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An Interactive Macro to Automate the Downloading of Digitized Articles

Copyright © Alan Cantor 2008. All rights reserved.
Presented at the SIG 11 (Computer Applications) Show-and-Tell at RESNA 2008.

The client

The client is a full-time journalist and part-time graduate student. She reads voraciously for her work, studies, and personal enjoyment.

Her disability is low-vision. She also has computer-induced repetitive strain injuries. Her preferred way to read magazine and newspaper articles is to download them from the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Digital Library into a specific folder, rename the files, and upload them to a portable reading device.


She experiences difficulties downloading articles because

  1. Default file names do not reflect the content of the articles.
  2. Default file names do not effectively reflect how the files relate to one another — which publication, volume or issue number; or whether the files are articles or letters to the editor.
  3. Web pages have extraneous links between the links to the articles. The number of extra links varies, but usually is constant for each individual page on the website.
  4. The act of downloading articles one-by-one is time-consuming and requires high levels of dexterity and concentration.


I developed an interactive Macro Express script to automate the downloading of related articles. When the client presses a hotkey, the macro prompts her to key in:

  • The number of articles to download
  • The number of tabs between links
  • The name of the publication
  • A description of the publication e.g., date, volume, or issue.

For each article, the macro sends keystrokes to download a file, and assign it a three-part file name:

Publication - Two-digit article number - Description

After each download, the script increments the article counter and sends the exact number of tabs to reach the next article link. All articles are downloaded to a folder:

New York Times - 01 - June 2008.html
New York Times - 02 - June 2008.html
New York Times - 03 - June 2008.html


The cost to develop the macro was about $100 plus the cost of Macro Express, which the client already owned.