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Text Explosion and AutoHotKey - fill in your abbreviations fast

review by ClifNotes, Aug 2006, Permalink


I don't know if I'd ever mentioned this here, but I have a job online. Yes, I actually make a little money by answering emailed support questions for some friends of mine. I and my cohorts in email support have a set of standard answers for the most commonly asked questions. We have a web page where we keep a copy of these so that we can paste them into emails while we answer users questions. I had been thinking that there must be an easier way to quickly paste in answers rather than going to the support page constantly and browsing through it for the right answer to place in the emails.


Was there an easy answer? Yes, of course. By now you should all know that when it comes to doing things on a Windows PC, there is often a very good free solution. I tried out two solutions below.


The answer is a program which actually reads your key strokes as you type them. When it recognizes special words or commands, it will automatically replace the word with a new word or phrase you have programmed it to use.


For example, if I type in the letters "=btw", the program will replace it immediately with "by the way".


Text Explosion

The first program I tried was called Text Explosion. It was a very simple program to use but for some reason another program on my PC was interfering with it and caused it to suddenly stop working without warning. If it weren't for this problem, I'd still be using it. It's just perfect for the job and I'm sure you will find it does just what you need. You could use it for common addresses, website passwords, email addresses, or just common phrases that you want to shorten up to save you from typing so much.



Quote from the Text Explosion website


  • Works in any and all programs.
  • Speed your typing by automatically inserting your commonly used text.
  • Replace your abbreviation with any amount of text, from a few words to a page or more.
  • Use to fill out forms on the Internet.
  • You can use Text Explosion to correct your common spelling errors.
  • Use Text Explosion to respond to common email questions.


See the Text Explosion Website






The next one I tried is a true super-geeks tool and it may not be what you need if you don't want to spend a good deal of time learning how to use it. AutoHotKey is an open source program that will replace text as I described above, but it's also a nearly complete Windows automation tool that does more than I have time to learn. Despite the complex features, I was quickly able to figure out how to use AutoHotKey to take on my task of quickly filling out email questions. With a little help from the very complete documentation, I think most of you out there could do the same.



Quote from the AutoHotKey website

AutoHotkey is a free, open-source utility for Windows. With it, you can:

  • Automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks. You can write a mouse or keyboard macro by hand or use the macro recorder.
  • Create hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse. Virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey.
  • Expand abbreviations as you type them. For example, typing "btw" can automatically produce "by the way".
  • Create custom data entry forms, user interfaces, and menu bars. See GUI for details.
  • Remap keys and buttons on your keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
  • Respond to signals from hand-held remote controls via the WinLIRC client script.
  • Run existing AutoIt v2 scripts and enhance them with new capabilities.
  • Convert any script into an EXE file that can be run on computers that don't have AutoHotkey installed.

See the AutoHotKey website






Both of these programs will work well on most PC's. Your choice for help with automating your PC will depend on what you need it to do. If all you need is text replacements, Text Explosion is a great choice. If you want to immerse yourself into the possibilities of automating all kinds of PC functions then AutoHotKey is for you.