How to Create Your Own Quick Note-Taking App with AutoHotkey

Are you looking for a light, ultra-fast and easy-to-access note-taking solution? Do a search online and you will find countless suggestions for such apps. And yet, even the “lightweight” ones are often clunky and may come with features that you might personally consider unnecessary.

So let’s see how you can create your own super-lightweight and super-fast custom note-taking app using AutoHotkey. A simple, no-frills note-taking solution that can instantly appear on your screen with the press of a single key.

Setting up a note-taking plan with AutoHotkey

Let’s start by clearly stating our end goal and devise a simple plan to get there.

For this project, we don’t need fancy text formatting, template support, or other “advanced” features. Our objective?

  • We want to create an ultra-simple application that will appear on our screen when we press a hotkey combination.
  • This window will allow us to jot down a note and save it to a plain text/MarkDown file.

And that’s it: no additional windows, dialogs, menus or buttons.

Fortunately, such a project is easy to build with AutoHotkey, as we will see next. Feel free to follow even if you’ve never used AutoHotkey before. However, it may be best if you first consult our AutoHotkey quick guide for beginners.

How to install AutoHotkey

Since AutoHotkey is a third-party solution, to use it, you need to install it.

So see you at AutoHotkey Official Siteand click on the friendly green To download button. Ignore the V1 (obsolete) and V2 (beta) versions and choose to Download current version. Then install it on your computer.

You won’t be able to notice any changes afterwards, because AutoHotkey only works as a parser for AutoHotkey scripts. In other words, AutoHotkey doesn’t “do anything” by itself. Instead, it functions as the platform on which the script we are going to create next will run on.

How to create a new script in AutoHotkey

Open your favorite file manager, like Windows File Explorer, and point it to the directory where you want to create your new script. You can choose any directory from your desktop to your personal Documents folder.

The easiest way to create a new AutoHotkey script is to take advantage of the new option available through the right-click context menu after installing AutoHotkey. Right-click on an empty spot in the file manager window and from the menu that appears choose New > Automatic Shortcut Script.

Since AutoHotkey scripts are actually plain text files, you can also create a new text file and then rename it, changing its extension from SMS at AHK. The end result will be the same: you will have a new blank AutoHotkey script.

Launch your favorite text or code editor and open the script for editing. For this article, we’ll be using Notepad++, but you can use any similar tool, like VS Code or Atom.

Of course, if you prefer to keep things simple, you can always use the good old Notepad that comes with Windows.

Create a GUI in AutoHotkey

To simplify future customization of our script, let’s store two essential pieces of information in two variables.

  • The first, which we named NotesPath, maps to the full path where we want our script to save our notes. Please don’t forget to change the path to the one you want to use. Otherwise, your notes will be saved to an unexpected location or the script will fail.
  • The second, which we named FileNameExtra, contains a string that we will use for the filenames of our notes. Each note’s file will be named after a “sanitized” version of its title, followed by this string.

It should look like this:

NotesPath = A: