Making KM More Accessible for Non-Geeks

I have Alfred but, as you say, anything I do on it I could do with Keyboard Maestro. I use both quite happily and am glad to support both developers.

Yeah. Some of it is perception though @JMichaelTX. It is just perception in some quarters. I try to advise away from those perceptions. People think it is 'for programmers'. Those impressions can be hard to break. In one lab years ago I remember hearing all the time "I am not an artist...", that was about Macs.

If you only came to this forum sometimes you might well be forgiven for thinking that it is fro programers.
The Forum, is, itself quite intimidating I must be honest with you. I think it important to do, as you did and always do to keep re iterating the 'building block" approach. Which is 'programming' but isn't!

It is, of course, complicated things that get discussed here mostly for obvious reasons. A section humorously called "for non-geeks" or something might help. My own use is, if anything, simpler on some measures than it was the first year I got it. I have a large number of expansions for example on palettes.


I truly don't understand this statement. My impression is just the opposite: This forum is one of the friendliest and most helpful on the Internet. We never intentionally berate a poster for asking a "stupid" or "redundant" question. Sometimes we do suggest a search and/or ask for more info.

So if you could please give us some examples of what you find "quite intimidating" it would be very helpful. Don't worry about being critical or blunt -- we can take it. :wink:


First, I totally agree with you that this is an extraordinary forum. For me, this most visibly shows up in the generosity I so often experience here. However, friendly and helpful doesn’t necessarily make it non-intimidating.

The word intimidation implies threat and threats are mostly a matter of perception which in turn is a matter of a completely individual ever growing network of reinforced and reinforcing interpretations.

Given how exquisitely sensitive and brilliant people are, threats come in all forms and degrees. Many can be in the form of some loss.

Given how smart folks here are, it’s difficult to not imagine that one’s questions will be interpreted BY AT LEAST SOME as stupid, redundant, foolish, even if it’s endlessly repeated and demonstrated that’s not the case. Here in lays the threat and intimidation. The threat of looking bad in others or one's own eyes.

Here lays a hazy boundary between helping and teaching.

This forum is not intended and thereby not designed and organized to be a teaching forum. Education is a wholly different commitment than helping. With teaching the consistent accurate use of words counts like the exactitude one must bring to coding that needs character level precision and a strict adherence to structure.

I think intimidation can come from seeing the level of knowing some people here bring to the table and not from the people themselves acting in some intimidating manner. Kinda like being in the presence of greatness powerfully brings up all we think is not great within ourselves.

This is not to suggest dimming your light. Let it shine!


@BernSh explained as well as I can. That was what I meant. The people here as helpful as one could wish and as welcome. It is the CONTENT that is intimidating. You, especially, have gone way beyond the call of duty @JMichaelTX with me several times and I really appreciate it. So have several other regulars here. Doing or correcting macros for me. I have at least three that I couldn't easily re create myself in fact that rely on corrections to them suggested by you, Peter or Chris Stone or whoever here.

I think the answer is to recognize that the material is a heavy lift for some of us. I said elsewhere that maybe there should be a 'simple steps' section or something. Mac itself has been designed to be 'user friendly' and to some extent there is a danger of re-inventing the wheel here and just pulling Keyboard Maestro back into 'just another app'. It is a conundrum I don't know how to solve.
It is something I am sure Peter is thinking about. I will help where I can.

Of the first five topics at the top today, one asked for a 'java' solution, another had a macro that started with a block of apple script I had no idea what it meant even, another was a 'simple' :joy: regex. That one I did at least understand: I do, for some reason, understand regex. I think it is a part of programming that coincides with other stuff I know in math.

It turned out that Keyboard Maestro was incredibly useful to me though I use, I think, about 3% of it's capacity.

But it is partly with help from folk here that I got some details: but for a lot of new users it is "just" programming and looks to them like you need to be a programmer to tackle it. It just does: I can't even explain why to you.

The material itself just sings, "geeks only enter here'. As I said out of the first five topics today at the top of the list as it were, three contained elements that a large number of newbies would not even know what they were. Most don't know what Regex is, let alone what to do with it.

1 Like

Thanks for your feedback.

We receive requests for help at every level.
There are many simple, basic, requests for "how can I create a macro that does X?", where "X" might be "resize and move a window", which can be done with one KM Action.

OTOH, there are some requests for help with much more technical workflows.
Some of these are asking for help with specific scripts/languages, so if you don't use or understand that language, it might be intimidating. This is true for me.

When people are asking for help with a detailed, long Bash Shell Script, or Python Script, it might be intimidating to me, but I just don't let it.
I scan the post to see if it is of any interest to me. If not, I just ignore it and move on to the next topic.

That is one reason that I always try to provide a non-scripting solution to requests, if it can be reasonably done without a script. For myself, I might write a script, but for pubic posts I present the non-script solution.

However, one thing we all have to recognize is the KM is designed so that you can combine its many Actions in lots of ways. This comes down to visual programming.
But this design is one of the things that makes KM so powerful.

Many (most?) of us learn best by seeing examples. So that is why I often provide a Getting Starting list to new users, that includes this:

One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of a reader feeling intimidated is, if possible, to write without most pronouns and other basic personal words. Examples would be

I, You, It, Your, She, He

Sounds silly, almost banal, but here's a simple demonstration. Imagine a user wants a macro to only run in Safari but doesn't know about making macro groups. Nothing intense there for most users. So this user reaches out, maybe already feeling frustrated a means to this goal hasn't been figured out independently. A response with pronouns might look like this:

You have to create a Safari-only macro group for your macro to work as you want. To do that, you open the Keyboard Maestro editor...

Take out the pronouns and the omission of them will force the writer's words to be gentler:

The macro will work but it has to be put in a Safari-only macro group. To do that, open the Keyboard Maestro editor...

Along with being gentler, reduced pronoun usage also increases clarity by focusing only on the necessary instructions. That's why pronouns are rarely used in documentation of any sort—a car owner's manual, electronics manuals, build-at-home furniture, standardized-test instructions, etc.


I agree, this is desirable.
However, you have to remember that everyone here, except @peternlewis, are non-paid volunteers. We are blessed to have them at all. I don't think it is practical to impose reply guidelines on them.

We are NOT paid staff who respond to questions, nor do we have scripts or guidelines on how to respond.

So, if KM needs to be perceived as being for non-geeks, for non-programmers, then that is up to the owner of KM to provide the proper marketing to convey this.


Since that includes me, I'm well-versed in the pay.

I suggested nothing of the sort. I shared a strategy from decades of proofreading and editing that any reader of this thread could do with as they saw fit.

I am still well-versed in this.

I suggested nothing of the sort.

My prior comment addressed readers here; I said nothing about users.

1 Like

A thought to consider: were any readers asking for such?

Not saying they weren't good comments…

…but I wouldn't go onto a writing forum, and expect a warm reception to uninvited Keyboard Maestro macros.

I meant that I was addressing any readers of this thread at any point in time. I believe you're correct that no one asked, but since the thread is about making the software and the forum more accessible, that seemed to me like a reasonable basis for the suggestion I made.

1 Like

Excellent and very interesting suggestion. For regularly working with seniors on their use of technology, this will be very useful!

Interesting that the next two responses are full of pronouns.

This business of words that evoke a sense of entity and more personally, identity, goes deep. Essentially this discussion goes into the question of how to create a safe space, a safe environment to enter and participate/play in?

An interesting thing to note is that identity (a 'me' in the picture) only shows up when there is a break in the action. When action is uninterrupted, when the 'flow state' is present, there is no 'I'. There's just being in action. A case can be made that the function of an 'I' is to show up and handle a 'break in being' thereby restoring the flow of being in action, Put more conventionally, a 'You' and a 'I' only show up when something is wrong, when who we are being isn't enough, and doesn't carry the day. Then and only then does a personality show up to fix what is wrong.

Once the 'problem' is handled and 'we' are back in flow, no one, no individual is present, only being in action. This is easy to confirm. When you are totally engaged in something, are you there for you or is there just actions?

This is the realm of ontology, the study of being, and while it may at first seem miles from the business of KM, this topic "Making KM more accessible for non-geeks" crosses over and requires the distinctions and clarity ontological discussion can provide.

This fragment:

is a perfect example of missing distinctions.

We are all expert in the realm of doing things and having things. Our culture requires it. However, we are all always beginners in the realm of being. No one has any prowess in that domain.

The book "Speaking Being" available on Amazon, makes a good entry point into these waters.

It takes an unusually high degree of openness and commitment to get pass the initial frustration and fear that ontological discussion evokes for most.

Hmmm, not unlike the intimidation 'programming' evokes in the uninitiated.


I think the forum could greatly be benefited by a "New User" category ~@tjluoma~ @JMichaelTX @peternlewis

that way answers can be written accordingly to the user's knowledge of KM

1 Like

Absolutely. 100% agree.

1 Like

I said the people here are amazing and helpful. Have been to me and have really upped my IT game; to huge personal benefit.

You are missing my point though which is one of perception and impression. I am sorry, it just is like that. It happens to me. I had to teach excel formulae one time to 'regular' office workers. The minute I wrote on the whiteboard, though I had prepared them for hours, what, to them looked 'algebraic' I could feel the whole room freeze up. I asked them afterwards and they said I was right. I still do as it happens, if I see a formula I am not used to: I feel like one does in a math exam when one knows there is not quite enough time to think something through. Pavlovian responses matter!

1 Like

I think you were suggesting how those of us who reply to questions/requests should phrase their response.

While I don't disagree that it would be helpful, I don't think it is practical.

There is a wide variety of styles of those of us who respond. My experience is that most of us are not really open to changing our style, and most of us don't have time to carefully construct a carefully worded response. I spend whatever time I have mainly on making sure my suggestion is valid and workable, usually showing an "Example Output" to clearly communicate.

I think we have to remember here that we are NOT writing a thesis, or even a blog, but just tying to help someone in an Internet forum. Internet forums, almost by definition, use a very informal, conversational style of writing.

I have to disagree with that for several reasons:

  1. A new user does NOT necessarily mean a user who is asking a simple basic question. I have seen some very complex questions asked, that many would classify as being a "geek" or programming question.
  2. You can generally tell by the text of the question how knowledgable the poster is of KM, and so we can respond accordingly.
  3. The forum software already identifies a new forum user at the top of his/her post.
  4. It would add confusion for the new forum user to know where to post his/her topic.
1 Like

Again, I said nothing of the sort. Here's a Keyboard Maestro Forum metaphor to demonstrate:

My comment was like starting a new thread to share a macro. Someone doing that is merely offering the benefit of their experience to other users/forum readers. There is no suggestion that all KM users use the macro.

Earlier you wrote,

It's unclear why my initial comment in this thread would be treated any differently (by anyone). If someone doesn't have the time, inclination, or whatever... Okay. For those that do... Also okay.

I don't believe in extra categories. It just makes for extra confusion. When does a new user question become a not new user question?

People frequently include in their question "I am new to Keyboard Maestro", which is really all the hint that is needed. But in any event, folks answering do the best they can with the amount of time they are willing to donate to helping others. Whether the user is new or not, the folks asking are not entitled to an answer in a format that suits them, any more than the folks answering are obligated to answer.

Even I am not obligated to answer on the forum how to write macros for specific tasks - any more than Microsoft support is obligated to help people write their novel.

I could make guidelines for how to answer, but that wouldn't result in any benefits, since people answering are neither obligated not necessarily capable of following the guidelines.

Sure, it would be great if every question was answered by a full detailed tutorial, starting from first principles, laid out neatly step by step, explaining all the concepts, but none of that is practical.

For myself, I believe in concise, high level answers that encourage the questioner to work through the problem and do their own research to come up with exactly how to do something, because that way there is more chance of them learning how to resolve the problem and more chance that they can make their next macro.

But as far as new users go, my answers are always the same:

The best way to start using Keyboard Maestro is to start simple:

  • Read the Quick Start (linked in the Help menu)
  • Do the Tutorial (Help menu)
  • And then grow your macros organically, starting simple.
  • Join the forum and ask for help with any macros you get stuck on.
  • Consider enrolling in David Spark’s Keyboard Maestro Field Guide.

There is no one way of answering that will help people, and despite appearances, Keyboard Maestro at its core is very simple - triggers and actions - and pretty much anyone can get it working for them if they are willing to put in as much time learning it as they put in learning their email program when they first started using that.


To respond to the OP, I can describe my own journey with KM.
A friend introduced KM to me about three years ago.
I read an article that shows me briefly what it can do.
I googled for tutorials and found these tutorials at youtube created by Ez Buttons caught my eyes. I had been using Alfred for some time, but I had never seen an app like KM that is so powerful and can do so many things. I purchased it, without a good understanding of what is a Group, a Macro, or an action. (Yes. I've read and watched those tutorials mentioned above, but without creating some real macros myself, I was still standing at the door to a Wonder Land. Tutorials only gave an impression of its power, I needed to use it myself.)

Thankfully, my friend sent me some macros that I also needed. Those workable macros were helpful to me.
I started by build some simple macros myself. Things like simulating a keystroke were easy. But I also made very poor macros (not to mention those that did not work).
Before I knew the "click a link" action, I used "click found image".
Before I knew "execute a macro", I copy-and-pasted many repetitive actions. Once I needed to edit something, it was like a nightmare, because I had to find all these repetitive actions and change all of them. Later, I found out that many things have to be done with scripts. So I began to learn some (I had no programming background.): JS, AS, Python, Shell...(of course, all at the surface level. Many times I switched to another script because I found a workable script that I could adapt to suit my needs) I suddenly realized that "execute a macro" is kind of like the functions in these script languages.

Of course, I must mention that I learned so much by coming to this forum and ask questions. Sometimes, a simple answer was all I needed. Other times, I saw that my answer was already asked by many others and the answer was already provided, even years ago (just had one today)! Still, other times, I was introduced to a wiki page. (Nobody blamed me for not searching for it before asking. Most of the time, I did the search, but could not find the answer. But sometimes, I forgot to search, I just came and posted my question. I very much appreciate that people here are both friendly and helpful.)
When I realized how helpful the wiki pages are, I began to read through most of the wiki pages.

Of course, gradually, I was able to build more complex macros, refining many old ones.

After going through all these, I would say, I still have many that I don't know. I will probably ask more "repetitive" and/or "stupid" questions. But KM has become part of life. If I want to do something "more efficiently", the first tool that comes up to my mind will be KM. I think I can say, KM is the biggest reason that I'm not going to switch back to Win.

Hope this testimony encourages some of the "intimidated" friends. :blush:


Thanks for your feedback.

Actually, as of KM 9, most automation tasks can be done using KM non-script Actions.
Sometimes it may be more efficient, or take less visible space in the Macro editor, if you use a script, but you don't have to.
There are lots of one-line shell scripts that are very powerful, but also can be very dangerous and hard to understand.

I suspect this happens to many users, particularly those with no or limited programming experience.

@peternlewis, this is probably worth addressing somewhere in the KM "Intro" or "Getting Started" articles, to introduce the notion of using Execute a Macro action to provide reusable Actions, and to reduce complexibility within a Macro. These are concepts we quickly learn as programmers, but may not readily occur to new KM users who are not programmers.

1 Like