I used to type a lot when I worked in IT helpdesk. Everyday I had dozens of chats and emails with clients. There were troubleshooting instructions, explanations of all sorts, or simply smalltalk. It was a lot, I was tired, sometimes bored. I also felt there was something I could do better. Fast and blind typing are obvious ways and they come naturally with a job like that, but there are also more exquisite techniques to be more efficient. My all time favorite technique was to automate a considerable part of my typing using automatically expanding abbreviations and the wonderful AutoHotkey.
Note: Even though I worked in IT helpdesk, this should be easily applicable to anyone whose job requires written communication.
- Type faster
- Make less typos, grammar/spelling mistakes
- Easier to be polite
- Be cool, because automation is awesome
This is how it works. You save the things that you type regularly (phrases, numbers, hyperlinks or whole instructions) as values to your own templates dictionary and give each value a distinct mnemonic key (i.e. the abbreviation). Then to use them in writing just type the key in a textbox and have your computer replace it with the needed piece of text. All the magic is handled by AutoHotkey.
Let me give you an example. A person on the other end is asking your work phone number. You remember that it is saved in your dictionary under the key ‘wpn’, so you simply type this key instead of typing the phone number and AHK replaces the key with the value from your dictionary.
Let’s break it down:
- you don’t type manually
- you never make a mistake in it
- you don’t need to remember it or copy it from some weird place
- you are blazing fast
Steps that you need to do only once:
- Install AutoHotkey (just Google it and download the installer from the official website)
- Create a new .txt file and change the extension to .ahk
Steps that you are going to do regularly:
- Open your .ahk file in your text editor of choice (right-click > ‘Open with…’)
- Add your key and value like this:
- Save the file
- Run it (double click it and you should see AHK icon appear in your tray)
- Test it
And that’s it.
It takes some getting used to. And it requires time and imagination to grow your dictionary. The rule of thumb is to keep the window with your dictionary open when you learn to use it, so that you could quickly add more templates there. And don’t forget to make your keys mnemonic, so they are easily and naturally remembered. For example, for a template with your email address
@ are good keys;
zz are not.
Also don’t hesitate to add even the most basic things like
p for ‘please’ and
ty for ‘thank you’ to your dictionary. The phrases which are essential in polite communication are usually the first ones that we tend to omit when we are in a hurry on a busy day. If you make them easier and faster to type, you will find yourself using them more often even under stress and your clients will appreciate it.
It’s also worth mentioning not to overuse this technique. Noticeable usage of identical phrases repeatedly in your speech might add an unpleasant chatbotish charm which is something you don’t want.
Thank you for your time. Now go ahead and make your life a little bit easier!
When you find yourself comfortable with this trick you might want to learn AHK deeper because there’s so much more it can do. Read AHK docs, at least ‘quick start’ and ‘hotstrings’ sections.
P.S. Make sure to backup your dictionary!