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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.

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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