Why AutoHotkey for Writers, Bloggers, and Editors?

If You Write or Edit For a Living (or Fun) and Use a Windows Computer (Most People Do), Then You Should Use the Free AutoHotkey Software

I’m starting this series I call “Why AutoHotkey?” to illustrate the many reasons for Windows users to install and learn AutoHotkey.

Since I spend most of my time writing, it only makes sense that I start off with why wordsmiths should use AutoHotkey on their Windows computers. There exists a ton of tools for bloggers and editors which include built-in spell checkers and grammar checkers. AutoHotkey does not replace any of these but rather augments them with those extras which add an edge when writing. Best of all AutoHotkey works anywhere and everywhere on a Windows computer.

AutoHotkey, a free open source program, consists of a scripting language for adding universal features to any Windows computer. The scripts may be simple one-liners which create a Hotstring for text expansion and/or correction or more complex apps bestowing really cool features on your PC. You decide how much you want. Installing the free AutoHotkey software on your Windows computer puts numerous new capabilities within your reach.

AutoHotkey Works Everywhere

While many programs such as Microsoft Word include a number of writing tools, they usually only operate within that particular software. Once the writing environment changes, whether e-mail, Facebook, Web blogging software, or another Windows app, those extras in Microsoft Word no longer work. AutoHotkey breaks the barrier between Window programs by executing within any window—whether locally on the computer or remotely on the Web. This universality makes AutoHotkey a valuable Windows tool.

But how does AutoHotkey help the writer, blogger, or editor?

AutoHotkey Hotstrings

editorrobotOne of the features of AutoHotkey which distinguishes it from AutoIt, the original Windows automation language, includes a simple method for creating Hotstrings. AutoHotkey Hotstrings offer an easy way to execute text expansion and/or text correction. One line of code can perform an automatic real-time change to text while typing in any word processing program or Web editing field. For  example:

::lol::laugh out loud

After loading this one line in an AutoHotkey script (filename.ahk), whenever you type “lol” followed by a space or punctuation, the text immediately replaces “lol” with the “laugh out loud” substitution phrase. AutoHotkey lets you create your own shorthand without forcing people to guess what you mean.

This technique can be used to expand commonly used abbreviations or add special jargon to your documents, but the available free AutoHotkey AutoCorrect app represents the most important way for writers to implement Hotstrings.

AutoCorrect—The Number One Reason for Writers to Use AutoHotkey

The AutoHotkey AutoCorrect script is not spelling or grammar correction software. There is plenty of other programs such as Grammarly which do that. The AutoCorrect.ahk script instantly fixes the most common spelling errors based upon thousands of Hotstrings created from Wikipedia’s “Lists of common misspellings,” ”Typo,” the Microsoft Office autocorrect list, the OpenOffice autocorrect list and various other sources. For example:

::mispelling::misspelling

Whenever you misspell the word by typing “mispelling”, after hitting space or punctuation, it changes to the correct “misspelling” spelling.

The beauty of the AutoHotkey AutoCorrect app is that you can easily tailor it to your needs by editing and adding to the script. You can do that with any text editor (e.g. Notepad). Then, set up the script to load every time you boot into Windows by placing it in the Windows StartUp folder. The AutoCorrect app works everywhere, whether writing in a Word document, composing an e-mail, posting a Facebook comment, or working on a Web blog.

This AutoCorrect capability alone offers a strong incentive to investigate AutoHotkey.

But, there’s more!

Free AutoHotkey Scripts and Apps

AutoHotkey Library Deal
AutoHotkey Library Deal

Over the last number of years, I’ve written (and stolen) quite a few AutoHotkey scripts. (Most of them I’ve posted for anyone to download and use in whatever way they wish.) The following list comprises a few of the AutoHotkey techniques and scripts which might prove most useful to writers, bloggers, and editors.

Quiet Down Those Shouting People by Changing Text to Lowercase

Surprisingly, I often run into the problem of changing the capitalization of text. Whether deliberate shouting (all capital letters) in a blog comment or needing to initial cap a headline, I have a few simple AutoHotkey Hotkeys that change the text to all lowercase, all uppercase, or initial cap each word in a phrase. The ChangeCase.ahk script includes all three.

After you select the target text by highlighting it, the Hotkeys secretly use the Windows Clipboard to make the case change.

Add Today’s (or Another Day’s) Date to Your Writing

datecal
After entering Adate the calendar instantly pops up. Select the desired date and click Submit. AutoHotkey inserts the date into the document.

The script AddDate.ahk, includes a number of different ways to add today’s date to any writing. The string Anow (capital A required) instantly converts to the current date in US format (e.g. December 6, 2016). The string Adate (capital A required) opens a pop-up calendar for selecting any other date.

 

Use Google to Correct Common Phrases

I stole the clever GooglePhraseFix.ahk script. This little “Autocorrect Anything” by aaston86 uses Google search to correct selected phrases by instantly accessing and returning the “Showing results for/Did you mean:” line in a Google search results page.

Instantly Add Temporary Hotkeys for Inserting Text

At times, I found myself using the same tedious text a number of times in the same article or blog. Who wants to type “www.computoredge.com/AutoHotkey/Downloads” over and over again. Rather than add it to the AutoCorrect file, I used InstantHotkeymy InstantHotkey.ahk script to create a temporary Hotkey for entering the text.

After setting the Hotkey combination,  whenever I press the keys simultaneously (CTRL+O for the image at left), AutoHotkey inserts the complete text (the URL shown). Whew! I don’t need to resort to copy-and-paste via the Windows Clipboard each time I need to enter that URL.

Tip: If you don’t install AutoHotkey but still want to use some of the apps, then many of the scripts offer a compiled version of the script (e.g. InstantHotkey.exe). If your Windows security settings allow you to download the compiled EXE file, then a simple double-click on the filename loads the app—main AutoHotkey installation not required. This comes in handy when using the script on another non-AutoHotkey PC or running the script from a thumb drive. (The EXE files are safe. I compiled each of them myself. Of course, that only works if you trust me. For extra safety, you can always compile the safe all-text AHK file into an EXE yourself.)

Redundant and Overused Words

overusedwordsWhile working on the book Beginning AutoHotkey Hotstrings: A Practical Guide for Creative AutoCorrection, Text Expansion, and Text Replacement, I came across a list of overused words compiled by high school English teachers. From that list, I wrote the script OverusedWords.ahk which pops up a menu of alternatives whenever one of the tired terms gets typed. For example, if I key in “angry”, the menu shown at the right pops up. If I select “enraged”, it replaces “angry” in the text.

While the noobie AutoHotkey script writer may not know how to code this type of script on day one, it doesn’t take long to develop the skills needed to add many powerful features to a Windows computer.

Another Stolen Script

PhraseOMatic.ahk is an AutoHotkey script which makes it easier to enter key phrases into any document or text editing field for work and personal use. No more memorizing hotstrings or hotkey combinations. This script which puts all of your important phrases into a pop-up menu was written by Douglas Abernathy.

Quick Access to Web Information

Every good writer extensively uses references—now mostly found on the Web. AutoHotkey provides an easy way to speed up this Web access. I threw together a short script which opens http://www.thesaurus.com to find synonyms for a word highlighted in any Windows documents or Web page. The script I call SynonymLookup.ahk employs a standard AutoHotkey Windows Clipboard technique I discuss in all of my books:

^!l:: 
  OldClipboard:= ClipboardAll
  Clipboard:= ""
  Send, ^c ;copies selected text
  ClipWait 0
  If ErrorLevel
  {
    MsgBox, No Text Selected!
    Return
  }
  Run, http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/%Clipboard%
  Clipboard:= OldClipboard
Return

While to anyone unfamiliar with AutoHotkey this code may look complex, I can assure you that it’s easy to learn. Plus, even if you didn’t learn each piece of this script, the only part you would need to change for extending this app to other Web sites would be the site URL shown in red.

Scratching the Surface

The examples above are only a sampling of the AutoHotkey possibilities for writers, bloggers, and editors. For any wordsmith who decides to add new AutoHotkey features to their Windows computer, I recommend starting with the Hotstrings found in the AutoCorrect script. Then, as you familiarize yourself with the scripting language, add other useful features.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s