QuicKeys has been a staple on many Mac users’ computers for a long time. The robust macro-utility allows you to create keyboard shortcuts and toolbars for dozens of common, repetitive tasks, saving time and giving added convenience to the Mac’s interface. With version 4.0, CE Software has added more options, plug-ins, and interface enhancements to their excellent flagship product. The new version does up the ante a little in System requirements-you need a PowerPC-based Mac with at least 16 megabytes of RAM and Mac OS 8.0 or later-so users of older Macs will have to stick with version 3.5 or look elsewhere for a macro-utility. The majority of Mac users, though, will find plenty to like in this update.
IN WITH THE NEW
Probably the first, and arguably the most important change in QuicKeys 4.0 is the addition of the Setup Assistant. The Setup Assistant works very much like the Setup Assistants in the Mac OS, or a Wizard or template in other applications. It presents the user with a series of dialog boxes and choices, and creates a QuicKeys Shortcut based on the user’s input. While there’s a limited number of Shortcut types the Assistant can make, and the results must be fairly generic and universal in structure, it greatly simplifies the process of creating many common shortcuts that most users will want. The Assistant offers Shortcut creation help in the areas of File, Multimedia, Network, System, and Text Tools. If you’re a QuicKeys veteran, want to make very complicated or elaborate Shortcuts, or have a very unique system setup, you may want to skip the Assistant and make Shortcuts on your own. However, most users-especially QuicKeys “newbies”, will find the Setup Assistant a Godsend. (Also, for those that like them, the written manual is also very helpful, well written, and thorough-it’s half an inch thick!)
The toolbars in QuicKeys have gotten a major overhaul in version 4.0, as well. Toolbars can now be edited and manipulated using contextual menus and offer pop up arrows for accessing menus. More importantly, the toolbars now fully support drag-and-drop; dragging a file, folder, or text selection to a toolbar will automatically create a File Launch, Folder, or Type Text Shortcut on the toolbar. Dragging a file or folder onto a File Handler or Folder button on a toolbar will bring up a drop-down window from which you can select an action to be performed, as well. Toolbars can be made to always float on top of other open windows, or they can be hidden by other active windows.
In addition to the pre-existing suite of plug-ins, which allow you to do things such as launch applications and files, select printers, or type a string of text, QuicKeys 4.0 offers ten new ones. Some offer greater manipulation of files on your computer: File Handler allows you to lock, unlock, rename, move, or modify the type and creator codes of a file, while File Recall is a beefed-up, customizable version of the “Recent Documents” feature in the Apple Menu. Also, Project Saver can open and manipulate a set of files grouped together as a project, and Advanced Text Tools can perform many reformatting features, change case, and remove quotes from a text file. Other plug-ins allow you to change interface and OS settings, such as View Switcher, which allows you to specify view settings for individual folders, and Network Switcher, which enables you to switch between various network settings quickly and easily. There are the obligatory Internet-specific plug-ins: Instant Email automates many email tasks, and Web Launcher lets you launch your favorite websites with one keystroke. Rounding out the new plug-ins are Audio CD Player, which allows you to control audio CDs using the keyboard, and Password Vault, which stores and protects all of your passwords in one place.
The interface changes in the new version of QuicKeys make the program more intuitive and less confusing to new users. The utility now sports a built-in toolbar in the Editor, an icon toolbar instead of a menu bar in the Sequence Editor (thus eliminating one of the more confusing interface features, in my opinion), an updated and improved Configure QuicKeys dialog box, and several new icons and renamed items for clarity. One of my favorite interface improvements is that the QuicKeys Editor is now non-modal when QuicKeys is active. That is, you can click outside the Editor window, which minimizes the Editor into a floating palette. QuicKeys 4.0 also supports Mac OS 8.x technology, such as Contextual Menus.
PUTTING THE SHORTCUTS INTO USE
As in previous versions of QuicKeys, there are several ways of creating Shortcuts. You can use the Setup Assistant, use the Record feature to have QuicKeys keep track of your actions and create a Shortcut of them, use the Create menu to manually make one, use the contextual menus, or drag-and-drop an item onto a QuicKeys toolbar. Although you don’t ever need to use it if you don’t want to, QuicKeys also offers its own scripting language, QuicKeys Script, which can be written and compiled using Apple’s Script Editor.
Likewise, you can trigger the shortcuts you make in various ways. You can assign a keyboard combination to the Shortcut, or click on its toolbar icon. QuicKeys can put a menu in the menu bar to list all of the Shortcuts, and a Shortcut can also be made as a standalone, double-clickable application icon. Finally, Shortcuts can be set to launch at a specific time and date.
It’s true that some of QuicKeys’ features now have Mac OS equivalents. Double-clickable Internet shortcuts and Navigation Services’ Favorites submenu have taken some of the wind out of the Web Launcher’s sail, and many of the Network Switcher and Printer Switcher functions can be taken care of using the Location Manager. According to Apple, the next version of the Operating System (Sonata) will have a password keychain (see Adam’s beta preview of the new OS for details), which will limit the usefulness of one of the brand new shortcuts, the Password Vault.
It’s also true that other programs can mimic some of QuicKeys’ functionality. Connectix’s Speed Doubler 8 offers some very basic macro and file launching capabilities, and there are tons of toolbar and palette-based utilities available also. However, nothing that I’ve tried offers the total package of options, features, intuitiveness, power, and customizability that QuicKeys does. If you already have a large investment in other utilities, QuicKeys may be overkill, but if you want one utility that will act like the Swiss army knife of Macintosh shortcuts, QuicKeys is your answer. If you want to see for yourself before you lay down a Benjamin for it ($100 bill American currency)–always a good move–you can download a 30-day demo version from CE Software’s website, at http://www.cesoft.com/quickeys/qkmdownloads.html
Ultimately, what you get out of the new version of QuicKeys will largely depend on what type of user you are. For example, I prefer to use the keyboard as much as possible, and cut down on the number of times my right hand has to move from the keyboard to the mouse and back. As such, I’m in love with keyboard combinations for launching Shortcuts, so the toolbar improvements aren’t a big deal to me. (I can appreciate their usefulness and coolness, though.) I’m also a veteran macro and shortcut user, and don’t mind scripting if necessary, so the Setup Assistant is only marginally useful for me. However, everyone-myself included-will be able to make use of the cleaner interface and added support for Mac OS features, such as drag-and-drop and contextual menus. This new version adds something for all Mac users, and especially for those who are unacquainted with the world of macros, scripting, and shortcuts. If you want to make your Mac easier to use and more customizable, as well as increase your own productivity and save time, you need to take a look at QuicKeys 4.0.
MacMice Rating: 4.5