Review: Launch apps, sites, files, and more with FastKeys

Automate tasks, keystrokes, text entry, and more with this versatile shareware.

Programs that launch other programs, such as FastKeys, can save you time and effort by automating your most frequent and repetitive tasks and collecting them in one easy-to-access point, typically on the desktop. With FastKeys, it's the screen edge: Touch it to call up your customized FastKeys Menu. FastKeys not only launches programs but opens files, folders, or Web sites; runs scripts; fills in forms and data fields; and automates mouse clicks and keystrokes. In fact, most anything you can do with your mouse or keyboard can be automated by FastKeys. FastKeys has useful extras, too, such as a Text Expander for creating custom abbreviations for automating text strings. Typing in the two-letter abbreviation expands the full text. FastKeys is free to try for 15 days, with pop-up nags, but the licensed version costs less than $10, so it's not a big investment in time or money, especially considering the time it can save. The latest release of FastKeys, Version 1.10, has new preset commands, additional user preferences, and some general improvements.

When FastKeys is active, it's invisible until you pause the cursor on the upper screen edge to call up the Menu, or you can click a system tray icon to open the Menu or Settings (a reboot may be needed to open the Settings). The Menu, itself, is a no-nonsense affair that resembles a slightly enhanced Explorer menu. The Menu's default choices include some of the most popular Web sites, such as Google, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as Yahoo! and Gmail. Below that, FastKeys accesses My Documents, a sample desktop link, all our wireless networks, and similar entries. Clicking "Show/Hide Clock" toggled a compact digital clock display we could drag around the desktop. FastKeys also offers fast links to Microsoft Office, System, Applications, and Power submenus. Of course, the default Menu entries are only a starting point: Opening the Settings sheet let us customize our Start Menu entries, set Shortcuts, and configure the Text Expander tool.

FastKeys is fast on the job, and we were able to launch all kinds of stuff from our Menu. It's well worth a look.

Editors' note: This is a review of the full version of FastKeys 1.10. The trial version is limited to 15 days.

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