keyboard macros

I’ve been using WinKey to manage system-wide keyboard macros on my Windows XP machines for awhile now. WinKey is a nice little program that simply allows you to launch programs by pressing a key combo involving the Windows key. I use Win-X to launch Firefox, for instance. I’ve had this running on all my home and work computers for the last several years, so I’ve really got these macros hard-wired into my brain at this point.

Unfortunately, WinKey doesn’t work on Vista (at least *I* can’t get it working), and is no longer being developed or supported by Copernic, the company that (at one point) wound up with the rights to it. (They didn’t develop it originally, but I don’t remember who did.)

I recently came across a program called AutoHotKey, which is a fairly powerful scripting environment for Windows keystroke macros and general automation. It *does* indeed work on Vista, and is being actively developed. And it’s open source! You do need to read at least a little bit of the documentation to get it to do what you want, but it’s not hard to figure out. For instance, this command:
#x::Run C:Program FilesMozilla Firefoxfirefox.exe
maps Win-x to launch Firefox.
And you can send keystrokes to the active window quite easily, so, for instance, this little script:
#+T::
FormatTime, CurrentDateTime,, MM/dd/yyyy h:mm tt
SendInput %CurrentDateTime%
return

pastes the current date and time into whatever app you’re currently using when you press Win-Shift-T.
You can just put all your little macros together in one text file, and put a shortcut to it in your StartUp group, and off you go. Neat!

I’ve been thinking about keyboard macros on the Mac, too. David Pogue did a column on PC and Mac macro programs a couple of weeks ago. There are a few interesting options on the Mac, but I haven’t had time to try any of them out yet.

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