How to start 232key automatically

Our 232key software is a simple solution to transfer the weight from a scale to any application as simulated keystrokes. To start 232key automatically with Windows when a user signs in, please follow these steps.

1. Place a shortcut to 232key in the Windows Startup folder

1.1 Open the Windows Startup folder.

Press the Windows key and R and enter “shell:startup”:
shell:startupThis will open the Startup folder in Windows Explorer:
Windows Startup folder

1.2 Open the 232key program directory

Press the Windows key and R and enter “shell:programfilesx86”:
Windows Program Files x86 directoryIn the new Explorer window that opens, click on the Name column to sort by name:
232key program folder

Double-click on the 232key or 232key MU directory (depending on the installed version). You can now see the 232key.exe application file:
232key program folder open

1.3. Create the shortcut

Hold the Alt key, then click on 232key.exe and drag it to the Startup folder you opened in step 1.1:
create link (shortcut) in startup folderThis creates a shortcut to 232key. 232key will now be started automatically with Windows when the user signs in.
Shortcut in Startup folder

2. Configure 232key to connect to your scale automatically

In 232key, the user normally must press the Start button to connect to the scale. In the paid Plus version, you can configure 232key to connect automatically when the program is started by selecting Start: Auto in the Settings tab:
Settings tab in 232key Plus

See the 232key documentation for further information.

By starting 232key automatically and also connecting to the scale automatically, user intervention is no longer required.

Note: Please ensure your scale is switched on before 232key is started.

How to capture only the end result from a Mettler Toledo H53 Moisture Analyzer with 232key

Real-life example: Moisture Analyzer

One of customers wanted to capture the end result from his Mettler Toledo H53 moisture analyzer using our 232key software. However, the moisture analyzer sent a lot of data at the end of the moisture determination process:

14:08:42 Port opened: COM3 Bitrate: 9600 Data bits: 8 Stop bits: 1 Parity: NONE
...
14:08:45 -MOISTURE DETERMINATION-<13><10>
14:08:45 METTLER TOLEDO<13><10>
14:08:45 Type             HE53/01<13><10>
14:08:45 SNR           B123456789<13><10>
14:08:45 SW                  1.13<13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 Drying Prog.       Rapid<13><10>
14:08:45 Drying Temp.      130 <29>C<13><10>
14:08:45 Switch-Off          Auto<13><10>
14:08:45 Display mode         %AM<13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 Start Weight   0.637 g  <13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 Total Time      4:20 min<13><10>
14:08:45 Dry Weight     0.604 g  <13><10>
14:08:45 End Result      5.46 %AM<13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 Date: ..............<13><10>
14:08:45 Time: ..............<13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 Comment: ...............<13><10>
14:08:45 Signature: .............<13><10>
14:08:45 – ----- – END – --------<13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>
14:08:45 <13><10>

Our customer was only interested in the end result (5.46 in the example above), but 232key captured and typed all the numbers it could find, resulting in the following output:

531234567891.131300.63740.6045.46

Regular Expressions to the rescue

Our software includes a powerful tool for such cases: regular expressions. Don’t worry, you don’t have to learn about them in detail. You can simply send us the data received from your device as displayed in the Event Log of our software (as shown above) and we’ll assist you. However, in some cases, all it takes is a small modification.

If you go to the Input tab in 232key and click on the Customize button, the currently used regular expression will be displayed:

Regular Expression in 232key MU

For the “Generic measuring device” and many other device profile, it looks as follows:

([-+]?\s*[0-9]*[\.,]?[0-9]+)

This regular expression captures the first number it encounters in each line of data. If you want to capture only the data of a specific line and ignore all others, look at what makes it unique. In this case, we could use the words “End Result”. Simply inserting them at the beginning, followed by “\s+” (which stands for “one ore more whitespace characters”) ensures that 232key only captures the number following these words:

End Result\s+([-+]?\s*[0-9]*[\.,]?[0-9]+)

That’s all it takes in this case. Alternatively, we could use the “%” character appearing at the end of the “End Result” line. As there’s no other line in the report where a number is followed by a percentage sign, the following regular expression also works (and will continue to work even if the user changes the language of the report):

([-+]?\s*[0-9]*[\.,]?[0-9]+)\s+%

Regular expressions are available in 232key Plus, 232key MU, 232key Pro and our Simple Data Logger software.

232key version 2020.1 released – Radwag and Mars Scale profiles

Version 2020.1 of our free virtual keyboard wedge software 232key is now available!

Improvements in 232key version 2020.1

  • New device profiles for Radwag scales and balances and Mars Scales.
  • UI and accessibility improvements (you can switch between tabs and trigger the start/stop button using an Alt + key combination).
  • We fixed a bug which prevented the import* of a previously exported configuration file. This problem only appeared when more than one license had been applied to the software and when the second or a later license had expired.
  • We’ve included many new keys which 232key can now press before* or after the measurement value:
    232key additional keys to press before measurement value

Download the 232key installer now or visit 232key.com for further information.

* This functionality requires a paid 232key Plus license.

Are you a manufacturer and would like us to include a profile for your devices?

Please contact us and provide us with the following pieces of information:

  • Default connection parameters: bit/s, data bits, stop bits, parity.
  • Terminator (last character in each line of data).
  • An example of the data transmitted (in ASCII and hexadecimal form).
  • Optional: The command used to trigger the device to send the data (this is supported by 232key Pro and Simple Data Logger).
  • Optional: Short instructions to be displayed to the user (e.g. “set communication mode to ‘PC'”).
  • Is this information valid for all your devices?

Note: We’ll try our best, but we cannot guarantee that all submissions will be included.

232key version 2019.1 released – SMA Scale Communication Protocol

Version 2019.1 of our virtual keyboard wedge software 232key is now available.

* This device profile requires a Plus license. Please contact us for trial licenses.

  • Bug fixed: Function keys set under “start with” were not working correctly.

Are you interested in reselling our software? Click here for further information and to apply for a reseller account.

232key version 2018.1.4 released – includes flow control support and new profiles for Mettler Toledo and Sartorius balances

Version 2018.1.4 of our virtual keyboard wedge software for devices with RS-232 interface is now available and includes the following new features:

  • Flow control (handshaking) functionality (XON/XOFF software flow control and RTS/CTS hardware flow control):
    Flow control (handshaking): RTS/CTS and XON/XOFF
  • Device profiles: Mettler Toledo (MT-SICS), Sartorius (SBI), Sartorius (SICS), Denver Instrument.
  • Previous “Sartorius” device profile renamed to “Sartorius (legacy)” and modified to set flow control to “RTS/CTS” automatically. This profile works with older Sartorius balances which require hardware flow control.

These improvements were possible thanks to the feedback from our customers.

How to write the date, time and weight from your scale to Excel

For this article we assume that your scale is equipped with an interface and that it sends the date, time and weight in the following format:

Date 10/30/2018
Time 11:58:45 AM
Gross 376.5 g

We present two methods for transferring these values to Excel.

1. Use a keyboard simulation (virtual keyboard wedge)

You can use our software 232key to enter the values into Excel (or any other application) as if you had typed them on your keyboard. However, by default, 232key captures the first number in each line, which means it would only type the values shown in blue:
Date and time partially captured, weight captured completely

While the weight has been captured correctly, the date and time are incomplete. This can be fixed in 232key Plus as follows.

1. In the Input tab, set the device to “Barcode alphanumeric extended*:
Barcode alphanumeric extended

This enables 232key to type all printable ASCII characters including the slash and colon we need for the date and time.

2. Modify the regular expression 232key uses to capture data by clicking on the Customize button. Replace the existing expression with the following one:

\s*(\d+/\d+/\d+|\d+:\d+:\d+\s[AP]M|[-+]?\s*\d*.?\d+)

This expression will capture the date, time (in 12h AM/PM format) or weight. This only works if the values are transferred in individual lines, as in our example.

3. In the Output tab, instruct 232key to send “TAB” after the two first values and “Enter” after the third one:
Write values in three columns

232key will then write the date, time and weight in separate columns and jump to the next row:
Date, time and weight in Excel

2. Write the weight to a file (with date and time) and later open it in Excel

As an alternative to the “keyboard simulation” method described above, you can use our software Simple Data Logger (SDL) to write the weight to a file. This file can later be opened in Excel (or other applications).

This approach has two advantages:

  • Other keyboard operations can’t interfere with data acquisition and
  • Excel does not have to be open and running in the foreground (it does not even have to be installed on the same computer).

It is therefore particularly suitable for long-running unattended operations.

Concerning the date and time, you have two options when using SDL: Use the computer’s date and time or use the date and time sent by your scale.

a) Use the computer’s date and time

You’d usually choose this option if your scale only sends the weight or if the date and time format used by your scale does not match your requirements.

1. Choose a file in the Output tab in SDL. Click on the Set values button to set the default date and time formats (you can also directly modify the format strings, e.g. to use a 24h time format):
Time and date format

2. To make sure that only the weight is captured (and not the date and time sent from the scale), go to the Input tab, click on the Customize… button and add “\s*g” to the regular expression:
Capture weight in grams

Now, only values expressed in grams [g]  will be captured:
Weight in grams captured (shown in blue)

3. Even though they’re not captured, the other two lines sent from the scale (date and time) will still be written to the file as empty lines. In SDL Plus, we can combine all 3 lines into one row in the Process tab:
Combine 3 lines into one row

The CSV file generated by SDL can later be opened in Excel by simply double-clicking on it:
Excel with computer date/time and weight

As mentioned above, the two empty columns preceding the weight appear due to the date and time values which were sent from the scale, but were not captured. You can simply delete them.

b) Using the date and time sent by your scale

The procedure is very similar to what we did with 232key above.

1. In the Input tab, set the device to “Generic text device” to prevent SDL from treating the captured values as numbers:
Generic text device

2. Replace the regular expression by clicking on the Customize… button:

\s*(\d+/\d+/\d+|\d+:\d+:\d+\s[AP]M|[-+]?\s*\d*.?\d+)

This will ensure that the date, time and weight values sent by the scale are all captured.

3.  In the Process tab, combine the 3 lines sent from the scale into one row (functionality only available in SDL Plus):
Combine 3 lines into one row

4. In the Output tab, make sure that the date and time are set to “None” (unless you also want to add the computer’s date and time to each row):
No date and time added

The event log in SDL shows that all three values were captured:
Simple Data Logger event log: with date time weightThe resulting file contains the date, time and weight sent from the scale neatly written into 3 columns:
Scale date, time and weight in Excel

Links and further information

Can your scale or balance be used with our free software 232key?

Our free software 232key enables you to easily transfer the weight from your scale or balance to any application running on your PC (as simulated keystrokes). It contains a list of compatible devices that we are constantly expanding.

However, we cannot possibly test every scale or balance on the market. Using a practical example, this blog post will show you how to determine whether your balance is compatible with our software.

232key requirements

As of version 2018.1.0, the following requirements can be found on our 232key homepage (under “limitations”):

  • Data sent by your device has to be in ASCII format.
  • Your device has to send each line of data only once, not continuously (by pressing a key on the device or automatically).

These requirements may change in future version. We recommend that you always consult our 232key.com website first.

Step 1: Prerequisites

Scale or balance

You’ll need your scale, of course. For this example we used an Excell FD130 scale which we found among our samples:

Excell FD130 scale

At the time of the writing of this post, this scale did not have a predefined device profile in 232key.

User manual

It’s a good idea to try to find or download the user manual for your scale. As you’ll see below, you’ll most likely need it.

Interface

Your scale must be equipped with an interface which can be connected to a COM port on your PC (or appears as a COM port when connected). The FD130 has a DB25F port:

Serial DB25F interface (RS-232)

Cables and converters

We used a straight (1:1) DB25M to DE9F RS-232 cable with an FTDI US232R-10 converter plugged into a USB port on our PC:

Scale connected to PC with RS-232 to USB converter

Your scale will probably require a different cable. If you’re lucky, the user manual contains further information. We’ll address the topic of finding the right serial cable in an upcoming post (it can be quite complicated).

Caution: Some scales use interfaces for other things than transferring data (e.g. for relay outputs or as a way to supply power to peripherals). Connecting such a scale to your PC with an incompatible cable could damage both devices.

Serial terminal program

We used HTerm, which you can download here. Simply unzip the downloaded file and start HTerm.exe (no installation required). There are many other (free) terminal programs which you could also use.

Step 2: Transfer the weight to a terminal program

Before using an unlisted device with 232key, it’s a good idea to get it to work with a terminal program. Just like 232key, a terminal program requires that you make a few settings before connecting to your scale:

HTerm interface parameters

  • COM port
  • Baud rate
  • Data bits
  • Stop bits
  • Parity
  • Flow control (handshaking)

Only one COM port was shown on PC (created when the FTDI converter was plugged in). If you have the choice between multiple ports, consult the Windows Device Manager to determine the correct one.

We found the following interface parameters in the user manual of our FD130 scale:

  • 1200, 2400, 4800 or 9600 baud (no default value was specified)
  • 8 data bits
  • 1 stop bit
  • No parity
  • No flow control

To determine the correct baud rate, we accessed the scale’s RS-232 configuration (we couldn’t have done this without the user manual):

Scale set to 9600 baud

After all settings were made, we pressed the “Connect” button in HTerm and immediately saw a lot of data coming from the scale:

Data from scale shown in HTerm

The data contained a stability and net weight indication, a polarity sign, the weight and the unit, then a carriage return and finally a line feed character:

ST,NT,+     0g\r\n

Setting “Newline at” to “LF” in HTerm made things a bit clearer:

Data from scale shown in HTERM

Concerning the requirements mentioned above, we confirmed that the data was sent in ASCII format. However, the scale was continuously sending 4 values per second, which is not suitable for use with 232key as all these values would be typed (you could, however, use it with our Simple Data Logger application).

We again consulted the manual and found that the setting could be changed from “rnP 2 – continuous transmission” to “rnP 4 – press the ⏎ key to transmit”.  As the description says, in this mode the user has to press the ⏎ key on the scale to send the weight to the connected PC (once).

Another mode suitable for use with 232key was “rnP 1 – stable transmission”. In this mode, the scale sent each (stable) weight once. This is often referred to as “auto print on stability”.

Your scale may or may not have several different transmission modes. Please refer to your manual for further information. Unfortunately, there are some scales which only support continuous transmission and are therefore not suitable for use with 232key (at this time).

Tip: Check whether your scale has a print button. If so, it can probably be used with 232key.

Troubleshooting

No output at all

Unfortunately, there can be many reasons. Please read our extensive troubleshooting section on 232key.com.

No readable output

If the output in the terminal program contains no human readable data, you’ll have to fix this before trying to use the scale with 232key. As an example, setting the baud rate in HTerm to a wrong value (e.g. 4800) resulted in the following output (with “Show errors” selected):

Wrong baud rate

If you’ve confirmed that all interface parameters in HTerm match those of your scale and still can’t read the output, the scale might not be sending data using the ASCII format. If no ASCII mode is available, it cannot be used with 232key.

Other values than the weight

Instead of sending only the weight as shown on the display, some scales send a lot of data to the connected PC. Below you can see the output when we set our scale to a ticket format meant to be used with a printer (“rnP 6”):

Scale ticket format

If the data sent by your scale contains numbers other than the weight, they will also be captured and typed by 232key. This is usually not what you want.

There are two ways you can try to fix this:

  1. Configure the scale. Refer to the manual to find out if it’s possible to change the output format to a more simple one that sends only the weight.
  2. If the line with the weight can be reliably identified (because it starts with or contains certain characters), you can use a custom regular expression in 232key Plus to capture the weight and ignore all other numbers.

Step 3: Use the scale with 232key

As we were able to read the output in HTerm and had fixed the continuous transmission issue, we proceeded to configure 232key for use with our Excell FD130 scale:Input tab in 232key with COM port and interface parametersWe selected “generic measuring instrument” as the device and set the COM port and all interface parameters to the same values as in HTerm. As the terminator, we selected “LF”, the last character in each line of data sent by the scale (as seen above).

In the output tab, we instructed 232key to send an enter key after typing the weight (this is of course up to you and your application).

We then pressed the start button and switched to Word for testing purposes. By pressing the ⏎ key on the scale, the weight was typed by 232key:

Weight from scale shown in Microsoft Word

Received data and captured/typed values could also be seen in the event log in 232key:

232key event log with data form FD130 scale

Further information and support

Please visit 232key.com to download our free software for scales and balances. Our website also contains an extensive documentation, FAQ and troubleshooting section.

Should you have any questions, please post them in our support forum. However, please keep in mind that the problem is not caused by 232key if you cannot see readable output in a terminal software.

We regularly publish blog posts with application examples. You can find all 232key posts here.

If a virtual keyboard wedge software like 232key is not what you need, please have a look at our other software. For data logging applications where you want to log the weight, time and date to a file, we recommend using Simple Data Logger.