.e, your program may "control" word (and Excel, Power Point, etc). This kind of flexibility can be very helpful in some scenarios.

By extensibility I mean ways of extending a given application. A good example is Windows Explorer; it's possible to add new items to a context menu (in the same way 7-Zip and many other applications do) simply by implementing an specific COM interface (and registering your component of course).

These are just 2 examples of what's possible; of course other softwares also support some level of automation (for instance Adobe Acrobat).

In this post I just want to talk (again, briefly) about Skype and how it's possible to extend it through COM (Skype also supports automation through Java, XXX, etc).

First let me just explain that the possibilities are infinite; what you may want to do with automation is not my business :); all I can say is that if you think a little bit you'll be able to find some nice use for skype automation.

For instance (as I said in my last posts) I use Skype heavily on my work to communicate with other team's members. At least once per week we do a Skype meeting in order to decide what we're going to do in that week; to manage these tasks we have a "queue" of tasks in our Jira installation.

One annoyance during this meeting is that once someone decide he wants to take a specific task the process involves at least 2 steps: to announce in the chat meeting and going to the browser to update Jira.

Since it's possible to automate Skype I wrote (to be more precise I am debugging it right now) a "plug-in" that simply keeps listening all chat messages and react accordingly for specific patterns; for instance if I want to take a task (let's say TSK-1) I may just type:

$jira assign TSK-1 myself

This way I announce to the team and update Jira at once :) (I don't need to go to the browser anymore)

The plugin is "smart" enough (through configuration) to figure out who I am ("myself") and to go to Jira (through a WebService) and update the specific issue (task).

And this is only a basic example about what can be done (the sky is the limit :).

For more information about Skype automation visit
https://developer.skype.com/.

If you want to take a look into this plugin, just grab the code at: git@github.com:adrianoc/binboo.git or browse the code online at https://github.com/adrianoc/binboo (just keep in mind that there're lots of assumptions/dependencies to our Jira installation but I guess one can learn a lot about how to integrate to either Jira or Skype). 


See you.

Adriano

6 comments:

Renato Cadecaro said...

Hello Adriano,
I visited the db4bject site but trully still dont know what it is. Can you give a answer for dummies?

Vagaus said...

Hello,

Basically, db4o is a software that allows a specific type of developers to persist their program data in a more natural way.

In development jargon we call it a "Object Oriented Database".

Renato Cadecaro said...

I saw some years ago something about orm, but never used it. Could you give some explanation about how to use the db4o? Is there any tutorial?

Vagaus said...

Hey, sure. In db4o site there's plenty of information :)

Also when you install db4o you get an interactive tutorial.

Simon said...

Is this program still current. I heard MS shut down the Skype API?

Adriano Verona said...

Hi Simon,

what you mean with "current"?

AFAIK Microsoft is not used to kill backward compatibility; at least the Skype4COM page is still alive.

Since I changed job I am not using this plugin anymore... :( but I believe that on Windows (at least on the desktop version) the Skype COM API is still available (I'll test later).