One of the easiest things for computers to do today is to take abbreviated text and expand it into words or paragraphs. A couple of decades ago, function keys could be reprogrammed to do something similar. Today, it is easier because one can replace letters with words. For example, you type in “btw” and it is replaced with “by the way.” This doesn’t mean much if seldom used; however, when you do lots of typing of repetitive words and phrases, the amount of time saved per day or week will be significant.

In order to do these text expansions, you can download programs like FastKeys or Lintalist. Or you can install a small program called AutoHotkey then create simple text files containing the text lists you need.

Here are two examples using AutoHotkey. It can be used for what it calls hotstrings and also to construct full programs as it is also a programming language.

::btw::by the way
::imho::in my own opinion

Saving this text to a file called mytext.ahk then double clicking it will load them into memory. Afterwards, typing btw will expand it to by the way or typing imho will expand to in my own opinion. You can choose to ignore upper/lowercase or you can make it specific to one or the other.

The program can also perform auto upper case like:


Typing july will auto capitalize it to July.

Or take common typing mistakes and fix them for you:


In these cases, typing knwo will be corrected to know and lsit to list. The asterisk means autocorrect as soon as those letters are entered. Otherwise, it would wait until space, tab or enter are pressed. This would interfere with misspellings like knwoing as it has ing at the end.

There are downloaded files with a large number of auto corrections already entered. I use AutoCorrect.ahk and TextingAcronyms.ahk along with a simple prose writing program I created.

In the TextingAcronyms are entries like:

::ADIP::Another day in paradise

And these are self explanatory since users have seen many of these online.

Equally as powerful as text expansion is the ability to run commands the same way.

If I want to run say the Firefox browser on my computer by typing rff, here is how to do it:

AutoHotkey version 1:

run,C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe

AutoHotkey version 2:

run,C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe

I can put any number of commands between the start of the hotstring and the return line. Typing rff now will immediately launch a copy of Firefox. Having written several launcher applications using this technique, it is now easy to open files / folders, web pages and/or applications without using a mouse or Windows menus. For typists, this is quite a welcome ability.

It is just as easy to type a few letters and have one or more paragraphs of text replace them. Below, this will set typing text1 to be replaced with the text between the parentheses.

Any text between the top and bottom parentheses is treated literally. By default, the hard carriage return between the previous line and this one is also preserved.

One can also start new paragraphs by using the {enter} code anywhere needed.
{tab}The indentation to the left of this line is created by inserting a tab.

In the near future, I plan to publish short videos on how to use AutoHotkey for this purpose.

By Michael Todd

An IT Professional with over 30 years of experience with PC setup & troubleshooting, programming, consulting and the use of the most popular business applications. This is all about making the technology do the most for you, so you have more time to enjoy life.

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