The Execute a Shell Script action executes a specified shell script, either from a file or from the script embedded in the action.
To execute the script from an external file, choose the “Execute Script File” in the choices for script location.
You can choose what input (stdin) to send to the script (v8+) as well as where the output should go.
In your script, use this format:
where [variable_name] is the name of your Keyboard Maestro Variable, but with spaces in the name replaced with underscores (
File Name would be formated as
If your variable already has underscores, you can use it as is.
Note that you can only read these environment variables. You cannot write to them (or more accurately, you can write to them but that will not change the Keyboard Maestro variables that they were created from).
If you are passing a file/folder path in a Keyboard Maestro Variable, then it is best to put the Variable reference in double quotes so that spaces in the path will work, like this:
This must be a full path. If the path starts with a tilde (~), then you must first convert it to a full path using the Filter, Expand tilde (~) paths Action BEFORE the Execute Shell Script Action.
For more info, see an excellent, detailed discussion of How To Quote Paths by @ccstone.
The Action (gear) menu includes the following options:
The results of a shell script can be:
If you want to return multiple values from a script, then you can either use AppleScript (via
osascript) to set Keyboard Maestro variables.
For example, you could have a shell script date display briefly in the Notification Center every hour, or use a hot key to type the results directly into your text editor.
You can also use the clipboard by piping from pbpaste and to pbcopy.
Proper quoting of strings in a Shell Script is often a challenge.
For a discussion on how to quote a string, see this Keyboard Maestro Forum post by @PeterNLewis.
In essence, the default path in a Keyboard Maestro Execute Shell Script is the base path for the system:
that is the script will search for tools in the
/usr/bin directory, then in the
/bin directory, then
/usr/sbin and finally
/sbin. Only tools installed by the system will be in these directories - any tools you have installed will almost certainly be elsewhere and so not found by default because:
$PATHenvironment variable you may have set in Terminal is not used.
How To Set a Path
$PATHenvironment variable within each Execute Shell Script action.
ENV_PATH(the Keyboard Maestro Path Variable) prior to the Execute Shell Script Action.
$PATHworks in the Terminal app.
ENV_PATHVariable is set, it will remain in your Keyboard Maestro Variable set (until/unless you delete it), available to every Execute Shell Script Action that you might use in the future. So you don't need to set it in every Macro.
ENV_at the front.
Setting the ENV_PATH Keyboard Maestro Variable
A shell script path that will work for many users is:
Of course, if you have tools or files you installed elsewhere, then you would need to include the path to those in this path statement, IF you plan to use any of those tools/files in a Execute Shell Script Action.
You can create the
ENV_PATH Variable one time using the Variable Preferences Pane of the Keyboard Maestro Preferences.
ENV_PATHand set its value.
For a good discussion about this see:
When you execute a shell script from other apps, like Terminal.app, the shell does NOT have access to the Keyboard Maestro Engine environment, and thus it does NOT know anything about Keyboard Maestro Variables.
In order to access Keyboard Maestro Variables in these scripts, you must use a tool like osascript.
⚠️ Note that you do NOT need to replace spaces with underscores in your Variable name in this case, since you are ultimately using AppleScript in the Shell Script.
Here is a simple example that works with Keyboard Maestro Ver 6+ to get a variable:
osascript -e 'tell application "Keyboard Maestro Engine" to get value of variable "My KM Var"'
If you are using Keyboard Maestro 7.1+ you can use the new simpler command to get a variable:
osascript -e 'tell application "Keyboard Maestro Engine" to getvariable "My KM Var"'
To set a variable (and create if needed) with Ver 7.1+ you can use this:
osascript -e 'tell application "Keyboard Maestro Engine" to setvariable "My KM Var" to "Some new value"'
Here is a more comprehensive example, providing error handling:
read -r -d '' theAppleScript <<'EOF' tell application "Keyboard Maestro Engine" set kmVarName to "My KM Var" tell variable kmVarName if it exists then return its value else return "Error → Keyboard Maestro variable '" & kmVarName & "' does not exist!" end if end tell end tell EOF osascript -e "$theAppleScript";
Keywords: Quote String, Bash, Shell Scripting