Turn 100 steps into 1 with Keyboard Maestro
Mac Tip #448, 04 August 2010
Computers are supposed to make our lives easier. So how is it we sometimes have to go through the same routine time after time: click this, open that, copy the other? If you find yourself doing mindless, repetitive tasks your computer should be doing, then you probably need Keyboard Maestro. It’s one of my most valued applications.
Keyboard Maestro lets you set up sequences of actions, or macros, and then does them for you. Watch your computer do the work, instead of the other way round. Let me show you how it works.
This first tip introduces Keyboard Maestro and shows one single way to expand some text. The program has infinitely more power than that though, so watch for future Tips too.
Use the coupon
MacTips for a 20% discount on Keyboard Maestro. [Updated] This offer expires at the end of October 2010. It’s free to test the software.
Leave the work to the machine
One website I visit gives me reports on advertising revenue. Once I log in I have to click 5 times just to get the report. I’ve set up a Keyboard Maestro macro to handle those 5 clicks for me.
I also sometimes use Keyboard Maestro to type bits of text that I hate typing myself, or where I always make typos. For example, I have a terrible habit of typing
keyboard with the
a switched around:
keybaord. A macro fixes it without my even thinking about it. (I had to work quite hard to be able to make it appear with an incorrect spelling here.)
macro is a sequence of actions.
Keyboard Maestro provides
macro carries one or more
actions. You need to do something to
trigger a macro — perhaps type something, choose a menu item, click a button, or even just wake the computer from sleep. To make life easier for you, sort macros into
groups if you wish.
I had to type the words
Keyboard Maestro quite often while writing this Tip. I decided to make things easier by setting up a macro to do it for me. All I have to do is type the letters
*km and Keyboard Maestro replaces them with the expansion.
trigger is the letters
macro has only one step: type the words
Keyboard Maestro, replacing what I’d typed.
Set up a macro
Download and install Keyboard Maestro. Start it up and you should see a window similar to mine in the screenshot. I’ve set up quite a few macros in groups, so yours won’t look exactly the same. The
Macros column in the centre is where you want to start.
+ symbol at the bottom of the centre (Macros) column. A new item appears in the list of macros:
Untitled Macro. The macro detail pane on the right shows information about this macro, in particular its name, its triggers and its actions.
- Give the macro a meaningful name, eg I might choose
MacTips URLfor a macro that typed the address of the MacTips website.
- Choose a Trigger. Click the green
+beside the words
New Trigger. A popup menu appears offering a choice of a dozen ways to trigger this macro. For this example, choose
Typed String Trigger. The popup menu is replaced by a text box. Type in there what you wish to type as a shortcut. In my MacTips URL example I enter the letters
*mt. Leave the box below checked.
- Choose Actions. Click the green
+beside the words
New Action. The contents of the centre column change. The list of Macros disappears and is replaced by possible Actions, listed in alphabetical order.
- For this example of a typing shortcut choose
Insert Text. Double click the
Insert Textaction to use it. A new
Insert Textaction appears in the Macro Detail pane of the window.
- From the popup menu beside the words
Insert text bychoose either
- Type the words you want the trigger to expand to in the text area. For example, if I were using a shortcut to type the URL of the MacTips website I’d type
http://mactips.info. The replacement text could be short, as in my example, or it could be pages long.
- Save the macro by clicking the
editbutton in the bottom toolbar. The list of possible Actions disappears, replaced by the list of macros, and the detail of the macro is no longer able to be edited. (To make changes click the
Test the macro
A reminder: the trigger I set up in this example is the letters
*mt. When I type that, anywhere such as in my Mail program, in a text editor, in a spreadsheet, those typed letters will be replaced by
Open up a text editor or email program. Click in the main area where you can type text. Type the trigger text you set up — in my case
*mt. As soon as you’ve finished typing, the replacement text appears.
Beware the trigger text
Do you know why I used an
* as part of my trigger text?
Because the letters
mt might be part of a real word, such as
Mt Victoria. I wouldn’t want the first part of that name to be replaced by my URL. Similarly, I might want to write about a distance as being
10 km, and wouldn’t want
km to be replaced by
Infinitely more power
Keyboard Maestro has infinitely more power than just typing a few words. The next Tips will show you more of what you can do. Meanwhile, try it out for yourself with some text replacements.
Have you used Keyboard Maestro for expanding text? Tell us about your experiences in the Comments.
Use the coupon
MacTips for a 20% discount on Keyboard Maestro. [Updated] This offer expires at the end of October 2010.