Thursday, December 4, 2003

How I use ActiveWords

Dave Stratton asks in my comments for some examples of how to get the most out of ActiveWords. I don’t have all the answers (be sure to ping Buzz if you want the whole tour) but here are some good starts:

  • Manage multiple sig files. I use a couple of e-mail programs, and was surprised to find out how many times I used web forms for sending messages (either in the comments boxes at weblogs, in response forms, etc.). In other words, my sig file was inaccessible in a number of places. Since I manage multiple sigs (one for work, one for personal stuff, and one for the volunteer work I’m doing for the Dean campiagn), I can use ActiveWords to insert whichever sig I want in whatever app I’m in.

  • Launch key applications. Navigating the Start | Programs | … hierarchy now that I’ve got at least 60 or 70 applications installed has grown cumbersome. Not only is hard to remember how Windows categorized the app (is PowerPoint under “Office”, “Microsoft Office”, or its own icon under “Programs”?), but it’s difficult now that my Programs list spans three columns (and that’s on a 1480×1050 display!). So I just assign keywords to the apps I use most; when I want to launch my ftp client, I just type “ftp” and a double-space. Ditto for Word, WordPad, Outlook, OutlookExpress, and so on.

  • Frequent text replacements. I get requests for directions to my house and office at least a few times a week. So now rather than recreate the directions, or store them on a file on my hard drive that I have to remember where they’re located, I just created a couple of ActiveWords both with the same ActiveWord. Now, whenever I get a request for directions, I type “directions”. An ActiveWord dialog box pops up — and I get to pick “home” directions or “office” directions. A double-click and ActiveWords inserts the appropriate text.

  • Navigate to frequently used web sites. I’ve set up ActiveWords for frequently-used sites: my MovableType installation, Yahoo Maps, MSNBC, CNN, etc. Now whenever I want to go there (no matter where I am in Wndows), I just type the word associated with that site. Since I’m running Firebird as my default browser, it doesn’t even open a new window — just a new tab within the existing window.

I’ve not even begun to scratch the surface — I keep meaning to spend some time exploring the scripting power of ActiveWords (that’s a function of AW Plus, not AW SE), but that’s a later-on thing. But just in the very simple things I’ve described above, I’ve saved a full working day of time (I know this because AW includes a convenient “productivity report” that tells you how much time it’s saved you).

Hope this helps.

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