AutoHotkey-AutoScriptWriter-IIAutoHotkey is a famous, free Open Source mouse and keyboard macro utility. It allows you to automate all kinds of Windows tasks. As an IT administrator, you will probably have to perform quite a few tasks repeatedly. Using shortcuts for complex GUI-based operations can significantly improve your productivity.

When I first tried AutoHotkey, I uninstalled it after two minutes or so. Only when I saw, in my continuous search for a free keyboard macro creation tool, how popular it is, did I gave it a second chance. The reason I was turned off by the tool at first was that the first macro I created with its recorder, AutoScriptWriter II, produced an error message when I first launched it (Error: Requires at least one of its Windows parameters). I found this a bit odd considering that nothing had really changed on my desktop since I’d created the macro.

It turned out that I didn’t operate AutoScriptWriter correctly. I didn’t tell the tool first which program should be launched before the macro gets started. This method works fine as long as you don’t have to run a macro in an application that is already open. Most programs will be started a second time if you run the AutoHotkey script, and this often causes problems.

I realize this doesn’t sound very promising. However, AutoHotkey definitely has its advantages. It comes with a powerful scripting language that other free macro creation tools often lack. It supports if clauses, loops, and everything you need to program a decent script.

The problem I described above is solvable if you know a little of the easy-to-read AutoHotkey scripting language. I am certainly not an AutoHotkey expert. But I think the key to getting started with the tool is to understand the WinActivate command. As you have already guessed correctly, this command activates a program window. I recommend reading the corresponding part in AutoHotkey’s manual if you want to run a macro in an application that is already open.

I think, it is clear by now that AutoHotkey is not really a keyboard macro creation tool for end-users. It is for IT professionals who are used to dealing with scripts. Before you try the tool, I have to warn you about two things.

First, I wouldn’t use a keyboard or mouse macro in a sensitive environment. For example, it is probably not a good idea to delete objects this way. An error in your script might delete a lot more than you intended to. Keyboard macros are certainly more error-prone than any other script type.

Second, and this is even more dangerous, programming with AutoHotkey is really fun. Once you have started to create a macro, it is difficult to stop. A task that appeared to be very easy to accomplish with a keyboard macro could turn out to be a hard nut to crack. You might end up programming for hours for a task that you could have finished in minutes if you just did it manually.

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What is your favorite mouse and keyboard macro tool?

3 Comments
  1. Poekies 13 years ago

    AutoIT
    http://www.autoitscript.com/autoit3/
    AHK is a fork of AutoIT, not really sure why, but I've just always used AutoIT.

  2. The user interface of AutoIT looks good. I will have a look at it. Thanks!

  3. Nadz 12 years ago

    I've used keytext from MJMSoft for years.

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