That title sounds like something I never hoped I'd write. The first part is admittedly stolen from the Round Table via this Monty Python sketch.

Image Courtesy of DevilCrayon under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

If you're an office worker like me, you probably spend quite a bit of time clicking a mouse and pounding on a keyboard.  The time you spend doing this also might lead to some manner of repetitive stress injury.  In my case, my right index finger is nearly perpetually swollen, stiff, and in pain because I learn my lessons slowly and rail in the face of common sense when it comes to my own well-being.

There are a number of ways to combat your office-wrought deterioration.  You could drop money on ergonomic products like gel pads to support your wrist or braces designed to prevent the common motions that bring on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and while there is some debate as to how efficacious many of these interventions are, they'll probably bring you some physical respite.   Your other option would be to take the less expensive route and attempt to reduce the number of mouse clicks and keystrokes you perform each day.   Here are two ways you could do that.


AutoHotkey is a tool known — I would imagine — to most computer nerds, and while my brother, a Computer Science major, recommended I learn to use it, I took quite awhile to start digging into it.  Before I go any further, let me stress that I am a computer/coding/technology enthusiast.  I learn what I can and pick up things here or there, and for personal purposes, I'm relatively proficient, but as a handful of my friends and my aforementioned brother are either professionally or scholastically involved in the computer fields, I should extend the caveat that you take my tech advice as gospel at your own peril.  Indeed, I have a pronounced case of cybernetic penis envy.  Read that as you will.

Anyhow, AutoHotkey essentially allows you to write scripts, macros, shortcuts, etc. once you've downloaded the program.  The nice advantage to AutoHotkey is its simplicity.  Even a dullard like me can manage to streamline a few processes and cut down the daily digital (think fingers) mileage.  For instance, I've assigned shortcuts that open up the programs I use most often.  In the following example, "#" represents the WIN key, and "w" represents, well, the letter "w":


This bleeding simple code launches Microsoft Word when you press WIN+w.  Let's say you're running a program like Firefox that doesn't have such an obvious Windows call:

Run C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe

So if you pres WIN+f, Firefox will launch without your having to go to your Desktop and find the icon or even start the program from your Quick Launch bar.  The problem with the way I've written the Firefox shortcut is that I haven't made it incredibly portable.  In other words, if I wanted to convert the AHK (AutoHotkey format) file into an EXE and run it on another computer, it might not work depending on the local configuration or Windows version running on that machine.  There are ways to make it more portable like using the built-in variable %A_ProgramFiles% in place of C:\Program Files (this is paraphrased from the Quick-start Tutorial on the website), but I have no imminent plans to do so.  You'll have to check AutoHotkey's documentation.

Other than that, I have to copy and paste a number of form letters for a variety of reasons and send them to people via email.  I've gotten pretty quick at navigating from file to file, but every time I go on a rampage, my right hand begins complaining and cramping up something fierce.  Why not write a script to type everything out for me?  That way I simply create a new email and press the shortcut.  In the following example, "^" stands for Ctrl, "!" stands for Alt, and {Enter} sends a Return/Enter keystroke:

Send Dear Widgets Inc.,{Enter}{Enter}I am extremely displeased with the quality of your widgets. I demand a full refund for the widgets I have purchased in bulk, and I plan to take my business to Customized Widget Solutions.{Enter}{Enter}Sincerely,{Enter}{Enter}Lord Knickerswitch

There is probably an easier way to do this, and please, if anyone who actually knows what they're doing wants to posit a few suggestions, I'd love to hear them. If you've downloaded AutoHotkey already, write this into a Notepad file, save as an AHK file, and run it. Then open a new Notepad file, place your cursor in the body and hit Ctrl+Alt+h. See what happens.  If you performed all actions correctly, you should have seen this letter typed out before your very eyes after pressing just three keys.  Your joints will thank you.

I stress again, these are very elementary examples of two things I've done with a base and exceedingly simple knowledge.  The AutoHotkey documentation provides a very complete reference of the variables and other functions available.  They are numerous, and hopefully, I'll have some more layman updates for which my brother and tech-pro friends can chastise me.


The second bit is more of an endorsement and less of an example.  Download the NiftyWindows EXE from Enovatic-Solutions.

This program also uses AutoHotkey, so to use NiftyWindows, you'll need to download the former.  Reading through the features, you'll notice that NiftyWindows provides a set of mouse and keyboard shortcuts that help in dealing with the dearth of simultaneous windows you're liable to open throughout a full working day.  These shortcuts allow the user to quickly resize or make windows transparent, stick windows on top so that they stay in view as you click through others, minimize, close, and roll up all the annoying work and non-work related windows littering your monitor.

In the twenty minutes or so it takes to program the NiftyWindows shortcuts into your muscle memory and grow comfortable with using the various interactions, you'll have saved yourself future time, hassle, keystrokes, and mouseclicks.  As far as the website notes, this program works with Windows XP and previous versions.  I haven't tested it on Windows Vista or  Windows 7, so I cannot vouch for it in those environments.  However, I do run Windows 7 at home, and I wouldn't be surprised if NiftyWindows' benefits are much less pronounced when used with 7, which is a much better and more convenient operating system than XP, as it should be after all this time.

NiftyWindows is also an open-source project under the GNU General Public License, so you're free to modify it to suit your needs if you're able and willing.

To get any real benefit from either of these solutions, you'll need to dig through the documentation yourself, and if there are AutoHotkey junkies or efficiency gurus out there with suggestions that are easy to implement for idiots like me, please post comments.  I'd also like to hear about anything that helps refine or correct the information above.