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QuicKeys X3

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Over the years, QuicKeys has earned a well-deserved reputation as the premier macro utility for the Mac. Although limitations in the Mac’s system software made for a rocky transition to OS X, subsequent updates remedied many of the program’s deficiencies. QuicKeys X3 further refines the interface and adds new ways to program, organize, and invoke shortcuts, but its high price may discourage casual users.

Enhanced Interface

QuicKeys’ redesigned Editor shows your scoped applications (programs to which you have assigned macros) on the left and a directory of shortcuts on the right. For the first time, you can edit a macro’s triggers—the actions or events that initiate a shortcut—in the Editor, without opening the shortcut. Checkboxes let you temporarily disable shortcuts without deleting them, which is handy if you’re experimenting with different versions of the same shortcut.

QuicKeys X3’s Shortcut Editing window is also improved (See screenshot). You can drag-and-drop steps between shortcuts, and you can hide or show a step’s details in a jiffy, a useful option when you’re working on multi-step shortcuts. Tabbed Inspector windows let you view and edit information about a selected step.

In addition to scopes, which specify in which applications a given shortcut is active, QuicKeys X3 supports subscopes that let you create unique sets of shortcuts that work in different parts of an application. For example, you can assign the same key combination to print color copies of your document in Microsoft Word’s Print dialog and to change selected text to red and bold in the main document window.

Unfortunate Events

Veteran QuicKeys users know that many things, like an unpredicted window placement, can derail even the most thoughtfully planned shortcut. If an application window is hidden or a button isn’t ready, a shortcut may fail or have unforeseen consequences. To avoid problems, QuicKeys X3’s Decision shortcut lets you test for conditions—verify that a button is enabled, say—before proceeding with the next step in a multi-step shortcut. Another new option lets you jump to a specific step if the current step fails or succeeds.

QuicKeys X3 also brings back variables, a staple from pre-OS X versions of QuicKeys. You can use variables to store text and numbers, test them to change the sequencing of a running shortcut, or type a variable’s contents into a document. However, if you’re accustomed to working with variable expressions in traditional programming languages, QuicKeys’ variable dialog boxes may seem cumbersome.

Despite its improved interface and beefed-up programming tools, you’ll still have to work hard to make QuicKeys X3 do your bidding. Fortunately, the expanded manual includes more tutorials and how-tos than before.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

QuicKeys is more accessible to non-programmers than AppleScript and it’s more capable than Script Software’s iKey ($30). If you can afford the high cost and time investment, QuicKeys is an excellent way to reduce the drudgery of repetitive tasks.

QuicKeys X3’s Shortcut Editor makes it easy to see what any step does at a glance.
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