Learning AutoHotKey – Simplifying the idea of Hotkeys & HotStrings

For a first-time user, AutoHotkey can be an intimidating experience.

While its benefits in saving time and preventing RSI are undeniable, the general first reaction from users is “Hey.. I am not a programmer.. I can’t do this… It’s too tough… What a waste of time.”

But wait.. It’s not tough. Actually, writing commands and generating scripts can be quite easy if you just understand a few basics.

Before I start explaining the “How To..” behind AutoHotkey command scripts, you need to know “Why Generating Scripts In AutoHotkey” is important.

Let’s start with explaining two important terms that are used with AutoHotKey software: HotKeys and HotStrings.

Hotkeys and Hotstrings are both used to trigger commands. The difference lies in the key sequence(s) you need to trigger those commands.

For eg: Pressing F1 will activate the Help Menu. You only press one key here, and this is what we call a HotKey. They are also referred to as Shortcut Keys.

On the other hand, a HotString is a key sequence that involves more than one character (string) to execute any commands. They are generally used to expand abbreviations.

For eg: You can define the string “btw” to expand to “by the way” as you type.

However, remember that the Ctrl+C key sequence for copying the selected objects is a HotKey and not a HotString (since it only uses one character, C).

Defining HotStrings and HotKeys can not only help you automate tasks but also lets you choose the key combinations. And this is where AutoHotKey gives you the full power to use your keyboard and mouse, just the way you like it.

You can even change pre-defined Windows Hotkeys and Strings, so if in case, you think F1 should be used to Forward your emails instead of bringing up the Help Menu, all you need to do is generate a simple script.

Of course it can get cumbersome and hard to remember when you define a string to activate a command (especially when it involves use of 3 or more keys). Then you can just use the Enterpad and voila you can now activate that command with just a single key again.

Learning how to use AutoHotkey is not only simple, but I promise you, it will also be one of the most useful thing you’ll ever learn.

Of course, we understand if you don’t quite have the time or effort required for that. In which case, the fact that it’s an open-source software comes in quite handy. You can find scripts for most tasks online. Just “google it”. 🙂


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