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Automate Your Life: Use AutoHotKeys!

Posted December 10, 2012 4:28 PM by yamdankee

In previous installments of Automate Your Life (Part I and Part II), we discussed the benefits and increased productivity of using an Android app called Tasker to run automated clusters of tasks in a single action. In the example, we were able to turn off WiFi, turn on Bluetooth, open a music app, make it start playing, and turn the screen off (and then do the reverse) - without a single button being pushed! Obviously, automation apps like Tasker are quite useful for shaving off time spent in repetitive, programmable processes. With AutoHotKeys, you can bring this power and efficiency to your desktop.

AutoHotKeys, or AHK, allow you to create keyboard shortcuts for running tasks, or even simply remapping keys. It's great for repetitive tasks at home or at the office. For example, perhaps you find yourself replying to the same emails in the same way over and over again, or at least you use a lot of the same phrases. If you type out the same thing at least 3 times a day and you're looking to save some time, AHK HotStrings would be the solution for you. Have a lot of data that needs manipulating, moving, formatting, and editing and it seems like you're pressing the same keys repeatedly? Use a Loop, and let it take care of the repetitive work for you. Or, maybe you simply wish to turn any action into a keyboard shortcut. Quickly access the command prompt, open favorite applications with one keystroke, turn off the monitor and lock the PC with one key - lots more suggestions can be found here. Any and all of these processes can be combined, so as you can imagine, lots of repetitive and even time consuming processes can be merged together into a script that saves your time, energy, and sanity!

The great thing about AutoHotKeys is that you do not need to be a programmer by any means to get it working. You do need to use its language/code, but it's very easy to learn, and its commands are well documented. You can even use the Recorder tool (Auto Script Recorder) to let it 'watch' you perform the task (it records your clicks and where they are on the screen, along with any keystrokes), and then you can use that record to build an AHK to perform that task again perfectly as many times as you want.

Taking the time to write scripts to do something automatically that you can do in less time by simply repeating it might seem counterproductive. However, let's say you run a repetitive process 10 times a day and it takes 1 minute each time you do it. So, a 10 minute process. At first, the idea of taking 20 minutes to write a script to do something that only takes 10 minutes throughout the day seems wrong. But, if you brought those minute-each processes down to 10 seconds with a script (less clicks, less thinking, less mistakes, etc), you have now made a 10 minute daily process a 1 minute and 40 second process, saving 8 minutes and 20 seconds each day. Over 6 months of 5 workdays per week, you've saved 1,000 minutes, almost 17 hours, 2 full days of work. It adds up!

AutoHotKeys is a great way to save time and energy. Have you already found some great uses for it yourself? Post and share your ideas. Do some functions of your work require repetitive actions that may be able to be performed by AHK? Post, ask, and we'll get you automated in no time!

Links:

AutoHotKey Tutorial and Overview

Ideas and Suggestions from Lifehacker

(Image credit from top to bottom: autohotkey.com, donmillereducation.com)

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Re: Automate Your Life: Use AutoHotKeys!

12/11/2012 2:14 PM

I use something like this at work but never really thought about applying it to the things I do at home. The idea of inserting pre-written text is really appealing. That could save me a lot of time. Thanks!

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