Autohotkey introduction

Tags: Autohotkey

Often when people look over my shoulder (or are watching a presentation I am giving), they ask how I get my computer to perform specific tasks without ever touching my mouse. I could write on a long-winded post on being the master of your own tools and all that, but the answer is actually quite simple: I use AutoHotkey. Their tagline says it all: Automation. Hotkeys. Scripting.

Using Autohotkey (or AHK for insiders), you can automate virtually anything by sending keypresses and mouse clicks. You can create hotkeys, auto-expanding strings (convertion "burl" into "" for instance), create an entire GUI if you want to, and easily compile scripts into portable executables.

To give you an idea of the things I do with Autohotkey:

  • Left-control plus right-control to function as Alt+tab
  • Re-map default Windows shortcuts (Windows+F to run Everything instead of Windows Search, Windows+E to run Free Commander instead of Windows Explorer, etc.)
  • Control special keys on a specific keyboard (for instance, F13 to F19 on my Mac keyboards, but also media keys on my laptop)
  • Remap F1 to F2 inside Excel (seriously, how often have you pressed F1 [help] when all you wanted to do is edit a cell [F2]?)
  • Use a shortcut key to paste text without formatting
  • Toggle the active window to always stay on top (or turn it transparent... or both)
  • Use a shortcut to immediately Google the text you have selected
  • Get CTRL+E back in Firefox to activate the search box

The list goes on. Quick example: to do bullet 4, all you need is this:

#IfWinActive ahk_class XLMAIN
    f1::Send {f2}