How to Return String Values From Actions :-)

OK, I can see the appeal now. My variable landscape is getting hideously crowded as well. There's no doubt that local and instance variables are super handy because of their scope and would work well in your example case, but they do fill up the variable list in an intrusive manner that I find myself avoiding them to keep my sea of variables from overpopulating.

I actually use dictionaries as much as I can.

That isn't likely to happen. And you're welcome. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

“Result” is a global variable, whereas the ActionResult token is specific to this macro execution instance.

Instance variables on the other hand have exactly the same scope as the ActionResult token. So if you use that action, but with “Instance Result” instead, that would be the best solution for returning a result from a macro.

Actually they don't fill up the variable list. As soon as the macro that created the Local or Instance variable quits, the variables are deleted.

IAC, neither Local nor Instance variables ever show up in the KM Preferences Variables pane.

Indeed, their values don't even show up in the editor window when I'm trying to debug my macros. All I see is "empty" even when I know they aren't empty.

So I have to debug my program when all variables are Global, then once the program works, if I like it, I then have to convert the variables manually to Local. And since there's no variable declaration I have to do this every statement where I use the variable.

What am I doing wrong, in that case?


No macros are currently running, and I didn’t even create those two Local__ variables; they were seemingly absorbed from downloading other people’s macros for testing, and I’ve since deleted them (the macros).

It’s why I’m hesitant to create any more local or instance variables, as I thought that their lingering around was normal behaviour.

1 Like

Just to clarify a possible point of confusion: @JMichaelTX and @CJK are both right about how local/instance variables behave. @JMichaelTX, you're talking about the list of variables shown in KM's preferences, and you're right when you say any local/instance ones don't show up there:

And @CJK, you're talking about the list of variables shown in the Insert Variable menu and Insert Variable by Name actions, where they do indeed stick around seemingly forever:

I imagine the latter behavior is done to, well, facilitate inserting variable names, and it is definitely useful for that. Personally, I'm okay with this behavior, as like @JMichaelTX, I manage my variables primarily from the preference pane and only use the Insert Variable actions sparingly, and usually the one that lets you type by name to narrow them down:


But I also understand and sympathize @CJK's annoyance at how any variable, local or instance or otherwise, can linger around permanently in some parts of KM like this even if the macro that contained them is long gone.

1 Like

@gglick Ah, thank you! That’s cleared up my confusion completely, though left me a little disappointed.

On the upside, we can now all play a game and upload macros onto the forum for other people to test, populated with absurd variable names like LOCAL__jigglebottom and INSTANCE__cam4videos.


When I import a macro it should probably tell me what global variables are being used in the macro. That would help me protect my programs from breaking due to global variable conflict. I wouldn't expect this to work 100% accurately because variable names can be obscured by some programming.

If this isn't a task Peter would do, maybe a macro can be written by the community. I see it working this way: For each macro group, show as many global variables from within that group that is used in there.

I disabled all my macro groups, all 200 groups, (doing that manually took ten minutes because every time you click on the button to disable a macro group the KM Editor becomes unresponsive for about three seconds as it... recompiles?) and overnight there was no memory leak. That's great. That suggests the problem is one of my macros. Now I guess the quickest way to figure out which one is to do a binary search by enabling 100 macro groups, then 50, then 25, etc. until I find a specific group that causes a leak. That will get me close to finding the cause. However if I go through that much work I will post the results in a new thread. This is not the correct thread for that work.

Hey @Sleepy,

Three seconds is a very long time for this...

Run this from the Script

tell application "Keyboard Maestro"
   set macroGroupListEnabled to name of macro groups whose enabled is true
end tell

You'll get a list in the result panel that looks similar to this (but longer of course):

{"[KM]", "[TEST]", "Activity Monitor"}

Create a new script using the following code and your newly constructed enabled list.

set macroGroupListEnabled to {"[KM]", "[TEST]", "Activity Monitor"} --<<< Paste the result of the above script here.

tell application "Keyboard Maestro"
   repeat with theMacroGroup in macroGroupListEnabled
      set macro group theMacroGroup's enabled to true -- or false
   end repeat
end tell

Now by changing the boolean flag in the above script you can enable/disable your groups just a little bit faster.

Disable the Keyboard Maestro Engine.

And then run your script from the Script


Wow. That opens my eyes a lot. The three second delay happens all over the editor, not just there. Can you help with the more general problem? I just tested if disabling the engine removes that delay. Apparently not. My main problem with the editor are these three second delays that happen constantly as I'm editing actions. Roughly 50% of the time I spend in the Editor is just waiting for the hourglass to disappear when I look at the screen, and then waiting for my typing on screen to catch up with my fingers. It seems that the delay is only created if I pause my typing for about 1 second. My guess is that the editor does not call the engine to recompile as long as I'm typing without a pause. But that doesn't add up since shutting down the engine doesn't seem to reduce the delays. I really don't know what's causing these delays. If you can fix this problem I will be indebted to you forever. I can use KM all day, but it's time for me to get some food.

Hey @Sleepy,

It's hard to say for certain, but you do have a lot of groups and macros.

On my system I have:

Macro Groups: 152
Total Macros: 1874

Enabled Groups: 105
Enabled Macros: 405

I haven't verified these figures, but they should be correct.

Here's how I counted them (run in the Script Editor):

# Count Enabled Macro Groups and Enabled Macros
tell application "Keyboard Maestro"
   set mGroups to (get macro groups whose enabled is true)
   set enabledMacroCount to 0
   repeat with i in mGroups
      set enabledMacroCount to enabledMacroCount + (count of (get macros of i whose enabled is true))
   end repeat
   set AppleScript's text item delimiters to linefeed
   return {"Enabled Groups: " & (count of mGroups), "Enabled Macros: " & enabledMacroCount} as text
end tell


Well, then maybe I need to export all the macros I don't use often in order to get the Editor to be more responsive. I'll check into how easy that is to do with many hundreds of macros and groups. The truth is most of my macros I use for a few months then stop using them, I keep them around only to help me research how I solved a problem before. But if they are slowing me down, I can probably just copy them into some Apple Notes folders for reference purposes. I notice that if I click on the EDIT button in the KM editor the macros are more accommodating as lines of text for saving into Notes. It would be cool if the editor let me import macros that were exported this way. It looks like all the information is there.

I suppose a quicker test would be to use a different Mac. The problem is my older Macs have even MORE macros because every time I buy a new Mac I just rewrite all my macros out of my head and that is a natural kind of cleanup. I love rewriting my macros because I usually make them better each time around.


Only Local or Instance variables that are in an existing macro are included in the list. So they should not “linger around permanently … even if the macro that contained them is long gone”

This would only work until the macro was deleted.

I have no plans to implement this.

I have no idea what would cause that. The only thing the editor does is save the macros. That can take a long time if your macro file is extremely large (which generally happens only if you have a lot of macros with very large amounts of data in them, such as inline images). Check your Keyboard Maestro Macros.plist file and see how large it is.

I tried to duplicate this memory leak. If I toggle a macro group off and on multiple times, I can see the apparent memory use in Activity Monitor grow. However if I actually look at the heap I cannot find anything in there that is growing - at least not anything I have any control over. So currently I don't have any suggestions as far as the memory usage goes.

Note that an increasing number in Activity Monitor does not necessarily mean very much. If the memory is lost to the application it will eventually migrate on to disk and become irrelevant to actual memory use.

I stand corrected! Sorry if I inadvertently cast aspersions where they weren't warranted; as I said earlier, I understand why KM populates the Insert Variable list with local and instance variables and appreciate that it does so. I did think that local and instance variables stuck around even after any macros containing them were deleted, especially since @CJK said they do for him as well, but I admit I didn't test this, and I'm happy to take your word for it.

If they do, that is a bug. They did not in my testing.

It took me 5 minutes of searching this site to find where the Macros.plist file was. Then it took me 5 minutes to figure out why my ~/Library folder didn't seem to exist on my Mac. It's probably "hidden" by default in the macOS GUI, but I found it. You asked me for the size and it's 72 MB. I have no idea if that's big or not. I tried to open the file to see it but it said I needed additional Xcode components and I wasn't sure I should click on that so I declined. Should I accept and view the file?

I'm sure you are right that virtual memory does not necessarily mean that macOS will get bogged down, but I can tell you that around 5 GB my computer grinds down to a frustrating level and around 8 GB lots of important features of macOS stop working properly. Like the "Force Quit Applications" window which takes minutes to pop up. So this increase in memory is a functional problem. I even had one time where I couldn't do anything but press the power off button, and I waited a long time.

If I take my car to the dealer to fix a squeak, and there's no squeak, they say they can't fix it. At least here you've heard the squeaking, so I don't feel too guilty. And you've got a copy of the car in your shop so I'm perfectly content.

For reference, my Keyboard Maestro Macros.plist is 1.1MB. I have 159 macros. Scaling proportionally, I would estimate you to have 11,450 macros.

For further reference, I have 873 and my macro plist file is 2.1MB.