You could tell your macro utility to
minimize other programs automatically whenever you're running
something important, like Microsoft Word.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
Automate computing tasks with PowerPro for Windows and Keyboard Maestro for the Mac
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard
A few weeks ago I told you how to launch programs in Windows using keyboard shortcuts. A cool "hotkey"
feature built into Windows makes this possible.
(You can read that article on my Technofile Web site at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec030809.html.)
But keyboard launchers are one-trick ponies. How about something really helpful, like a keyboard shortcut
that types out your name and address?
Let your imagination soar: How about a pop-up menu that lets you instantly hide any of the programs that
are running? Or a keystroke that types the correct date?
To achieve that kind of sophistication, you need what geeks call a "macro utility." In plain English, it's
a program that makes fancy things happen when you press a combination of keys or when you click your mouse in a non-standard way.
This week, I'll tell you about macro utilities for both Windows and Macs.
Macro utilities are ideal for "boilerplate" stuff you need to insert into e-mail messages, to name just one
common use. You could set up your macro utility to put your name, address and phone number at the bottom of some messages but not
others, for example.
Macro programs also shine when you need to customize your computing environment for certain programs. You
could tell your macro utility to minimize other programs automatically whenever you're running something important, like
For Windows, the macro utility I recommend is Windows PowerPro. It's a powerful macro-and-menu creator that
shows how amazing free software can be. You can get it from powerpro.webeddie.com/xdownload.shtml.
PowerPro comes with an excellent manual in Microsoft Word format. I've used PowerPro for a decade and still
find helpful tips each time I page through the manual.
On the Mac side, I recommend Keyboard Maestro, a $36 utility from www.keyboardmaestro.com. You can try it for free.
Keyboard Maestro is great for making launch macros -- something the Mac can't do with its built-in software
-- but it also excels at the kind of custom launchers I sometimes need. One program I run every few days throws up a warning
screen that won't go away unless I press the Return key, so I've created a macro that runs the program, waits two seconds and
then presses that key.
Keyboard Maestro also shines with its built-in keyboard control of iTunes, which I listen to often. And
it's great at complicated macros like the one I wrote that inserts a lot of text at the top of a new-mail window and then jumps
down a few lines and waits for me to begin writing.