For its immediate usefulness, Windows scripting keeps gaining in popularity. Here are 10 tips you can use to make your scripting efforts more productive and at the same time write better scripts.

10. Dump Notepad and get a scripting editor—Notepad is the default editor of choice for writing scripts. However, script developers who use a real scripting editor get more good scripting done. For the cream of the crop of Windows scripting editors, see Top 10, "Supercharged Windows Scripting Editors," July 2005, InstantDoc ID 46612.

9. Get Scriptomatic 2.0—Although the editor is your primary scripting tool, other tools are useful. If you write Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) code, the Scriptomatic 2.0 utility, which automates writing WMI scripts, is essential. Scriptomatic 2.0 can output scripts in VBScript, JavaScript, Perl, and Python. To download a free copy of Scriptomatic, go to http://www.microsoft.com/technet/ scriptcenter/tools/wmimatic.mspx.

8. Get HTA Helpomatic—Another helpful tool from Microsoft is HTA Helpomatic, which can help you generate HTML Applications (HTAs) to provide a GUI for your scripts. To download a free copy of HTA Helpomatic, go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=231d8143-f21b-4707-b583-ae7b9152e6d9&displaylang=en.

7. Get the Microsoft Script Debugger—Scripts can be complex enough to make troubleshooting tricky. The Microsoft Script Debugger, incorporated into some of the better scripting editors, lets you debug VBScript and JavaScript code. To download the free Microsoft Script Debugger, go to http://www .microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=2F465BE0-94FD-4569-B3C4-DFFDF19CCD99&displaylang=en.

6. Copy code—The true secret to productivity lies in copying code. Microsoft's Web site provides a wealth of scripts to learn from and to download and incorporate into your code. Go to the TechNet Script Center Script Repository at http://www .microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/default.mspx. You'll also find numerous code samples in Code Central (http://scripting.windowsitpro.com), Windows IT Pro's new searchable storehouse of scripts and programs for automating components in a Windows environment. To learn about interesting scripts in Code Central, read the "Script Watch" section in Scripting Central, a free email newsletter (http://www.windowsitpro.com/email).

5. Use descriptive script names—You'll soon amass many scripts, so make your scripts' names descriptive but not so long that the names are awkward to use. Also, avoid embedded spaces in script names. (Embedded spaces make it harder to execute the scripts.)

4. Use descriptive variable names—VBScript allows long variable names (up to 255 characters), which incur no performance penalty. (Even if they did, the more descriptive names would be worth it.) One practice I've found handy is to preface each variable name with a single character indicating data type.

3. Include descriptive comments—Although the purpose of the variables and logic in your scripts is clear when you write them, months (and scripts) later, you might draw a blank. One good practice is to add an identifying header section to the top of each script that at a minimum includes the script's name, date written, and purpose. Also, include liberal comments throughout the code to indicate what each section of code does.

2. Use Options Explicit—The biggest problem I find when I debug VBScript code is undefined variables. One VBScript feature (a regrettable one) is its ability to automatically declare variables when they're used. Using the Options Explicit keyword in the beginning of your script turns this feature off and requires you to explicitly declare all variables.

1. Define your variables at the top—After you begin using Options Explicit (see Tip 2), you must declare all the variables in your scripts. VBScript lets you define them almost anywhere in the script. Defining all variables together at the top of your scoped object makes it easy to find them for development, maintenance, and troubleshooting.