1.         Introduction to the iRobot System

1.1.        What is iRobot

iRobot (named from Internet Robots) is both a visual platform to create Internet robots, and a general Internet robot execution engine. Using iRobot, you can create your own robots to navigate Web sites, fill forms, extract Web data and even compute data online. You don't need to have programming skills to create your robots, but with programming skills, you can create more powerful robots! You can also enjoy fun robots other peoples have already created for you!

1.2.        Definitions

            Robot: A robot is an encoded script file containing Web navigation and data computation rules.  Robot files have a default suffix ¡°.irb¡±.  Robot files are password protected so that personal information for Web submission can not be read directly by others.

            Robot action: Robot actions are the basic execution units of a robot. A robot action completes a certain Web function such as Web navigation, form submission and data extraction.  Variables and events can be defined in robot actions for data computation.

            Robot task: A group of continuous robot actions constitutes a robot task.  Each robot task has a name and a robot can have multiple robot tasks.  A robot task works like a function or a procedure and can be called from other tasks. 

            iRobot system: A visual interface where users can create, execute and manage robot files.

            iRobot Engine: A core library for robot execution written in C++.  The iRobot engine can be embedded in higher-layer applications as an ActiveX control.  The engine provides several APIs for robot manipulation and distributes events that can be intercepted in higher-layer applications.  Refer the iRobot Programmer¡¯s Guide for more help.

            HTQL: A Web query language that is used in iRobot to extract Web data.  Refer The Hyper-Text Query Language (HTQL) ¨C A Web Programmer¡¯s Guide for more help. 

            Data source: Data stored in a file, a database, or other repositories and is defined in a robot for automatic form-submission. 

1.3.        iRobot Installation

iRobot is published in free evaluation versions in a RAR or a ZIP package (irobot-eval.rar or irobot-eval.zip). For installation, download the latest package, create an empty directory, for example, ¡°C:\Program Files\irobot\¡±, herein called IROBOT directory, and exact the ¡°irobot.exe¡± from the RAR or ZIP package into that directory.  The package may contain some ¡°.irb¡± files for demonstration purpose.  Extract those ¡°.irb¡± files to the same IROBOT directory.

 

A first run of iRobot will creates two additional directories under the IROBOT directory, namely:

IROBOT\data: The default directory for iRobot to save downloaded data.

IROBOT\system: The system directory for iRobot to save temporary data and settings.

1.4.        The iRobot System Interface

The iRobot system interface is shown like:

 

On the left of the interface, it is a control panel.  The control panel displays the content of a robot, and includes buttons for running, recording and renaming robot tasks. 

 

On the right of the interface, there is a browser window showing lists of robots in the IROBOT directory, in the recent execution history, and on the iRobotSoft Web site.  You can always show the list of robots by clicking the  icon on the toolbar:

 

There is an icon in the tray-bar shown like .  If you minimize the iRobot system, iRobot system will be hidden in the tray-bar. Double click the tray-bar to show the iRobot again.

1.5.        Robot Execution

Click on a robot file from the right of the iRobot interface to open the robot file, for example, click on the ¡°pubmed.irb¡± under the ¡°My Robots¡±.  The robot tasks and actions will be shown in the left panel.  The following figure shows the list of actions in the ¡°pubmed.irb¡±.

 

Choose a correct robot task from the task drop-down list, such as the ¡°pubmed¡± task, and click the [Run] button to execute the robot. 

 

Some robots are customized to run automatically once it is open.  In this case, iRobot system will show a dialog box to ask whether to run a default robot task, for example, if you open the ¡°checkmails.irb¡±, it will ask you whether to run a default task:

 

You can click [Yes] to run it or [No] or [Cancel] to stop it.

When a robot is running, the tray-bar icon is animated like .

 

A running robot can be in an active status or in a sleeping status.  When a robot is navigating the Web or processing data, it is in the active status.  When a robot is running but is idling, it is in a sleeping status.  A sleeping robot is still running but is waiting for the next scheduled time to act on something. 

 

A running robot can be stopped in two ways: one by clicking the [Stop] button on the control bar like

 

the other by right-clicking on the irobot tray-bar icon and clicking on the stop menu item, like: