Before Christmas, I got an email from Networkautomation pointing out their release of AutoMate 9. Curious, I headed over to their site to see what’s new?

New is that they now boast with 529 Actions – Old is that they still insanely inflate the number of genuine Actions, see Boasting with built-in Actions and Actions Comparison Table โ€“ Top Automation Systems!

  • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) – To me, without doubt this is the most interesting new feature of AutoMate 9! Long I was looking for the ability to automatically READ webpages, pdf documents, on-image descriptions, handwritten notes, and the like. – However, note that AutoMate’s OCR ability does not cover anything that’s not typewritten, using standard letter types. In fact, AutoMate’s OCR ability is still in its childhood stage: delicate, and error-prone!
  • New local language support now allows cross-national teams to develop Automations together while using their own local language: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, French, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Surprisingly, no German though.
  • Finally, yeah(!), AutoMate too got a screen-capture Action! Probably added because, without it, the possibility to read webpages per OCR would be pointless. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • The extensive, time-consuming setting of all the properties of any Actions used must have put burden on many other users too – Now Networkautomation have responded with a “Snapshot” feature that allows you to “copy” the properties of any Action for your future use. This means, you no longer need to waste valuable time filling in the generally extensive list of properties in AutoMate’s Actions – just in order to test them out in a new Automation. Instead, you can now copy an existing set of properties and values that you “snapshot”-captured earlier.
  • Updated “Task Builder” – They claim they’ve “improved” it, however it’s still unnecessarily cluttered, and they still didn’t get rid of that annoying “ribbon” yet. I say: “If you want a complicated interface, use a ribbon. If you want to please your users with simplicity and efficiency, don’t.”
  • The “Task Administrator” received a modern GUI. – Like with the “Task Builder” it’s nicer on the eye, but useless for what matters: The ability to quickly and easily design a new, or to change an existing Automation, and to set its properties, user rights, etc.
  • AutoMate 9‘s pane of available Actions is now less cluttered. In particular, they have consolidated the FTP, Web, and Dialog Actions, resulting in more uniform Actions that support multiple activities. – Nontheless, Networkautomation apparently have decided that they need to further boast with an even higher number of Actions, and hence they still count even the very similar activities as standalone Actions!
  • Lastly, an Action to automatically encode provided URLs or text in order to be web-compliant has also been integrated (eg replacing “&” with “&” etc).

Again, some other new features of AutoMate 9 are only available if you buy the “Premium” edition (see Actions Comparison Table – Top Automation Systems). However, thankfully these are those features that rather the “hardcore IT Professionals” desire: They primarily relate to Microsoft-specific product support.

In summary: The only new Action (set of activities) ofย AutoMate 9 that cannot easily be replicated otherwise is its new OCR ability. Although still very much limited, this is the right step to offering a real advantage over the competitor’s products (yet) – unless you bought Automation Anywhere AND their ridiculously priced “Integration Pack” (again, see Actions Comparison Table – Top Automation Systems).

So, is it worth to go through all that trouble of updating your present version of AutoMate?

Let’s copy the opinion of another AutoMate user here – who left the first comment (and still the only comment!) on AutoMate 9 on Networkautomation’s own site (which, surprisingly, they have not yet deleted):

12/11/11 by James Supancic – 1 stars:
“Version 9 is a disaster. Version 8 was squirrely enough, but the wait for window step doesn’t even work for me in version 9. Very disappointing.”

Networkautomation call the new release AutoMate – They, and you, now know why. It will require quite a few updates before it can be regarded a stable and improved release. But it certainly was a necessary step in the right direction.

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