Of all the utilities I couldn’t live without on my Mac, Peter Lewis’s Keyboard Maestro is perhaps the most important. It helps me switch between apps, type frequently used text, open collections of apps for specific tasks, set up my Mac for automated tasks at appropriate times, and a host of other things.
With the just-released Keyboard Maestro 8, I’m looking forward to doing even more. If you use Keyboard Maestro now, I recommend an upgrade; if you’re not using it, I sincerely hope that you’re not wasting time on repetitive actions that Keyboard Maestro could automate for you.
So what can Keyboard Maestro 8 do for you that it couldn’t do before? Lots and lots of stuff, but here are my favorite new capabilities:
- Send SMS messages or iMessages: This feature is huge because it lets Keyboard Maestro communicate with the outside world via Messages. You could have Keyboard Maestro perform some automated action and alert you — or anyone else with a cell phone — that it had completed successfully. You will want to test this feature and avoid sending sensitive information because Keyboard Maestro’s documentation notes that there have been cases where Messages sends to the wrong recipient. But still, it’s worth it.
- Trigger on more events: Every macro has two parts, a trigger and actions. With Keyboard Maestro 8, you can now trigger macros based on gestures drawn with the trackpad or mouse, remotely from a Keyboard Maestro server, when you change audio devices (such as by plugging headphones in), or at any particular date and time via cron. There’s even an idle time trigger, which goes off when the Mac has been twiddling its virtual thumbs for N minutes.
Prompt with a list: One of the limitations of many macro utilities is that they tend not to be very interactive. You can feed them a file or some text and work on it, but it’s hard to modify behavior on the fly with user-driven choices. No more with Keyboard Maestro 8, which includes a new action that presents the user with a list of items that can come from a clipboard, variable, file, or text within the action.
Touch Bar support: OK, I’m pretending slightly here, since I don’t have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar. But if I did, I’d be all over Keyboard Maestro 8’s new Touch Bar support. Right now you can show a palette of macros in the Touch Bar, and tap one to launch it. You can also display a set of buttons in the Touch Bar as part of a macro and process the result.
Drag to create actions: Keyboard Maestro 8 features lots of subtle changes to the macro editor (including full AppleScript support for creating and manipulating macros), but the one I like the most is support for dragging files into a macro. Drag an application in, and you get an Activate Application action. Drag a script in, and you get the appropriate Execute Script action. And any other file, when dragged in, will create an Open File action.
Assistance: If you’re having trouble figuring out why a macro isn’t doing what you expect, you can choose Help > Assistance to bring up a window that helps you troubleshoot a wide variety of problems, both with Keyboard Maestro itself and with your macro. It also provides links to documentation, tutorials, the support forum, and more. Plus, a new warning system in the editor notifies you if you make certain common mistakes while building a macro.
Those changes are the tip of the proverbial iceberg for Keyboard Maestro 8, which boasts over 100 new features overall. You can trigger macros directly from the clipboard switcher to transform clipboard history items, increase the text size in the editor and clipboard switchers for improved readability, download text or images from remote Web sites, save and access structured data with permanently saved dictionaries, and much more.
Keyboard Maestro 8 requires OS X 10.10 Yosemite or later and works fine in 10.13 High Sierra. New copies cost $36, and upgrades from previous versions are $18 (from version 7 through 19 November 2017) or $25 (from older versions or after the cutoff date). Anyone who purchased after 1 March 2017 is eligible for a free upgrade. It’s a 22 MB download, and in the two weeks since the initial release of 8.0, Peter has already pushed out three small updates to address minor bugs.