Can it be Automated? AutoHotKey Can!

If it involves websites, just ask me. The rest of this article is about your own productivity on your own computer.

If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, there is probably a better way. I have been using a simple script generator, AutoHotkey, for many years now. It replaces much of my need for Microsoft Office macros, with the advantage that I can use it to automate almost anything. The price is fantastic: free. And it is open source, with many people interested in keeping it maintained.

Figuring out how to use AutoHotkey can range from extremely easy to tricky, depending upon what you want to do with it. Abbreviation expansion alone can save you significant keystrokes. For example, if you type “for example” a lot, you can set up AutoHotkey to write this out for you every time you type “frex ” (or any other keystroke combination you choose).

Below is all the script you need for “for example”. Note that there are two colons (::) before “frex” and two after. The first two tell AutoHotKey to look for the keystroke combination between those and the second two, e.g., “frex.” What follows the second two colons are the words to replace the specified keystroke combination. The end of the line is also the end of the phrase.

 ::frex::for example

You can create a number of such simple scripts in a single file, each one on its own line. Then save the file with any name you want plus the extension “.ahk”. Double-click that file, and the program will watch your keystrokes to execute the right script whenever you type the right abbreviation.

AutoHotkey can do a lot more than just expand abbreviations. It can open and close programs, for example. It can also be configured to run scripts only within certain programs, which can be essential to keep scripts meant for one program from running in another. I recommend you start with something simple and use the time you save to learn the next thing. Check it out at the AutoHotkey website.

Full disclosure: The above link is not an affiliate link. Long ago I experimented with including affiliate links to some of the software products I reviewed. Setting up the affiliate relationship and writing reviews was not worth my time from a financial point of view. For the time I spent and the affiliate revenue I earned, I calculated that I was making about $3 per hour writing reviews. The field has become considerably more competitive since. Now I do it just because I like writing about what I think will help some people, to promote software that I feel deserves promotion (since I want to support small and/or open source software creators), and to give people a reason to visit my site.

If you have tried AutoHotKey or other personal automation software, feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

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