Tech Tip Tuesday (T3:09)

I’ve posted before about using AutoHotKey text expansion (and more) software. This week’s Tech Tip Tuesday will focus show you how to use AHK to automatically add your email signature to an Outlook message or web-based email.

Step One: Read this post for how to download and install AHK

Read step-by-step instructions here.

Step Two: Create Your First Script

AHK works through “scripts.” Scripts are text files (files with a .txt extension), which contain the “language” used by AHK to perform actions. AHK scripts have a .ahk extension and resides in the task bar near the clock. This will make more sense as you create a script.

Add a “Scripts” Folder

Open your “Documents” folder (Start | Documents).

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Right click and create a new Folder called “Scripts.” Open the Scripts folder.

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Add a new script

In the newly created Scripts folder, right click anywhere in the folder and choose New | Autohotkey Script. A new file called “New AutoHotkey Script.ahk” will appear.

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Edit the Script

Now, right click the “New AutoHotkey Script.ahk.” Choose “Edit.”

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A new Notepad program window will open that looks like this:

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Place your cursor at the end of the last sentence and press Enter twice. Now, you are ready to start writing your script.

Step Three: Add the Script Language

This might sound confusing, but you can do it. AHK tells your computer to do some action every time a certain key sequence is used. Here, we will use “em.sig” as the trigger (em stands for e-mail; sig stands for signature).

  1. In the Notepad window, type “::em.sig::”
  2. Press Enter
  3. Type an open paren “(“
  4. Press Enter
  5. Type your signature how you would like it to appear.
  6. Press Enter
  7. Type a closing paren “)”

The script should look like this:

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Now, save and close the script. You can press CTRL S to save and then click the red X to close. Or, click the red X and Windows will prompt you to save the file. See the images below:

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Step Four: Rename and Run your script

Now, open the Script folder you created above. Rename the “NewAutoHotKey Script.ahk” to the name of your choice, but make sure to keep the .ahk extension. I suggest something like “2014 AAA script.ahk” where you replace AAA with your initials. You can add more text expansion items in this file later.

Double-click 2014 AAA script.ahk to run the file. You will see a little green box with a white H in it near your clock in the task bar. That is the script file. You can right click on it to see the various options for the script or to exit the script.

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Open a blank email message in Outlook or your web based email. Skip the address line (you are just testing at this stage) and go to the body of the message and type “em.sig” and then the space bar.

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If everything went right, the language you typed in the script will appear. Awesome!

Concluding Thoughts

You can exit the script by right clicking on it and choosing Exit. Unless you exit the script or restart your computer, it will work in any program that accepts keyboard input (e.g., Word, Excel, web browser, etc.). To start it again, simply browse to your Scripts folder and double click on the file.

If you watch the video in the post mentioned above, you can take the same concepts and apply to any text replacement you want to accomplish. Simply add the two colons “::” followed by the shortcut to type “btw”, followed by two more colons “::” and the text you want AHK to type for you whenever you type “btw” (e.g., by the way). The format is “::btw::by the way”.

AHK’s website has some great tutorials for more information.

As mentioned in the video, I have one script file with numerous text replacement options. Typically, I will type something and think of a way to make it a shortcut. I go to the script (near the clock), right click and choose “Edit this Script”, and add the shortcut. Then, I right click again, choose “Reload This Script” and I’m ready to go.  (Actually, I have a script that automatically saves and reloads the script for me, but that’s another post).

How do you use text expansion?


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