Have you ever had something that you’ve owned and used for a long time, only to discover it had features you never knew existed until years later? I recently sold a car that I had owned for six years, and only recently did I discover that it had a USB port hidden in the center console. At first, I was like, “Cool, a USB port I can start using!” But then I was like, “Well, that sure would have been nice to know about six years ago.” That’s why we’re going to go over some of the lesser-known PDQ Inventory features.
If you’re not taking advantage of custom variables, then you’re really missing out. If you’re familiar with PowerShell or programming in general, you’re probably also familiar with variables and how they work. Variables let you assign data or values to custom names, allowing you to reference the data by simply referencing the custom name. If you ever need to change the data, you only need to change it in one location rather than wherever the variable is referenced. This is similar to how variables work in PDQ Inventory. Create a variable, assign it some value, reference the variable wherever you want, such as dynamic collections or reports.
To create custom variables in PDQ Inventory, simply click Options > Variables. Next, click New Variable, then name the variable and assign a value to the variable. You’ll notice that after naming the variable and clicking in the Value field, the name will automatically convert to PDQ’s variable name format, which is @(variable_name).
Dynamic collections using variables
Let’s look at a simple yet powerful example of how you can use variables in PDQ Inventory. We’ll build a dynamic collection and a report that will automatically change as we change our variable’s value. We can use this to track whatever applications we want, as long as we know the application name and we only have to make the change in one location.
In PDQ Inventory, click Options > Variables
Click New Variable
Name the variable @(app)
For the value, enter an application you would like to track. For this example, I’ll use the value 5KPlayer so I can see which computers have the media player installed
Close the Variables window
Click New Dynamic Collection
Enter a name for the collection; I’ve used Application of Choice
For the Description, enter the name of the variable we created in step 3, which is @(app
For the filter, use Application > Name > Contains > @(app)
You should see the new dynamic collection in the main menu tree
Click on the dynamic collection, and you should see a list of computers with 5KPlayer installed as well as 5KPlayer in the description
That’s all there is to it. Whenever you want to change the collection to a different app, all you have to do is go to your custom variable and switch the value to a different application. The rest will update automatically. Let’s test this out by changing our custom variable from 5KPlayer to Chrome.
And now, if we check the dynamic collection, we should see a collection of computers with Chrome Installed, and the description should also say Chrome.
Creating reports from dynamic collections
Now that we have a customizable dynamic collection built using our new variable, we can easily create a report with the same structure as the dynamic collection that will return results based on the value of the variable we created.
To create a report from a dynamic collection:
Right-click on the dynamic collection Application of Choice
Click New > Report From Collection
The report window should open up
The name of the report and the description should match the name and description of the dynamic collection
Click on the Filters tab, and you should see the same filter as the dynamic collection
Before we save the report, let’s add a couple more fields to make the report more valuable. Click on the Columns tab
Click on the Add Column button
Using the drop-down menu, add the column Application > Name > Application Name
Add a second new column and set the information to Application > Version > Application Version
Click Run Report
You should now see a collection of computers for whatever application value you’ve assigned to our custom variable.
As we did with our dynamic collection, if we change our variable’s value, the report will update automatically and return information based on the new variable value.
Creating Auto Reports
Now that we have our report created, we can easily configure it as an auto report that will automatically run the report and send it to the destination of your choice.
To set up our Application of Choice as an auto report which will save to a UNC path:
Click on the Reports folder
Right-click on Application of Choice
Select Attach to Auto Report > New Auto Report…
You can either keep the default name of the auto report or put in a new name
In the Path field, enter the UNC path of where you would like the report to be saved
You can select a file name format from the drop-down list or create a custom one in the File Name field. I’ve chosen the $(Report:Name)-$(Date) format, but I’ve added the custom variable to it to make it more descriptive, which looks like this $(Report:Name)-@(app)-$(Date)
Choose which format you want the report to save as. I’ve gone with Portable Document (.pdf)
Click on the Triggers tab
Create a schedule of your choice. I like to run my reports weekly, so I’ve selected the Weekly option and configured it to run on Tuesdays at 7 am
If you would like your report to get emailed, you can configure that in the Mail tab
If you want to add or remove reports from this auto report, you can configure your reports in the Reports tab
Once you’ve finished configuring all the settings, click OK
If you want to ensure that the auto report is working correctly, click on Auto Reports, then right-click on the auto report you just created and click Run Now.
After manually running the report, you can check the location you’ve set to save your reports to make sure a report was generated.
These are just a few of the lesser-known features of PDQ Inventory, but they provide a lot of functionality if you take advantage of them. Remember, it’s important to know these things because knowing is half the battle.
Born in the '80s and raised by his NES, Brock quickly fell in love with everything tech. With over 15 years of IT experience, Brock now enjoys the life of luxury as a renowned tech blogger and receiver of many Dundie Awards. In his free time, Brock enjoys adventuring with his wife, kids, and dogs, while dreaming of retirement.