Very often, friends and readers ask me for help with problems whose answers, at first glance, seem obvious. When I get into the details of the problem, however, I realize the answers aren't as simple as I thought. Recently, a friend called and asked how he could launch a new network user directly into a Web page when the client system logged on to the network. My friend provides a standard Web page for new network users that gives them a tour of the available network resources, but he discovered that simply putting a link to the site on a user's desktop doesn't guarantee that the user will click the link.

My initial response was to say, "Just script something," but on further reflection I realized that there had to be a simpler approach. I thought back to my MS-DOS days looking for a way that my friend could use a batch file to do what he wanted, and I came up with two alternatives.

One approach is to use the Start command. When you enter the Start command at a command prompt, Start launches another command-processor window. By default, the command

start <filename>

launches the application associated with the specified file's extension. Because Microsoft associates Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) with URLs, the command

start www.winnetmag.com

launches the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site from the command line. You can put the start command in a batch file.

I gave this information to my friend, who called me the next day. Some of his users were logging on remotely, and when the logon script ran, it launched the Web site in an existing browser window from the remote user's computer. The start command picked the browser window at random and sometimes forced the user out of a Java application the company uses that was already running in another window.

Unfortunately, when you use the Start command in this fashion, no browser is open; the Start command launches a browser session. But if a browser window is already open, the command uses an existing window and you can't control which window the command will use.

But as I mentioned, I found two ways to solve the problem. The second way is to explicitly launch a browser with the URL target. This approach avoids the problem of the Start command commandeering an existing browser window. So I had my friend instead use a command such as

"c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe" <URL>

The quotation marks are required in this command.

Although the Start command requires that a file-type association exists for the file you want to open, you can launch the application explicitly and point it at the file that you want it to open even if the file isn't associated with an application.

Once again, the knowledge I've acquired through years of using MS-DOS provides a simple answer to a modern problem. It's reassuring to discover that all of that information I've picked up over the years isn't completely useless!

Very often, friends and readers ask me for help with problems whose answers, at first glance, seem obvious. When I get into the details of the problem, however, I realize the answers aren't as simple as I thought. Recently, a friend called and asked how he could launch a new network user directly into a Web page when the client system logged on to the network. My friend provides a standard Web page for new network users that gives them a tour of the available network resources, but he discovered that simply putting a link to the site on a user's desktop doesn't guarantee that the user will click the link.

My initial response was to say, "Just script something," but on further reflection I realized that there had to be a simpler approach. I thought back to my MS-DOS days looking for a way that my friend could use a batch file to do what he wanted, and I came up with two alternatives.

One approach is to use the Start command. When you enter the Start command at a command prompt, Start launches another command-processor window. By default, the command

start <filename>

launches the application associated with the specified file's extension. Because Microsoft associates Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) with URLs, the command

start www.winnetmag.com

launches the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site from the command line. You can put the start command in a batch file.

I gave this information to my friend, who called me the next day. Some of his users were logging on remotely, and when the logon script ran, it launched the Web site in an existing browser window from the remote user's computer. The start command picked the browser window at random and sometimes forced the user out of a Java application the company uses that was already running in another window.

Unfortunately, when you use the Start command in this fashion, no browser is open; the Start command launches a browser session. But if a browser window is already open, the command uses an existing window and you can't control which window the command will use.

But as I mentioned, I found two ways to solve the problem. The second way is to explicitly launch a browser with the URL target. This approach avoids the problem of the Start command commandeering an existing browser window. So I had my friend instead use a command such as

"c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe" <URL>

The quotation marks are required in this command.

Although the Start command requires that a file-type association exists for the file you want to open, you can launch the application explicitly and point it at the file that you want it to open even if the file isn't associated with an application.

Once again, the knowledge I've acquired through years of using MS-DOS provides a simple answer to a modern problem. It's reassuring to discover that all of that information I've picked up over the years isn't completely useless!