October 23, 2020

Do Everything Faster With These Keyboard Tricks


You can see this rabbit hole goes deep, but it’s worth it. I’m still using shortcuts I created in AutoHotkey almost a decade ago (you know that Pause key no one uses for anything? I turned that into a “go to sleep” button for my computer). It takes a bit of time to dig through this stuff, but that initial investment will likely serve your productivity for years into the future.

Type Long Blocks of Text with a Few Keystrokes

There are certain things I type over and over again, without fail, every day. I send my address to people in text messages, I type certain URLs in Chrome’s address bar, and I send the same email to every person that joins the I lead at church. Text expansion lets me type those strings of text with a keyboard shortcut.

For example, I have my address assigned to the shortcut ”’,add”’. When I type ,add in a document, my text expansion program of choice recognizes that and replaces it with my full address. I type ,join to paste the two-paragraph email I send to all my group joinees, and even ,deg to type the degrees symbol (°). There are so many clever uses for this I couldn’t fit them all into one article, but suffice to say anything you type more than a couple times a week can benefit from this.

Mac users have it easy, once again: this feature is built right in to macOS, under System Preferences > Keyboard > Text. Just cligroup ck the plus sign to add a new shortcut—make sure it’s something you wouldn’t type normally (that’s why I use the comma-word format above)—and add the text you want to appear when you type that shortcut. Windows users can choose from a few different third-party programs, though I personally recommend PhraseExpress for most folks. It’s powerful, free, and easy to use once you create those first couple phrase expansions. When I use a computer without a text expander—or any of the shortcuts above—it feels like I’m trudging through molasses. Once you get used to these time-saving keyboard tricks, you’ll never want to work without them.

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