Keyboard Maestro is easy to use once you understand the way the Editor and Engine, Macro Groups and Macros, Triggers and Actions work together.
The Keyboard Maestro application is the editor. It lets you create and modify macros and configure preferences. You use it only when you want to make changes and then you quit it. It does not always need to be running. Whenever you launch Keyboard Maestro, it also launches the Keyboard Maestro Engine which continues running until you log out (you can have the Keyboard Maestro Engine launched automatically when you login by enabling the “Launch Engine at Login” preference in the General preference pane).
The Keyboard Maestro Engine is a background only application that enables all of Keyboard Maestro’s features. It responds to your Hot Key presses, watches the time, tracks applications and maintains your clipboard history, handles remote web, iPhone requests and receiving clipboards, and, of course, executes your Macro Actions. It should be running at all times, so we recommend you enable the “Launch Engine at Login” preference in the General preference pane.
Keyboard Maestro allow you to organize your Macros into Macro Groups which are like folders of macros. Each Macro Group controls when the macros it contains are active. A Macro Group can target or exclude specific applications, which means the macros it contains will only be active in those desired applications. It can also be active only in specific windows. So for example, you can have macros which are active only in Mail.app, or only in Mail.app when a compose window is open.
A Macro Group can also act as a container for specific-use macros which are enabled only when you specifically activate them. For example, you could create a Macro Group containing macros that resized or repositioned windows using the arrow keys, but those macros would only be active after the Hot Key was pressed so that the arrow keys could be used normally at other times.
Macro Groups can be displayed as palettes, allowing you to create your own custom toolbars which can be configured with a variety of themes.
You create a Macro Group by clicking the + button at the bottom of the Macro Groups list. You can disable or enable Macro Groups by clicking the ✓ button. You can configure a Macro Group by selecting it and clicking the Edit button, or by double-clicking on it.
You can also create Smart Groups, which are essentially saved searches and will show you any macros that match any of the set of search criteria.
Keyboard Maestro’s main purpose is to execute Macros. A Macro lives in a Macro Group and consists of a set of Triggers that determine when the macro is executed, together with a list of Actions that define what the macro does when it is executed. You create a Macro by clicking the + button at the bottom of the Macros list. You can disable or enable Macro Groups by clicking the ✓ button. Keep in mind that a Macro can only be active when the Macro Group that contains it is active. You can edit a Macro by selecting it and clicking the Edit button.
A Trigger defines when a macro will be executed. There are a variety of Triggers available, the most common is the Hot Key trigger which executes the macro when a specified Hot Key is pressed. Similarly, you can use a Typed String trigger to execute a macro when you type some text (for example =addr=). Other common triggers are the Macro Palette which lets you trigger a macro by clicking on a context (front application) sensitive floating palette of macros and the Status Menu trigger which displays the macro in the Status Menu.
You can also trigger a macro when you login or when your Mac sleeps or wakes, at a specific time or on a specific day, when an application launches, activates or quits, by executing a script, or remotely using a web browser or iPhone. And you can trigger a macro when something changes, like a volume being mounted or unmounted, your wireless network connection changing, or a USB device being connected or disconnected.
A Trigger will only execute the macro if the Macro Group and Macro are enabled and currently active. You create Triggers by creating or editing a Macro and clicking the green ⊕ button in the macro detail view.
When a Macro is Triggered it executes a list of Actions. Keyboard Maestro performs each of the Actions in order. There are a wide variety of Actions allowing you to control applications, simulate user interface events like key presses, mouse clicks and menu selections, work with files or images, control your Mac or the clipboard, or display a variety of powerful switchers (Application, Window, Clipboard and Clipboard History Switchers). You can also execute a script (AppleScript, Java, Swift, shell Script or Automator Workflow) or even download or create your own custom plug in actions. You create Actions by creating or editing a Macro and clicking the + button to display available actions, or by clicking on the Record button and performing the action while Keyboard Maestro records your actions to your Macro.
By using these six things (Editor and Engine, Macro Groups and Macros, Triggers and Actions) together, you can dramatically enhance your Mac experience.