Keyboard Maestro with no experience with automation, scripts?

I’m working on a significant book project. A critical part of the project is consolidating, linking and synthesizing my notes and research articles. To facilitate my move to the “next level” in doing so, I purchased Kourosh Dini’s book, Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink. I’ve been using DT for sometime but I do not have a good system for linking notes, research, and ideas. I’m already finding Dini’s book valuable.

He recommends, explains, and even provides Keyboard Maestro scripts with his book. I do not have Keyboard Maestro but I’m willing to purchase it if I believe I will benefit from it. Here is my dilemma, I have no experience with automation or using scripts. I barely use shortcuts and when I do they are very simple. I don’t have time to master automation but I would like to follow Dini’s recommendations. Based on your experience with KM, would it still benefit someone like me based on what I just shared? Any advice and insights will be deeply appreciated! Thanks in advance.

You can judge for yourself from the list of macros (below) included in v1.3 of @Kourosh’s publication, but IMO over 80% of these macros are useful for manipulating the DEVONthink interface but not essential to following his recommended Smart Notes process. Many of the macros are just faster ways to use existing DEVONthink commands. Some macros are pointless since they requiring opening the macro menu to do run a script that does exactly what DEVONthink keyboard shortcuts do. Others will be irrelevant soon as DEVONthink updates its feature set. (Can’t say more about that.)

So, no, you do not need to purchase KeyboardMaestro and distract yourself from the core learning of his book. You’d go down a rabbit hole and neglect your writing.


If you were asking about learning KM from the ground up, I would tell you to reconsider. I’ve been scripting for years, and in some areas of how it works, I find KM impenetrable, because it’s very much written by a programmer for programmers. But if Dini’s KM macros don’t require a lot of customizing on your part, you will likely be able to use KM effectively without ever really needing to know how it works, the same way you could benefit from AppleScripts that somebody else wrote and that you never edit.

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IMHO you can spend so much time finding, trying, and learning new tools that you lose sight of the actual work you have set out to perform.


I think that Keyboard Maestro is relatively approachable for someone without a lot of automation experience. Probably slightly more challenging than Shortcuts (or for some Mac-based comparisons, more challenging than Hazel or TextExpander), but still fairly accessible.

I haven’t had a chance to read Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink yet, so I can’t really say how useful Kourosh’s Keyboard Maestro scripts would be for you. That said, I find Keyboard Maestro really valuable across a wide range of use cases. In thinking about this I’d encourage you to think more broadly about KM and what it might do for you rather than just concentrating on these particular macros.

I am extremely lazy and messy when it comes to automation. And yet I keep finding ways to use KM to quicken my workflows – you want something done system-wide? KM does this very easily. I’m probably using 5% of what it does and still find it incredibly valuable.


Keyboard Maestro can be grasped easily without too much programming knowledge. Obviously, as a powerful tool it requires time and adapting to its way of doing things.

Regarding automation in general, these are all very personal solutions to very personal workflows. I am a programmer by trade and after using KM with just the basics (keyboard shortucts for launching apps, or folders, or bookmarks…) it came to me that I could automate my Photos workflow with 3 keyboard macros on a specific macro palette for Photos. My point is, KM macros are very personal and may work for me but not for your workflow.

Same happens with what Kourosh publishes for his own workflows. Blindly following a master can lost you in your own path to discovery.


tbh I find Keyboard Maestro invaluable, I’d say is my top app in terms of value and efficiency, best $40 I’ve spent on an app.
It will not only be useful for DT, but also for any other stuff you regularly do on a Mac, ie any laborious task or repetitive stuff.
You’ll find new ways to optimize and shave a couple minutes here and there.
Also pretty good to avoid using your mouse too much.

Learning curve: Not that hard to learn, you drag blocks in the interface, similar to Automator, and can avoid writing any scripts for many/most of the tasks.

As mentioned, try it but avoid getting distracted by it :slight_smile: .
They also have a forum, there you can ask questions too.


Absolutely. You can get simple macros direct from the Keyboard Maestro discussion page. You can make simple ones straight off. I don’t use any scripts or anything that complicated. The small number of snippets and automations I have are invaluable though. You don’t need many shortcuts either. Start off using palettes that you can call up with a shortcut and pick out the one you need. Again what I do. I have twenty macros on one of my palettes. You can pick them out with a initial letter or a second letter.

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I use it a lot and I am not a programer and can’t even script. It seems to me, in fairness, that Keyboard Maestro caters to every level. You would not think that from the forum, which is, I admit, programmer heaven, but that is misleading.

I got distracted in the early days by it. I don’t think one can avoid that? It is fascinating. I never learnt the higher end stuff but I use it a lot within my own parameters now, I had to discipline myself. I have macros I built myself that I don’t understand even now for example. If I upgrade I just import them though. I also have macros that I had forgotten were Keyboard Maestro ones! They are so built in to my habits.

agree @TudorEynon, yeah that sums it up, as simple or complex as you want.
I’m also not a programmer but I feel it’s my secret weapon :smiley:

the forum is programmer heaven


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Yep. I’ve been using it a ton, for years, very happily. But I wouldn’t in good conscience send anyone with no scripting experience to that user manual and expect them to figure out, for example, how to use variables. I still don’t get it.


I bought keyboard maestro and love the potential of it, but I just don’t find the time in my schedule to implement what I think might be interesting. I basically do two things with it.

  1. It tells me not to waste my time when I login in big letters

  2. I have an action that opens two files, drafts, and a web browser and arranges them for student contact. And I only finally decided to do that this year after having owned it for at least three.

So my advice is unless it is coming to you pre programmed, and you’re not intrigued enough by shortcuts to develop them (or use them from other people?) then it will probably be the same. And who wants to try and figure out how to use a new system when trying to write a book?

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I’m using DEVONthink without KM even after reading Taking Smart Notes, and no issue at all. Great book with lots of insights. I don’t have time nor patience to learn KM.


Variables. Yes. Neither do I and I understand the concept in math quite well. I went through a long exchange on the Keyboard Maestro forum regarding ‘variables’. Peter Lewis himself got involved. We didn’t get anywhere. They tried hard but I still don’t use any variables other than the ‘ready mades’. ‘tokens’ as they call them. I use the date ones a lot but they are tricky to get to the formats I found.

@MacSparky in his guide does a good job with variables I thought, but I still found I don’t use them or quite ‘get’ them somehow. As you say programmers seem to have no problems.

I bite.

Variables are just a label with a value inside that can change.
Take your address. You live somewhere. The label is “address” and the value of it is your own address.
If you move one day, you still have an “address” but the value of it has changed.
If you use any kind of contacts application, you understand what a variable is, because that’s all you do, enter variables. First name / last name / city / phone number and so on.

There really is nothing more to it.

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yup, they should use different terms for regular people

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They’re concepts and have been structured in a given way by half a century of computer science now. It’s like learning a foreign language or an instrument; you have to put some effort into it. It does not entirely make sense, though, to ask of the language or the instrument to be easier than it is. It is… what it is.


Thanks everyone for the excellent and helpful responses, much appreciated. I believe I’ll hold off on KM for now. I’m not sure that I will get enough ROI for the time and money. Thanks again!