Microsoft

Net Sender makes it easy to alert users to network issues in Windows NT, 2000, or XP

Ever wish there were an easier way to use the Net Send command in Windows NT, 2000, and XP? There is: Greg Shultz's downloadable Net Sender HTA application makes it easy to use the Net Send command to send messages to your users.


Do you use the Messenger service to send out quick popup messages to the users on your network? If so, you know that those messages are displayed in neat dialog boxes on each recipient’s system, regardless of the operating system. If you’re sending those messages from a Windows 9x/Me system, you have a great utility called WinPopup, shown in Figure A, with a GUI front end that makes composing and sending those messages a snap. However, if you’re using Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP to send those messages, you’re stuck working from the command line via the DOS–based Net Send command.

Figure A
Windows 9x/Me systems provide you with a GUI front end for sending messages via the Messenger Service.


Well, that is until now. I’ve created a GUI front end for the Net Send command using VBScript and Windows Script Host and packaged it as an HTML application that you can download. This handy utility, which I call Net Sender, makes it easy to send out messages to the network from within Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. In this Daily Drill Down, I'll introduce you to my Net Sender application and explain how it works. Along the way, I’ll take a look at the Net Send command.

Note: Not for Windows 9x/Me
Keep in mind that Net Sender isn’t designed to work in Windows 9x/Me.

The Net Send command
Let’s take a few moments to look at the fundamentals of the Net Send command. Basically, the Net Send command is a network message broadcaster that uses the Messenger service in Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP and the WinPopup utility in Windows 9x/Me to display the received messages in a dialog box. Of course, in order for these systems to receive messages, the Messenger service or the WinPopup utility must be running.

You’d typically use the Net Send command to send out instant messages to all your users or a certain group of users to immediately inform them of some impending network emergency. For example, you may need to take the server offline for an emergency maintenance operation. You can also use it to send messages between two computers. For example, you can use it as a quick and easy communication tool for a remote troubleshooting operation between yourself and a user needing technical support. The Net Send command uses the following syntax:
Net Send {Name | * | /Domain[:Name] | /Users} Message

The following descriptions are based on the information in the Windows XP Help system:
  • Name: This specifies the user name, computer name, or messaging name to which you want to send the message. If the information that you supply contains spaces, use quotation marks around the text (for example, "Computer Name"). Long user names might cause problems when you use them as NetBIOS names. NetBIOS names are limited to 16 characters, and the 16th character is reserved.
  • *: This sends the message to all the names in your domain or workgroup.
  • /Domain:Name: This sends the message to all the names in the computer's domain. You can specify Name to send the message to all the names in a different domain or workgroup.
  • /Users: This sends the message to all users connected to the server.
  • Message: This specifies the text of the message and is limited to 128 characters.

Note: Use double quotes
Keep in mind that while the documentation doesn’t specify it as a requirement, I’ve found it a good practice to always enclose your message in double quotes.

For example, if you wanted to send out a message to all the users on a network to immediately inform them of an impending server shutdown, you could use the command:
Net Send /Users “This server will shut down in 5 minutes.”

Now that you have a pretty good idea of how the Net Send command works, you can see how it might be a pain to type all this information on the command line. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the Net Sender application.

Installing Net Sender
Once you download the Net Sender installation package, simply double-click the Net Sender Installation.exe file. When you do so, the installation program will prompt you to choose a folder in which to install the application. If the folder doesn’t exist, the installation program will create one for you.

After you install the Net Sender, you’ll see the following two files in your folder:
  • Netsender.hta
  • Netsender.ico

Of course, the Netsender.hta file is the HTA file that you’ll use to launch the application. The Netsender.ico file contains the icon that the HTA uses for the control menu and the taskbar.

Using Net Sender
After you install the Net Sender application, just double-click the HTA file to launch it. If you prefer, you can create a shortcut to the HTA file and place it on your Start menu. Once you launch the program, you’ll see the main screen, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
The Net Sender application provides you with a graphical user interface for sending messages via the Net Send command.


To get started, you need to select one of the option buttons in the To panel. These option buttons are described in Table A.
Table A

Option

Description

Name

This will send the message to the specific username, computer name, or messaging name that you type into the To text box. If the name is a computer name that contains blank characters, enclose the alias in quotation marks (" ").

All

This will send the message to all the members in the current workgroup or domain. Thus, there’s no need to type anything in the To text box.

Domain

This will send the message to all the members of the workgroup or domain name that you type into the To text box.

Users

This will send the message to all users connected to the server. As such, there’s no need to type anything in the To text box.

Descriptions of the options in the To panel

As you can see, the Message scrollable text box is where you’ll create the message to be sent. Bear in mind that you don’t have to put you message in double quotes—the application will do that for you. Also, remember that the message length is limited to 128 characters. To help you keep track, the Message text box is sized to hold four rows of 33 characters, or a total of 132 characters. So, when the last row is six characters short of filling the entire row, you’ll have 126 characters in your message, and the two double quotes make it 128 characters.

Once you’ve typed in your message, as shown in Figure C, just click the OK button to send it. As soon as the message is successfully sent, you’ll see the message box shown in Figure D.

Figure C
Once you type in your message, just click OK to send it.


Figure D
When the message is sent, you’ll see a confirmation dialog box.


When you click OK to dismiss the message box, the Net Sender window remains on the screen in case you want to send additional messages. If you do, you’ll need to delete your previous message before you type in the new one. If you’re finished, just click the Cancel button to close the Net Sender window.

More information
Should you need a bit of assistance with the controls in the window while using the Net Sender application, just click the Help button. When you do, a small window will appear that includes a brief summary of the instruction presented in Table A.

More Windows tweaks
For more information about using HTML applications to tweak the Windows operating system in general, check out a few of my Drill Downs on the subject:

 

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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