By Jason Snell
April 1, 2021 10:19 AM PT
Keyboard Maestro’s most mind-blowing feature
Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.
In my recent piece about automation on macOS and iOS, I mentioned the witchcraft that is possible on the Mac with Keyboard Maestro:
Keyboard Maestro has been the solution to almost every this-seems-impossible problem I’ve encountered on my Mac. It owes its power to some mind-boggling methods, like emulating keyboard shortcuts, invoking menu items, and monitoring what’s displayed on the screen itself.
I’ve been meaning to write more about Keyboard Maestro for a while now, because what it does is nothing short of amazing.
Keyboard Maestro does a zillion different things, including most of the things you can think of. It’ll open apps, move and resize windows, emulate keystrokes and simulate the pulling down of menu items. And you can do an awful lot with those features. But sometimes you can’t avoid needing to automate clicking on a something specific on the screen. Something you would probably use your human eyes and human brain to find. And if that thing isn’t in the exact same place on the screen every time, how can you automate it?
Keyboard Maestro has an answer: it looks at your screen for you, finds what it’s looking for, and lets you act on it.
Here’s a portion of a Keyboard Maestro macro of mine:
This set of commands looks on my screen to see if a particular Audio Hijack session appears in the app’s Sessions window, and if it does, it clicks on it. To do this, I’ve taken a screenshot of that session to use as the example:
Depending on the placement of the window and the number of sessions in Audio Hijack, that block could be anywhere. But Keyboard Maestro will match my sample image against the contents of the screen, find the right area, and then click on it. At which point I can run the rest of the macro using keyboard shortcuts and menu items.
Keyboard Maestro’s interface could use a refresh—it still drives me batty that I can’t leave its library of Actions open all the time, and that they appear in a slide-up pane that covers my library of macros. But its power can’t be denied, and its ability to find specific items on the screen has solved several automation problems that I thought were unsolvable.
Keyboard Maestro costs $36 and there’s a free trial. If you want to automate actions on your Mac, especially if you never want to write a line of AppleScript or any other code, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
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