Keyboard Maestro: An Almost Invisible Superhero of Productivity

a person typing on a keyboard
Photo by Florenz Mendoza on

There are some tools that I use that are so seamlessly integrated with my workflow that they are almost invisible. They work so well that I simply don’t think about them. That really isn’t fair since tools like these do far more than they get credit for. And since I had a particular tool in mind today, for reasons I will explain, I thought I’d write about one such invisible superhero of productivity: Keyboard Maestro.

Keyboard Maestro is made by Stairways Software and it is Mac-only. If you are a Windows users, you can read with envy. If you are a Linux users, you probably don’t need a tool like Keyboard Maestro in the first place.

I have been using Keyboard Maestro for just over 8 years1 and I’m not sure I can quantify how much time it has saved me. Keyboard Maestro is an automation tool that combines three useful functions in one:

  1. Text expander
  2. Clipboard manager
  3. Automation engine

I think I first began using Keyboard Mastro as a substitute for TextExpander in order to get the expansions that I wanted. Keyboard Maestro can do text expanding, but even there it is powerful. It can take a simple expansion like ;;email and expand it to my email address. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had to type out my email address. Quite possibly it has been years. Like many text expanders you can set one phrase and have it expand to another.

But it can do more. It can perform transformations on the data. I wrote about a fairly simple version of this when I described how I used Keyboard Mastro to automatically add the next entry number to my journal in Obsidian. I have all kinds of useful text expansions and they have become so innate that I don’t even notice them. It would be fascinating to know just how much typing Keyboard Maestro has saved me over the years (and how many typos it has prevented).

Keyboard Maestro also serves as my clipboard manager. I am constantly copying things to the clipboard and pasting them other places. Keyboard Maestro keeps a history of my copies and allows me to access that history when I paste. Here is a glimpse of what that clipboard history looks like at the moment:

an image of my clipboard history in keyboard maestro, showing the last 5 copies I made, all ready for pasting

In addition to containing text, the clipboard can contain images. And when I paste something from the clipboard, I have the option of transforming it as I paste. Examples of this transformations include:

  • changing the capitalization of the text (all caps, all lowercase, title case, etc.)
  • manipulating an image by flipping it, rotating it, changing its size

This takes a lot of manual effort out of routine and reptitive tasks.

It was this clipboard history functionality that got me thinking about writing this post. I occasionally made use of PasteBot for this, but recently decided to consolidate this functionality into one app–much as I did with TextExpander. And since Keyboard Maestro does this so well, that was what I went with.

Keyboard Maestro can also do all kinds of automation, something I have only experimented with lightly over the years2, but something I am interested in making more use of.

As I said, Keyboard Maestro works so well, it is virtually invisible. I often forget I am even using it when I am typing. So I wanted to call attention to it, because it really is a powerful, useful, time-saving tool.

Written on March 11, 20223.

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  1. I just verified this, going back through my email to find the receipt from my first order, dated March 3, 2014.
  2. For an example, see how I used Keyboard Maestro, years ago, to automate pulling notes and highlights of my Kindle. I don’t use this automation anymore, but it is a good example of what is possible.
  3. Yes, even this dateline that you see at the end of each post is generated by a Keyboard Maestro macro that I created


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