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AutoHotKey: Start here

AutoHotKey Use in the Library.

Is AHK right for me?

If you frequently use computer shortcuts (like Ctrl + z), spend a lot of time copying and pasting the same things, or have files you open repeatedly in the course of a day, it might be. 

This guide will take you through the basics--how to install AHK on your machine and create basic scripts--but if you need further instruction, we will include resources for those too. The website has some great instructions and explanations about the program. But for the purposes of this libguide, much of this will be glossed over. 

Getting started

AutoHotKey is an easy way to customize shortcut keys on your computer. It's a free program that lets you create your own customized code (known as a "script") to create shortcut keys (like CTRL + v to paste). You can create "keys" to:

  • open a file from the server
  • write repetitive or hard-to-remember phrases
  • open web pages
  • and much more!

As you will see them explained in this libguide, these scripts come in two main categories

  • Send scripts will send a word, phrase, or document to the screen. For example, you can program an unused key to populate an email with a form letter you send frequently. Or you can program a key to enter your signature. Or you can program a pair of keys to type in a phrase. (Just note that send scripts type out the programmed message one letter at a time, so you can't click out of where you're entering it until the input is done)
  • Run scripts will open a file or site.

Especially working in ILL and reserves, there will be a number of files you have to open repeatedly, form emails you have to send out, or phrase you have to input. AHK not only makes these tasks easier, but it keeps things consistent (and keeps you from forgetting where that file you only use twice a year lives).

  • Make sure you have Admin privileges on your computer (you should do this anyway, really). If you don't, contact IITS.
  • Go to the AHK site (sidebar) and click the big "Download" button.
  • Create a script:
    • Right-click on desktop.
    • Select New > AutoHotKey script (this will create a Notepad document).
    • Right-click on the file and click "Rename." Choose something that ends with the .ahk extension (eg: Script.ahk).
    • Right-click on the file and click "edit script."
    • You can populate this with my script and edit as needed. Or, if you're feeling brave, write your own.
  • Once your script is done, close out of it. Double click on the file to run your script.
  • Test one of your scripts. If it works, congrats! If not, time to troubleshoot.


I recommend making your AHK script run on startup. This way, you don't have to remember to run it every day when you come in (I spent many days wondering why a key wasn't working until I remembered I hadn't started the program yet). There's a good tutorial on how to do this here. Just remember that any time you update your script, you will need to replace it in the start folder.

If you do this, remember to pin the AHK icon (small green box with a white H) to your taskbar for ease of access to your script.

In many of my other libguides, when I talk about AHK, I usually mention something along the lines of:

  • AHK: shortcut key + a

But what is the shortcut key?

A shortcut key is any key that you frequently use in combination with other keys to create the AHK script. When I say shortcut key, I mean this:


It's the key just under the Esc key. And honestly, I don't think I ever used it before installing AHK. If it's a key that you frequently use, however, I recommend establishing a different shortcut key.