An Autohotkey tutorial to automate Windows tasks

If you work from home or attend online classes, you certainly have phrases that you write regularly. Or you may have a specific file that needs to be opened often, but not left open. Whatever the reason, Windows Autohotkey can provide you with a quick way to perform a number of tasks.

What is Windows Autohotkey?

Windows Autohotkey is a free version and open source scripting language that allows users to create scripts for Windows. Although you use your own programming language, you do not need to be proficient in coding to make use of the tool. It is intuitive and easy to pick up, especially because of the large amount of resources available online.

This tutorial will guide you through the basic steps related to using Windows Autohotkey. To put into perspective the utility that this tool can have, “Windows Autohotkey” has 18 characters, including space. It was written throughout this article with just three keystrokes. Are you interested? Keep reading to find out how to do it.

One thing to keep in mind is that this tutorial only covers the basics. Windows Autohotkey is a powerful tool with powerful applications, too much to cover in a single tutorial. This tutorial will help you get your feet wet to start experimenting.

Downloading and creating your first script

Windows Autohotkey is not integrated into the Windows operating system, so you will need it download it from the website. Once you download it, follow the instructions on the screen. If you are prompted to choose between ANSI and UNICODE, select UNICODE: it has broader support for non-English characters. Once the program is installed, go to your desktop.

Right-click anywhere on the screen and select New > Autohotkey script. The write will appear as a file on the desktop. Give it a name that makes it easy to identify and hit Enter. Then right-click on the file and choose Edit the script.

This will open an edit screen, most likely in Notepad. For the example, we will create a script that writes automatically:

Sincerely, George Jetson

All you have to do is press the shortcut key. First, type:

^ j ::

The symbol ^ means CTRLthen you will strike CTRL + J to activate this shortcut key. If you’re confused about why this symbol means CTRL, don’t worry; there will be more information later in the tutorial.

Then write this:

Send, sincerely, George Jetson

The order of this line is Send. Anything that appears after the comma will be displayed on the screen.

Finally, write:

come back

Once you’ve finished this, save the script. Right-click on it again and click Run the script.

When all is said and done, it should look like this:

^ j ::
Send, sincerely, George Jetson
come back

Now, whenever you type CTRL + j, the phrase “Sincerely yours, George Jetson” will appear.

Creating a connection string

The previous command was a shortcut key. We will now show you how to create a shortcut string or shortcut that writes a word or series of words. This is the same process used to type “Windows Autohotkey” without typing it.

The order is simple. Instead of a double dot (: 🙂 to the right of the shortcut key, it will surround the abbreviation with two sets of colon, like this one:

:: wah :: Windows Autohotkey

The text inside the colon will serve as a shortcut, while the text to the right of the colon will be what appears when the command is typed.

Shortcut key symbols and their meanings

This section will provide a brief explanation of the different symbols and their meaning.

Symbol Meaning / key
# Windows key
! High
^ Control
+ Maj
& Use between any two keys to create a custom shortcut key.
< Use the left key of a set (for example, the left Shift key).
> Use the right key of a set (for example, the right Shift key).
* Wildcard (will activate the shortcut key even if other keys are pressed).
UP When you use this shortcut key, it is activated when the key is released.

These are the most basic symbols. There are others that are more complicated, but you don’t need to know them to learn the basics. You should also know that you can combine several symbols to make them work; for example, Left Alt key will activate the shortcut key.

Ready scripts

With any program as powerful and versatile as Windows Autohotkey, people will find ways to reach their full potential. If you want to examine a series of prefabricated scripts that demonstrate exactly what this tool is capable of, look at the Autohotkey Forum.

The forum is divided into several different sections, but the two main areas for searching prefabricated scripts are below Game i AutoHotkey V2 Scripts and Features. You can copy and paste these scripts to your own machine for use.

People have created scripts that do everything from turning a joystick into a mouse to resizing windows with nothing but the right mouse button.

Forums are an ideal place to find scripts already made, but to ask for help in making your own. Once you’ve mastered the basics, explore the features of Windows Autohotkey to streamline your own user experience.

Windows Autohotkey is a powerful tool that goes far beyond these few basic scripts, however learning these scripts and commands is the key to learning to use the program at a much higher level.

Aside from using Windows Autohotkey to automatically type longer sentences, it can be used to open files, run programs, and more. The sky is the limit: you just have to learn to walk first.

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