Turn 100 steps into 1 with Keyboard Maestro

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.


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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 o and 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 software

A macro is a sequence of actions.

Keyboard Maestro provides macros. Each 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.

Type text

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.

The trigger is the letters *km. The macro has only one step: type the words Keyboard Maestro, replacing what I’d typed.

A new Keyboard Maestro macro.

A new Keyboard Maestro macro.

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.

Click the + 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.

Set up the Insert Text action.

Set up the Insert Text action.

  1. Give the macro a meaningful name, eg I might choose MacTips URL for a macro that typed the address of the MacTips website.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. For this example of a typing shortcut choose Insert Text. Double click the Insert Text action to use it. A new Insert Text action appears in the Macro Detail pane of the window.
  5. From the popup menu beside the words Insert text by choose either typing or pasting.
  6. 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.
  7. Save the macro by clicking the edit button 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 edit button again.)

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 http://mactips.info.

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 Keyboard Maestro.

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.

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  1. Monja Wessel said:


    this is just a GREAT tool – I´m definitely off to check it out. So true, we do a ton of things every day again and again and this tool definitely saves a huge amount of time. Thanks for sharing this great software finding!


  2. Miraz Jordan said:

    Peter emailed: “I would always use Insert Text by Typing in preference to Pasting unless the text is very large or there is some other good justification. The main reason is that Pasting will change the user’s clipboard. ”

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