ActiveWords is a program that has been around for a while and has what could best be described as an enthusiastic user base. OK, they're raving fans. These well meaning people would often say to me, "oh, you have to try this program", or "it's awesome..just awesome". Seldom did someone provide specifics why I should try the program. I half expected these people to invite me to some sort of ActiveWord Party Plan or affiliate program. Too damn much enthusiasm. Or is it?
The main benefit of ActiveWords is it allows you to define and execute computer actions based on your terms, not someone else's. I'm also using terms in a generic sense, as the term could be a nonsense word or include symbols. You map one or more actions to any word you wish. Regardless of which computer program you're running, ActiveWords will execute the action when triggered. In other words, the computer is now working on your terms.
So, if you want to use the word "sob" to send an email to your boss, you can. Alternatively, you can use the politically correct phrase "email boss". The program will add each term and action to its WordBase. You might think of this WordBase as the action dictionary for your computer.
The program is different from most Windows applications that have a graphical interface. ActiveWords relies on a semantic user interface where location is irrelevant. This means I no longer have to worry about where I am before executing a command. Instead, I simply type a word and press my trigger key. This type of interface is ideally suited for anyone who tends to jump out of one program to do another task. It works equally well if you want to use consistent email signatures or paragraphs with different email applications such as Outlook and Gmail.
As example, I can define a trigger word called "ip". Some people see these letters and think of "internet protocol" and an address. Others think of "intellectual property". In my mind, I think of "in progress". Using this program, I've mapped "ip" to an action that opens my folder called "In Progress" where I keep my drafts. Similarly, if you used the program you might define the same word to take you to the US Patent website or an IP lookup program on your desktop.
Some people might be thinking what the big deal is as they could create a desktop shortcut and get the same result. True, but you would first have to navigate back to the desktop. One of the program's benefits is it doesn't care where you are when it executes your ActiveWord. I could type "ip" into this Microsoft Word draft, press my trigger key and ActiveWords would clear my entry and open my desired folder. Are you starting to get a little enthusiastic?
Oh wait, the naysayer part of you is thinking you never have to send an email while you're working on an Excel spreadsheet or editing a PowerPoint presentation. After all, we're disciplined professionals that focus on one task. For me, that behavior goes out the window the minute the phone rings or someone stops by the office and needs a file ASAP. In these instances, I want a program that can minimize the interruption so I can get back to work on my stuff.
The program achieves this efficiency by monitoring your activity, but in a good sense. The program alerts you when it spots repetitive behavior and asks you if you'd like to create an ActiveWord. This week, it prompted me after I went to the same folder 3 times over several days. If you say "yes", the program, file or document is pre-filled in the wizard. This mechanism allows you to add your regular items to the WordBase in a short time.
Although the program monitors your activity, it's not intrusive. The program loads at start up, but doesn't appear to be a resource drain like other programs. Instead, it stays in the background until you trigger it or it suggests an action. You can even auto hide the monitor bar.
The process of creating an ActiveWord is simple using the Add Wizard Utility. The wizard starts with 7 basic areas that cover most of your needs. The last option, Scripting, allows you to build complex sequences of events using a predefined command language. If you're interested in scripting, there is a 17-page document listing the commands. The company also has a dedicated forum area for scripting.
Once you make your selection and click Next >, the program prompts you for relevant information. Using this wizard, you can add an ActiveWord in less than 30 seconds. I've provided a demo in the Additional Resources section showing how easy the process is.
Adding Efficiency to Routine Tasks
When I started testing ActiveWords, I made a list of routine items where I thought the program could help. These included the typical items of opening folders I use on a daily basis or automating email addressing. Although those are great benefits, I think I've gotten as much value from automating the infrequent items. Look in your Unused Desktop shortcuts folder and you'll get a good idea of candidates.
Before using ActiveWords, I made an effort to keep a neat desktop. I don't like too many icons on my desktop. The area that always challenged me was corralling the countless items that would appear when I clicked Start | All Programs. My intent was to group items by function or publisher so I could easily find items. Well, it takes too much effort to comply with that type of system so I let installers keep their default settings. However, that behavior led to my pinning more items to my Start menu. Over time, it took longer to find the programs and files I used on a semi-frequent basis.
With ActiveWords, I seldom rely on desktop icons or my Start menu. In many cases, words have replaced my mouse actions. I'm more inclined to remember an ActiveWord that I create and assign to a program than remembering where I placed the application.
One pleasant surprise was ActiveWords allows me to have more than one word associated with a program. For instance, I can assign three different web browsers to the term "browsers" which is useful for me when testing code. When the program recognizes that multiple actions are associated with my word, a dialog appears allowing me to make a selection.
At the same time, I can assign the ActiveWord "ff" to Firefox. The program doesn't care, nor does it complain saying that Firefox already has an assigned ActiveWord.
Even if you were to build your WordBase from routine actions, you'd benefit greatly from this program. ActiveWords cuts the time to finish tasks while maintaining accuracy. Following on that theme, the company has added many free add-in applications. Some of these work with programs such as Microsoft Outlook, Palm Desktop, Microsoft Word and the web. These popular add-ins provide functions that might otherwise call for a script. One example is a text substitution agent that catches many of my misspellings.
The program comes in three flavors and price ranges based on whether you're an individual or an enterprise user. If you're not an enterprise user, the decision is between the SE and Plus version. The Plus version is the enhanced version that allows scripting and many add-in applications. In contrast, the SE version doesn't allow scripting and offers fewer add-in applications.
Since the company offers a 60-day trial, I would recommend trying the Plus version. After the trial period, I'm certain you'll agree the Plus version is a great tool for $49.95. The other benefit to the Plus version is you can request a free key for additional installations to Windows PCs you regularly use such as work, home, laptop, and so on. During the trial period, the company will send emails informing you of various features and some of these add-in programs. This is a great way to learn more about the program.
Bottom line, "ActiveWords is awesome...just awesome" ;-)
Update: If you're a US college student, ActiveWords is offering a free 4 year SE license.
- URL: http://www.activewords.com/
- Versioned Reviewed:1.9 (Build 702)
- Cost:Ranges from $19.95 -$49.95
- Requirements: Win98 and newer; 20mbs hard disk space, 64mbs memory.
- Rating: ★★★★★
- 2 Minute ActiveWords Demo
Last Updated (Tuesday, 15 September 2009 02:40)