What it does
This free, open-source scripting language for Windows, which comes with UNICODE and ANSI options and can be downloaded at AutoHotKey.com, is designed to enable easy creation of keyboard hotkeys and shortcuts, macros and software automation. It can also be used to reassign existing Windows shortcuts to other tasks, and to create hotstrings. A hotstring converts your personal shorthand keystrokes into full text: for example, turning "iirc" into "if I remember correctly". All of these functions can greatly reduce the time spent on repetitive tasks which would otherwise eat into your day.
How it does it
AutoHotKey (AHK_L) is advertised as being suitable both for beginners and for experienced developers, and because it is comparatively simple it can be used to test program prototypes . "Beginner" is a relative term, however. There is a nice clear Beginner Tutorial at autohotkey.com/docs/Tutorial.htm to get you started, but it would certainly be useful to have prior experience of scripting. It is assumed that anybody using the tutorial already knows what If statements, loops and variables etc. are, and won't be smitten with panic at the sight of a curly bracket.
Users report that AutoHotKey has a broadly similar feel to C. Scripts are written into plain text files with the suffix .ahk, and multiple independent scripts may be written one below the other in the same file. Right-click on a .ahk file to open it for editing, or double-click it to run the script or scripts it contains. Scripts usually act in response to the keyboard, mouse or joystick, but can also be designed to run automatically on Startup. They can be set to affect only certain kinds of window: for example to take action if you press a particular key combination in a browser window but not in an Office one.
The developers provide extensive libraries and lists of commands and functions, and the level of support is excellent. The syntax is fairly clear, but some of it is rather contradictory. For example, an exclamation point represents the actual text-character if it is enclosed in curly brackets, and the Alt key if it is on its own, but Enter represents the Enter key if it is enclosed in curly brackets, and the text-string "Enter" if it is on its own.
Why it does it
AHK was originally designed by Chris Mallet in 2003, but a more advanced version, AHK_L, was introduced by Steve Grey in 2009. Following a community-wide dispute about which version should be the official one, plus a hacking attack and many bugs at the old website, Charlie Simmons set up the current site. It is administered in part through moderated forums where members may ask for advice or suggest improvements to this ongoing project.
AutoHotKey software is free, and the administrators have pledged that it always will be, although voluntary donations may occasionally be solicited. It is offered as a service to the online community by The AutoHotKey Foundation LLC,
Although not quite as user-friendly as the developers claim, this is a powerful and flexible tool which could greatly simplify your life, once you've got to grips with the syntax.
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