Quite a while ago I download Keyboard Maestro, installed it and quickly gave up on it. At that time I really just didn’t have a need for what it could do. Since then I have become quite the keyboard junkie and I really hate having to use the mouse. I find it is slow and inefficient for most text based actions. I always wished that I could do more just by pressing the keyboard, kind of like how in just about every TV show the IT guy can zoom and enhance a picture with just a few key strokes. That is when I remembered Keyboard Maestro; I decided it was time to give it a fair shake down.
What it does
Keyboard Maestro is not just an app for assigning keyboard shortcuts to things that is built into Mac OS X for most all menu commands. This is a tool for people that want to do a lot of stuff with just a few presses of the keyboard.
Things like renaming a group of files, opening a set of applications, creating global commands. The types of things that bring your computer that much closer to the imaginary computers on shows like CSI and others. If you are not a nerd, if you prefer the mouse, or if you just prefer not to tinker then you should stop reading here: this app is of no value to you.
If you are still reading then get ready to waste a lot of time playing in this app.
My First Challenge
When I first opened up Keyboard Maestro I looked around at the pre-filled actions that it can preform and started to think about which ones I wanted to keep ‘enabled’ and which I didn’t care about. I started to toy with ideas, grand ideas, that proved a little too advanced for the app. So I brought myself back to reality and kept the window open.
From that moment on, every time I did something that I felt should be more automated, I tried to make the action in Keyboard Maestro. The first thing I came across was needing to close all open applications so that I could perform a SuperDuper! backup (I am paranoid about having things running during a back up).
So I made a ‘super quit’ command:
This took all of 10 seconds to make; now I can perform backups much faster. Nice.
Going beyond the Call of Duty
At this point I liked Keyboard Maestro, but it had hardly emboldened itself in my Mac experience.
Then I wanted to reopen my apps that I just closed so that I could get back to work which was the problem. I don’t keep apps in my dock, so I launch them via LaunchBar. This means is a lot of keyboard strokes to do something that should be automatic.
(Side note: I don’t use open at login for much of anything because I hate having to wait for apps to load when I know exactly what I want to launch. I much prefer to be in control of what is opening and when those apps are opening. Open at login seems to get in the way more often than not.)
I wanted to create a command that launched the apps and got them ready for me to use.
Here is my typical morning computing workflow: wake computer > launch apps I need to get going1 > take my medicine2 > back to the computer to get going > close windows I don’t need >start computing. I wanted to eliminate steps #2 and #5, the launching of apps, and closing of windows. Since I would be away from my computer during these times, the time it takes to do this is not important.
Here is what I came up with:
I want to talk a little bit about what is going on here so that you can begin to grasp the power of Keyboard Maestro.
- I open all the apps that I want.
- I pause the next set of actions so that all the apps can load.
- I close the windows that apps open, as I don’t like to see these windows until I need them.
- Again I pause for a short bit so that I can make sure the other actions are done.
- Ulysses is annoying when you open it and it takes a bit longer to load than the other apps. So I pause before I hide the application. I hide Ulysses because I want to keep my project open, but not see it until I want to write.
Basically I am opening a bunch of apps and then hiding/closing the windows that they automatically create. By the time I get back from my medical excursion the MacBook Air is ready to roll.
Ok so the above is a pretty basic use case for Keyboard Maestro. I still think this is where you should start, so you can get a feel for how the app works. Once you do that you can start drawing in other things; Keyboard Maestro makes it pretty simple to do so.
One thing that I do daily is move files from my ‘Inbox’ folder to a ‘To File’ folder. Before Keyboard Maestro this meant dragging the files from one folder to another. In order to be fast I need to keep my ‘To File’ folder in the Finder sidebar, which drove me crazy. I can now ‘file’ any file from any folder with a keystroke:
I couldn’t find a way to ‘move’ a file, nor did cut and paste work. So I created a simple copy and paste command that deletes the original files when it is done. The only reason for a pause in there is to make sure that everything closes properly.
A Lot More
There is a lot more stuff you can do with Keyboard Maestro. You can for example have it execute an Automator or Applescript for you. I have actions set now to resize images with a keystroke, rename files, and much more. I haven’t had the program long, but I can tell you that in the time I have had it I have really come to love the flexibility and automation that it adds to my Mac.
I have not provided many examples here of what Keyboard Maestro can do, but I am confident that when combined with shell scripts, applescripts and Automator workflows you can accomplish just about anything you would want to. In fact I don’t think I have ever used Automator as much as I do now that I combine it with some great Keyboard Maestro magic.3