Company: CE Software
Estimated Price: $118.95
I find very few pieces of software to be absolutely essential to my computing experience. A word processor, an email client, a web browser, and maybe a few games are really all that I need to do the vast majority of things that I do with my computer. (In fact, I keep a minimal system on a Zip disk in case of emergency, and that’s about all I have on that Zip disk, in addition to the System software, of course.) In addition to that short list, I could include a few utilities, such as Aladdin’s StuffIt, an antivirus program, and possibly a backup program. Recently, I decided that there was one other piece of software that I needed to include in that list of “must-haves,” because without it, I would not be able to do my work as quickly or as efficiently: a macro utility.
Macros allow you to automate actions on your computer, or create shortcuts to cut down on the amount of work or steps needed to accomplish a task. These actions or tasks are nearly unlimited; the types of macros you can create are limited more by your imagination than by the capabilities of most macro utilities. Some common macros involve application launching, clipboard manipulation, repetitive batch processing (such as performing a filter on a series of images in an image-editing program), connecting to a file server, controlling the audio CD player, and connecting to the Internet and retrieving email from a server. The types of macros that you create and use will depend largely on what you do with your computer (such as web page editing, image editing, programming and development, or accounting and record keeping, for example). Prime candidates for macros are whatever actions you perform on a regular basis and feel that you could do quicker and more efficiently if you could perform them with a single keystroke or button click.
This review focuses on one such macro utility, namely QuicKeys 3.5.3 from CE Software, and it’s a very good one at that. QuicKeys offers a lot of flexibility and options not found in other macro utilities, uses a clean interface, and comes with good documentation.
You can trigger macros in a variety of ways using QuicKeys. Normal methods, such as using the FKeys or a keystroke, are available. You can also trigger macros using certain types of mouse clicks, by creating a clickable button, or by accessing the macro from a customizable menu (which can be placed either in the menu bar or in the Apple menu). Finally, you can create floating toolbars to hold your most-often used macros, so that they are always just a mouse click away.
Creating macros is a fairly straightforward and elegant process. QuicKeys is pre-configured with several common macros, which is convenient (because you don’t have to take the time to make them yourself), and also several good examples and teaching aids you can use in making your own macros. One very nice feature of QuicKeys is that it features a recorder; in other words, QuicKeys can “record” a series of actions as you perform them, and then create a macro which accomplishes those same actions in the same order. You can also create macros in other ways, and edit macros after you’ve created them. Macros can also be defined as universal (available in all applications) or application-specific (available only in the specified application).
QuicKeys has some very unique and interesting macros, as well. One of my personal favorites, being a full-time PowerBook user, is the ability to simulate a numeric keypad on a non-extended keyboard. If you also purchase the QuicKeys PowerPak (which CE Software is currently offering with QuicKeys in a bundle package), many QuicKeys operations, such as email retrieval and file server connections, can be greatly enhanced and/or simplified.
With its large selection of features and options, it is a good thing that QuicKeys ships with a thorough, well written, and easy-to-understand manual. It gives a very good overview of the operations and functions that QuicKeys offers, with ample illustrations and simplified text. There is also a decent on-line help system available via AppleGuide.
A few months ago I reviewed another macro program, KeyQuencer from Binary Software (http://www.binarysoft.com), and I also know from reader input that OneClick by WestCode Software (http://www.westcodesoft.com) is very popular. Although comparisons between the programs are inevitable, it’s not my purpose to do so here. All three program offer similar functionality, but each has a slightly different feature-set and way of operating, and in my experience, which one is “better” is often a matter of personal preference. So, if you are in the market for a good macro program, you may want to download demos of all three from the respective websites, and try them all to see which one works for you.
However, all comparisons aside, QuicKeys is an elegant and powerful program. It’s flexible and offers a lot of options and customizability. I can recommend QuicKeys as a very functional and useful utility that nearly all Mac users should consider taking a look at.