Keyboard Maestro on Mac

In our last two segments, we took a broad look at Keyboard Maestro and a look at the application's built-in macros and how to make Keyboard Maestro open when you log in. Now we're going to look at the Keyboard Maestro Editor, which is what you use to create, edit, and manage macros. We'll learn how to create macros by looking at the application's built-in macros. Once we see the basics, we'll create our own from scratch.

See at Keyboard Maestro

NOTE: Keyboard Maestro also has a built-in tutorial that offers an alternative way to learn how to use Keyboard Maestro.

The anatomy of Keyboard Maestro's Editor

The Keyboard Maestro Editor consists of three sections:


You use the Groups column to organize all your macros.

Keyboard Maestro ships with 2 Smart Groups: * All Macros * Enabled Macros and 3 standard groups: * Clipboards * Global Macro Group * Switcher Group

Smart Groups Smart Groups automatically organize macros based on criteria you set. You'll find Keyboard Maestro's dictionary of search strings (the language used to create Smart Groups) here: Keyboard Maestro Search Strings.

Standard Groups You create and curate standard groups by manually dragging macros you've created to the groups you've created.


The Macros column displays all the macros found in a group you've selected in the Groups column.


Displays and lets you edit information for a group you've selected in the Groups column or a macro you've selected in the macros column.

How to edit Built-in Macros in Keyboard Maestro

Since Keyboard Maestro comes with a good initial collection of macros, we're going to start by customizing the Application Switcher, just so you can see how a macro is put together.

Start by selecting the Switcher Group from the Groups column.

You should now see a list of about 7 macros in the Macros column and the Editor column should now display a folder icon with the name Switcher Group next to it and just next to that you should see a black check mark.

Click the checkmark.

It should now change to an "X".

Press command-tab.

NOTE: You should now see the macOS Application Switcher instead of the Keyboard Maestro Application Switcher. This box can be used to disable or enable entire macro groups when you have a group selected or individual macros when you have a single macro selected.

Re-enable the Switcher Group by putting a check back in the box, then select the macro named Activate Application Switcher.

Double-click the application icon that appears next to the field where you can change the name of the macro. When you do you'll see a new window called the Icon Chooser.

Select a new icon, then close the Icon Chooser window.

Note the section that says Triggered by any of the following. This section of the editor is where you configure keyboard shortcuts or other actions to initiate the macro you're editing.

There are already hotkeys assigned for this macro, so we're not going to change them as a part of this tutorial, but you may if you want to.

To change the keyboard shortcut:

  1. Click the field where the current shortcut appears
  2. Type a new series of keys

That's it! New keyboard shortcut attained!

In addition to switching applications, you can also configure the macro to perform other tasks. For example, I like Keyboard Maestro to hide all open applications when I switch to a new one. (Obsessive, I know...) You can also change what the Program Switcher looks like, its orientation, the size of the application icons, the background colors, and you can add applications you always want to appear on the Switcher, whether the application is already open or not.

Let's change the Application Switcher's behavior:

  1. Click the disclosure triangle next to where it says Activate Application Switcher. You should see several new options appear
  2. Drag the slider to resize the icon to something that you like. Use command-tab to make sure it's a size you like (note that it may take two command-tabs to display the change.)
  3. Click the Color button to select a new Switcher color. Use command-tab to confirm you like the new color
  4. Put a check in the box that says Hide other applications when switching. Use command-tab to see how this works

You're done when you've customized the Application Switcher exactly the way you want it.

How to create a macro from scratch in Keyboard Maestro

Now that we've edited an existing macro, let's create a simple one from scratch.

First, we'll create a group for your macros, then we'll create the new macro in your new group.

  1. Click the "+" button at the bottom of the Groups column
  2. When the new group appears, type My iMore Macros or another name in the field that says Untitled Macro Group
  3. Select your new group, then click the "+" at the bottom of the Macro column
  4. When you're new macro appears, name it My Email Signature

Note that right now there are no triggers and no actions as a part of this macro.

  1. Click the green plus next to the text that says New Trigger
  2. Select Typed String Trigger
  3. In the text field beneath where it says This string is typed: enter the following: ,sig. (That's a comma followed by the letters s-i-g.)
  4. Click the New Action button that appears beneath where it says No Action. A new Actions window will appear above where the Groups and Macros columns were

The Actions window has two columns: Categories and Actions. There's also a search field you can use to filter and find a macro within all the macros.

  1. Select the Text category from the Categories column
  2. Double-click the action called, Insert Text by Pasting. Note the this adds an Insert Text "" by Pasting action to your macro
  3. In the text field at the bottom of the action, type your name, followed by your email address, followed by your phone number, each on separate lines.
  4. Add one extra return at the end so your cursor moves to a new line

How to test your macro in Keyboard Maestro

Let's take your first macro for a run:

  1. Open TextEdit
  2. Click New Document
  3. In the new document type, ,sig

Your signature text should appear in the document.

Up Next

Next, we're going to look at ways of creating more complicated macros.