Increase Your Productivity With Text Shortcuts

How would you like to be able to shorten anything you write often?

How about an example. If your name is Frank, you probably type something along the lines of “Best, Frank” at the end of emails or memos. What if you could type far fewer characters and get the same result?

With AutoHotKey, you can.

I’d heard about AutoHotKey from Lifehacker several times and tried it out, but I didn’t quite see how it could work really well. I didn’t understand how people used it effectively. It took seeing AutoHotKey as one of the most popular applications on Lifehacker’s what software speeds up your day post to get me to try it out again. If that many people are using it to be more efficient, I want to see what all the fuss is.

One of the barriers to using the software was that there wasn’t an obvious way to run it automatically at startup, so it would be more work to run the .ahk file than just typing the command myself. That was solved by putting a shortcut to the .ahk file in my startup folder. I haven’t seen any mention of it anywhere, but I would guess that’s the recommended way to run it. (Right click on the Start menu, Start Menu\Programs\Startup)

Once that was in place I had a file that would be running whenever I was logged in, so I put in a few shortcuts. The first one I added was a way to minimize the active window (I tied it to Ctrl-Alt-m.) You’d think there would already be a way to do that in Windows, but there isn’t.

Here’s the AutoHotKey line to do that:


The ^ means control, the ! means alt and the m is m, so that’s where the Ctrl-Alt-m comes from. WinMinimize is a built-in command in AutoHotKey, and A means the active window.

Another really useful shortcut type is autocomplete. Instead of tying it to a shortcut, you associate it with a character sequence followed by a user-definable ending (I use Tab or Enter). When I write emails I no longer type my signoff. Instead, I only type “br” then Tab, producing Best regards, Dan (with the two newlines after the comma). Here’s the code for that.

::br::Best regards,{Enter 2}Dan

To enter a link when I’m writing a blog entry I copy the link onto the clipboard (Ctrl-C), type “hre” Tab. AutoHotKey pastes the link from the clipboard into a link and leaves the cursor at the part where I can type the text of the link. Here’s the code for that.

hre::<a href="^v"></a>{Left 4}

There also Windows shortcuts you may not be familiar with. My personal favorites are WindowsKey-E to open an explorer window and WindowsKey-L to lock the screen. GHacks has some more.


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  1. Thanks for the great tips! I feel that many of our small daily jobs can be facilitated with small things like that. The key here is trying to stop wasting time. This alone will make you more productive.

    Comment by Coal Jameson on June 30, 2008 @ 1:34 am
  2. I used to use ShortKeys Lite for this. I mostly used it for typing accented foreign characters; I’d use “” for ç (c+cedille=cc) and so forth. You’ve come up with some other great uses!

    Comment by Meredith on October 23, 2008 @ 5:35 pm
  3. […] a week by using keyboard shortcuts. They have several good lists there, and don’t forget AutoHotKey to create your own shortcuts. Potentially related […]

  4. […] solution isn’t great, but it’s the best I’ve found. It’s to use AutoHotkey to manually launch the […]

  5. […] On Windows XP, it’s still missing. In the past I’ve always used a right click with wf. It gets the job done but it uses the mouse, which is slow. Now that Microsoft has given this a more or less official shortcut, I decided to emulate it on XP with AutoHotKey. […]

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