Utility to add shortcuts to a network

What is it?

A shortcut/link to a URL visible on the network, by (ab)using UPnP technology. 

What does it do?

When Windows users on a network (local subnet) browse their network, they will see icons, with a description. When they double click them, a webpage pops up. Example: On my homeserver eMule runs as a peer-2-peer file sharing application. It features a webinterface and before I had a shortcut installed on each computer/laptop in the house. Now, I have installed the app on my homeserver and they simply double click the device “eMule downloader” from the network. 

6 links added

 

 In the screenie above, its easy to see I added multiple shortcuts for different purposes, but all of them are available everywhere without local modifications. 

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Why?

Just as a test project for UPnP…
Just for fun…
Just because I could…
Just because… 

How to use it?

The configuration file contains a number of WebLink configurations. Each of them consists primairily of a ‘FriendlyName’ and a ‘WebLinkURL’. The ‘FriendlyName’ is the name displayed beneath the icon in the explorer. The ‘WebLinkURL’ is the URL that will be opened when the icon is doubleclicked. 

After starting, a traybar icon will appear, rightclicking on the icon will enable you to view the config file, or to reload it (after you made changes to it). 

Whats nice?

  • As long as the system that has the application installed is running, all PC’s in the local network will get the links visible on their network, no need to install shortcuts locally on the different systems.
  • It should also be displayed on non-Windows systems, as long as they are UPnP enabled

Whats not so nice?

  • I have no idea what they look like on non-Windows systems
  • Windows explorer will display its own icons, so the icons you set won’t work on windows, but might on other devices.
  • Windows determines in what category the device is shown based upon the ‘StandardDeviceType’. Eg ‘Basic’ will show in the ‘Other’ category, while ‘BinaryLight’ will show in the ‘Home Automation’ group.
  • if the system is disconnected from the network, then the links won’t be visible, even on the system itself
  • because it creates UPnP devices, maybe some other UPnP device or controlpoint might give you some trouble

Adding or modifying links

The configuration file can be modified to add as many links as required, just make sure you only copy the ‘FriendlyName’ and the ‘WebLinkURL’ tags, these MUST be present, the ‘StandardDeviceType’ and ‘IconFile’ MAY be copied (but will be created automatically if not present). The other tags MAY NOT be copied, they will be generated automatically. 

To test different StandardDeviceType values, a sample ‘WebLinkStore – test.xml’ file is included in the application directory, just remove the ‘ – test file’ part and place it in the data directory (see below). The test file will create a number of links, showing Windows behaviour of where the icons will be grouped and what icons will be used for that specific device type. 

How does it work?

UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is a network protocol that lets enabled devices scan for other devices and interact with them based on pre-defined profiles/services. UPnP devices may also have a web interface to interact with the device (for more info see http://www.upnp.org/). 

The WebLink application creates (software only) UPnP devices that contain no services, but do have a presentation page. Now if the icon gets doubleclicked the UPnP device serves the presentation page, which is nothing but a very simple html page that contains a redirect to the URL specified as the ‘WebLinkURL’. The page itself is created from the ‘template.html’ file, in which the placeholder will be replaced by the URL (there is one template that creates all devicepages) 

The configuration files can be found in the local data directory. On Windows 7 this is typically “c:\ApplicationData\Tieske\UPnP_WebLink”. As the main folder is a hidden folder, you may have to make the hidden files and folders visible before you can get to the config files. 

Downloading

Here’s the download, sources (visual basic .NET) are included in the zip file (downloaded 1009 times). 

Credits: the icon was created by Benno Meyer. 

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One thought on “Utility to add shortcuts to a network

  1. Liked the idea, downloaded the file, got unhandled exeption when loaded. Would like to discuss with you, but cann’t find a way to communicate directly.

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