How Keyboard Maestro Saves Me Tons of Time at Work

You’ve probably heard a million times how great Keyboard Maestro is, but you likely have the same question as everyone else: this seems cool, but I don’t know how to use it. I can’t tell you how you should use it, but I can show you a few examples of how I get work done with it at my job as a product designer at an e-commerce company.

Text Expansion

Keyboard Maestro has most of the powerful text expansion features you’ll get from TextExpander, and I think that’s a great place to start. I enter a lot of fake credit card numbers throughout the day, so I have these set up:

Shortcut Value
;v 4111111111111111
;m 5431111111111111
;a 341111111111111
;d 6011601160116611

I also have a few that might be more universally useful. For example, I have “@@” expand to my work email address and “;uu” expand to “UAT complete” since I need to write that on every task that goes through me in our task management system. I also have “ddate” expand to the current date in the format YYYY-MM-DD since I need to write that quite a bit as well.

Simulating a Card Swipe

This is pretty old school tech, but it’s something I need to test every now and again, but this text expansion lets me simulate a credit card swipe through an unencrypted keyboard emulation card reader. These are pretty darn rare these days because they’re not as secure as other readers, but they exist and it’s sometimes useful to be able to test it out.

Logging into a Site

Sure, things like 1Password and LastPass usually handle this sort of thing, but I log into the same URL with a bunch of different username/password combos and those tools don’t handle that situation as elegantly, or as quickly as I’d like. The screenshot above is of one login, but there are 3 more I use with different keyboard shortcuts.

Search Jira

This one gets a little more fun, as there is a query I need to run in Jira every Monday and Wednesday. I run it a few times, and it’s just easier to enter a URL to find it.

Sadly, the date needs to update every time I run this, so saving a bookmark doesn’t work. This action calculates the current date, adds one day (since I’m looking for the release on the following day), and opens a URL with that specific date appended. This is so much easier than using Jira’s search UI to do repetitive searches.

Open a URL from the Terminal

This one gets a little more crazy, but the gist of this one is that I set up repositories with specific branches of a project. I have a script that runs and spits out a URL I can use.

This action, which I run with a keyboard shortcut, opens my terminal app Hyper, CTRL+clicks a link and copies it, then opens Chrome, goes to that URL with some text appended, and then logs in as the test account I always use.

This is very specific to me, but this one can serve as inspiration for how far you can push Keyboard Maestro.

Run a Terminal Script with User Input

This one gets even more wild. This one asks me what branch I want to set up for testing. I get prompted with a text field when this runs and I enter a task number into the field. This then runs the script I need, finds the repository I need, and sets it up.

I’m super proud of this one as it can be something I do dozens of times per day and takes a minute or so each time if I do it manually. This takes about 3 seconds and feels like magic.

Convert Clipboard to Plain Text

And finally we’re back to simple one: this simply takes whatever is in the clipboard and converts it to plain text. Boom, simple.

This is far from an exhaustive list, and I can strongly recommend the MacSparky Field Guide if you want to learn everything there is to know, but maybe one or two of these gave you ideas for what you could do with Keyboard Maestro. It’s one of the best software purchases I’ve made in recent years, so the least I can do is try and help others figure out what makes it so amazing.

iOS Apps Crank it to 11 Right Before iOS 12

(That thing where you write a terribly punny post title without even realizing it.)

App developers seem to be treating WWDC as a deadline to get their big updates/launches out of the way. Presumably, this will let them devote much of their summers to updating for whatever goodies will be included in iOS 12. Since I’ve been mostly offline for a few days and missed most of these, I figured I would share some bite size impressions on these updates.

Castro 3

This is my new podcast app of choice. With the best queuing system out there (IMO), the addition of chapter support and a real player view make this the app with everything I want. The in-app purchase to unlock all features was totally worth it. Amazing update.

Free on the App Store (IAP)

Spark 2

My Newton email subscription expired a few weeks ago and I’ve been looking for an app that can replace it1. Nothing was scratching that itch and I was about to pony up for another year, but Spark 2 is amazing. The killer feature for me is being able to share links to emails to other apps like OmniFocus, which lets me easily set emails as tasks for later.

Free on the App Store (IAP)

Obscura 2

I’m not that big on third party camera apps. The stock app tends to get the best results and launches fastest, and Adobe Lightroom takes the best RAW photos in my experience. Obscura has a really great UI and some cool editing tools, so it gets closer than most to getting into my workflow. I am still playing with the RAW image quality, but it seems to do a really good job. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with it, but I’m sure it will work for a lot of people.

$4.99 on the App Store

Pocket-Run Pool

This is my new addition, and like all of Zach Gage’s games, this is a new take on pool like you have never plated before. It’s simple, quick fun, and I’m on the hunt for a perfect game.

The coolest thing is an international tournament that happens every hour of the day. You get one shot each hour to set a high score and try to come in the top 10 worldwide. I haven’t made it yet, but I feel like I’ve gotten close at least once or twice.

Free on the App Store (IAP)

Things 3.6

My heart has a soft spot for Things, which is a great task manager and my second favorite app for this sort of thing. This recent update added a ton of keyboard shortcuts which makes the app feel ridiculously powerful.

$9.99 on the App Store ($19.99 for the iPad app)

OmniFocus 3

This is my go-to productivity app and the new update is…relatively conservative, actually. I didn’t feel like the app reinvented itself or anything, but I love their conversion of “contexts” to “tags” and their new scripting options look powerful, but I need to dig in more to see what’s new.

Free on the App Store (IAP)

Ulysses 13

Famously my “favorite app on any platform,” Ulysses continues to be one of the best software investments in my life right now. The new daily writing goals are amazing (watchOS 5 review, I’m looking at you) and keyword highlighting is helping me omit some words that I don’t want to appear in my writing more easily. This is a great update!

Free on the App Store (IAP)


And finally, one more productivity app, but this one has a twist. Agenda pitches itself as a single app to replace your note taking and task management apps. The design looks very nice and some people just love the Mac app, so I’m just starting to give this a try.

The tragedy of this app is that it looks like exactly what I want for me day job, but with no Windows version, I can’t use it for that. I’m pretty happy with OmniFocus now, but this is a really interesting app that everyone should at least check out.

Free on the App Store (IAP)

  1. I love Newton, but it’s $50 per year and that’s a bit much. 

Today’s Forecast Status Update

8 months ago I released my first app to the iOS App Store: Today’s Forecast. The app was intended to be the weather app I’ve always wanted to use, and I did a really good job of doing that. It’s still the weather app I have on my home screen and I use it everyday. Users tended to agree, with a 4 star rating all time (and 5 stars for the current version).

But one of the things that I was not able to do as well as I would have liked was maintaining the app. I fixed bugs and added some critical features that people requested soon after release (a weather widget was the big one), but I wasn’t able to iterate on other features, such as an Apple Watch app, push notifications, and radar.

Part of the reason for this is that I had less free time to do such things, but the big reason was that I had accorded a ton of technical debt in how I built the app originally. I won’t get too into the detail here, but essentially I wrote the app without following a lot of best practices in iOS development and relied too heavily on storyboards for the interface. This meant that every change required considerable investigation into what parts of the app impacted other parts and any interface changes were frankly maddening ordeals.

All this is to say that I booted up Xcode today and created a new project called “Today’s Forecast 2.” I’m throwing out all the legacy code and am going to see if I can make the app again, but this time with a focus on doing things the right way. I want to be able to iterate on the app bettering I want to make it a better experience for everyone who uses it today. I can’t make any promises about how fast I can make this happen, but I would love to have a summer release for version 2. Job one is to replicate the features already there, and step 2 will be to add on some customer requests.

Wish me luck!

Today’s Forecast Update and Price Drop

A small update to Today’s Forecast just hit the App Store! Version 1.2.3 includes the following changes:

  • New seasonal theme!
  • Modified the Halloween and standard dark themes to look better on the iPhone X
  • Fixed a small bug in the Halloween theme displaying weather alerts
  • Removed alternate icons (sorry, hopefully adding them back soon!)

Additionally, I’ve dropped the price to 0.99¢ for the foreseeable future. After selling the app for 3 full months, it’s clear the price is too high for many people, so hopefully the new price point will bring in more people. I’d love to make the app free, but my time is not free, and on the off chance the app got 100,000 new users tomorrow, the Dark Sky API costs would make me go broke, so there has to be a cost.

Finally, you may have noticed that note up there about alternate icons going away. I wasn’t happy about this, but app review rejected me 3 times for saying the app did not allow users to change the app even though it said it could. Zero beta testers nor myself could replicate this and everyone said it worked perfectly1, so I don’t know what’s going on there. I’m working to get this functionality added again because I know I miss it as well, but I needed to get this update out to fix a few small bugs that were in the last release, and the number of people asking for iPhone X-optimized dark themes was too great to leave hanging. Keep an eye out for an update very soon that re-adds this functionality. I’m sorry for any frustration this caused.

  1. Of note, the code that was used to change icons had not changed since the original launch of the app. 

Transmit for iOS Bites the Dust

This is a sad day:

Transmit iOS made about $35k in revenue in the last year, representing a minuscule fraction of our overall 2017 app revenue. That’s not enough to cover even a half-time developer working on the app. And the app needs full-time work — we’d love to be adding all of the new protocols we added in Transmit 5, as well as some dream features, but the low revenue would render that effort a guaranteed money-loser.

I totally understand where Panic is coming from, and I’m sure it’s the right decision for them, but it still makes me sad. I have transmit on the second page on my iPhone and the first page of my iPad. It’s one of the first apps I mention when talking about how much more I like iOS than Android as well as being one of the apps that lets me go Mac-free more easily.

This does not affect Transmit 5 for Mac. It’s doing extremely well

This also does not affect Coda iOS and Prompt iOS, both of which are still going strong

I’m happy to hear that Coda and Prompt for iOS, as well as Transmit for Mac are doing well, but Transmit has been my keystone in that set for a long time.

Transmit for iOS will disappear from the App Store soon, so if you want to pick it up before it goes away, you can buy it from the App Store.

Unlock Your Mac Easily with Unlox

There are 5 reasons you probably want to get Unlox for iOS and macOS (formerly MacID).

One, if you have a strong password on your Mac and you don’t want to enter that long code every time you open your computer, Unlox lets you authenticate with your iPhone via Touch ID or Face ID. It’s easy, and fast. Apple Watch users already have an unlock option from Apple, and this gives everyone a similar bit of magic.

Two, if you don’t like entering that same long password when you’re installing something on your Mac, Unlox can fill in your admin password for you, again by authenticating with your finger or face on your iPhone.

Three, Unlox lets you unlock your Mac with patterns on your trackpad of Magic Trackpad. Maybe my iPhone isn’t around and I still want an easier, but secure way to log into my Mac. This feature lets me set up a pattern of taps on my trackpad that unlocks my computer. For example, tapping 3, 4, 2, 2, and then 4 fingers could unlock the computer instead of typing in a password.

Forur is media controls from your iPhone to your Mac. A lot of people use their Macs to play music throughout the room or even house, and there is no good remote control option to play/pause or skip to the next/previous track. Unlox gives you this ability and it works great. You can either open the app on your iPhone and use the control there, or like me, you can open the Apple Watch app and control things from your wrist.

Five, you can send your clipboard contents from one device to another. Again, iOS and macOS can do this already, but some people don’t have this feature turned on and others find it slower than they’d like. This is a fool-proof way of sending whatever you have copied from one device to another.

Unlox is $3.99 on the App Store and the Mac companion app is free from the Unlox website.

Ulysses’ Early Adopter Promotion Ending Soon

In case you didn’t realize, my favorite writing app of all time switched to a subscription model earlier in the year. As any move to subscriptions results in some bad blood with the community (although rarely from me), the good folks over there have been allowing people who have bought the app previously to convert to the subscription for a discounted rate.

Usually the service will run you $39.99 (USD) per year, but those who have bought the app when it was standalone can subscribe for $29.99 per year. This offer ends at the end of the year, so you have between now and Sunday to upgrade if you want the discount.

You can download the new app for free here and subscribe today.

AutoSleep is Far and Away the Best Way for Apple Watch Users to Track Their Sleep

AutoSleep is my go to sleep tracking app for the Apple Watch and it got a big update today:

Much faster, simpler and more accurate.

Now with automatic "live" sleep tracking on the Watch face! No buttons to press.

iPhone X Support. Optimised for WatchOS 4.

I love this tracker because it requires literally zero input from me. After giving the app access to your movement data, it will automatically keep track of your sleep every night. It’s the only sleep tracking app I’ve ever used that doesn’t require any user input, which is huge!

If you own an Apple Watch and want to better understand your sleep with no effort, AutoSleep is totally worth it.

Today’s Forecast Spooky Update (and sale!)

I’m happy to say that Today’s Forecast has been updated just in time for Halloween with a new “Seasonal” theme. If people like this I’ll keep them coming for the rest of the year (specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas).

Also, the app is also on sale for the first time ever! It will be half off (99¢ US) from now until Halloween. If you’ve been on the fence, now is the time to jump on board 1.

You can download Today’s Forecast from the App Store right now!

  1. Don’t hold out for it going free.