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Controls, targets, and match rules

Updated on October 19, 2022

When a user interface element is interrogated in Robot Studio, a representation of that element is created. That representation is called a control. A control performs these functions:

  • Saves the rules necessary to identify the user interface element the next time the application is run.
  • Acts as a proxy for the user interface element so it can be used in automations.
  • Provides a consistent metaphor for the user interface element regardless of the underlying application technology. For example, a check box control appears the same regardless of the development platform.

Controls are displayed in the Palette. A control is considered created when it has been matched and destroyed when it has been unmatched.

In Studio, the user interface element that a control matches is known as the target. Whereas controls represent virtual user interface elements that do not change between runs of the application, targets represent the actual user interface element that exists within the application at any given moment.

User actionRobot Studio action
Launches applicationApplication starts.

Login dialog is created.

Enters user name and password and clicks Enter (automation automatically waits for the User name and Password text boxes to be created)Login dialog is destroyed.

Main form is created.

Clicks the Open Account toolbar button (automation automatically waits for the toolbar button to be createdOpen Account dialog is created
Enters account number and selects Enter (automation automatically waits for the Account Number text box to be created)Open Account dialog is destroyed

Account form is created.

Targets are created and destroyed when user interface elements are created and destroyed. Targets are platform-specific and encapsulate the necessary logic to automate and monitor user-interface elements. This means that the text-box control can interact with any target that implements the text-box interface, such as a Windows text box, a Java text box, or an HTML text box.

The rules a control uses to match targets are known as Match rules. Each Match rule evaluates a specific property or characteristic of a target. For example, an index Match rule with a value of 5 would match the fifth text box that appears on a web page, but not the sixth.

Match rules can also support more complicated criteria. For example, a text Match rule might have a value of Hello and an operation of Contains. In this case, the Match rule would match a target with Hello or Hello World as text, but not a target with Help as text. For a control to be matched, all of its Match rules must match.

Match rules and Targets are displayed in the Application Designer:

Application Designer
Application Designer showing Targets and Match rules.

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