One repetitive task that I find wastes a lot of time is filling out registrations. You know the eye-glazing drill for software, Web sites, and newsletters: You jump from field to field, filling in first name, last name, e-mail address, rank, serial number -- and so on. There's gotta be a better way!
There is. You can bring some automation into play to eliminate repetitive typing. There are a number of utilities available to help do this, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones. APS-EZR, a $US22.40 utility from BST Unlimited, recently caught my eye. After giving it a thorough workout, I found that APS-EZR has some nice features, though its copy-and-paste features can be confusing.
Recording repetitive info
I tested the fully functional trial version of APS-EZR, which works with Windows 98, 95 and NT. After you've downloaded, decompressed, and installed the 2MB program, it puts a small traffic light icon in your system tray. Double-clicking the icon brings up the APS-EZR toolbar.
From there, you can enter various types of information: personal data; one-line entries (for passwords, signature greetings, and so on); and multiline entries (for entire paragraphs). After you have entered data in these fields, you can recall the APS-EZR toolbar from the system tray any time you want to paste your saved information into a Windows document or online registration form. The toolbar is programmed to remain on top of all other open windows, so you'll always see it.
Copy and paste ... and paste
APS-EZR provides automation features to help speed up the text transfer process, but when it comes to the actual copying and pasting, APS-EZR is a bit hard to handle. To get to the text you want, you have to navigate through the program's tabs and select your text by clicking the button next to that selection. Then you click the Paste button to put APS-EZR into Paste mode. Once in Paste mode, the program basically takes over your mouse: A left click will paste the selected text in the active Web page field or wherever the cursor is residing in a Windows document; a right click makes the APS-EZR toolbar the active window.
In theory, this ability to shift quickly between your APS-EZR text and the document you're pasting into could really speed things up. Left-click the toolbar to select the text you want, left-click the Web page text field to paste, then right-click back to the toolbar, and repeat for each field.
But in practice, I found the system somewhat frustrating. For example, when I misplaced a click and put my first name in the last name field, I instinctively tried to select and erase the mistake. But as soon as I left-clicked within the Web page to do this, APS-EZR just pasted my first name again. To regain control of my mouse, I had to return to the toolbar and turn off the Paste mode. Then it was back to the Web page, where I corrected the mistake, and then back to the toolbar, where I hit the Paste button again, and so forth.
When the toolbar is not active on-screen, it can be put into either Hide or Off mode. I found the Hide mode rather annoying: APS-EZR takes over your right mouse button, so you lose the ability to use that button for anything but popping up the toolbar.
The brighter side
Still, APS-EZR can come in handy once you get the hang of its unwieldy Hide and Paste options. You can enter entire paragraphs and sentences in the multiline field, and then paste them into your documents via the system tray and toolbar. APS-EZR also offers Auto-Tab, which automatically jumps to the next field after you've pasted text in a form, and Auto-Advance, which automatically copies from the next field in your Data Input Form.
When you use these features together, you should be able to simply left-click your way through a registration form. The first click will put your first name in the first field of the Web page and moves you on to the second field, another left-click puts your last name in the second field and moves you to the third field, and so on. Unfortunately, not all registration forms are alike, and differing field sequences can make APS-EZR's automation features useless.
That said, clicking from toolbar to application still beats typing the same thing over and over. But APS-EZR is just one of several such utilities, and a few of its competitors are really strong. Before paying for any of these tools, you'll want to find the best one for your particular work habits. APS-EZR is available in a free 30-day trial version.
A look at the competition
While APS-EZR does a reasonably good job once you get used to its quirks, I found that some other programs work better. CE Software's $US40 QuicKeys lets you create custom toolbar icons or hot-key combinations to trigger the pasting of text blocks, and it has a galaxy of other automation options.
ProdEx's $US29 AddressGrabber takes a different, but equally effective, approach: when you copy and paste a signature line, the program determines which information belongs in which fields of your address book. And because AddressGrabber can move information between different address books, it can do essentially what APS-EZR does--paste your personal data field-by-field into other applications.