« Locating a blog(er) in physical space | Home | More on ActiveWords »

June 10, 2002

ActiveWords: a potentially useful tool

My Radio news aggregator recently spit out a mention of the ActiveWords tool.  ActiveWords is a tool that watches as you type; when you type something it recognizes, it does something: launches a program, fires up a web page, substitutes some text. I was intrigued enough to follow up and install it; I've been playing with it since Friday.  The best tips and descriptions about ActiveWords come from the Ernie the Attorney blog.  A few first impressions:

  • If you come from a 'type and remember' background, ActiveWords feels like coming home.  ActiveWords can be recognized anyplace, not just when you're typing into a text field. 
  • One of Ernie's first tips was to set ActiveWords to trigger when you hit a double-space.  This is a great idea; it turbo-charges how the program feels.
  • Using ActiveWords to launch a program or open a folder is particularly useful.  So is launching to a particular URL.  (I've set 'baseball' to take me to the current baseball scores page at CNNSI.com.)
  • ActiveWords normally runs with a "MonitorBar" at the top of the screen.  The 'Ernie' article suggests moving this to the bottom.  I turned it off; I found it distracting, in part because the MonitorBar echos every word you type, including passwords. I don't like that.
  • ActiveWords is a memory pig.  I've got an older laptop with 128mb of memory.  Right now ActiveWords has five processes running, using a total of 28mb of memory (!) 128mb is the practical minimum you want on a Win2k system, so 28mb is a lot.
  • ActiveWords shows up a performance issue in Mozilla and Netscape 6.2  (More about that in another post.)

Despite some of the downsides, so far I think it's a useful tool.  I've got another 57 days on my trial, so I should have a better idea in a month or so whether ActiveWords is worth the $30/year and the system resources.