Freeware version instructions
Usage overview
Writing AUTORUN.INF
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  • Introduction

    ShellRun is used to AutoRun a CD, DVD or USB-stick, ie open a file automatically when inserted into a Windows computer.  Most people use ShellRun to display a web page when a CD is inserted.

    The AutoRun basics page explains how Windows AutoRuns a CD, DVD or USB-stick, and cautions that AutoRun may have been disabled so you should always provide instructions for viewing your CD manually.  (Also see the HTML CDs article.)

    If there is no viewer program for your file type (eg if your user does not have Adobe™ Acrobat Reader installed to display your PDF file) then the freeware ShellRun will display an error and exit.  The retail version lets you cope in this situation, eg prompting the user to install the viewer program from your CD or the web.


    Usage overview

    1. Download and install the freeware development kit.
    2. Copy the runtime file ShellRun.exe into your CD image root directory from your installation directory, eg C:\Program Files\PHD\ShellRun.
    3. Write a plain text AUTORUN.INF file (see below) and put it in your CD image root directory.
    4. Burn a CD and try it out.

    What ShellRun does

    If all goes well, Windows will run ShellRun when your CD is inserted.

    Screenshot of the freeware version of ShellRun popup window ShellRun will display a popup window and ask Windows to show your requested file.  The popup window disappears after 15 seconds.

    The popup window is shown in the top left hand corner of the screen; see the example on the right.  You can change the text of the bottom line of the window.

    If the user clicks in the popup window, their default browser will be started to show the PHD Computer Consultants Ltd web site.

    If you want to remove or customise the popup window (or use a splash screen instead) then you need to buy the retail version of ShellRun.


    What can go wrong?

    1. If ShellRun does not start, these are possible explanations:
      • You forgot to put AUTORUN.INF or ShellRun.exe in the root directory of your CD.
      • Your AUTORUN.INF format is incorrect - check below.

    2. If ShellRun cannot find the file you requested, then it changes the bottom text line, eg as follows: Screenshot of freeware ShellRun when file not found

    3. If there is no suitable viewer for the file you requested, then ShellRun changes the bottom text line, eg as follows for a PDF file.  If you want to handle this situation better, you need to buy the retail version and follow its viewer checking instructions. Screenshot of freeware ShellRun when a PDF viewer is not available

    4. Do not use a file with a name that starts home (eg home.htm) because Windows will not display the file you want - more information.

    Writing an AUTORUN.INF file

    If Windows finds a plain text file called AUTORUN.INF in the root directory of a CD, then it follows the instructions in this file to run a program.  See the AutoRun basics page for full details of the available commands for AUTORUN.INF.

    To get ShellRun to display a web page called index.htm, put this in AUTORUN.INF.  This file is in the development kit: AUTORUN.INF.  Use the Windows Notepad application to edit plain text files (it is in the Start+All Programs+Accessories menu).

    [autorun]
    open=ShellRun.exe index.htm
    In this freeware version of ShellRun, make sure that the filename has no spaces.
    If the file you want to display is in a sub-directory, use a back-slash character after each directory name (ie not a URL-style forward slash /), eg:
    [autorun]
    open=ShellRun.exe subdir\index.htm
    Screenshot of freeware ShellRun with a custom message You can change the filename (from index.htm) to the name of the file that you want to show.  You can also add an optional message that is shown in the ShellRun popup window, eg:
    [autorun]
    open=ShellRun.exe start.htm Please wait while page loads...
    This example shows how to display a PDF file, eg using Adobe™ Acrobat Reader:
    [autorun]
    open=ShellRun.exe report.pdf Showing project report...
    As mentioned above, if the user has not installed Acrobat Reader or equivalent, then the freeware ShellRun displays this message:
    No application is associated with the specified file for this operation

    Finally, make your CD AutoPlay nicely by adding in "icon", "action" and "label" commands, eg:

    [autorun]
    open=shellrun.exe default.htm
    icon=shellrun.exe
    action=Start ShellRun-CD
    label=ShellRun-powered CD
    When ready, put AUTORUN.INF and ShellRun.exe in the root directory of your CD image.  Burn the CD and try it out.
    ShellRun Home Last modified: 6 January 2010 ShellRun online