How To End Repetitive Newsroom Typing [Tutorial]

Don't be a typing robot in your newsroom. Use this AutoHotKey tutorial to ease the pain. Photo by arthur-caranta

Don’t be a typing robot in your newsroom. Use this AutoHotKey tutorial to ease the pain. Photo by arthur-caranta

Typing can really get in the way of creating content.

There’s the typing of repeat responses to readers,story lineup templates, repeated staff reminders and so on. All of that garbage typing gets in the way of doing the kind of typing that gets the page views in, the scripts written and the papers out.

AutoHotKey logoEnter a nifty, free tool called AutoHotKey. This tiny application lets you create keyboard shortcuts that, like macros, let’s you generate lots of prewritten text anywhere.

So, let’s say you always have to write the same story planning template every day. Instead of wasting time retyping it or copy/pasting from a template, you could just type this:

morningbud

And AutoHotKey automatically writes a big block of text like this:

Top Stories
Metro
Sports
Business
Features
Photo/Video
Graphics
Etc…

Perhaps you have the pleasant task of regularly dealing with abusive message board commenters. You could set up an AutoHotKey script so when you type this:

trollnuke

Your computer types this into an open email:

Unfortunately, your user account on our site has been banned due to violations of our Terms of Service…

There’s a sweet dose of pain relief right there. So here’s how to set things up using the anti-troll example from above. First, here’s a sample AutoHotKey file, which can be opened in a text editor (right-click and “Save Link As”). On to the instructions:

1) Download and install AutoHotKey on your PC.

2) Open up a new document in a plain text editor such as Notepad. Click “File>Save As.” Choose “All Types” as the file type, and save the file as trollnuke.ahk. You can call it whatever you want, as long as it ends with .ahk.

3) Next, you’re going to add the short code you want to use, followed by the text you want AutoHotKey to output. The code comes first and is surrounded by two colons on each side, like so:

::trollnuke::

4) Then, you’ll put the full text you want to output immediately after. If you need to generate a line break, add this:

{enter}

So this is what the anti-troll AutoHotKey script would look like:

::trollnuke::Unfortunately, your user account on our site has been banned due to violations of our Terms of Service.{enter}{enter}If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 555-5555.{enter}{enter}

5) Your last step is to take the .ahk file, and drag it into your computer’s Startup folder so it automatically launches whenever you restart your computer.

That’s it! Investing the relatively short amount of time to set up the above can save you plenty of grief later, especially when you’re on deadline. If you want to see what other neat stuff AutoHotKey can do, check out their Tutorials page.

I just hope my wife doesn’t read this, or she might make me set up a “Yes dear, I will do that immediately” script…

About Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.
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