US$36 / AU$55 at Stairways software (free trail available)
Computers should perform repetitive actions on our behalf,
freeing us for higher-level work. Yet the insistence of operating
systems and apps on making us carry out mind- and finger-numbing
jobs has given rise to a varied category of utilities that automate
operations. Keyboard Maestro has occupied a big swath of that niche
since 2002. Its latest update, version 10, shipped in November 2021
with dozens of new features large and small.
Keyboard Maestro lets you create macros, a computer-science term
dating from the late 1950s, which covers a series of grouped
actions performed in sequence. The key elements for a good macro
system are that it's easy to create and modify macros, that they
execute consistently, and that they require only understanding the
notion that things occur in order–no coding experience is required.
While not always classed as programming, macros are not very far
off, either. (Older Mac users will remember QuicKeys was the
premier macro application choice from the late 1980s through the
2000s; Keyboard Maestro took up its mantle under OS X and has
persisted to the present.)
This app can activate menus, fill in fields, approve dialog
boxes, carry out system-level actions, and more, all the while
allowing flow-based control for conditional outcomes, like errors
or results. Common uses include carrying out a routine sequence in
app–select a dialog box from a menu, fill in values, click OK, open
another dialog box, and so forth–that otherwise has to be done by
hand. For instance, you might always want to open a screenshot
captured on an iPhone, flatten the image to remove its alpha layer,
reduce its color depth from 48 bits to 24 bits, and trim the
portion of the image to remove the status bar. The addition of
variables and conditionals means that you can create macros that
handle more than just literal selections and value entry, too.
Use Keyboard Maestro's
main interface to record, create, modify, and manage macros.
With Keyboard Maestro, you can record yourself performing an
activity in the Finder, an app, or across multiple applications,
then edit the results. The app may have captured your steps
perfectly, but you may want to add prompts or conditions, remove
extraneous cursor movements or clicks that were grabbed, or tweak
settings. You can also assemble macros from actions you can drag
and drop within the app or add these prefab actions into recorded
A wide array of
prefabricated actions can be added to macros.
While these features constitute the core of Keyboard Maestro, it
also extends lightly into app and window management. After
installation, your Command-Tab system-level Application Switcher is
replaced by Keyboard Maestro's more compact and configurable
version. You can disable it easily enough, but you might prefer it,
as I do. A Window Switcher (by default, Control-Tab) lets you
navigate among all open windows in the current app.
Create a recorded
macro that tracks your selections. Here, a common sequence for
screenshots is automated.
The app also captures everything copied to the system Clipboard
and lets you create, manage, and switch among additional
Version 10 added a configurable menu bar display into which
Keyboard Maestro can place information, and program subroutines, a
common coding option but a sophistication addition in a macros app.
It also added over 100 new features since version 9 and made dozens
of minor improvements.
If you're looking for
a few kitchen sinks, you can find them in Keyboard Maestro, such as
the built-in Web server that you can turn on to allow remote macro
As with many utilities under development for a long period,
there's also a pleasant junk drawer of other features, such as a
web server you can enable to trigger actions remotely on your Mac
and the ability to detect and attempt to conceal passwords as
Keyboard Maestro 10 costs $36 for use on up to five personal
Macs. It works with macOS 10.13 High Sierra and later and is native
for M1-series Apple Silicon. Older versions are available
for download through Mac OS X 10–and even further back in a
We last reviewed Keyboard Maestro for Mac Gems in 2013.
About version 6, Chris Breen wrote: If you find yourself doing
the same things over and over…you owe it to yourself to try
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