Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro is a keyboard macro application on steroids. Like other keyboard macro apps, it allows you to define abbreviations that get automatically expanded as you type them. Also like many others, you can set rules for which which applications those macros should work in.

Where Keyboard Maestro stands out, though, is the ability to trigger super-sophisticated actions that include switching applications, choosing items from menus, or buttons, and even searching for and clicking on (or dragging) an image.

What does that mean? Well, when I’ve used something like “Jump Desktop” (described below) to remotely control another computer, I can use Keyboard Maestro to script actions on a Windows or Linux box without having to install any software there. It can find controls and click through almost any user interface.

It’s this richness of control that makes this one of my “Secret Weapons”.

$36.00 with a free trial period.

Note: There are several excellent alternatives to Keyboard Maestro.

I’ve used and recommend both TextExpander ( and Typinator ( You might find some of their features more important to you, like automatically detecting and suggesting new shortcuts, or text expansion when you type any whitespace character. Both offer free trials at the time of this post.


You’ve probably seen “application launcher” productivity tools like Alfred, Butler, LaunchBar, and so on. You certainly know about the search capabilities of Spotlight – built into the operating system.

Quicksilver has elements of these things, plus much, much more.

Via a keyboard shortcut, Quicksilver is available in every application. With just a few keystrokes (say, part of a name) It can launch other applications; search for and open, move, or delete files; append text to a document without opening an application; control iTunes; send an email; display the cell phone number for a contact and/or start a facetime session — and many other things.

It’s literally the very first thing I install on a new Mac. No exaggeration – I simply can’t function without it.

I promise to write in more detail in an upcoming post, but I highly recommend Merlin Mann’s podcasts describing how to set it up and how he uses it.

It’s been around for ten years, but few people have heard of it, and even fewer use it. Perhaps that’s because there’s a learning curve. Believe me, it’s worth it.


Documentation and downloads here:

Avoiding Wasted Motion

It’s all about getting things done. Not the in the David Allen GTD® time management methodology sense, particularly – just the plain old “I’d like to finish this so I can move on to something else” way.

So, what important lessons have I learned over the years? (Quick: get out your bingo cards and see how many of these you can stamp with a “well, duh”.)

  • Switching between a keyboard and a mouse or trackpad is much slower than staying with the keyboard.
  • Typing fewer characters is faster than typing more characters.
  • Automation done right increases speed and repeatability and can reduce mistakes.
  • Re-configuring a laptop every time you switch environments wastes time.
  • You shouldn’t have to hunt for important information.

If you think I’m going to check a couple of those items off with a keyboard macro tool of some kind, you’re right, but that’s only one of my secret weapons. You’ll find other posts about recommended tricks and tools that reference “Avoiding Wasted Motion”.

Things I Use

I think it’s time to publish a series of posts describing my favorite and essential software tools. They might not be useful to anyone else, but they could be handy the next time I need to rebuild a development machine or bring a new colleague into the fold.

You’ll find posts in this series in the “Tools” category. Some special favorites might also wind up in “Secret Weapons”.

I’m not a naturally well-organized person, so quite a few of these items are safety nets I’ve used to keep me from walking over the edge of a precipice. Most of these tend to be related to customer relationship or project management, billing, tax accounting, and other “boring” — but critical — tasks.

Other things in the list are productivity enhancers, and some are applications I love because they help me craft a better product.

Like a carpenter, having decent quality tools in my toolbox and knowing I can rely on them is important to me. There are some amazing free tools out there, but often it’s worth spending real money for professionally crafted and supported software.

To stretch the analogy: would you trust a guy to remodel your kitchen if he shows up with no tools and asks to borrow whatever hammer and hand saw you have lying around?

Among the items in the upcoming posts you’ll see some I categorize as “secret weapons”. Additional notes on each of those will explain why I believe these (perhaps) lesser-known tools result in huge productivity gains.

As always, your mileage may vary.

I’ll be trying to break these things down into subcategories. Check back for updates.