Keyboard Maestro Is Far Too Complicated and Elite!

Does wanting to create a keystroke that will enter the current date in this format: 2021_10_25 strike anyone as an obscure task?
In order to do something as simple as this I had to struggle through the incredibly complicated instructions only to discover that you don't provide a 'string' for it, and I had to work out how to create it myself - %ICUDateTime%yyyy_MM_dd%.

I believe this is hex unicode or something, sorry, I'm not a computer wizard, just an ordinary bloke needing a shortcut app that was as good and straight-forward as QUICKEYS.
Alas! No such thing!

Quickeys was brilliant for a lot of people because it was (relatively) simple and easy to use, but powerful at the same time.

KM is NOT like that. As I have said it is ridiculously complicated, designed by computer wizards for computer wizards, not the ordinary user with basic computer skills.

The very language of KM - ’strings, tokens, hex unicode characters!…’ and indeed one look at the posts on this forum shout loudly that KM is for computer programmers only. I mean come on - get with the real world!

Tim Woolf


Maybe you’d be better off with Typinator instead of pretending someone’s forcing you to use KM.


Another solution would be to invest a little bit of time to educate yourself on Keyboard Maestro's usages. I am by NO means a "computer wizard", and indeed all of my initial macros were incredibly simple (and not very efficient), but by simply reading the wiki pages and posts here on the forum I have learned a great deal.

Another thing that Keyboard Maestro has that I have not seen with ANY other product is an amazing community that is always willing and dare I say, eager to help out newbies.

I don't say any of this to be rude as I can certainly understand the frustration of learning a new application, but it's definitely worth the time to do so.



Wow. I'm not a computer wizard/programmer either and I could probably only name 5-10 people here that are wizards. I'm a photographer, a businessman and a release manager. When using top tier applications like Photoshop and Excel, a user can, initially, feel the same way. Time, situations and education had to be placed to get comfortable. I still don't know anyone that uses more than 15% of any of the said applications' power. It took me a while to get my mind around Keyboard Maestro and what it could do for me. It was worth educating myself by reading the wiki, and asking questions, in this forum. One thing I didn't do was complain because that wasn't getting me any closer to any solution.

Did you try the demo before purchasing Keyboard Maestro? Did you go through the menus and the wiki to see if you had any questions?

Why did you buy Keyboard Maestro? I never used QuicKeys but if you want to use QuicKeys, use that. If it's not available anymore, you can use Automator or AppleScript. Keyboard Maestro never claimed to be a 100% replacement for QuicKeys anymore than Pixelmator claimed to be a 100% replacement for Photoshop.

I learned decades ago that you can't buy a product for what you want it to be, you should buy the product for what it is. QuicKeys is no longer developed. However, Keyboard Maestro is a powerful macro application that grows organically with your needs, understanding, research and effort. It's a gift that keeps on giving. In this forum, we help users all the time and I still receive plenty of help. However, if KM is not for you and if it isn't a one for one replacement of your former software, kindly send to the support email address and ask for your refund. Otherwise, stick around, read and learn. You will thank yourself.



When you invest some time to know the basics it is a very useful application for the mac. I myself are also not a programmer but with the help of many members from this forum it works great for me.


I think that everyone in the forum appreciates your honesty.

Before you make a final decision, please take minute to see things from a different perspective.

I am a perfect example. I started off as a novice and was confused like you are.
I did not start off writing macros from scratch. I started off using ready made, ready to use macros either from the macro library or more often downloadable from one of the gazillion posts in this forum. I then gradually progressed by editing those macros to suit my needs, and I am now comfortable with writing macros from scratch.

Because KM is like a game of legos, you can go very far without having any idea of what strings, tokens, hex unicode characters are, and by that I mean not knowing what those words mean. The purpose of most macros is precisely to avoid it. You can be working with hundreds of KM macros for years, and not even understand the meaning of those words.

Also consider the forum. Contrary to most tech and app forums, KM forum members are extremely kind, patient and helpful.

You can't start off by trying to decipher %ICUDateTime%yyyy_MM_dd%. It doesn't make sense, and like @triffle says, you would probably be better off using Typinator which is ... exactly what I do to insert dates, times, etc. In other words, you started off on a tangent.

I am basically not interested in computing per se. Only using computing to work faster and more efficiently. KM with the help of this forum has made a huge change in my workflow.


Hi @timbo,

Variables, tokens, functions are some of the power things that Keyboard Maestro provides for us. When I started to use Keyboard Maestro, I was also confused by them. It also took me some time to understand ICU datetime. But once we learned it, they are all so useful.

The more we use Keyboard Maestro, the more we appreciate its power.

My programming journey began with Keyboard Maestro. When we use the native KM actions, we don't need much programming background. I appreciate KM allows us to integrate scripts into macros. I don't have to learn everything about the scripts before I can use them. As people start to show me how I can accomplish things with scripts, I started to learn the how the scripts work, and then little by little, I learned more about the scripts. In the past few years, I learned js/css/html, python, shell, applescript, php. Well, only a little bit about all of them. But without KM opening the door for me, I probably would not have learned any of them.

There is a learning curve to everything. I bought alfred long ago, but I could not understand the workflows and had no idea how to modify any to suit my needs. I could use what was already available, which was good enough. With KM, we can of course use the macros others shared right away, but most of them are so easy to read and understand that we can easily modify the macros to suit our own needs. After I learned more about Keyboard Maestro and programming, the alfred workflows also become easier to understand now.

I must point out that the forum support is phenomenal. I've rarely seen any posts unanswered within a few hours. If you've spend hours trying to figure out something and still have no clue, be sure to post here.


Just ask. Like anything, it's easy once you've learned, daunting before.

(I do sympathise though – I personally find bicycles shockingly elite – a scandalous affront to the dignity of ordinary blokes – almost certainly a conspiracy and should definitely be banned. Don't even get me started on roller skates).


Thank you all for your remarks. You are certainly a helpful and polite bunch of people. Having vented my spleen (justifiably IMO) I shall look into what you all suggest. Best wishes.



not so fast! :slightly_smiling_face: I absolutely agree with you. Keyboard Maestro is incredibly powerful and very important for my work. But it's not fun to use. The user interface feels like it's 15 years old. I've gotten my use out of this software - but not the slightest desire to delve deeper into it.

It's just like you say: for every simple task, it takes a lot of steps. And if you haven't used these functions for a week, you can start learning all over again.

Other programs also handle complex functions and still manage to pack them into a simple interface, like aText, Alfred or Hazel. But when I want to rename files in the Finder with Regex, this project with Keyboard Maestro takes me two days and gives me a lot of headaches.

I also have no hope that this will change with version 10; instead, they will probably cram in even more features that hardly anyone needs. But that's a lot easier than improving a user interface and usability. Very frustrating.

Hi BlackMac, thanks very much for your comments. It's good to know that I'm not the only one that finds KM elitist and over-complicated., If enough people complain then perhaps the designers will get off their unicode pedestals and design a more user-friendly interface! :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi ComplexPoint,
I would take you up on your assertion that it's easy once you've learned.
a - why should it be initially daunting?
b - I don't have time (although I seem to have time to comment on this forum!) to consult the oracle and terrify my brain cells every time I want to create a simple keyboard shortcut.

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It is worth the struggle I found. I was in exactly your position when I first got it. That was the first thing I struggled with. I have yet to use a variable other than the built in tokens or whatever. But the few macros I have, about 40 now, are invaluable to me. Some of them are date ones. I found learning that date system was useful. Once you set one up, you can just usually copy and paste it into another macro. Or just duplicate the macro and edit it to what you new use it. Realy believe me it is worth the effort. Use the duplicate in the right click menu bar to duplicate a macro rather than just copy and paste the whole macro. Since it avoids any confusion.


I know ... those damned elitists and so-called experts – a plague on all their works ! ( They're the source of all our problems ).

I'm not sure you're going far enough though, mate – I'm definitely beginning to suspect that so-called experts had a hand in putting my mac (and even my damned phone) together, so I'm binning them both this weekend (with the TV and the boiler, actually).

(Then I'm going to check out some holiday flights with one of these new expert-free zero-training airline companies I've been hearing about – they've got some incredible destinations)


Make sure you get back to us and really use this forum and post any queries. Some of us feel a bit intimidated by the forum and don't ask thinking the questions are too 'obvious'. However I wasted a lot of time on simple mistakes that could and eventually were cleared up here. The forum is not, though it often looks like it, for 'experts' or programmers, though they too are welcome!


A little contrast...


Actually, they do provide those.


Thanks for the example. That is exactly what I mean (and @timbo too, maybe). Yes, it is possible, no question. The function is hidden somewhere in an uninspired menu. And when you find it, you may somehow compile the date with cryptic abbreviations and percent signs. A beginner will surely manage in the fifth or sixth attempt to arrange the display according to his ideas. Hazel shows that it can be done differently and so much easier.

And that's the point: Keyboard Maestro is powerful and useful, but the usage and the user interface are just painful. However, I also have the feeling that this software is treated like a substitute religion in this forum. So nothing is going to change about it, I guess.

That does sound accurate.

For good or ill, enough people find enough value in Keyboard Maestro that I can stay safely ensconced up here on my pedestal.

I can say version 10 probably won't make either of you happy. It will continue to look like Keyboard Maestro, and while it does provide a new facility to let you insert the various components of an ICU date field, it is not nearly as pretty and elegant as the OS provided one. I looked seriously at providing something like the tokenised date fields, but at the end of the day there is only one of me up on this pedestal, and only so much I can do, and in this case it really didn't fit well with how the rest of Keyboard Maestro works. And as @BlackMac rightly points out, it is easier to add new facilities that are available to those willing to spend the time to figure out how to use them than it is to develop a whole UI to handle one specific part.

Keyboard Maestro is very much deliberately designed to be built like lego. Each part is designed to be independent, so you only have to learn each different part as needed, and that new part adds power to all the other parts.

And I fully recognise that Keyboard Maestro is a challenge to learn, which is why the wiki is build as an integrated reference, why every action has a help link in it, why holding down the option key while selecting will get you help on triggers, actions, conditions, tokens.

Do I wish Keyboard Maestro could provide all the power it does and yet be simpler to user, sure, of course I do. Would I make some different choices 10 years ago if I knew everything that Keyboard Maestro was going to be today, sure - but not many.

Keyboard Maestro is what it is, it rewards people who put the time and effort in to learn it. It lets you do things on the Mac that are virtually impossible otherwise. But it takes effort to learn it, and it's not the easiest way to do easy things. And if it is not the best tool for a particular person, then I wish them all the best with one of the other tools, and I provide a 30 day trial for anyone who wants to see whether Keyboard Maestro is or is not the tool for them.

And on top of that, no one will find a better, more helpful, forum anywhere on the Internet, and it is hard to overstate the value that provides.


Please don't dumb down KM for a few people who are looking for an application with a pre-built set of trivial macros that require absolutely no learning. It seems that those few would be better served by hiring people willing to be paid to come to their houses and operate their computers for them.