By Monte Ferguson
Computers are wonderfully enabling devices. You can do so much with them. But why is it that they don't take the repetitive drudgery out your day? There are many tasks that people do, especially at their work place, that are repeated regularly. Wouldn't it be nice to automate that process? That way the computer would do most of the work which would free you up to do something else. Sorry to say computers aren't smart enough, on their own, to offer to do that for you. However, you can purchase programs to help streamline your computing life. One such program is QuicKeys.
QuicKeys has a long and storied history on the Mac. It is the first, and last commercial macro program on the Mac.
A macro program doesn't automatically automate things for you, wouldn't that be nice? But it does allow you to put together your own automation schemes. Basically you string together several actions that comprise some task that you routinely perform. Then you assign some keyboard command, or menu item to act at the activation signal. Sure, some folks out there will tell you that you can do pretty much the same thing in Applescript. Which is true, to a degree,but then again most of us aren't good at writing Applescripts. And not all programs are fully Applescriptable.
Macro programs give you a familiar graphical user interface to work with. They also include some shortcuts, some pre-defined actions, that you can add to your macro to speed up the development process.
Unlike other programs, where you list off the various tools or the new function it now performs, QuicKeys is a program that works in the background. Therefore explaining it's features takes the form of a list of what it can do. (Remember, you can string together these features to create your own custom workflows. By themselves they might not sound dramatic but put together it can be quite impressive. Also note that you can specify when the macro functions, date/time, so it can run automatically.)
- Change folder, allows you to switch to a different folder in open/save window.
- You can set QuicKeys to copy files to a specified folder
- Open items-automatically open files, folders and applications
- Create an email (including filling in the To, Subject and Body fields)
- Open URL(s)
- Mount server or shared volumes (or folders an a system that has file sharing turned on.)
- Tell the computer to do things like shut down, restart, start screen saver, log out
- Clips is a permanent compilation of boilerplate text (formatted or unformatted) and/or graphics that you can retrieve at any time to paste into a document. Unlike items on your system clipboard, QuicKeys Clips are saved even if you restart your computer or quit QuicKeys.
- Finder Views allows you to view windows in the Icons view, List view, or Columns view. Select the Change view in all open windows checkbox if you want your Finder View Shortcut to change the view of all your open Finder windows.
- Switch Applications enables you to move between applications with a Hot Key rather than a series of mouse clicks. You can create Shortcuts that switch to a particular application, move through all open applications in succession or toggle between two open applications.
- Terminal Command executes UNIX commands. (When you create a Terminal Command Shortcut, you must type your commands in the text box.)
- Date & Time inserts the date and/or time into documents.
- Type Text is useful when you want to type frequently-used text with a QuicKeys trigger. For example, you can use this Shortcut to type your signature line in e-mail messages or to enter common information into databases.
- Select MacOS interface elements such as buttons and menu items.
- Multi-Step functionality - Multi-Step Actions through the Step Results section now allows the user to jump to a particular step or an offset of a step in a shortcut.
- Improved handling of Typing Action by adding the "Typing Speed" and "Sync All Typing Actions" preferences to allow users to set the typing speed of newly created or existing typing actions.
- QuicKeys Actions - Added the "Start Recording", "Stop Recording", "Cancel Recording", and "Toggle Recording" actions
- Recording - Simply tell QuicKeys to watch and record what you do. Then play it back with any trigger of your choice.
- Radically Redesigned Interface - Provides easier creation and management of shortcuts, ability to sort by type, name or scope, advanced triggers, and toggling shortcuts on or off.
- Run QuicKeys as a background application by setting a preference to remove the QuicKeys icon from the Dock.
- Shortcut Debugging - Impressive new tool for diagnosing problems with shortcuts.
You can really cut down on some of your most repetitive tasks with this program. Or you can setup a macro to turn on your computer, have it launch all of your regular programs and have all of your favorite web sites open. Your aren't limited to only running macro's. You can also incorporate, or launch, Applescripts and Unix commands, via the Terminal. You can make your own macros or, like Applescript's Editor, you can tell it to record your actions. You can set a macro to run a specific time. And your macros can be available to any program, or you can set them to only be accessible for one application. QuicKeys biggest strength is flexibility. This version is definitely faster than previous versions under MacOS X.
The MacOS X version of the program is definitely more limited than the MacOS 9 version of the program. Folks new to QuicKeys or macros will find little guidance in the manual that comes with the program and there are no demonstration macros that ship with QuicKeys. Which makes the learning curve steeper than it should be. My biggest gripe is I wish the program could do just a little more. For instance I think the feature create an email address is great. But I would like to be able to highlight an address on a message I've received then hit my macro's trigger. The program would automatically address the new message to that person. I could also see it integrating with my iCal calendar or Entourage so I could use it to send notices of upcoming functions to friends, family and colleagues.
QuicKeys has a long and respected history on the Mac. It was speedy, versatile and had lots of features. The MacOS X version has has not fully come up to the same level that the MacOS 9 version was at. This version has made some major strides in speed and usability. However it still feels like a work in progress. The continued lack of beginners information, ie tutorials and sample macros, puzzles me. That is definitely a mistake for a program that needs to be seen to understand what you can do with it. To their credit, Startly Technologies, has implemented an email newsletter and community forums which help address this lack.
I would advise trying out the program. See what you think. If there is a feature that makes your day go much smoother that might be worth the cost of the program right there. I hesitate to give the program a better recommendation because it still feels unfinished. But, if what it offers is what you need, this is one handy application.
Posted: Saturday, September 24th, 2005