Organizing And Managing Hot Keys


Just like some others in this forum, I have used various automation going all the way back to QuickKeys app from mac os 8 & 9. Then later moved everything over to Keyboard Maestro.

When I started way back when, I did not have much organization of Hot Keys in mind since I only had a few. Once they become part of muscle memory - I was reluctant to change them. Then overtime as I added more and more thanks got more confusing.

Basic organization. I created a few basics like:

OPTION & number keys = Open APPS

CONTROL & number keys = modify various things

OPTION & letters = modify various things (that might make sense with the letter such option-p - print PDF or something like that)

Other Varied combinations ... do varied things?

Then also there was the issue of the extended Mac keyboard VS Basic laptop keyboard. How do I keep track what keys are on what keyboard?


I know that some people are using stream deck however I would prefer to discuss that on some other thread.

Q: So my basic question is : Do you have any suggestions for how to organize and manage hotkeys with our current powerful computers add Keyboard Maestro?

Thanks - Dave

Hi Dave, I also started with QuickKeys :slight_smile: So my shortcuts have evolved over the years and their number has grown. That's why they don't follow any logical system. It is simply my system, that I control well but which I would not recommend to anyone.

Lately I have switched to strings. e.g. I open my most visited websites with the first letter of the name and two times spacebar. So Youtube, y + space + space. This is conflict free and fast because I write with 10 fingers and can do it "blind". Except when I have broken a finger like now. :frowning:

I know that many have concerns about using strings, but with space, space nothing dangerous can happen, I hope. I have only good experience with it. And I would never use Enter, of course.

Generally, unless it is something you use multiple times every day, hot keys are difficult to remember.

So the solution generally I think is to use a single hot key for multiple related tasks so that you are using more often. You do this most easily by giving multiple macros the same hot key, and then Keyboard Maestro will display a Conflict Palette of the various options which you can then trigger with further keystrokes - but those keystrokes will be highly mnemonic and visually displayed, so they are both easier to remember and easier to use even if you don't remember them.

Looking at my log for today (it's late in the day now), I've used a hot key trigger 128 times, but only 18 different hot keys.

Almost all my hot keys have the Control key as a modifier, since it rarely conflicts with other things.

Most are related to handling email support (unsurprisingly). A few are related to activating specific applications or documents, or dealing with web pages or windows.


You can see well that "systems" are a matter of taste. When I trigger a hot key, I don't want to see a palette. And certainly not one where I can't define the triggers myself. But such habits are formed over years and it makes little sense to change them just to have a „logical“ system.

By the way, it is interesting how our brain works. Most users couldn't tell what a shortcut does in a particular app. But if they want to do something specific in that app, they know which shortcut to use.

It'd be great if there was an option to hide/display individual macros in group palettes. They're easier to set up, after the fact, than conflict palettes, but you don't always want every macro in a large group to pop up.

Absolutely on the "matter of taste" issue. There's no-one right answer for everyone (or even for any one person at all times...).

On the "where I can't define the triggers myself" point, I usually manage to name the macros in such a way that I'm happy with the triggers that the Conflicts Palette generates, but then I'm a fan of the conflicts palette so I'm happy to tinker with the macro names to make the conflicts palette work.

So, for example, I have a conflicts palette where
Hyperkey+Q followed by Q, K, R, or S will quit all, quit all except frontmost, restart or shutdown. It meant reversing the natural order of "Quit all except frontmost" to "Keep frontmost and quit the rest", but it works well (for me anyway).

Hi Kevin, don't get me wrong, palettes are great. And your use case makes sense to me right away. Have you looked at the Multipress macros from noisneil? Great stuff! They also do what you do, but without palettes :slight_smile: I use palettes mainly for macros that don't have a shortcut (with the mouse). What I use more and more are "wiping tiggers“. For example, I move my finger from left shift key down to fn. Or from fn to ctrl. But such things do not work with KM.

I haven't looked at those but I will ! Thanks.

Thanks Peter - this is very helpful. I have not really used the Conflict Palette much and this does seem to be an easier was to have many less hot keys to remember!


Could you point me to these Multipress macros links please?

Here they be:

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Echoing what Peter has said. I started with a bazillion hot key triggers, utilizing all combinations of all four modifier keys. It became silly.

I've since consolidated to fewer triggers and more conflict palettes. Happier!


:rofl: :joy:
This is another reason why it would be good if "fn" could be used as a single modifier, as it is possible with another app.

The issue with Fn is that it isn't a modifier at all, but a hardware toggle. Based on Peter's comments in the past, it seems as though it can't be used in the way you'd hope.

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I know Peter's comments and nevertheless I use this feature every day exactly like this.

fn+i opens the inspector in Scrivener. I could list dozens of examples. Without fn as a "modifier" I would have real problems.

Works perfectly. Not with KM, But you know with another app :wink:

I should have specified "can't be used by Keyboard Maestro in the way you'd hope".

I took @peternlewis 's advice and/or developed a Conflict Palette- Regular Palette system for my shortcuts. In fact I use Conflict palettes within regular palettes and it works fine. Muscle memory kicks in a lot quicker than it does when you have to remember lots of direct key strokes. In fairness it is not intuitive that that will be the case but it really is.
In my view this a very much neglected feature of Keyboard Maestro. Nearly all of my usage of Keyboard Maestro is now through palettes. I admit I have idiosyncratic usage and not really 'power' user level, with apple scripts and what have you.


@tudor_eynon can you explain how you do it exactly? Do you choose the same shortcut for similar actions, like open brower and then a palette appears with Safari, Chrome etc.?

Pretty much as you imagine in principle.
Here is my main tool on my Mac. I use cntrl + spacebar to pull it up, it is really a Keyboard Maestro palette triggered by that shortcut.
You can see several actions for start with a 'w'; if you press 'w' a conflict palette shows and then I press the second letter and trigger the action. Very quickly it feels as if you are just pressing the two letter keys in quick succession, it works that fast. I have actually forgotten that there is a conflict palette involved it becomes so quick and automatic.
A whole range of Safari options I open with 'a', and again that brings up a conflict palette for the next step.I get on this webpage using it, "a", then "c", it works as fast as typing the two letters; though I might unconsciously now keep a slight delay.
In another example from the same palette "Show palette for screenshots" the 's' key press just brings up another palette with a variety of screenshot options and shortcuts again triggered by letter keys.
None of this is coding or scripting etc.. I think it is a true innovation on this app. where it beats out a lot of competition, even from native shortcuts and so on. I use this feature a lot and the iterations can be quite elaborate as you can see. Does this make sense?


That actually makes a lot of sense! With the exception that I do not like the red palette. Just kidding :slight_smile:
Let me think about it in more detail. I'll get back to you.

Thanks @tudor_eynon :slight_smile: