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10 Ways to Use AutoHotKey to Rock Your Keyboard

10 Ways to Use AutoHotKey to Rock Your Keyboard
AutoHotKey

If you are into productivity on your computer, you probably already use your keyboard and its shortcuts as much as possible. And if you’re on Windows, you’ve probably also check out the awesome potential of AutoHotKey, which can make your keyboard hum like nobody’s business.

But most people haven’t tapped into the true power of AHK, and explored all the ways it can turn the keyboard into a productivity machine.

For Mac users, you already have the fantabulously wonderful Quicksilver, and if that doesn’t completely meet your needs, try TypeIt4Me for text expansion.

To learn more about setting up AHK scripts, text expansion, shortcut keys, macros and more, see this tutorial.

Here are 10 ways to use AutoHotKey to rock your keyboard:

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1. Multiple sigs. If you use different signatures for work, personal use, blogging, etc., use AHK’s super handy text replacement feature to make shortcuts for each sig. For example, I have wsig and wsig2 for my two different work signatures, bsig for my blog signature, and psig and psig2b for my two different personal signatures. Type in 3 or 4 keystrokes, and it automatically expands to your full signature.

Example:
::wsig::Your Name{enter}Your Title{enter}Your Company Name{enter}Your Contact Info

2. Favorite folders. Do you open a few folders several times a day? End the endless double-clicking by setting up shortcuts to your favorite folders. I have about 5 folders I use every day, and their shortcuts save me loads of time. The following example sets up the Windows key + 0 to open a folder (the “#” symbol stands for Windows key in AHK scripting language).

Example:
#0::Run C:\Documents and Settings\YourUsername\My Documents\YourFolder\YourSubfolder

3. Websites. Do you have favorite sites or pages that you go to numerous times a day? We all do. While Firefox has a great keyword bookmarking feature, AHK’s shortcut keys are even faster. I have about 10 sites set up for all my favorite web pages.

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Example:
#l::Run http://www.lifehack.org

4. App launcher. Throw away your favorite app launcher. AHK eliminates the need for a separate program for launching applications, because you can tie any application to any keyboard shortcut.

Example:
#f::Run Firefox

5. Common documents. You’re starting to see the theme here. Any documents you use often, such as a letter template or certain spreadsheets, can also be given shortcuts.

Example:
#4::Run C:\Documents and Settings\YourUsername\My Documents\YourFolder\Letter.doc

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6. Common emails. If you type a lot of the same emails, day in and day out, set up simple text expansion scripts (such as the signature example above) and put in the text of your common emails. See this article for more info.

7. Autocorrect in any application. Blogger Jim Biancolo used Wikipedia’s list of the most common misspellings as a starting point to create this script, which autocorrects your misspelled words as you type — in any application. He added to the list the autocorrected words in Microsoft Word, plus a bunch of his own common misspellings. Very handy.

8. Quick Google or Wikipedia searches. Again, Firefox has the very cool smart keyword search feature, but AHK can put your common searches in any app. Highlight the work, press you hotkey, and voila! The following scripts allow the user to search for a particular word or phrase using Google or Wikipedia. After selecting the text from any application, pressing the configurable hotkey (Win + g for Google search, Win + w for Wikipedia) will open the default browser and perform the search.

Example:
#g:: Send, ^c Run, http://www.google.com/search?q=%Clipboard% Return
#w:: Send, ^c Run, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=%Clipboard% Return

9. Blogging markup. If you do a lot of blogging or html coding, you know that typing html codes or having to press buttons to put the codes in can be very repetitive. Automate it by having AHK automatically type the beginning and ending codes for you. Then all you gotta do is write great content. Adam Pash compiled a handy little script for bloggers here.

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10. Use Insert for Clipboard tool. I don’t know about you, but I never use the Insert key — in fact, it just messes me up. Biancolo did this little script to remap the Insert key to give it some super-useful functionality: it adds whatever you have highlighted to the clipboard.

For even cooler scripts, see this list for ways to configure or enhance your keyboard.

What are your favorite ways of using AHK? Let us know in the comments.

More by this author

Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

The Gentle Art of Saying No How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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