Words activate

Activate the tasks you do most often with a word with this fascinating free tool.

ActiveWords is a nifty free program that does seven useful things when you type key words or letter combinations and hit the space bar. In fact, the developers believe program's seven categories make up the 80 percent of computing tasks in the 80/20 paradigm: Substitute Text, Launch a Program, Open a Document, Navigate to an Internet Site, Send E-Mail, Open a Folder, and Scripting. You specify your ActiveWords using quick, easy commands, and then associate the words with one of the seven tasks via simple wizards. It lets you create easy-to-remember shortcuts that do what you need most often: Type "addy," for example, and have ActiveWords fill in your entire address. Or launch a program by typing its initials. Open a Web site with a word you're typing anyway; a dictionary site, for example.

ActiveWords' main interface is a thin toolbar that appears at the top of your desktop and looks like part of a maximized application. A Menu and basic icons flank a display that shows text as it's typed. Clicking the ActiveWords symbol on the right-hand side calls up a dialog for selecting basic ActiveWord commands such as add, help, find, and weather (which fetches weather information) as well as editing and customizing the choices. We began with the video tutorial, which is brief and does an excellent job of walking new users through each function. We typed "add," hit the space bar twice, and the Add ActiveWords wizard opened. We selected Open a Document, browsed to a file, selected it, labeled the action, created a four-letter ActiveWord, deselected the Confirmation Flag (since the "word" was an abbreviation, not standard English) and created an active word, which launched the silly GIF animation we'd selected when we typed it and hit the spacebar: pretty neat. It'll be well worth your time to create ActiveWords for your name, address, and groups of email addresses, and for launching programs you often use but don't want on the Start menu. Whatever it is you want to do quicker, ActiveWords can make it so.

The freeware version is limited to 30 ActiveWords, which is probably more than most users need anyway. Power users can get the commercial version, which handles more like 20,000 ActiveWords.

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