Having just submitted my thesis, I spent much of the last few months typing – and mostly typing the same (very long) words repeatedly. Fortunately, I’d already discovered AutoHotKey, a free desktop automation tool for Windows. With AutoHotKey you can automate almost anything on your computer, from shortcuts to open applications, to remapping keys, and expanding abbreviations.
It’s this last feature that has proved particularly useful for me. For example, if you type ‘btw’, it automatically becomes ‘by the way’. I now have a number of abbreviations set up, such as ‘mwpa2’ for ‘the Second Married Women’s Property Act’ and ‘mca’ for ‘the Matrimonial Causes Act’. I’ve also added a list of long book titles
that I regularly reference in my publishing work, including ‘mh’ for ‘The Meanings of Home in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Fiction’. Configuring this list is a simple matter of updating a text file.
I also use AutoHotKey to autocorrect words that I can’t be bothered to type correctly, such as Brontë (this nifty tool has just added the diaeresis for me). Here’s a peek at my configuration:
::mh::The Meanings of Home in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Fiction
::ss::Evenings at Home in Spiritual Séance
Another big timesaver is shortcuts to frequently used websites. Hitting the Windows key and ‘t’ takes me straight to archive.org – a website I use on an almost daily basis – even if my browser isn’t open. I have similar shortcuts set up for library catalogues and other reference websites:
Pressing Ctrl+Alt+n launches Notepad for me, which is very handy when I quickly need to copy some information.
There’s much, much more that you can do with this tool, but these are some of the most useful features for researchers.
I’m currently trying out some alternatives for Mac and would love to hear any suggestions.