For more than 12 years, savvy Mac users have used QuicKeys to automate repetitious tasks – if you used your Mac to do something, you could usually do it faster with a QuicKeys shortcut. Thanks to QuicKeys X, from CE Software, macro fans who have made the switch to Mac OS X won’t have to abandon their favourite utility. However, QuicKeys X’s limited feature set may leave them wanting more.
Unlike QuicKeys 5, which was a control panel, QuicKeys X is an application. To install it, you simply copy it to your hard drive. Shortcuts only work when the application is running, so most users will want to visit OS X’s Login Preferences panel and set QuicKeys to launch automatically at start-up. (CE Software recommends QuicKeys 5 for classic applications, although many QuicKeys X shortcuts also work in the classic Mac OS.)
It’s easy to add, delete, and modify shortcuts using QuicKeys X’s spiffy new editor. To define a shortcut, you select an operation from the Create menu or drag an icon from QuicKeys’ customizable tool bar, which you can populate with your favourite QuicKeys functions. You also have to define at least one “trigger”, which tells QuicKeys when to run the shortcut. For example, you can direct QuicKeys to go to a particular Web site 60 seconds after you launch your browser.
To avoid inadvertently activating a shortcut inside the wrong application – with potentially disastrous results – you can constrain shortcuts to run only when you’re using a specified program. You can also create application-specific tool bars that let you activate shortcuts with one click.
The simplest QuicKeys shortcuts consist of one operation. Multistep shortcuts, which replace QuicKeys 5’s sequences, let you automate more-complicated tasks. At the bottom of the Editor window is a pop-down drawer that lists the steps you’ve defined for the current shortcut (see “Quick steps”). QuicKeys X doesn’t support the extensive set of sequence-programming tools that QuicKeys 5 did, but you can tell QuicKeys X to continue, skip the next step, or halt the shortcut depending on whether a given step fails or succeeds.
Unfortunately, QuicKeys X is less capable than its predecessor. Although QuicKeys X’s ability to record and play-back any mouse action offers a partial workaround, it’s not a substitute for the extensive control over menus and other interface elements version 5 provided.
To a large extent, QuicKeys X’s problems stem from a lack of appropriate tools in OS X. With some help from Apple, CE Software hopes to enhance QuicKeys X’s feature set. Even with its current limitations, though, most OS X users will be able to find plenty of jobs for QuicKeys X. Try it for yourself – it’s on this month’s cover CD.