There are certain phrases like addresses, greetings, custom signatures that repeat themselves quite often — which may be a bother, especially if you’re not into typing. Text expansion utilities are great for such tasks. You can create snippets that expand to your liking, thereby greatly reducing your work. Not only that, if you often misspell some words, you can use these tools to provide system-wide auto-correction tailored to your needs. Autokey is one such utility for your Linux computer.
You can install Autokey via your distro’s package manager. For example, this is how you would install it on Ubuntu. You can search for Autokey in the Synaptic Package Manager and mark it for installation or you can use "sudo apt-get install Autokey" instead.
Once installed, you will find it listed under Application > Accessories on your Gnome desktop. Go ahead and fire it up. You will be greeted by a relatively clean and simple UI to begin with. Click and expand ‘My Phrases’. Now click on ‘First Phrase’ to see what Autokey has to offer.
A ‘phrase’ is basically a snippet of text that would be expanded or triggered whenever the criteria you specify is met. You can start by giving your phrase a name that will be used to identify it. This text will neither be expanded, nor would it be the expansion. Phrase contents is where you should enter the expanded version of the text. This may be something you type often; like an address, your email signature or anything. At this point, you have essentially created a phrase.
Now you need to tell Autokey when and how you want to trigger this phrase. There are a couple of options at your disposal here:
- You can create an abbreviation for your text which when encountered, will be replaced by the text you specified above.
- You can also create hotkeys that can be used to trigger a phrase.
Let’s look at an example to see Autokey in action. Say, you want to create an email signature phrase for one of your email accounts. Here is how you will go about it:
- Click on the Autokey icon in the tray and choose configure.
- Right-click on any folder and choose ‘New Phrase’. You can create additional folders if you want to organise your phrases better.
- Type in a name for your phrase. Lets call it ‘myMuoSign’
- Next, in the phrase description box, type in the email signature that you want to use
- Now, check "Use Abbreviation" in the Abbreviation tab towards the bottom.
- Type in the Abbreviation that you would like to be expanded (say muosign) for the text you entered.
That is it, you are done with a basic phrase that just works. Now whenever you type ‘muosign’ it will be expanded to the email signature that you typed above. While we are here, let’s look at some additional options that Autokey offers.
First off, you can also trigger the phrase with a hotkey. To do so, you simply configure a hotkey in the Hotkey tab. Choose a modifier (or a combination of modifiers) listed in the tab and then click on ‘set key’. The next key you press along with the modifiers (Ctrl, Shift, Alt, Windows Key) you selected will form the hotkey that you can use to insert the text phrase at any location.
The third tab, Window Filter allows you to limit the scope of text expansion for this particular phrase. You can tell Autokey to expand just the text if you are working inside Firefox. All you have to to is to specify a pattern that would match the text in the title of the window where you want the expansion to take place. *Firefox* would work nicely.
You can also have Autokey ask for confirmation before expanding the text. You can make certain phrases what Autokey calls, tray phrases. Such phrases are available for insertion via the tray icon. In addition, Autokey lets you temporarily disable expansion from the tray menu as well.
Autokey is a great tool if you do a lot of typing on your computer. With a set of well crafted abbreviations and hotkeys, you can greatly reduce your typing efforts. Have you been using clever hacks to achieve something similar? Why not share with us in the comments?