In this post, I went over the benefits of setting up your PC to be used on your TV as a Home Theater PC. This has worked for me for well over 2 years, but one thing that was a bit annoying was having to find things and navigate around with the trackball (using this IOGear wireless keyboard from Amazon). The range on it is great, but as the batteries wear down, the keys, and especially the trackball, become unreliable.
While researching some stuff related to my learning Python, I came across the program AutoHotKey. Unfortunately, it seems to be only for Windows, but I’m sure there’s a Linux or Mac alternative out there (let me know in the comments). Apparently it’s got scripting and macro capabilities, which is really cool, but for my purposes I simply wanted to assign a few hotkeys to open: A. Netflix, B. ESPN3, and C. A workout video that we have stored on the hard drive. I’m sure we will assign more, but that’s probably 90% of what I use my HTPC for.
To install this tool, all you have to do is click on the Windows Installer found here, and it’ll go on your system (I used it with Windows 7). Follow the instructions here to create and run your first script. To run Netflix, I replaced “#space::Run www.google.com” with “F6::Run www.netflix.com”. This will make the F6 key open your browser and go to Netflix every time it’s pushed. F7 was similar for ESPN3. For the “10 Minute Solutions” video, a full path had to be specified to the video, so it would be something like: “F7::Run C:\videos\video.avi.
AutoHotKey has to be running every time this is done, so it’s helpful to put this in the startup directory in Windows so it will open every time your computer is started; here’s a little tuturial about doing this. I simply made a shortcut and put that in the startup directory (right click on the icon and select “make shortcut”) so the actual script could be left on the desktop to be modified. By default, you’ll have to run the script every time a change is made. This threw me off the first time, so keep that in mind.
To go along with the hotkey assignments, I also made a text file on the desktop and put a shortcut to it in the startup folder. This would allow the text file to start up and display the shortcut keys I’d defined (or whatever else I typed in). Not the most elegant solution in the world, but everything is generally maximized while viewing, so it’s not too visible. Sure, this little utility won’t change your life, but I hadn’t heard of this program before, and it’s free. Certainly worth a try for your HTPC or even more useful pursuits.