Making KM more accessible for non-geeks

Hi, I hope I’m not offending anyone with the title of this post.

I have heard of KM over the years, but never really saw who I would use it personally. I am not a programmer, I run a small business consultancy (www.asiastar.info) and a cafe (starbookslao.com). A week or two ago I decided to give it a try because I wanted to automate something. I wanted to automate the transcription of documents and emails I dictate on the go, without needing an internet connection (where I live those can be very spotty). This works nicely and I am thinking of a few more use cases, e.g. Automating the process of getting my Kindle highlights into Evernote or Archiving old emails as PDF to Evernote

In looking through the forum and searching for solutions, I encountered a few very helpful and friendly people.

Nonetheless, looking through posts and macros available, I see a lot of things like “Strip out variable-length string from selected text” or “Is there a macro to invoke Services?”. Which are all important building blocks to make automations, but the complete automations aren’t there.

For someone who didn’t study computer sciences, this is all interesting if he is looking for this specific information but otherwise not very inspiring or attractive.

My question is simply, is there a way to make KM more attractive and accessible for people who understand less of how an apple script works (I did some edits, but it was guess work, more than anything)?

First off, this would necessitate to have Macro’s that do things regular folks (maybe that like to tinker with their computers and productivity systems but know only a little of the underlying way a computer works) need and want. E.g. “Change Hotkeys in VLC” (ok, stupid example, but the point is the name clearly states what it does)

As an addition, a KM Macro could come with an Installer Macro. (“Change Hotkeys in VLC Installer”), which is a simple Macro that asks the user a number of questions, e.g. (what hotkey do you want to change?) To achieve this you would need one more Macro already present in KM, that, after a new macro is installed checks if there is a corresponding installer macro in the same folder where that one came from, and if yes starts it. (any one could turn that off, by disabling that macro)

My main point really is, please post lots of macros you have that do stuff people who don’t program for a living can use every day! Keep on innovating and coming up with great ideas!

1 Like

David, thanks for your feedback. We have been discussing how to make KM easier to use for everyone, but especially for non-technical folks.

Meanwhile, you might try this:

Keyboard Maestro does not require the user to be a programmer. In fact, it is designed to allow almost any user to “point and click” to build macros, from the very simple to the very complex. But it does have its own learning curve that can be initially a barrier. The KM terminology is somewhat different from what you may have seen before.

Like learning any new app, like MS Word, MS Excel, Apple Numbers, etc, you do have to experiment with the app to learn it. With KM, I’d suggest creating a new macro just for testing/learning, and then browsing through the Macro Actions to see what is of interest. Of course, you can also visit the KM Wiki site to learn about Actions.

Finally, you have to appreciate that several of the processes that you have asked for help to build a KM macro are fairly complex processes. These would be a challenge for many KM users, especially new ones.

Ultimately, the best way to learn how to use KM is just to dive in and use it. Expect a lot of trial and error – that’s how we all learn. Try your best to figure it out for yourself, and then when you get really stuck, post your current macro here and ask for help.

Good luck. I’m sure you will do well with Keyboard Maestro.

1 Like

Hey David,

Keyboard Maestro comes with a lot of macros.

The default macros in the Keyboard Maestro Editor and all the ones in the Macro Library.

Menu ▸ Window ▸ Macro Library

Many people who start using Keyboard Maestro mistakenly delete all the default macros.

The thing to do is to turn them OFF and keep them for study.

Then go through them and turn back ON anything that seems useful.

Then look through everything and see if any macros exist that perform tasks similar to what you want to do.

Keyboard Maestro is a very complex utility. Getting familiar with it takes time, study, and practice.

We’re always interested in ideas for making Keyboard Maestro accessible to more users.

The wizard idea has been proposed before and rejected by Peter due to the huge complexity of implementing it.

As a new user do you have any other ideas?

-Chris

1 Like

Thanks. I do appreciate that it is a fairly complex tool, and also that some of the ideas I have aren’t simple. I am still on a trial, but will purchase KM because even only the transcription automation was already totally worth it!

And I’m confident eventually I’ll get the other stuff to work too…

No offence taken.

It is my believe that just about anyone who uses their Mac a significant amount (say, anyone for whom a Mac is more appropriate than an iPad) could relatively easily use Keyboard Maestro to gain far more productivity than its price costs.

That said, Keyboard Maestro is a tool that has a lot of depth in it. In fact it pretty much goes on forever, I doubt there is anyone who comes close to using all the features Keyboard Maestro provides. I suspect there are two classes of users who could get a lot of benefit out of Keyboard Maestro but who give up on it after trying it:

  1. Users who take one look at give up.
  2. Users who take one look, decide it looks like it could do anything, and then start implementing a custom automation system with more complexity than the moon missions.

To both sets of users, I would say the same things:

  • Read the Quick Start.
  • Do the tutorial (Help ➤ Tutorial).
  • Start small, and grow your macros organically.

Seriously, as deep as Keyboard Maestro is, if you have read the Quick Start to get the basic terminology, and done the tutorial to create a simple macro, you have all the skills you need to make probably 80+% of the macros most of us use. Probably half the macros I use have a single action, and half of the remaining have only a couple actions.

It’s frequently suggested that there should be more default macros or more macros in the Macro Library, and I don’t disagree, but I don’t think it helps as much as people think it might (even the folks asking for it). I believe that most macros most users use are entirely personal to them and would be completely useless to anyone else, or even if they might be useful, they really aren’t solving the things that annoy them.

For example, I have a macro that replaces “iPod Touch” with “iPod touch” and others that do “dont” into “don’t” and “quiting” into “quitting”. I’m sure that’s useful to lots of people, but I also suspect most people just don’t care about it - they aren’t the same mistakes that they make.

So, that said, I’d love to see an endless stream of fully functional macros (or sets of macros) posted to the macro category (which is why it is important not to post questions in the macro category), and it would be great to see a really nicely curated macro source, but I don’t think it would really solve the inherent problem.

So:

Total agree. That’s what the macro category is for, and I’d love to see it used even more.

4 Likes

Peter, thanks for highlighting these simple getting started actions. I totally agree that these are 3 important steps to quickly learning Keyboard Maestro.

I would add one thing: Be prepared for some trial and error in the beginning, and don’t give up the first time something goes wrong, or doesn’t go exactly like you want it to.

I think a website like Packal (http://www.packal.org/) that aggregates all of the workflows for Alfred, it could be incredible to have something like it for KM. But I think that’s what this forum is for too. I just got keyboard maestro after a lot of wondering of why would I need it when I have Alfred already. I am actually curious what can I do with KM that I cannot do with Alfred already aside from I guess GUI manipulation?

Thank you for any replies.

As I mentioned, I would love to see a really nicely curated macro source like Packal - the Alfred folks do a fantastic job at this sort of thing.

That said, I suspect one of the main differences between Keyboard Maestro and the launchers like Alfred are how personal the macros tend to be, and hence the macro sources are somewhat less useful than they might be for Alfred.

Not quite the same as Packal, but I made http://MaestroMacros.com a while ago. There are only four macros on it, all by me, but it might be of interest.

I am just wondering that because 'Keyboard Maestro Engine' burns through quite a bit of the battery

So I was wondering if it is really worth it and whether it is better to just stick with Alfred. I was actually thinking of how I can use KM for and I went through all of the premade macros that come with the app and found that I could do all of them in BetterTouchTool and/or Alfred.

Also, I have a question. How can I add 'press a hotkey' as an action in one of my macros. Let's say I want to create a macro :

  1. open specific app
  2. press hotkey
  3. press hotkey
  4. open specific app
  5. paste the text

And for it to ideally run in background if possible. Can something like this be made? I couldn't find an action for 'press hotkey' so I am wondering.

Use the “Type a Keystroke” action.

1 Like

Thank you.

1 Like

Your screenshot inspired me to write a little AppleScript. Put it into the Scripts menu and launch it when you think you may go low on battery. It will quit Keyboard Maestro Engine and in addition quite a bunch of other little background helper apps. (You have to adapt the list in the script to your needs.)

When you’re back home launch the script again and it will relaunch the previously closed apps.

The script is intelligent enough to remember which apps you closed before, i.e. if an app from the list was not running when you launched the script, this app will not be started when you launch the script again.

Toggle Helper Apps.scpt.zip (3.3 KB)


# Launch the script when you are low on battery
# Launch it again when you are connected to electricity

property appsToShutdown : {"Keyboard Maestro Engine", "LaunchBar", "Copied", "KeyCue", "PopClip", "Bartender 2", "Dropbox", "SkyDrive", "Box Sync", "BetterTouchTool", "ScreenFloat", "Yoink", "Flux", "TransmitMenu", "Typinator", "Amphetamine", "Prizmo", "CCC User Agent", "PopChar"}
property wasRunningBefore : {}

if application "Keyboard Maestro Engine" is running then
	
	set wasRunningBefore to {}
	repeat with i in appsToShutdown
		if application i is running then
			try
				set wasRunningBefore to wasRunningBefore & i
				tell application i to quit
			end try
		end if
	end repeat
	
else
	
	if wasRunningBefore is {} then set wasRunningBefore to appsToShutdown
	repeat with i in wasRunningBefore
		try
			tell application i to launch
		end try
	end repeat
	
end if

--log wasRunningBefore

@tom: Thanks for this script. I have used a modified version to solve a problem with the clipboard management of KM and Adobes Creative apps.
See this post.

@nikivi, I’m not sure why you perceive KM to be an excessive, or major consumer of energy or battery life. When I look at your Activity Monitor, it is very low compared with the big consumers like “BetterTouchTool” and “Safari”.

I didn’t see an email client (like Apple Mail or Outlook), but on my system Outlook 2011 is by far the energy hog. Chrome also consumes a lot of energy, so I guess the browsers (surprisingly) do consume a lot.

When I am on battery, and it is low, I close all apps that are not essential, and shutdown both Bluetooth and WiFi unless absolutely needed. If I need to check something online (web site or email) then I briefly enable WiFi, quickly do my stuff, and then disable it again.

1 Like

Here is an review from March 2014 comparing KM with Alfred.
Alfred Or Keyboard Maestro: Which Works Best For You?

Keep in mind that since then KM has made some major improvements with KM7. I don’t know about Alfred changes.

I read the article and did NOT see anything that even made me want to further investigate Alfred. From what I can tell, KM can do everything Alfred can do, and much more.

I am super happy with KM, and as much as I have used it, I find that I learn something new about KM almost every day. When you combine that with the awesome support provided by the KM owner, @peternlewis, in this forum and elsewhere, AND the great help from other users, it completely convinces me that KM is a far superior product.

I don’t mean to put-down or offend any Alfred users. I’m sure it’s a great product. I’m just saying that, IMO, KM is better. From the hints that Peter has dropped about the next version, KM8, I’m sure it will become even better.

Checkout all of the new features added in KM7:
Stairways Software releases Keyboard Maestro 7.0 (Jul 2015)

2 Likes

Just came across this. Isn't this now the Macro Library Category? And @JMichaelTX, isn't you referring to the "Macro Section" the Macro Library Category as well?

Rigorously consistent nomenclature can help at the very beginning by reducing the appearance of complexity due to the sheer volume of ways the same thing gets referenced.

Later, after there's some comfort through familiarity gained just by repetition, variations can stimulate connections or new paths.

Of course, the opposite can be argued thereby muting the point. Point is to be sensitive to the ease of overwhelming, especially in the beginning, and to recognize in a sense we are always beginning. This taking care of or teaching the "young" has a particular time/energy/patience cost that not everyone finds themselves committed to and that is ok.

The name of the forum category changed since this was written five years ago.

I came to KM to solve problems in my life that did not require much in the way of a programming background. It was a simple need to repetitively perform a task that required many steps. Once I got very familiar with doing the tasks by hand and using as many of the keyboard shortcuts as possible along the chain of steps, I would construct a KM macro to do the same thing. Sometimes it would require that the chain of steps be broken up into 2 or 3 pieces because a human decision had to be made at certain places.

All this required was the ability of KM to choose menu items, type keyboard shortcuts and change the foremost application. I have a few "complex" macros but the vast majority are of the type described above. The accuracy and speed of KM when compared to a human, made some of these chores not only faster be actually doable. Repeating some task 1000 times. The only "trick" that I had to use was judicially places pauses in the macro because sometime the computer could not "keep-up". But these macros use no variables or complex decisions logic.

This use of KM employs about 4% of the "capabilities" of the program. But that is fine.

Anybody who does a repetitive task on their computer (and there has to be a lot of such people) should try creating a KM macro that can do pieces of it. You can even use the capability of KM to "Record" what you are doing to provide the basic scaffolding of what the task is. And then streamline and modify what is produced.

What specifically do you find fantastic?

Their Index page?

Search function?

How they organize and visually display items into workflows and themes?


How items are listed?

Is it the open airy overall visually appealing and friendly look?

I'd be interested in collaborating on designing such an interface/display/organization for KM for the learning it would provide.

One thing I'm pretty certain about is the idea that "everything" come from a "source". Meaning in this case that if you as the source of KM aren't the author of the project if you don't authorize it, it ain't gonna fly.

You seem to be (or were) keen on the idea of something more or different than what was available. Is this still the case? I do hear your consideration that it may not be as useful with KM as the more limited launcher app Alfred. Still the inquiry the project itself might generate in addition to what the project might output could be useful and valuable enough to investigate.