Windows PowerShell may be Microsoft’s scripting choice for the future, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over for the humble batch file – far from it.
Install the free Advanced BAT to EXE Converter and not only will the program help you develop new batch files, but it also allows you to extend them with new commands, before compiling the results into EXE files which will run on anything from Windows 98 upwards (no .NET or other annoying DLL dependencies).
While this sounds great, don’t expect much in the way of a development environment. The author’s website may talk of a “built in editor”, for instance, but it’s not exactly Visual Studio (actually, it’s not even as powerful as Notepad). At heart the interface is really just a text box and a simple toolbar, with a few menu options attached.
Then again, it’s probably unreasonable to expect more from a 772KB download. What you do get is more than enough to handle Advanced BAT to EXE Converter’s core functions, and once you begin to use the program you’ll find it works very well. You can open an existing file, tweak a line or two, then compile it to a reasonably compact executable (file sizes start at around 120KB), all in just a keypress or two and a very few seconds.
There are plenty of compilation options, too. You can embed all the usual file properties, for instance (version number, name, description, company or copyright details). You’re able to embed dependent files, or set a file icon. It’s possible to have the program launch without the usual annoying console window you’ll get with regular batch files. And an optional security feature means you can protect your executable with a password, and it won’t run unless this is entered.
And just in case this isn’t quite enough, Advanced BAT to EXE Converter also supports 40 extended commands to help you take your batch files a little further. Only a little – this doesn’t provide a fraction of the abilities you get with say, AutoHotkey – but there are still useful commands to accept text and mouse input, choose files and folders from the standard Windows dialog box, perform basic math, display formatted output, and more.
Perhaps the greatest issue here is with the licensing restrictions. You’re only allowed to run your compiled executables on a single PC, unless you upgrade to the Pro version ($17.95 without the extended commands, from $39.95 with them).
Still, if you’re happy to compile and run the batch files on your system alone then Advanced BAT to EXE Converter could prove a useful development tool. And who needs PowerShell, anyway?