Review: Keyboard Maestro is Nirvana for Power Users

I started using Macs back in 2007, which was my senior year of high school. It was then that I really started examining other modes of technology instead of just video games. I had a Dell Vostro laptop my parents had bought me for Christmas, but was largely unsatisfied by something I can only describe as “not pretty”. I think it was then that my desire for technology that was both functional and beautiful had taken over. I received my first MacBook (with the white polyurethane body) and was enamored. I knew close-to-nothing about Mac OS X then, but I loved the aesthetic and how easy it was to use.

So, it’s funny now that this article is a review of an application that has the power to make your system incredibly complex. I think it’s a testament to both my growing knowledge-base as a OS X user and the ability of OS X to forego the idea that it’s “simple”, because frankly, I see no one I know on Windows implementing these kinds of things on a day-to-day basis.

What is Keyboard Maestro? The truthful answer is a ton of things, really. Keyboard Maestro’s motto is “Conduct your Mac like a pro!”, much like the name implies. There’s not really a short way of describing what Keyboard Maestro can do. You can launch applications, insert text, use text tokens, access your clipboard history, manipulate windows, control iTunes, execute scripts, complete file actions, and more. See? I told you. As Federico Viticci of Macstories describes, a review of every single feature of Keyboard Maestro would be long-winded, and honestly, not very useful. Instead, I’d love to show you how I’ve made Keyboard Maestro work for me and my everyday needs.

I use Keyboard Maestro for a lot of things, including assigning global macros (a sequence of button presses) to manipulate text written in Markdown, text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers developed by John Gruber of Daring Fireball. Let’s take a look at how I use Keyboard Maestro for writing in Markdown.

Previously, I used Textexpander for Markdown automation, but I now I exclusively use Keyboard Maestro. My absolute favorite Markdown macro is “Link New”, which allows me to create a link in the current text editor (I use Byword) by simply hitting control+option+L. The result is a popover window that lets me select which kind of link I’d like to make, whether it be a link list from my clipboard, inline links to references, or a brand new link. I usually choose the last one simply by typing “n” (notice that the letter “N” is grey in the popup window, compared to the rest of the white text. A popup window then displays inputs for the link text, the URL of the link, and the title of the link. Entering that information, followed by confirmation will result in a Markdown formatted link instantaneously. Pretty incredible in my opinion. You can also do things with rich-text styling (bolditalics, etc.), as well as number and unordered lists. Pretty incredible in my opinion. Once you’ve purchased Keyboard Maestro, you can download the Markdown Macro library from Andreas Zeitler here. I’d also recommend watching the screencast to see it in action.

Another simple use I have for Keyboard Maestro is opening Safari tabs in Google Chrome. When I got my new MacBook Air last week, I vowed to never install Flash. This can make watching many Youtube videos or gaming streams difficult. I perused the web, and found this awesome “Open Safari Tab in Google Chrome” macro from The Carton:

Simply pressing control+option+command+C takes the current tab in Safari, copies it, opens Google Chrome, opens a new tab, pastes the link, and presses enter. With four buttons. I hope you’re starting to see the power of Keyboard Maestro.

Another useful macro I use is one I found from Macdrifter’s Gabe Weatherhead. He created a macro that displays an Alert Window every time command+Q is pressed to quit applications. You then have to confirm the action, and Keyboard Maestro will type command+Q for you. Now you don’t have to worry about accidentally closing an application and losing your current state.

Frankly, I haven’t even touched the breadth of Keyboard Maestro’s features. This can certainly be intimidating, and honestly, I’m still intimidated just the sheer amount of things you can do with it. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. However, the Internet happens to be a wonderful place, full of a lot of people who are more than willing to help you get started. For instance, David Sparks and Katie Floyd have an incredible podcast called Mac Power Users who recently reviewed Keyboard Maestro and the its powerhouse features. No, Keyboard Maestro isn’t the prettiest application you’ve ever seen, but the things you can do with it are of beauty unmatched. If you play around in it long enough, you’re bound to create some wonderful things. I’d pay the $36 price tag from half of the things Keyboard Maestro can do. Plus, Peter Lewis, the developer and creator of Keyboard Maestro is Austrailian. And we all know that, deep down inside, we wish we were Austrailian. Seriously, go buy Keyboard Maestro, dive in, and create something useful. You won’t regret it. Pick it up on Keyboard Maestro’s website.

MSRP: $36

Pros: Absolutely breathtaking set of features that truly gives you complete control of your Mac.

Cons: The UI can be a turn off to those used to gorgeous applications.

Original Author: Roger Ogden

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