Tag Archives: windows

Death to Caps Lock: An AutoHotKey Story

This entire post pertains to using Windows. I have zero clue about Macs or any other operating systems. Sorry!

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THE CAPS LOCK KEY IS THE BANE OF INTERNET CIVILITY. Long has it been the weapon of choice for trolls, jerks, and other Internet low-lifes. I had a dream once that its purpose would be re-tooled, christened by a new found use that would redeem it forever. This is the story of achieving that dream.

I’ve never found any use for Caps Lock. In fact, it has long been more of a curse than a blessing. I suppose some more-than-deviants might find value in its existence. But I am not one of them.

More often than not, I’d accidentally press it. As a result, the next message I’d type would necessarily need correction. Either the direct sort where I just start over or the lazy sort where I apologize to whomever I sent it to for my yelling.

Then it dawned on me one fateful afternoon: I don’t have to continue living this way. In fact, I bet I can find a way to make Caps Lock my friend, not my enemy.

I wanted to repurpose my Caps Lock key to do something I did more and more often while sitting at a computer: search. This was before Chromebooks had been created (their keyboards replace Caps Lock with a search key), so Google probably owes me money. Just kidding Google, don’t cut off my Internet traffic!

When I am sitting at a computer, I am almost always using a browser (Chrome, because HAIL GOOGLE). If I want to look for a YouTube video, I go to YouTube and type in what I want. If I want to use Wikipedia, I go to Wikipedia and type in what I want. It’s all a bit tedious and, frankly, unnecessary.

I’ll save the parts about search functionality for another post, but I did manage to remake my Caps Lock key into almost exactly what I wanted. The process is so simple that I fully believe you could make it into most anything. How about a Reverse-Tab key for better tab-targeting controls in World of Warcraft? How about a ‘LOL’ key for quickly responding to those “funny” videos your mom/aunt/cousin keep linking you? AutoHotKey makes the possibilities endless!

While AutoHotKey is a lot more powerful than the relatively simple reason I use it, my only real need for it is to remap my Caps Lock key. Now, there are ways to do that without the need of an external program, but I like pretending I’ll one day master other aspects of the program. Your mileage may vary.

AutoHotKey is 100% free and open-source.  You download it here.  After you install it, find it in the bottom right corner of your screen with all the other icons and right click. Choose ‘Edit Script’.

Everything AutoHotKey does runs from this single script. You want to change ‘x’ key to do ‘y’, then this is where you put it. Once you are done writing your script, then save it. Find AutoHotKey again, right click just as you did before, and select ‘Reload Script’.

Now, writing the script is the ‘hard’ part though it is relatively simple. For a list of Hotkey references, check here. For a list of how to reference each individual key, check here. For a list of how to reference specific commands, check here.

A basic key modification will look like this: x::y. ‘x’ will be the key you want to modify, in our case, Caps Lock. ‘y’ will be what you want it to do.

Let’s begin with make a LOL key:

According to the key reference list, Caps Lock is Capslock, so in the formula x::y we replace the x with ‘Capslock’ if we want to modify our Capslock key.

Capslock::y

According to the command reference list, to send input to our current window i.e. type ‘LOL in the message box, we use ‘Send’ followed by the keys we want sent. We put this in the y spot of our formula.

Capslock::Send LOL

Save, click reload script, and BOOM: your Caps Lock key now types ‘LOL’ for you. Quickly dismissing links to videos you don’t feel like watching or awkward comments from boys whose hearts you aren’t ready to break will never be easier.

You can also use it to Run programs:

Capslock::Run Chrome

Launch specific folders:

Capslock::Run D:\Dropbox\Screenshots

There are so many possibilities, ones that go far beyond replacing only your Caps Lock key. I also got rid of Scroll Lock. AutoHotKey is the perfect DIY app to play around with on a relaxing Sunday. I cannot recommend it enough!

If you are still having trouble, here’s a more in depth guide. Also, feel free to ask for assistance in the comments. I am no expert, but my Caps Lock search key makes me one heck of a quick researcher.

 

20+ Articles in my Pocket

Let’s say you have been using Feedly for at least a week now. You may have realized that it can be difficult reading so many articles everyday. Worse, sometimes you like to save those articles, and after doing this for some time, your browser’s bookmarks look like an insurmountable wall of text. My solution to all of those ills is simple: Pocket.

Pocket3

Pocket is a free app and website that stores links for you. It is my number one app of choice when it comes to saving articles or links I may want to write about (which I tag as ‘research’).  Combining visual appeal and some really useful bits of organization, Pocket makes storing, viewing, and finding links you’d want to view another time a real breeze.

Better yet, it integrates perfectly with Feedly. Either using the website version (where you save articles to Pocket) or even by setting Pocket as your default article saver on the app version, Feedly makes Pocket a perfect choice if you often need to save things from your RSS.

While I am less familiar with iOS, Pocket on android lets you use the share button to send links, websites, and other things worth saving directly to Pocket. If I happen to check a link that a friend text me, I can easily save it to Pocket for later reading.

Pocket also uses the cloud, so your links are synced wherever you can sign in. This makes it especially handy for saving links to things you might want to access on a public computer. For instance, a few YouTube videos for a class. Rather than risking your email on a public terminal or bothering with a USB stick, you can just use Pocket.

Pocket2

Most of my use for Pocket comes from its organizational benefits. Being able to tag articles with my own made-up tags helps me keep track of them without having to organize them into various folders. As I enjoy cooking, I like to use Pocket not only for recipes, but for cooking tips and any other articles that I might want to reference back to multiple times. I also use it for tagging ‘wishlist’ items at the source I originally learned about them (book reviews, for example). If I save just the it, say on Amazon, I sometimes forget the context of why I save it, so it is handy to have original articles.

I have to admit, when I first read about Pocket, I was skeptical. Feedly already had a mostly functional ‘Save for Later’ option and my bookmarks have never failed me. Still, I do like to be surprised, so I decided to try Pocket in the hopes of its use surprising.

It took a while for that to happen. While Pocket has been incredible since the first day I used it, it took me a while to fully integrate it into how I operate. Once I did, however, I don’t think I would ever go back. It just offers a much cleaner, more organized, and more useful solution to the problem of retaining links than anything else I have tried. The ability to quickly search or to pull up specific tags makes it even better than many alternatives.

The one exception is probably Evernote, which I have also used extensively. Evernote is great if you want a copy of the link or some of its content, rather than the full website. I use it more extensively as an archiver, but only for recipes. It pairs particularly well with a tablet if you are looking to create a digital cookbook of your own favorite recipes.

For everyday use, however, I prefer Pocket. You can bet it’ll stay that way too!

For Android users, you can get Pocket here. For iOS users, you can get Pocket here.

If browsing the internet is the Wild West, Feedly is my Sheriff.

Before I began using Feedly a few years ago, I had never used RSS before. Honestly, I didn’t even have a clue what it stood for (Rich Site Summary) or how it could improve my life. Anytime I wanted to check for news, I’d pull up each website I frequently individually, scan their front page to the point that I had last read, and repeat this process throughout the day. That was the sole source of my news since I had yet to join Twitter and my Facebook wasn’t overloaded with links as it is now.

This quickly became a problem: I am an information addict, so checking for news often occurred hourly, if not sooner. That meant that every time I wanted to satiate my hunger, I had to once again pull up the ten to fifteen websites I enjoyed. And boy was I hungry!

I eventually admitted the problem, so I decided to find a solution. I briefly looked at Google Reader, but its interface seemed ugly and loud. One of the major reasons it took me so long to get into Twitter was how overwhelming it felt, and it wasn’t until I found categories and Tweetdeck that I could structure the information so it wasn’t pure noise. Similarly, Feedly helped me organize, tame, and grow my news consumption habit.

These were the early days of Feedly so, despite being feature-rich, it wasn’t as featureful as it is today. I remember beta testing it on my iPod Touch (it was a while before I could afford a smartphone). Nowadays, Feedly is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. I primarily use it on my PC, but I frequently use it on my Android phone as well.

What exactly does Feedly do? Feedly captures syndicated RSS content from whatever websites you decide to add to it. With its variety of views, customization when it comes to categorizing feeds, and easy sharing options, Feedly is one of the most handy applications I have ever used. I’ve put it to work everyday, multiple times a day, for several years now. I even use it for aggregating podcasts since I no longer use iTunes, though it isn’t really meant for that.

It helps that it is incredibly easy to use if you haven’t before:

  • Go to the Feedly website and click ‘Get Started’.
  • Begin typing in a website to add to Feedly on the left-hand side of the screen.
  • Your best bet is to copy and paste the site URL directly: try ‘geekforcenetwork.wordpress.com’ and give it a shot!

After that, click on Geek Force Network. Feedly will display what GFN’s feed looks like. Once you click ‘Follow’ at the top, you’ll be prompted to sign in with a required Google account. This makes it easier to take Feedly with you anywhere.

feedly1

Once you have an account, it is time to add more websites and categorize them. For mine, I use Gaming, Culture, Technology, Sports, and Blogroll as my primary categories.

One of my favorite ‘tricks’ is adding the RSS link to my YouTube subscriptions. That way I don’t have to check YouTube separately and I don’t have a bunch of additional feeds on my Feedly. To find out how to get your RSS link for YouTube, go here.

Feedly is a great tool for bloggers looking to keep up with their community. Rather than use WordPress’s reader, I find it a lot more useful to have everything I read in a single location. Plus, I always felt like I was leaving Google Blogger users out in the cold.

It also helps that RSS feeds are quicker to sort through, since you always have the title and some of the body of the post available to read. As much as I wish it were not true, many websites publish articles that have zero interest to me. Feedly lets me go ahead and clear though out of the way. And for the articles on the fringe of ‘must read’ and ‘won’t read’, Feedly has a handy archiving function to save those to read later.

Since I am a huge fan, I am also a Feedly Pro user. Normally, Feedly is 100% free, but Feedly Pro promises additional features and the ability to suggest new ideas to the developer. It is still a bit early to call it a necessary upgrade, especially at $45 a year, but I don’t mind showing my support.

For Android users, you can get Feedly here. For iOS users, you can get Feedly here.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of Feedly if you haven’t used it before. If you use something else, I would love to hear about that as well!

If you are a fan, don’t forget to add Geek Force Network. Here’s a link so there’s no effort required!

Retro World is a game about… video games

RetroWorld

Obviously inspired by Earthbound, Retro World invites you into a parallel universe where video games come to life. Developed by Scary Pixel, the game has officially launched on Kickstarter to help fund their goal. Players can relive retro gaming experiences from their childhood as they progress through 30 years of gaming evolution. They can attend midnight game launches and even participate in competitive in-game tournaments.

When the story begins, the player has just moved to a new town where the popularity of video gaming is rocketing. “Unfortunately this newly flavored past time comes with more than the people of Frankton had bargained for. Extended periods of play have resulted in strange phenomenon from disappearing children to sightings of spooky creatures. It’s up to you and your newly found friends to get to the bottom of this bizarre mystery.”

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The game segments are broken down into four phases:

  1. The Hype – In anticipation of a release the town folks will talk about the upcoming titles expressing their likes or dislikes. You’ll see prominent billboards advertising each game using various colorful marketing strategies as well as special features in magazines. After properly researching your game you’ll make your choice determining how much cash you’ll need to earn.
  2. Earning some cash – Games don’t come cheap. It’s up to you to gather enough money before the game’s release. For this you’ll do all sorts of chores for your parents, neighbors and even strangers you meet. Cutting the lawn and making deliveries are just typical things you’ll do to earn your money. There’s still always a chance a distant relative will send you a gift through the mail.
  3. Getting the game – Getting the hottest new game can sometimes be difficult. Stores having limited stock was a common occurrence back in the day and in Retro World things are no different. You’ll have to track down your games by calling specialty shops, department stores and then get there before it sells out. In some cases finding a game can be a quest in itself taking you to some of the more seedy parts of Frankton.
  4. Playing the game – Now that you’ve got your game it’s time to play it. Finishing games to 100% completion advances the story to the next Hype phase.

On Retro World’s Kickstarter page, Scary Pixel addressed the idea of creating a game about games, stating, “I’ve always enjoyed the tongue and cheekiness of discovering games within games. But what if the idea could be pushed to the point where the player begins to question what is real and what is game? So I decided to take the concept to the next level, while telling a relatable story to gamers like myself and yet interesting enough to new gamers that weren’t around in the 80’s. I’ve never seen anything of this scale before, so this presented a great opportunity to create something different.”

Retro World will be available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.