Remembering Keyboard Shortcuts

Between KM hotkeys, Mac keyboard shorcuts, and shortcuts of other apps, it quickly becomes:

  1. difficult to remember them all, and
  2. likely to risk duplicating shortcuts.

How do people deal with this? Is there a KM way of handling this for ALL the apps and OS on the computer? For example I could imagine having one master keyboard shortcut that, when activated, lists all you shortcuts per app.

Personally, I use macro palettes to activate a list of macros that I don't use super regularly or are common actions. For example, I have a macro palette to insert regular KM actions, which is much easier than remembering nine shortcuts.



Here in the forum the app "Keycue" has been mentioned several times.

@Tomaso71: thank you, but that is not right yet for someone just starting out with KM.

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What is not right, using Keycue or a way to have a shortcut to something without having to remember a keyboard shortcut or asking someone new to KM to use a palette or something else?

Something you will see quickly on this forum is that people will ask you to be very specific so they have what you are saying clearly in order to provide you with what you are requesting.

If Keycue is an issue, then what specifically about it doesn’t work for you?


You can try David Sparks's method of using KM's Conflict Palette.


@BernSh if you look at my comment, it clearly shows it is in response to @Tomaso71, so that means I answered their suggestion re Key Cue.

Key Cue is costly. It may be worth it, I don't know, I am too much of a newbie to assess that.

@Bobby_Joe: that sounds sensible. I can try that. Thanks for the suggestion.

@iampariah: that's even simpler than @Bobby_Joe's suggestion, although the 2 could be complimentary. I'll have to experiment. Thanks for the tip.

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Keycue can be downloaded and use in trial mode for free. You can then assess whether it does what you want at a price that works for you.

@BernSh: thanks for pointing that out. From what I understand you can evaluate it as long as you want, you'll have to "endure" the regular reminder. That's a reasonable deal.

I recently downloaded and tried an app with a free evaluation. The snag: the duration was all of 10 mins. !

You are welcome :grinning:.

I bought it years ago, used it a bit and stopped using it. I found I’m not committed to keyboard shortcuts.

Once I got the hang of using KM palettes I invested a lot of time developing them and now find no need for keyboard shortcuts. As someone who doesn’t like typing this works well for me.

Of course everyone has their own experience and KM is broad and deep enough to accommodate just about anyone.


This is a nice problem for keyboard aficionados. Here are some thoughts on this borderless topic:

  • Personally I keep a Pages document where I make notes for my shortcuts. I found that entering shortcuts by hand is a way to remember them better. But YMMV. Here is my template
  • I have a lot of Macro Palettes that are only active for a specific application. All palettes share the same shortcut for a „for one action“ call (the „Help/Insert“ key is a nice key for this). So, the same key gives me an app specific KM menu (if I had defined one).
    • The macros in this palettes have simple characters as trigger keys („a“, „b“, „c“ …) and I try to assign them as hooks for the thing it does (e.g. „e“ to trigger an export-macro I defined in a given app)
    • The conflict palette is my friend. I make heavy use of it everywhere. It has the very useful feature to turn the characters of your macros in ad-hoc triggers.
    • As an example: you might have an app you want different export macros for. I just name these „conflicting“ macros with a simple prefix. E.g.:
      • „EP - Export as PDF“
      • „EJ - Export as JPG“
      • „EN - Export as PNG“
      • „VM - View - Maximise window on main screen“
      • „V0 - View - Zoom to 100 %“
      • So, I hit the palette shortcut and then „e“. That gives me a conflict palette where I only have to type the second letter to narrow the selection down to the PDF-macro by typing "p". That gives me a kind of type-ahead-search-feeling that feels superfast and allows me to assign „speaking“ abbreviations to my macros that are easier to remember.
      • I try to keep these consistent across apps. E.g.: almost every individual app palette has macros with the first letter „V“. I reserved this letters for all macros that affect the view-settings of an app (setting zoom levels, positioning windows, hide/show grids, etc.)
      • A lot of this macros just contain simple „select menu entries“ actions. I just find it easier to construct KM palettes for this than remembering an app’s individual shortcut set (especially when they differ from the standard: no need to reset „cmd + P“ as it is save to invoke „print“ in 99% of the apps – but what about „cmd + 0“ or „cmd + E“?)
      • I have apps with just a few „app palette macros“ and some with three dozens. I just add them when I find myself using specific functions of an app again and again.
  • I find it easier to choose a „focus“ for my shortcuts. Meaning: when in question, I set shortcuts in KM rather than in System Preferences. That gives me the peace-of-mind that I know where to look for them if such questions arise.
  • Bonus nerd level: You can use Karabiner to remap your keyboard. E.g. I remapped the „Help/Insert“ key to a simultaneous key press of „k“ + „l“. So, hitting the keyboard with my right middle and ring finger is my fast way to invoke my app specific palettes while the fingers stay in the standard position on the keyboard, so I can just keep typing the next letters of the macros. This is fast, fast, fast :slight_smile:
    • Karabiner is also nice to remap e.g. CAPS LOCK to a „Hyper“-key (simultaneous press of cmd+ctrl+alt+shift) giving you a whole new layer for shortcuts (I use them exclusively for system wide and meta-functions – e.g. „Hyper“+V for a system wide „Paste Box“-palette that gives me a palette for pasting stuff.
  • KM has the nice feature of „smart groups“ for your macros. I have set up a smart group for each modifier combination (e.g. a group for „cmd + ctrl“-macros, one for „ctrl + alt“ macros, etc.). This gives me the opportunity to find and review my shortcuts when in need.

tl;dr: Keyboard Maestro is a good place to consolidate your shortcuts and gives you a plethora of options.

Have fun choosing one (or two?) :slight_smile:


KeyCue? What I do mostly now is use conflict paletts and/or regular palettes. I find it works fine even for shortcuts I use very heavily. Some of them are, I admit, in 'muscle memory' now which is a bit paradoxical I suppose.

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Relatedly, within this topic link below is my take on minimizing the use of keyboard shortcut:

Also, I use the backtick or backquote key as the hot key trigger for all palettes I want in conflict palettes so I don’t need remember more than that one key to get the conflict palette in any context. Given how I don’t use that character the key is more valuable to me as a conflict palette activator. If I ever need a backtick, option+that key keeps KM from bringing up the palette giving me the character instead.

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@tudor_eynon: yeah, that's what I tend towards, as I mentioned above to @iampariah.

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@medienmeister: wow, that is quite an explanation, it's almost an essay :grinning: many thanks.
As a 1st step I thinki I'll try palettes and conflict palettes.

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Here's how I deal with it:

  1. I try to only use KM to assign my custom shortcuts (Hot Keys actually).
    • So I generally have to go to only one place to check for dup hot keys.
    • To view all of my KM Macros with Hot Keys, use this KM Global Search:
  2. I make effective use of Conflict Palettes , which means, of course, a number of active macros with the same hot key
    • For example, in my Evernote Macro Group, I have a hot key for several macros that are about links which uses the hot key ⌃⌥L
    • image
  3. I make effective use of Macro Groups to limit macro activation (usually to an app or group of apps) so that I can use the same hot key without a conflict pallet
    • for example ⌃←
    • image
  4. I only assign a KM hot key to those macros I often use.
  5. I have found that using either the KM Trigger Macro by Name action or MACRO: Execute Macro by Name (Spotlight) by @DanThomas (which I prefer) for all of my other macros works very well.
    • Since both search for macros based on its name, I have put keywords, with a prefix of "@", as part of the macro name. For example:

Demo DanT Trigger by Name Macro (1)

Many KM user like to use a lot a Palettes , which is fine if that is what you like.
Personally, I don't like to have a lot of pallets popuping up all over the place.
But I do have a few exceptions.
For example, I have a Windows Management Pallet that has many macros. I don't use any one macro a lot, but it is very convenient to have all of them together in one pallet with intuitive single-key hot keys:


The great thing about KM is that there is usually many ways to design a solution to any problem, so you can design the one best suited for you.



From all the comments here I think that just about sums it up. The versatility and flexibility of KM allows you to do almost anything.
Thanks for your input.

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That is such a good idea. I am going to do that now!

There are some fantastic ideas and suggestions in this thread. @JMichaelTX as always gives great insights as do @medienmeister @BernSh and all the other suggestions.

When I first started using Keyboard Maestro I made unique Keyboard Maestro shortcuts for everything but now I make heavy use of Palettes and the Conflict Palette.

What is great about the Conflict Palette is it allows me to "guess" a shortcut. So if I want to go to "Google" my guess is that it will be ⌃⌥⌘G and if I want to open a folder of mine called "Graphics" or another folder of mine called "Garage Band" I can "guess" and press the same shortcut ⌃⌥⌘G. From the resulting Conflict Palette I just have to click the one I want (or press the highlighted letter). As I nearly always want "Google" I've made its Macro name the single letter G so I just hit ⌃⌥⌘G followed by :leftwards_arrow_with_hook: to open it.