Keyboard Maestro makes a last minute appearance on the Party Barge

While researching Alfred, CopyLess and PopClip, I saw many references to Keyboard Maestro, but never quite understood what the app was for. It came across as a text expander, or a clipboard editor, or a keyboard mapper.

So, taking a moment out to pause and reflect, it finally became clear to me. All those functions are a part of Keyboard Maestro. How is that possible?

It makes a little more sense when Keyboard Maestro is presented as an extension or the next version of Automator. It uses a similar style of building blocks to chain actions together to accomplish tasks. At one end you can tie an action to a hotkey, and at the other, actions can be triggered by system events such as switching networks, or a USB drive being inserted.

After downloading a copy, trying it out, watching some videos and assembling some blocks of my own, Keyboard Maestro jumps aboard the Party Barge just as we cast off for 2020.

In reality there is some overlap between Alfred and Keyboard Maestro. They are both development environments for creating shortcuts for repetitive tasks. And in many ways they go about it the same way. However, they both offer distinct tools and functionality.

To give a simple example, in Alfred you can create a workflow to stop and start multiple applications using AppleScript.

In Keyboard Maestro, the same job can be set up as a macro using a series of the “Application Control” actions that list the applications to stop and start. It can also be done using the Execute AppleScript module.

In Alfred:

    tell application "Firefox" to activate
    tell application "Mail" to activate
    tell application "Messages" to activate

In Keyboard Maestro:

km-macro

Same end results, slightly different way of getting there.

But where Keyboard Maestro comes into it’s own is with system events. You can create actions for when a file is added to a folder, when you login, when the system goes idle, when the system wakes, when an application starts or stops, when text is copied to the clipboard, etc. There are dozens of events you can monitor and take action on.

Additionally, you can build loops, use IF statements, employ variables, set up decision making, and even prompt for input before continuing.

Or if you prefer, you can skip the module building part and use straight scripting in AppleScript, a shell script, Swift, or JavaScript.

I even watched a couple of videos where Keyboard Maestro was used to fill in forms on a Google page.

Once I took a serious look, I saw just how powerful Keyboard Maestro can be. I’ve already built a few simple macros with many more coming. There is a fair bit to learn, but like Alfred, there is a very active community of users and plenty of examples to study.

With their combined powers, very few computer tasks will escape me.

Keyboard Maestro

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