I’ve written several articles about Mac automation, including a MUO Automation Guide on how to get started with Apple’s Automator and the built-in OS X features for creating smart folders, playlists, albums, and mailboxes. But next to the application called Hazel, which I also recently reviewed, the classic automation program Keyboard Maestro ($36.00) is my most used application for getting things done on my Mac. You can download it for a 30-day free trial.
For what it does, Keyboard Maestro for Mac is modestly priced, and in my experience very reliable. Keyboard Maestro is similar to Automator in which you set up macros to perform tasks and steps that you perform manually. For example, almost any steps you take – to launch, hide, or quit applications; open folders and files; download webpages; input copied text; rate iTunes songs; email a family member; copy or paste a URL – can be done faster by Keyboard Maestro.
What It Can Do
If you’re new to Mac automation, Keyboard Maestro (KM) is made for you. You don’t have to know coding in order to build automations. You just need to take a little time to set up automations that mirror what you do manually, and from there Keyboard Maestro will perform the steps for you.
Don’t let KM’s user interface scare you off. Granted, the UI looks very techie and a little complicated, but after you create a few simple workflows, you will see how easy it is to use.
The following is just a partial list of automatons I have KM perform:
- Automatically launches specified applications and webpages at specified days and time (see demo below).
- Hides or quits an application after it has been unused in the background for a specified period of time.
- Automatically inserts username and password after an application like Yahoo Messenger is opened.
- Opens any folder or file on your computer with a keyboard shortcut or when a specified application launches.
- Automatically activates specified menu items in applications (or you can assign keyboard shortcuts to menu items that don’t have a keyboard shortcut).
- Creates a new document when an application like TextEdit, MarsEdit, or Pages is launched.
- Creates a template email that includes specified address(s), subject line, and message.
- Selects and copies a URL in a browser window using a simple keyboard shortcut.
- Resizes a window of an application, such as iTunes, when it is opened or brought to the front.
- Executes Automator workflows and AppleScript scripts.
- Lowers, mutes, or increases the audio on your Mac when an application is brought to the front.
- Simulates keystrokes in nearly any application.
The above are some of the basic automation workflows KM can perform (see a list of more features on its website.) Depending upon your needs, it can do even more advanced or complex automations, especially when you use it with applications like the mouse and trackpad program, BetterTouchTool, or with the keyboard navigation application, Shortcat.
Though Keyboard Maestro includes a manual, a more user friendly guide could also be written for the program. The following is a simple single-step workflow for an action performed manually by all computer users. Download the fully functional trial version of KM and follow the steps in this 5 minute demo that shows you how to have KM launch and/or quit an assigned application(s) at a specified time and day.
The key to using KM is to open and explore its list of several hundred Actions to see which ones fit your needs. Notice it includes actions for copying and pasting text, launching its built-in application switcher, displaying text, hiding a specific application, playing a specific iTunes track or playlist, searching a particular website, pressing a button, etc.
KM’s Record Quick Macro can record a set of actions you perform on your Mac, and you can use the results as a macro. Also, you can assign and group macros to perform only in specified applications. I have macros that only work when Safari is in the forefront. For example :
- I have a keyboard shortcut that will select and copy the URL of a webpage.
- I can type the assigned letters, “nx” and KM will play the next track in iTunes without switching to the application.
- If I want to close a Safari tab without using a keyboard shortcut, I can type “ccw.”
Note, with string triggers, the typed letters automatically activate the assigned macro and then disappear from where you typed them – all within a fraction of a second.
If you download and try out Keyboard Maestro for Mac, let us know what you think of it. You can also visit my Google+ Community page on Mac Automation tips [no longer available] for additional ideas about using Keyboard Maestro.