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A quick overview of AutoHotkey, automation, features of AHK language
A detailed tutorial on how to install AutoHotkey, the best tool for automation
Learn how to create an AutoHotkey script file, run and enjoy your first script
What is AutoHotkey?
AutoHotkey or AHK is an automation software and it’s free of charge.
A powerful scripting language for Microsoft Windows.
The syntax of AHK is easily understandable.
Even for users who don’t have any prior programming experience.
time = money
Do you care about automation?
Using AutoHotkey saves you precious time, increase your productivity and your accuracy. The AHK language covers a wide variety of in-built functions, commands which you can use immediately after you install the program. AHK can be used to build robust programs it’s not limited only to record basic macros. You will be surprised what AHK actually offers you.
If you use a computer with Windows there is a high chance you can automate some easy task. AutoHotkey is compatible with Windows 10 and it’s also backward compatible with older OS’. You can also download a portable version, therefore you don’t need to beg for the IT to install AHK.
AutoHotkey Basic examples
With AutoHotkey, you can open your favorite folders with just pressing a hotkey. Run multiple programs with another. Write a different signature in your e-mails with the third one. Do you need to press that button 10 times and you simply hate those unnecessary clicks? After clicking a button you need to move your cursor far-far away? All of these can be written in 5 minutes. You can rebind your keys, or simple you can remap your whole keyboard layout.
If you broke your arm, you can even make a one-handed keyboard which costs absolutely nothing. Use you Numpad keys to control your mouse cursor. Any special character or Unicode character can be bound to a hotkey. With modifier hotkey like CTRL (^), Shift (+) or Alt (!) you can create hundreds of different hotkeys. The only downside of this approach you need to memorize all of them. Or just create GUI. Everything is possible!
AutoHotkey has more features
On the next level, you’ll use variables, different logical statements, loops. You open one specific window, get the data from it, manipulate your data based on logical conditions you defined earlier and store them into a variable or array.
Web scraping, web browser automation
Really easy to learn and AHK gives you the ultimate power to gain data from websites and complete your monotonous, repetitive tasks. Just fill a form with 50 fields in less than a second and without any mistake. Schedule your script to download the info you need from different websites, compare them, modify them the way you like.
AutoHotkey and the famous Microsoft Office
You can send e-mails from Outlook and you don’t even need to open Outlook. The same with Excel, you can manipulate, populate your spreadsheets, create another one or style the cells, columns. You won’t need to hassle to create the exact same reports each week. Excel can be used with VBA though, but I can count how many employees I met with reliable VBA knowledge.
If I would be a salesperson I am pretty sure I would send all of my cold-emails with the previously mentioned method. You can even play your prerecorded voice messages. The customer support who chat all day with the partners can use predefined non-robotic messages by adding some random factor.
AutoHotkey to solve everything?
Basically, you can do everything with AHK, have a ‘dirty’ fantasy and show your friends, colleagues how cool you are with your new skill. You can find hundreds of functions and libraries which will help you a lot. I love AHK because it’s easy to start and hard to be master. I use AutoHotkey for years and I am nowhere from the master level.
AutoHotkey in PC games
A lot of gamers search AHK on Google because they want to get better in their games. I advice to not ruin your buddies gameplay. Different cursor hacks in FPS games and other stuff could work but cheating is childish and after five minutes you won’t have any fun. All of these companies who made these games have good programmers. There is a high chance you will lose your account if you don’t understand the code you run. Well, then you won’t have any fun, will you?
If you want to run AHK in your games prepare, sometimes it’s not easy. You can even have access to use Microsoft’s DLLs (Dynamic-link library).
Fact: Authotkey is a gateway drug
Where ‘cheating’ is allowed
On the other hand, if it’s a single player game or the script doesn’t give you an advantage against other people it could be fun. Do you like RTS games but don’t have high APM? You can bind several commands to just one hotkey. Since I love games AHK and Gaming will be a focus on RPAWR. Rule one, gaming supposed to be fun, I won’t share any script which will give you an advantage in multiplayer games.
Is AutoHotkey knowledge valuable on the market?
I think the boom will come just later, but solving problems is always the most valuable skill on the market. So don’t worry about it’s wasted time. With AHK you can solve problems in no time. Office work often contains repetitive tasks. If we speak about the administration tasks you can solve them faster than a group of people who does the job manually. People love to work manually. You will have a lot of opportunities to automate office tasks. Do you want to save time?
Will AutoHotkey be useful later?
Absolutely, did you regret to learn reading? A piece of basic knowledge about programming is useful in every situation. We live in the tech era and the robots won’t take away the job for years (hopefully). We still have time to automate and solve problems. It’s really easy to find excuses, just start it! If you like solving problems or figure out puzzles you can give a chance to learn AHK.
Isn’t AHK wasted time compared to different languages?
It’s a knowledge and you can use the basic principles in almost every language. If you can code in one language you can learn a new language faster. While I think AHK is a good language first because you can progress at a fast pace in the beginning. You will be rewarded more easily than for example if you start with C, because you don’t need to allocate memory. AHK has limitations compared to other languages from a point of view, but your hours when you learned AHK will be still useful later. I would say AHK is different, it’s a prototype-based programming language.
AutoHotkey – hard to learn?
It takes time, dedication, but AHK is super easy to learn. Start with the basics, modify the code, experience with things. Automate just a few easy tasks first. Try to change something and run again the script. Reading the AHK documentation helps, this way you will also get used to the documentation. You will know where you can find what you are looking for. If you don’t know the proper syntax just open and use the doc. At some point, you will memorize the most useful commands anyway.
Is programming for everyone?
Yes and also no. You barely need to spend any money if you want to start code. You can learn for free. If you put effort into the learning process you will be able to write working code. Experiencing with the language is highly recommended for everyone, if you can save just only one task you already benefit from using AHK. Try to don’t compare yourself to anyone, learn the AHK language at your own pace. It’s like running or any other sport. Some people are better because they have better physique or genes. The only thing matters to enjoy the activity you do.
Experiencing with AutoHotkey
But I also think programming is not for everyone, some beginner script can be implemented by anyone following some simple steps but after some point, it requires specific skills. It’s also hard to describe what do these skills mean. If you give up things easily there is a high chance you’ll a hard time. As I said experience and if you don’t like it at least you tried it. Your own experience > your buddy told you > You read on the internet, simple as that.
Everyone is different
Don’t go mad if you think it’s the most boring activity ever, maybe you are not a coder and that’s not a problem. People have different skill sets, just find the activity you enjoy. Everyone’s workflow is different, there isn’t really a golden recipe for making scripts. If you can code you still need good ideas, without it it’s just knowledge. You won’t save any time. But don’t worry there are several good sources to find working scripts.
How to install AutoHotkey, AHK
1. You need to download the program. The best source is autohotkey.com, then click on the download button.
2. Just install the latest version. It will ask which version.
Most European language uses special characters. If you are not sure: Unicode.
3. On the location screen. You can change the default location if you want but it’s not necessary.
You can also create a shortcut in Start menu folder, or you can delete it with the ‘x’.
4. Options menu. You can reinstall later and modify everything so don’t worry.
You can leave everything on default (checked).
The compiler is useful, you can create exe files, so you can run your program on a computer where AHK is not installed.
Drag & drop, I don’t use it at all, to be honest.
Separate taskbar buttons. In the beginning, it makes sense to use it, later you can decide to change it.
Add ‘Run with UI Acces’ to context menus. It’s a nice feature, you can automate administrative programs I recommend it.
You can click on the install button. Just blink twice and AutoHotkey is already installed on your computer.
“Science is the captain, and practice the soldiers.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
How to create AHK script files
You can run downloaded AHK files, but I advice to only run scripts you understand. To see the content of a script you will need an editor. The most simple solution is to use Windows Notepad. But it’s worth to use SciTE4 or AHK Studio. It’s also supported by a lot of programs: Sublime, Notepad++, etc…
But first, create your first AHK script. You can create a new file with right click on your desktop (or in file explorer) > select new > choose AutoHotkey script.
Name your file, let’s say Hello AHK or whatever you prefer. Right click again, open with then select notepad.
The first few lines are called directives and basic commands. You can skip it now.
Just type MsgBox, hello.
Next line > return. Save the file.
Then run your first script. A message box will pop up. The MsgBox will be your friend, it will print out variables and will help you to test your code.