Keyboard macros save a great deal of time, energy, and typing strain--but the wrong ones cost you in the same currency. Program-specific macro features (such as Microsoft Word's AutoCorrect) help you only part of the time, and some of the more far-reaching programs are designed for megageeks. What's an average Joe with aching wrists to do? Download ActiveWords Plus, that's what.
ActiveWords Plus is most visible in the form of the MonitorBar, a narrow ribbon that sits along the top of your desktop. When you type anything into the keyboard, it shows in a field there. If ActiveWords Plus has an action in mind, it shows that in a different field. To accept the action--anything from launching a program to opening a specific Web page to filtering your Outlook e-mail headers for a certain word--just hit F8. Or try something even easier: on the Spacebar-Spacebar Trigger in Options > ActiveWords Triggers > Confirmation Options, which initiates actions with two taps of the spacebar. It's much faster and easier than hunting in function-key Siberia.
Unlike similar programs, ActiveWords Plus arrives without a lexicon of macros. You can download free ones for common typing errors and applications (examples include apostrophe correction and Microsoft Word table creation) from vendor ActiveWord System's Web site. However, the reasoning behind shipping ActiveWords without a set of macros to learn is that ActiveWords is meant to learn from you. ActiveWords includes a handy Add Wizard, which creates actions in just a few steps and without jargon. If you want to really take it easy on yourself, you can enable options for ActiveWords Plus to point out that you're performing certain tasks frequently; the program then asks if you'd like to create new ActiveWords.
Once comfortable with ActiveWords, you can customize it to your heart's content. For instance, any ActiveWord can be set to skip the confirmation (F8 or double-space) step. You can hide or move the MonitorBar, and you can opt to use the smaller ActionPad instead of typing wherever you happen to be. Options abound; it's just a matter of finding the ones that help you the most. This version also introduces internationalization, so ActiveWords Plus now works in most languages.
ActiveWords Plus delivers a great deal of keyboard power in an unusually easy-to-use interface. The $50 price seems steep at first blush, but bear in mind that the license lets you install it on any PC you use: desktop, laptop, work, you name it. Most programs require a separate license fee for each PC. To make sure ActiveWords is the right helper for your tired hands, take advantage of the free trial.