How to write faster... a LOT faster

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a writing tool that you SHOULD NOT be without.

It's a somewhat geeky one, though, and will require you to read the instructions. Are you listening, Laura Eno? Stick with me, though, and I can GUARANTEE that you will write faster. Seriously, you WILL write faster. I'm so confident of this that I will WRITE IN ALL CAPS again.

Are you ready? Want the magic mojo? Want the zombie juice, the secret sauce, the +5 Potion of Productivity?

It's called AutoHotKey. It's a free program that you can download from

So, you're thinking, enough with the hyperbole, Tony, what does it actually do?

AutoHotKey is a programmable automation utility. Now, calm down, you creative types... yes, I used the word "programmable". I didn't call it "customizable", because, although it certainly is customizable, you need to actually edit a script with some funky looking semicolons, colons, dashes and case-sensitive modifiers.

Is it worth the trouble? Oh, yes. Oh my sweet coffee-dripping loveliness, yes.

The program will let you launch programs, change window settings, perform complex actions and do all kinds of things with a single keystroke. But that's not important to you as a writer, is it? No, I know it's not. What I promised you is a way to write FASTER. Well, here it comes.

AutoHotKey will also serve as a customizable text expander. Any long string of text can be referenced by a very short string, which will auto-expand as you type. If your protagonist's name is Christopher, you could just type "C". No need to click a button, no need to do anything but keep typing. As soon as you press the space bar, AutoHotKey will expand "C" into "Christopher". You typed one character and eleven appeared - BOOM, you're 11X faster.

As you write your novel, how many times do you write your character's names? AutoHotKey would be worth it for that alone, but you can also replace other commonly used words, like this, said, you, will, that, and so on.

Here's part of the AutoHotKey script I have running right now:

:: y::you
:CR:tAG::the Avant Guardian
:R:tg::the Grammarian
:R:pv::Professor Verbosity
:R:PW::Parenthesis Woman
:R:lx::Lexicon City

This script will automatically turn this:

“Y’ll never get away w/ ts, pv!” tAG sa, “tg wi stop y!”

Pv laughed, his voice rasping. “Tg is doomed! Th trap I set for him wi rid me of th pestilential obstacle once and for all! Now, my dear,” he sa, turning to pw, “I believe y and I have some unfinished business…”

Into this:

“You’ll never get away with this, Professor Verbosity!” the Avant Guardian said, “the Grammarian will stop you!”
Professor Verbosity laughed, his voice rasping. “The Grammarian is doomed! That trap I set for him will rid me of that pestilential obstacle once and for all! Now, my dear,” he said, turning to Parenthesis Woman, “I believe you and I have some unfinished business…”

I actually typed 214 characters, but 317 characters appeared on the screen. Instantly, I typed 48% faster. Over the course of a long work, the ability to replace long strings of characters with short ones is a real time saver.

You can set up MS-Word to do auto-expansion, too, but if you don't use Word, you're stuck. Besides, you can use AutoHotKey for e.mails and other types of documents, too. Any word you type often is fair game to be automated. For example, this line in the script:

Means I only have to type "nt@" and "" magically appears. Three characters becomes 21. It works on webpages, in e.mails, documents, any text entry field on your screen.

Granted, it takes a little while to get used to it, and the coding requires a bit of patience to make the expanded text appear only when you want it. However, this is one writing tool that y shd nt B w/t.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Could I program it so I type "novel" and it prints out my novel :)

    Anywyas, that is a neat tool. Ill have to give it a try.

  2. That would be helpful for the yWriter/Scrivener bunch (I'm assuming there's no built in tools for that function in either).

    I will say that if you're using Word, they call it AutoText (in 2007/10, that's Insert/Quick Parts/AutoText). When my husband was practicing law, I would probably have gone nuts without it (especially since I always mistyped 'defendant' as 'defednat'.) :)

  3. Michael: if you find a piece of software that does that, let me know!

    Janet: You raise a very interesting point. I still use Word for a lot of things in daily life, and I used to use Word's autotext function for this kind of thing. My problem, though, was that when I switched to another program, I had to use different typing. I would find myself typing th qck br fx jd ov th lz dg, then realize that, because I was typing an e.mail or entering text in a browser comment box, I'd produced a bunch of gibberish. Plus, synchronizing those shortcuts among my various computers was a pain in the neck, especially if they used different version of Word. Now, rather than deal with the frustration of typing one way in one program/situation and a different way in another, I have AutoHotKey loaded on all my computers. The scripts are just .txt files, so synchronizing them is a snap. No matter what program I'm using, or what computer I'm on, I just type the same way, and the text always comes out the same.

  4. That's pretty cool! I can see it taking a lot of time to get used to though.

  5. Neat tool! What I really need is something for inside my head that sorts out my ideas into paragraphs etc. ^__^

  6. Tony: Great point! If you switch between apps, then I can see the value.

    Besides, I like Michael's suggestion ... :)

  7. That sounds great, Tony! Thanks for sharing your findings - I need to try it out soon! :)

  8. Tony: This is great. I've long used the AutoCorrect feature of Word, but you've just liberated me beyond Microsoft. Thank you for that.

  9. Mama Zen: It does have a learning curve. Especially for short words,you need to work to establish the habit. However, you can pick it up pretty quick.

    Helen: Well, I *did* have a guest post on how of the use mind maps to sort out plots. Maybe that would help.

    Janet: You might like it, Janet. Give it a try.

    estrella05azul: Let me know how it goes!

    Jesse Theodore: I'm happy to be of assistance, Jesse!


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