How To Create Custom Hotkeys

There is a great way to speed up some of the typical repeating tasks you do on your computer: the app called “Auto Hotkey“.

What is Auto Hotkey? It’s a lightweight background process that quietly waits and listens for you to press certain keystrokes so that it can perform whatever tasks you gave it to do when it hears those keystrokes.

As an example, let me share one of my own. If I press the Windows key and the semi-colon key, the exact date and time will be typed out for me, like this: 2019/11/02 07:31:26

Notice the descending precision of the elements, from year (most general) to seconds (most precise). That format of date and time is formatted so that when used in lists, will be sortable. So, to keep the formatting exact and reliable, I created a hotkey combination for it. Now, when I create notes and need a timestamp, I press Win+;.

The application is quite powerful and has lengthy documentation provided on their website. It could probably be called its own programming language. It’s that complete.

Here are the hotkey combinations that I use:

  • Date only
  • Date/timestamp (DTS, a throwback to Palm Pilot days that just works for me)
  • Time only
  • Random number
  • Open task manager

This is the script that handles it all:

To use this, all you need to do is:

  1. Install Autohotkey (
  2. Save the script shown above as a new file with the extension “ahk”
  3. Put the file in your startup folder so that it starts when Window starts. (Your startup folder (for Windows 10) is located at: C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup.)

When it’s in your startup folder, it will not run unless you are logging into Windows. For now, you might want to manually run it just to make sure it’s working. To manually run it, just double-click it as you would any other application. You’ll see it in your taskbar, which tells you that it’s ready.

The more you use it, the more you’ll rely on it, and the more you will grow to love having it.

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