ActiveWords Turns Words Into Actions
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA -- A
single-key research utility that can open associated Web sites or files as you
need them is making its appearance as
Trying to explain what ActiveWords is can be a little like trying to explain TiVo upon its debut; it's a strong product that defies easy categorization. Even its developers find it hard to make a quick pitch.
"It brings the user's vocabulary directly to the interface," says Peter Weldon, chief executive officer of ActiveWord Systems.
The utility can turn a few characters, a word, or a phrase into a shortcut for applications, files, and Web sites. It can also operate like Word's AutoText, except that you can invoke it in any text application. Announced Monday at Demo, each of the two versions can be downloaded now for a 60-day trial. The basic version, ActiveWords SE, costs $10; a deluxe version, ActiveWords Plus, costs $50.
Here's how you'd use it. Say you're working on a document and need more research. Now, you open a browser, click a link to a search engine, enter a few words, and hope for something useful.
With ActiveWords, you simply mouse over the words you're researching, hit a single key, and watch the search results pop up inside your browser, which opened automatically.
Or, you may be writing an e-mail message and need to review a file. Type a few characters, hit one key, and the file opens; you don't need to hunt for its location. Want to pop in some boilerplate text? Enter a few characters, hit a hotkey, and the material appears.
I tried out ActiveWords Plus when writing this report.
Once you've installed the software (a trivial process), you create the text shortcuts. Click the "add" button on the ActiveWord toolbar and a menu pops up with several options, including "Launch a program." You pick the program you want to open with a text shortcut (Internet Explorer, in my case), and assign it a nickname or accept the one offered (IE).
To call up IE, I can type those two letters anywhere in a Windows application and hit the F8 key. The hotkey triggers ActiveWords and, in this example, immediately launches Internet Explorer. If I type the shortcut while working on an editable document, the letters "IE" disappear as soon as F8 is hit, leaving the document intact while launching the browser. You can even type your shortcut in your desktop or elsewhere. Or, you can choose to select your shortcut from a menu.
You can assign shortcuts to Web addresses by opening the site in your Web browser and using the ActiveWords "add" function (choose "Navigate to an Internet Site").
You can do the same with any document. Since I frequently reuse certain document templates, I found it very handy to assign a ActiveWord shortcuts to those I use most often.
With ActiveWords, you can even assign shortcuts to pieces of text. There doesn't appear to be a limit to the amount of text a shortcut can contain; I assigned a 1000-word chunk of text without problems. This is similar to the AutoText feature in Word, although much easier to use, and best of all, you can use these shortcuts in any Windows application. That's handy if you find yourself constantly dropping boilerplate text into e-mail, for example.
My favorite feature, which is available only in the ActiveWords Plus version, is a free downloadable add-on called Active Knowledge. This enables you to do research by simply mousing over text that interests you.
For example, suppose you're in a heated debate with an e-mail buddy over the merits of vacuum tube stereo amplifiers versus solid state amplifiers. Just mouse over the text you want to search (vacuum tube stereo amplifiers versus solid state amplifiers), hit F8, and Google pops up with the relevant links so you can win your argument.
The extra features built into ActiveWords Plus include a scripting application for more advanced users and a larger number of useful add-ons than the SE version.
Demo 2003 is produced by IDG Executive Forums, a sibling company of