Opening Multiple Apps on MacOS With Keyboard Maestro

Introduction

When I sit down at my Apple MacBook to begin my workday, there are a variety of apps I open and use daily. I also use multiple monitors, so I can spread my work out. When done manually, this required me to open each app, move it to the monitor I wanted, then repeat. Very time consuming.

I wanted a way to automate this, and found Keyboard Maestro | @KeyboardMaestro to be the best solution. It was easy to setup, and I could trigger things off a simple keyboard combination.

Be aware Keyboard Maestro is a paid app, but a one time purchase of only $36 (US). Well worth the investment for everything it does.

Just a preface, this won’t be a step by step tutorial on how to use Keyboard Maestro. The Keyboard Maestro website, YouTube, and the internet have a plethora of those on the basic use of the Keyboard Maestro application. This post will focus on the solution I came up with.

OK, that said let’s see how to open multiple apps.

Opening and Positioning an App

Opening an app in Keyboard Maestro requires three basic steps. First, use the Activate Application action. This will open the app if it’s not already open, or bring it to the foreground if it’s open already. If you’ve already got the app open when you create the action, you can easily pick it in the Activate action’s app picker list inside the Keyboard Maestro editor.

Next, you need a Pause action. This is needed to give the app time to fully open before you attempt to move it in the next step. For most apps around 3 seconds was sufficient. Some apps loaded quickly, and I could reduce the pause time to one or two seconds. A few I had to bump up to four or five seconds. You’ll just have to play with this, as it is quite dependant on the app, the speed of your Mac, and even the internet for apps that require access to the web.

Finally I added a Move Window action, then changed it to Move and Resize Front Window. You can manually enter the top corner coordinates, followed by the width and height.

Far easier though is to have the app positioned where you want it, then use the Get button, found in the Move and Resize Front Window action. This turns the mouse into cross hairs, and you have five seconds to draw a box around the app. This will get the coordinates and paste them into the action. From there you can make any minor tweaks.

Now, repeat! Repeat these three steps for each application you want to open. Here is a screen shot of my list.

There’s one more action, just off the bottom of the screen, a Move Mouse action.

After opening up my apps I wanted to position the mouse in a spot where I knew it would be.

IMPORTANT!!! Keep Your Hands Off The Keyboard and Mouse!!!

One important thing, make sure not to touch the keyboard or mouse while these macros are running. Otherwise you might interrupt the workflow and apps won’t open correctly or may not be where you want them positioned.

Of course if that happens its not a big deal, you can just run the macro a second time to get everything positioned right, but best not to waste the time if you can avoid it.

Variations

This app saves me a lot of time every day. I carry my MacBook onto a sunroom / porch I have on the back of my house, plug it in to my monitors (don’t worry the sunroom is secure), and run the Keyboard Maestro macro. Sure, it takes about a minute to run and open everything, but that is far faster than doing it manually. In addition I can do other tasks while it is running, such as plugging in my iPads and setting them on my desk, or sitting my Windows / Linux laptop in its docking station.

Because this is tied to a keyboard combination, I can have multiple versions. For the sunroom I enjoy working on I use Ctrl+Shift+Option+Cmd+P to start my work day. In addition to the sunroom, I also have an actual home office where Ctrl+Shift+Option+Cmd+O opens and positions everything. In addition, my in-laws kindly gave me a corner in a spare room to setup a small desk with some monitors so I can work when we visit there, using Ctrl+Shift+Option+Cmd+D. (D is the first letter of the town they live in, in case you were wondering.)

Finally I have yet a fourth version to open my apps when I am using only the internal monitor of my MacBook, with no external monitors attached. For it I use Ctrl+Shift+Option+Cmd+L (L for Laptop Only).

During the course of the day I’ll wind up moving applications around on the screen, dragging between monitors, and the like. At some point I like to refresh everything to put my apps back where I had them at the start of the day. I can of course run the full Ctrl+Shift+Option+Cmd+P (for example) and it works just fine.

However, if I know all the apps are already open, there is no sense in giving each one time to open. So I created a duplicate of the original macro, and simply removed all of the pause actions. I then use Ctrl+Option+Cmd+P to activate it. I did the same for the other macros, creating a version without the pause, and the only difference being the faster (much faster!) version doesn’t include Shift as part of the activation.

Thanks to MacGeekGab

I need to give a shout out to my favorite Apple podcast Mac Geek Gab | @MacGeekGab. In a past episode one of the hosts (I believe it was Dave) mentioned using Keyboard Maestro to do this very thing, although didn’t go into any details.

That gave me the inspiration to tackle this challenge. Through some trial and error, along with persistance, I was able to come up with a solution that worked for me.

Conclusion

If you are an Apple Mac user and don’t have Keyboard Maestro, it is a worth while investment. As a matter of fact, I have some upcoming posts in which I’ll document a few other things I use it for!

The same goes for Mac Geek Gab, if you aren’t listening to their podcast, you should!

Disclaimer, this was in no way a paid advertisement from either Keyboard Maestro or Mac Geek Gab. I received no compensation for doing this post. In fact I purchased Keyboard Maestro with my own hard earned money, and even donate to Mac Geek Gab. I just think they are both great tools and wanted to share them with you.

I record video training courses for Pluralsight, including several on the Apple MacOS platform. You’ll find a list of my courses with links on my About Me page.

If you don’t have a Pluralsight subscription, just go to my list of courses on Pluralsight . At the top is a Try For Free button you can use to get a free 10 day subscription to Pluralsight, with which you can watch my courses, or any other course on the site.

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