W4 Messages

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  1. Introduction
  2. License
  3. Basic Use
  4. The Screensaver
  5. Using the Important Information programming interface
  6. Maximising the Output & Using Extended Desktop
  7. Contacting the Author


W4 Messages is intended for use during conferences or lectures (possibly even exams) where someone (The lecturer, presenter or the students) needs to know timing details of the event.

At it's simplest, W4 Messages can be used as a countdown timer.  The length of the talk or exam can be set, and then hitting 'Start' will start the countdown.

For more advanced users, the W4 Messages output screen shows two other pieces of information:

First, some text intended for timing information or any other important information.  These details can be pre-programmed to correspond to times in the countdown (so for instance, you can start a countdown of 1 hour, and flash the screen red at 10 minutes, and display a message at 1 minute remaining, all by setting it up at the beginning).  See Section 5 for more details.

Second, an area for less important messages to be displayed.


You are granted a non-exclusive License to use the Software for any purposes for an unlimited period of time. The software product under this License is provided free of charge.

Even though a license fee is not paid for the use of Freeware Version software, it does not mean that there are no conditions for using such software:

  1. The Software may be installed and used by the Licensee for any legal purpose.
  2. The Software may be installed and used by the Licensee on any number of computers owned, leased or controlled by the Licensee.
  3. The Software can be copied and distributed under the condition that original copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty will stay intact and the Licensee will not charge money or fees for the Software product, except to cover distribution costs.
  4. The Licensee will not have any proprietary rights in and to the Software. The Licensee acknowledges and agrees that the Licensor retains all copyrights and other proprietary rights in and to the Software.
  5. Use within the scope of this License is free of charge and no royalty or licensing fees shall be paid by the Licensee.

View the full license agreement here

Basic Use

The Display Screen as is appears when W4 Messages is first started

The Main W4 Messages interface

Countdown / Time Configuration

These settings correspond to the top section of the output window.  Set a font that looks the right size (if using the output maximised, test it at full screen).  You can change the font any time.  Set the foreground colour (the text colour for the clock/countdown), and the background colour.

In the time-box, you can select the length of your event, up to a maximum of 12 hours (format is Hours:Minutes:Seconds).  Click "Load" to display the timer.  Click "Start" to start counting down and "Stop" to stop.  You can display a clock instead of the timer by unticking the "Show Countdown" check-box.

Important Messages Configuration

In the top text-box you can set actions to be applied at certain times.  See Section 5 for more information.

Under the text-box, you can set the font and colours of the important messages area (the middle one of the output window).

In the entry box you can type either a message to be displayed (and then click "Message Now"), or a colour (then click "Flash" or "Background").  Clicking "Message Now" will display the important message for 5 seconds.

If you type a message and then hit Enter, W4 Messages will assume you mean "Message Now", and display the message.

Messages Configuration

The Messages area (bottom of the display output) is intended for course organisers or invigilators to display messages intended for the presenter/lecturer.  You can change the font and colour (of all the messages).

For each message displayed, you can set a validity time.  The message will be deleted after this time.

Multiple messages can be displayed, all with different validity times.  They will be listed in the box below the entry.  You can select one and delete it, or move it up or down on the screen.

Example: During a conference, some people come in 5 minutes late and sit at the back.  The course organiser can message the presenter "Can you summarise the introduction again?" for 15 seconds (enough time to ensure it is read).  Or 5 minutes before lunch, the course organiser could message "5 minutes before lunch - can I get you something?" for 1 minute.

The Bottom Bar

W4 Messages will attempt to tell you if you've mistyped a colour in the bottom bar.

The Maximise output checkbox will cause the display window to maximise.  If you have extended desktop on (and the second screen set to the right of the primary screen), it will maximise the output window on the second screen, allowing you to continue to control it from the primary screen.  If you don't have extended desktop on, it will maximise on your screen and cover everything else.

Press Escape to exit from a maximised output display.

Ticking "Screen Saver" will change the display output to a slide show of pictures.  You can set the pictures by pressing "Settings".  You can use this during breaks or times when you don't need the countdown or clock.

And Two More Things...

When you close W4 Messages, it WILL save all your settings.  (If at any time you want to return to the defaults, delete the file 'config.tcl' from the program folder and restart W4 Messages)

You can click and drag the dividers on the output window to change the size of each area (so you can have a big clock area, and a smaller important messages area).

The Screensaver

While you are not doing presentations/exams/lectures, you can set W4 Messages to Screensaver mode by checking the checkbox in the bottom right hand corner.  It will display a slideshow of pictures.

Click "Settings" to change the pictures used.

The Screen Saver Settings dialog

Any files included that are not recognised will be ignored.

Change the length of time to display each picture using the time box at the top.

When displaying the images, W4 Messages will fit each image to the output window size, while keeping the images' aspect ratio, adding black borders where necessary.  This way, any size of picture can be included in the screen saver.

Using the Important Information programming interface

Each line of the large text-box is checked every second against the current time or countdown (so you can also use this interface to set actions at specific times of the day, as well as times in your countdown).

The lines do not need to be in time order, however you'll probably find it's easier for readability.


A hash sign, followed by a space will be ignored - you can use this to comment your time script.

HH:MM:SS Flash <Colour>

Will flash the background of the Important Messages area, in the colour you specify, at the time you specify.

HH:MM:SS Colour <Colour>

Will change the background colour to the colour you specify, at the time you specify.

HH:MM:SS Message <Any number of words>

Will display the words after 'Message' for 5 seconds.

An Example

# Times for My Big Conference - a 90 minute session
# Start with a green background and a ready message
01:30:00 Colour green
01:30:00 Message The Session Begins Soon
01:29:59 Message Conference has started
01:29:59 Flash orange
00:45:00 Message Halfway Through!!
00:45:00 Colour orange
00:10:00 Colour red
00:10:00 Message 10 Minutes to go
00:00:10 Colour Red
00:00:05 Message 5 Seconds Remaining

As soon as the countdown for 01:30:00 is 'Load'ed, the message "The Session Begins Soon" will be displayed, and the background colour will be changed to green.  As the time doesn't change, this message will stay up.

When the countdown is 'Start'ed, the programmed actions will happen at the times specified.  As you can see, you can have a Flash, a Colour, and a Message, all at the same time.

Maximising the Output and using Extended Desktop

W4 Messages is designed to be run on a separate laptop to the computer displaying your powerpoint, connected to a screen towards the back of your meeting room, or possibly on a screen on the lectern, where only the presenter can see it.

To be useful in this way, the maximised output display needs to be run on a second screen, and the program interface on the primary screen.

In Windows, you can set up "Extended Desktop", by right clicking on the desktop, selecting properties, and going to the "Settings" tab.  If your laptop or PC supports it, you should see a screen like the one below.

The Windows XP display settings dialog

Clicking on the second monitor (the greyed out one with the big number 2 on it), and ticking "Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor.", and then clicking OK will turn on extended desktop.  Windows pretends the new (secondary) screen is attached to the right of your primary screen, so moving your mouse off the right hand side of the screen will put it on the other screen.

Once Extended Desktop is on, clicking "Maximise Output" in W4 Messages will maximise the output window on the secondary display.  You can move your mouse off the right hand side of the screen and click and grab the dividers between areas to adjust the view to your liking (ie, make the clock area bigger to fit the font you've chosen).

Contacting the Author