Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Easy Zoom Controls with an AutoHotkey Script

During remote simultaneous interpretation on Zoom, it can be a hassle to reach for the mouse and move the cursor to the microphone or camera icon to mute/unmute or turn the camera on or off. The Zoom windows may not even be in focus when one needs to mute/unmute, which adds to the cognitive load and stress in an already demanding situation.

An alternative solution that has given me much more control is creating an AutoHotkey script to perform the following actions:

    1. Bring the Zoom window into focus (make it active)

    2. Press the microphone or camera button

    3. Return focus to the original window 

Once the AutoHotkey script is ready and running, I simply press my chosen hotkey (shortcut) to control my microphone and camera. I like F1 for the microphone and F2 for the camera.

Watch it in action!

Here's how you can do it too.

1. Get AutoHotkey 

If you're already an AutoHotkey user, you can skip this part and simply grab the script, which you can find here. The script includes the following hotkeys:

F1 - Mute/unmute 

                    F2 - Start/stop video

                    F3 - Open chat window

                    F4 - Open/close participant list

                    F5 - Start/stop screen sharing

Please note that with the exception of opening the chat window, all other actions return the focus to whatever window was active when the hotkey was pressed.                    

If you are new to AutoHotkey, download the program here and install it. After installation, nothing opens, that's normal. AutoHotkey runs in the background and allows you to run your own scripts. You can learn more about it here.

2. Get and run the script

After you've installed AutoHotkey, download the Zoom Controls script here.

Unzip the file and save the file called Zoom controls.ahk in an easy-to-find folder. Once safely saved, double-click on the file. Note that you can easily inspect the contents of the script by opening with a plain text editor, such as Notepad.

A green box with a white H should appear in your system tray, indicating that the file is now active. 

3. Use your new shortcuts!

Now you're ready to use your shortcuts. Open Zoom and try them out. Try opening another window, such as Notepad, for example, and pressing one of your shortcuts (F1 to mute/unmute, for example) while you're typing in Notepad and watch your Zoom microphone change state while your cursor remains in Notepad.

4. Add your shortcuts to devices other than your keyboard

If you have an Elgato Stream Deck, you probably know that it provides a plug-in that offers Zoom microphone and camera control capabilities. However, the plug-in actions cause the Zoom window to gain and retain focus, which may not always be desirable, for example, if you need to mute/unmute while scrolling through a reference PDF or Powerpoint. 

Furthermore, I have found that there is some lag between pressing the button on the Stream Deck and the action actually being performed in Zoom, which is not ideal during simultaneous interpretation. See the difference in responsiveness between the Elgato plugin and the AutoHotkey script in the video below.

Fortunately, the AutoHotkey hotkeys can easily be added to the Stream Deck, using the Hotkey or Hotkey Switch options under System.

In addition to the Stream Deck, I also use a Logitech mouse with programmable keys, so I have a third option to quickly mute/unmute and start/stop video.

You're probably wondering if you can do the same with other platforms, and the answer is, probably yes. It's only a matter of telling AutoHotkey to activate the appropriate window, sending the appropriate shortcut for whatever action you want to perform, and then returning the focus to the original window. You can always use my script as a starting point and simply modify the appropriate parts as needed. 

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