Considering the huge number of applications, utilities, web browser extensions and websites I try out, I’m always amazed when I find something new to me, and then realize it’s something I should have tried years ago, because the features it provides just make sense. In this article, I’ll be talking about a program for Linux called AutoKey (similar programs are available on all operating systems, of course), that makes it easy to automate certain repetitive tasks that could otherwise take a while, all in order to save you time and effort.
The idea behind AutoKey is that there are certain snippets of text you type over and over. Sometimes it’s your address. You type your address all the time, so wouldn’t it be nice if instead of typing it out manually, you could hit a key or choose it from a menu, and have it instantly “typed” in whatever document you’re working on?
A similar idea is how often we type the date into whatever document we’re editing. And each of us has something specific. There’s no single group of text snippets that everyone needs to use, so having a program that can be configurable to meet our individual needs is a big requirement. And happily, AutoKey meets those needs.
There are a couple different ways you can use AutoKey. It shows a menu in the status bar, and any text snippet you use regularly can be placed there. Then, when you’re editing a document and you want to use that text, simply choose it from the menu and it will be immediately placed into your document, wherever the cursor is. This point-and-click method of using AutoKey is quite simple, but there is another, more efficient way to use it.
If you can remember short phrases, you can use AutoKey completely from the keyboard. Once you’ve entered a phrase into AutoKey, assign it a short phrase you’re unlikely to type at random. Then, when using a word processor (or any program), AutoKey monitors what you’re typing. When it sees that you have typed the abbreviation, AutoKey replaces it with your chosen phrase.
A good example of this is entering in your home address. AutoKey comes with a preset for this already present (you’ll need to enter in your own address, of course). Using this, all you need to do is type “adr” in a document (without the quotes), and it will be replaced with your address. As mentioned, you can also place an entry for your address in the menu, so adding your address to a document is as simple as selecting the “Address” menu option.
AutoKey can also be used for running different scripts. These scripts can do anything you could otherwise do with the keyboard. AutoKey comes with a handful of example scripts. One of these scripts allows you to make a phrase and abbreviation out of selected text, another uses selected text and places it in a phrase (for example it turns the phrase “these words” and fills them into the phrase “the words previously copied to the clipboard were “these words””), and more.
AutoKey, for all practical intents and purposes, is a huge time saver, energy saver, and a productivity booster. It’s easy to use and easy to configure, and really, it’s just fun to see a short phrase turned into a longer phrase that you would otherwise have had to type out manually. AutoKey comes with both a KDE and GTK interface, so no matter what Linux desktop environment you use, it will blend into your system.