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Author Topic: Recommend less known macro apps and text expanders  (Read 10452 times)
tranglos
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« on: January 20, 2012, 09:35:08 AM »

The major players are obvious:

Macros:

(all quite expensive, especially the Pro editions; some have smaller editions with a subset of functionality but essentially the same design, which I'm omitting here)

Text expansion:

And of course AutoHotkey, far superior IMO to most if not all of them in efficiency, functionality and reliability, but with a fairly demanding syntax (I'm trying to mince words here :-) and no nice UI to organize your scripts and expansions.

Less well-known (to me! so far!):
  • Quick Macros (lightweight but fast and powerful; scripting language rivals AHK for obsurity and opaqness, if there is such a word)
  • Breevy (very nice, lightweight and fast expander, but with limited functionality, e.g. only abbreviations but no hotkeys)
  • MouseRobot (looks interesting, just downloaded the trial).

So... anything else worth including? I am not looking for tiny apps with a specific, limited functionality; only for apps with feature sets comparable to those listed. I am not including app launchers here, for example; they are a different story and there's no god but FARR.

And in general, what are you using? Any good / bad experience with any of the ones I mentioned? Other, better alternatives? (Except for AutoHotkey; I love it too, no need to gush  :-)) Annoyances?

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tranglos
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2012, 09:35:30 AM »

...Why I'm asking: I am looking for a capable automation app with full macro capability. I find the big players clunky as well as expensive, so I'm hoping there's more.

But I am really asking also because I'm seriously considering writing my own, better text expander. (Just an expander, not a full macro app.) It ain't easy; reading the copious comments in AutoHotkey source code is an adventure! But none of the expanders I know of, except AHK, works the way I need it to, and requesting a simple feature as a registered user of One Of the Above has proved futile. Plus, I have a bunch of ideas for possibly unique features, which is really the only thing that makes it worthwhile to start a project like that.

Plus plus, let it be said, I am sick of the silly acrimony between Some Of the Above, well known on DC, and I am doubly sick of how they spite the customers e.g. by encrypting user data files as well as their downloadable libraries, to prevent migration or interoperability with other products. Or how they prohibit discussing alternatives on their forums. Or how impatiently some of them respond to customers' inquiries on their forums (there are exceptions). Or how they try to undercut each other by releasing a free app almost identical in name and UI to a competitor's commercial product. Or... I could go on, but you already know all of that.

So I'm interested in alternatives, but also in your experience of using the ones I know of. (Unless you just wish to say that AHK rules, I know and I agree, and my project-to-be would not nearly encroach on its ruler-dom :-)

I should also say I have registered three of the apps listed in the OP and have trialed all but one. And I use AHK all the time, too, and I bow before its might and wisdom at every sunrise and sunset! (No, really, I am not being sarcastic. AHK is awesome, and its source code should be a teaching aid. Seriously.)
« Last Edit: January 20, 2012, 12:42:31 PM by tranglos » Logged

cranioscopical
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2012, 11:00:46 AM »

I'll mention Automate as it doesn't appear on your list. It always did what I needed.
  • Easy to use
  • Rather expensive
 
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Chris
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2012, 12:25:52 PM »

I do not have an addition to the list but will highjack the topic a moment to offer a  Thmbsup if you decide to take this further.  And I would be interested in a better/easier expander if you decided to offer it as donationware or for a modest fee.  Especially if it is along the ease of use of Ethervane Echo.
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tranglos
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2012, 12:32:38 PM »

I'll mention Automate as it doesn't appear on your list. It always did what I needed.
  • Easy to use
  • Rather expensive

Any strong points, unique features? Can you say what it cost?

(I love enterprisey websites like this. No screenshots worth a damn (just small, partial screens), no price list anywhere, and when you want feature details, they push a PDF download smiley That tells me they don't want me to buy their product. Too bad, I'm still curious!)
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flamerz
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2012, 12:34:08 PM »

my 2 choices are winautomation and phraseexpress.

before i used breevy.. and i was quite happy with it.

just did the switch to PE because a BDJ offer (and still expensive).

winautomation is.. simply great. stable and very kind support team. (but wait a little, the next version is going out from kitchen now)
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tranglos
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2012, 12:37:27 PM »

I do not have an addition to the list but will highjack the topic a moment to offer a  Thmbsup if you decide to take this further.  And I would be interested in a better/easier expander if you decided to offer it as donationware or for a modest fee.  Especially if it is along the ease of use of Ethervane Echo.

Thanks, Bob! Anything I write is and will be free (at least until I lose my day job.)

I did entertain the idea of writing shareware for a living once, which could certainly be more fun than my usual fare, but I'm not a business person. Over the years I've received offers to "monetize" (ugh!) KeyNote, PhoneDeck and Radio. These offers were met with my hollow laughter smiley



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tranglos
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2012, 12:38:51 PM »

winautomation is.. simply great. stable and very kind support team. (but wait a little, the next version is going out from kitchen now)

Thanks, that's good to know. It's the most expensive of the bunch, but looks very neat, and the developers certainly appear to have experience writing this kind of software.
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2012, 03:14:39 PM »

Any strong points, unique features? Can you say what it cost?
Automate: I think it has more depth than most (or did when I last used it), especially for network-y/enterprise stuff.
Typically >$1k


I used it in one of my companies some years back but let it lapse when I moved to some custom software.
Last year I was into something where I thought it might help and, IIRC, I could have had a fairly limited version for somewhat over $600.


There's also Macro Scheduler $55 to $595 depending on needs.


« Last Edit: January 20, 2012, 06:07:50 PM by cranioscopical » Logged

Chris
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2012, 05:32:31 PM »

Oh, dear.  Here we go again...

Text expanders:

Texter  http://lifehacker.com/software/texter/lifehacker-code-texter-windows-238306.php
 - I think this is the AHK GUI entry
Instant Text  http://www.textware.com/index.htm
 - for medical transcriptionists and other professional typists
TypeMate   http://www.typemate.net/
TypeItIn  http://www.wavget.com/typeitin.html
Direct Access  http://www.nagarsoft.com/
RoboType 4: Type in Shorthand  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380508,00.asp
Rocket Typing  http://www.easy-to-use-software.com/html/rocket-typing
Typing Buddy  http://www.supernova-soft.com/c5/index.php/products/speed_typing/
FastFox Typing Expander  http://www.nch.com.au/fastfox/index.html
Type Booster  http://www.typebooster.com/index.php
Smart Type Assistant  http://www.blazingtools.com/sta.html
Typing Assistant  http://www.sumitsoft.com/index.htm
Auspex  http://www.donationcoder....25182.msg231091#msg231091
 - a timns app here on DC


Macro programs:

nMacro  http://www.nkprods.com/nmacro/
Macro Goblin  http://www.macrogoblin.com/
vTask Studio  http://www.vtaskstudio.com/features.php
Comfort Keys  http://www.comfort-software.com/hotkey-manager.html
  - no mouse automation, only keyboard
MultiMacro  http://www.xrayz.co.uk/multimacro/
 - looks abandoned and very old
KeyText  http://www.mjmsoft.com/keytext.htm
Quickeys  http://quickeys.com/
PowerPro  http://powerpro.webeddie.com/index.html
Easy Macro Recorder  http://www.flashplayerpro.com/MacroRecorder/
AIM Keys  http://www.aimsoft.com/aimkeys.asp
JitBit Software  Macro Recorder  http://www.jitbit.com/
Hot Keyboard Professional  http://www.hot-keyboard.com/
 - recommended by mouser, though he later changed to Macro Express
WireKeys  http://www.wiredplane.com/en/wirekeys/about.php
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kunkel321
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2012, 05:41:13 PM »

Texter is a freebie from the Lifehacker people.
http://lifehacker.com/238...indows?tag=softwaretexter

There's also Shortkeys
http://www.shortkeys.com/
from the people who make MacroExpress.

There's also, coincidentally, one at http://www.giveawayoftheday.com/fastpaste-263/ today, though it doesn't seem to be getting good reviews.  
EDIT:  I guess fastpaste doesn't really fit this category...
 

My humble advice is to use AutoHotKey, if you have the skills to code.   If not, shell out the $60 for MacroExpressPro. It's quite powerful and has a responsive support forum.
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cyberdiva
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2012, 06:49:14 PM »

I have used and loved ActiveWords for years.  It has both text expander and macro capabilities.  More specifically, it can do text substitution/expansion, launch programs, open documents and folders, send email [I've never used it for this], and navigate to websites.  Moreover, it has a simple but moderately powerful scripting language  that makes it possible to do more complex tasks.

There's a free version that I've never tried.  The commercial version costs $49.95.  You can install it on all your computers for that price.  I've tried several similar programs and continue to prefer ActiveWords.  
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tranglos
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« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2012, 08:05:41 AM »

My humble advice is to use AutoHotKey, if you have the skills to code.   If not, shell out the $60 for MacroExpressPro. It's quite powerful and has a responsive support forum.

I've been using AutoHotkey for a long time - for window management, app launching and text expansion. It's just that  *am* a sucker for a convenient UI. I have quite a lot of expansions defined for email, for my translation work and for coding. AHK does not make it easy to organize them, and every so often I catch myself deciding not to add a new expansion simply because it will make the script even bigger and harder to manage than is already is.

Or, if I wanted to change the prefix character for example, I'd have to modify every entry in the AHK script, while a UI-based application might store a prefix in one place and apply it to all expansions (or better, all expansions in a particular category).

Other than that, AHK is the best utility so far. All the commercial apps impose some short-sighted limitations. Just to give an example, in ActiveWords you can choose a trigger key for some of its functions, but it can only be a function key F1 to F12; you don't even get to choose modifiers. Something like that disqualifies a program immediately (to me), and each and every one of them has these kinds of limitations somewhere. Either you MUST use a prefix character (useless for typo correction) or you cannot use one, or the only way to activate a feature is to press CAPS LOCK (I actually use caps lock e.g. when translating END USER LICENCSE AGREEMENTS for example, since they are often in all caps, who knows why!), etc. Or they can launch apps, but are not smart enough to activate an app if it is already running, which is critical to me (e.g. press Win+Z to launch Firefox, but if it's already running, activate it instead.)

Big or small, all commercial apps have these little traps. AHK is the only one that does not. So I want to put that functionality in a nice, polished UI, and without all the complex scripting that AHK does (because that's beyond my immediate need and coding skills, not because there's anything wrong with it).
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cyberdiva
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2012, 09:00:10 AM »

You're probably right, tranglos, that ActiveWords limits the trigger key to the function keys.  I'm not sure, since I never found a need to use something else as the trigger.  I did need to change function keys at one point, and that was no problem.  As far as typos go, ActiveWords corrects them without any trigger key (unless for some reason you want a trigger key even for a given typo, which is also possible).  If I type "becuase," ActiveWords will automatically change that to "because" without my hitting a function key.

One thing I appreciate about ActiveWords is that its scripting is simple yet quite powerful.  For people comfortable with more sophisticated languages and who have more complicated needs, AHK may be a better choice.  I don't know, since I've never tried it.  
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kunkel321
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2012, 11:53:37 AM »

I know what you mean, Tranglos, about being a sucker for a good UI.  I've tried lots of times to self-teach myself AHK, but end up getting frustrated and going back to MacroExpress, because there's no code needed.  (Though you do still need to understand the logic behind more complex macros, and you have to become a quasi-expert if you want to manipulate the registry, work with .ini files, and that sort of thing.)  The different possible activations are pretty versatile.   I think maybe you can have a space character as a suffix activation, which makes it like an autocorrector.  But I think you'd have to create each item as a separate macro which would be prohibitively time-consuming. The sister product, ShortKeys, actually lets you import the .acl library from office (e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\1033\MSO.ACL), which is nice.  UNFORTUNATELY, I found that ShorkKeys conflicted with the built-in autocorrect of Word, so I don't recommend it.  (fyi Here is a comparison chart of the apps: http://macros.com/compareproducts.htm).

Lastly, regarding autocorrects, have you tried the AHK script that this Jim fellow made http://www.autohotkey.com...otstrings.htm#AutoCorrect ?
It's pretty sweet and has a gizmo for quickly adding new items.  I think you could probably also use it as a text-expander(?)  You'd just have to be careful to not have any real words replaced.  (For example use "myaddy " to activate your address, but don't use, "add ")
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AndyM
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« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2012, 02:59:55 PM »

Been using AutoHotkey and MacroExpress.  One or the other is better or easier for this or that.  I have a few ME macros that call an AH script.  I've been pleased.
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AbteriX
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« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2012, 03:43:34 PM »

Just in case someone don't know activAid - A GUI for AutoHotkey

ac’tivAid provides a collection of autohotkey scripts that enhances Windows with useful functions,
some of which you may recognize from other operating systems. The tool itself works like a platform
with a graphical user interface (GUI), to which you can add a custom selection of scripts.
http://www.makeuseof.com/...otkey-scripts-activaid-2/

http://www.donationcoder....m/index.php?topic=18224.0


http://www.heise.de/ct/activaid/htm/readme.htm




* Hotkeys.png (52.06 KB, 712x494 - viewed 189 times.)

* Hotstrings,.png (77.79 KB, 731x476 - viewed 173 times.)

* ss-164.png (50.77 KB, 732x506 - viewed 150 times.)

* ss-163.png (43.09 KB, 732x506 - viewed 142 times.)
« Last Edit: January 21, 2012, 03:48:54 PM by AbteriX » Logged

Greetings, Stefan.
app103
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« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2012, 09:50:45 PM »

Asutype was the first and only text expander I have ever used. It's primary usage is as a spelling corrector, but it has text expander capabilities. It fails in usage with GTK applications, so I can't use it with Xchat, and since I can't use it for spelling correction in that, I really don't have a use for it any more. Almost every other app I use has a spell checker built in, and I only really get fouled up when using a chat client.
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kip
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« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2012, 05:19:05 PM »

One of the best text expanders I have found is Yadabyte Subtext, nice easy interface for entering text expansions, quick and easy to learn / use and best of all totally free.  Should also add totally portable as well.  There are a few other portable apps which may be useful on this site, Subtext is the 5th one from the top.
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kalos
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« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2012, 05:16:06 AM »

is there a text autoreplacer/correcter/expander that works with regex?

but I have to limit its usage to specific windows or even controls

thanks
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kalos
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« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2012, 09:42:49 AM »

is there a text autoreplacer/correcter/expander that works with regex?

anyone?
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tranglos
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« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2012, 11:09:20 AM »

is there a text autoreplacer/correcter/expander that works with regex?

I don't know of any, but it might be a performance killer. Every time you press a key it would have to evaluate as many regular expressions as you have created to find one that matches. It's impossible to know the real performance impact without actually trying, but intuitively it looks iffy to me.

It's not just perceived performance from users' point of view, either. When an application uses a keyboard hook, like a text expander must, Windows 7+ imposes a strict limit on how long the application can take to process a keypress. It's a fraction of a second. If the application takes longer, Windows immediately kills the hook, so that the app can no longer function.

So there is a very concrete limit on how much processing you can do in a text expander. Regexes might be too sluggish for that, especially if you have a hundred of them, or if they are complex. Again, this is only my unproven gut feeling, but it might be one reason why you don't see text expanders with regex matching.

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tranglos
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« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2012, 11:10:59 AM »

Just in case someone don't know activAid - A GUI for AutoHotkey

Thanks AbteriX! It's the first I've seen activAid. Going to check it out now.
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kalos
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« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2012, 02:43:57 PM »

I think there is a hotstring software from a member here, where you tick a box to enable regex support, but cant remember which exactly...
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Jammo the OrganizedFellow
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« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2012, 11:56:51 PM »

I've been daily reliant on PhraseExpress for a few years now.
At first it was for my poor spelling mistakes (as I am a very fast typist).
And then for basic html coding, but now I have uses for nearly everything.

ex: TimeDateStamps for renaming files.
Web forms entry: name, address, password, etc.
Rapid html/css coding.
Windows command line, and Cygwin when I SSH to my sites.

Aside from Chrome, I'd have to say it's my most widely used app.
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