QuicKeys X3 is a powerful macro program that supports a wide variety of mechanisms
that reduce the complexity of daily or routine tasks to a simple keyboard shortcut
or menu selection. QuicKeys provides a powerful editor to develop and maintain these
macros. It also sports a powerful debugging capability that provides a clear and
unambiguous display of the results of each step in the macro process. The vendor,
Startly Technologies, also provides a comprehensive User's Guide and a user forum
to share macros and help debug problems.
NOTE: Startly Technologies was formerly CE Software.
- Mac OS X version 10.3
- 128 MB RAM
- 20MB of free hard drive
space (you will need more as you build a library of QuicKeys shortcuts and clips)
- Certain features, such
as automatic checking for QuicKeys updates, require an internet connection
- System Accessibility
must be turned on
QuicKeys retails for $99.95.
The evaluation configuration consisted of a 17" G4 iMac with 768 Mbytes of memory,
an internal 80 Gbyte hard drive, a 200 Gbyte drive connected using Firewire 1394a
and running Mac OS x 10.3.
Open the CD or disk image and drag and drop the big blue "Q" icon labeled
"QuicKeys" into your Applications folder on your hard drive. You can also
download a free trial version from Startly's web site.
To understand the usage of QuicKeys, one must be familiar with QuicKeys concepts
- A shortcut is QuicKeys
term for what is generally view as a macro or script. In essence, a shortcut converts
a single keyboard action or menu selection to a series of tasks. You are able to
define the series of tasks and the trigger to initiate the process. QuicKeys is delivered
with a set of predefined shortcuts that range from iTunes controls to opening a set
of common applications and folders. The predefined shortcuts allow the novice user
to gain a better understanding of the capabilities of QuicKeys and its use.
- Triggers are defined
as a user-specified signal that causes QuicKeys to initiate a shortcut. One or more
triggers are assigned to a shortcut when it is first created. Triggers can be attached
to a user-based action, such as a menu selection or a hot key. The can also be assigned
to a date and time, a device event, such as a mouse button press, or an application
event, such as an open or quit. QuicKeys also supports speech recognition, which
allows spoken phrases to be used as triggers. Shortcuts can also be invoked from
- The scope of a trigger
is can range among all applications, which means that the shortcut can be activated
regardless of the application that is current active or its state. The scope can
be restricted to only be available when a predefined application is active. Subscopes
can be established to handle separate states within the application environment.
The scoping rules establish the precedence of application specific rules over the
general application rules. An exclusion list is also provided to remove applications
from a shortcut's application list.
- Step Results
- The success or failure
of a step is known to the shortcut. As a default, a shortcut will continue to the
next step in its process if a step is a success and will terminate the shortcut if
a step is a failure. This behavior can be overridden by assigning a specific action
to perform if a step fails.
QuicKeys provides a powerful editor that is basically an Integrated Development Environment
(IDE). The editor has a number of different features that simplify the development
Figure 1 - The QuicKeys Editor
As shown in Figure 1,
the initial editor display provides a master list of the available shortcuts based
on the scope selected in the Scope area. It is important to be aware of the scope
that you are operating in. When I first started using QuicKeys, I thought I was operating
at the specific application level, , but I was operating at the "all application"
level, which meant when I deleted the default shortcuts, it was deleted for all applications
rather than just for Retrospect (which was my intent). This error was easily corrected
by reloading the default shortcuts from a provided backup file. The editor also provides
a toolbar that allows the user to create, record, or edit a shortcut. It also provides
direct access to the QuicKeys community web forums.
Figure 2 - QuicKeys Shortcut editing window
Figure 2 above shows the
Shortcut editing window. The "Scopes & Triggers" pane is used to define
the trigger to invoke the shortcut (see Figure 3 below).
Figure 3 - Setting the Scope and Trigger for a shortcut
pane is the list of steps (and description of steps) for the shortcut. Steps can
be inserted manually using the toolbar or the menu. The menu features a pull down
menu that contains all of the possible commands that are available in QuicKeys. The
user can also insert additional steps using the recording process. Overall, I found
the editor intuitive and very easy to use. Unfortunately, the performance of the
editor left much to be desired. Sometimes it would take an extremely long period
of time to move from step to step or to scroll through the shortcut's steps. I am
not certain whether it is a problem with the editor or the speed or memory on my
machine, but this problem is a major annoyance and impediment to the use of this
Figure 4 - QuicKeys Recording Tutorial
Recording in QuicKeys
is very easy. The user simply turns on the recording and is presented with the window
(shown in Figure 4 above) which provides a short tutorial for using the recording
feature. The recording process is in some ways too easy. Generally, I found that
the recording process generated many more steps than I expected. This problem is
described in the User's Guide under the vagaries of recording (e.g., leaving the
keyboard for five minutes to brush your teeth would be recorded as a five minute
pause). It is still much easier to record a set of steps and then edit the script
rather than entering the steps from scratch.
The QuicKeys debugging tool is very capable and useful in identifying and correcting
any problems in a shortcut. The debugger presents each step in sequence during a
shortcut's execution. Under some conditions, such as a button press, the debugger
will highlight specific information, such as the button to be pressed, and ask you
for confirmation. This feature simplified the identification of timing problems in
my shortcuts. The debugger does not have the ability to start the step-by-step execution
of a shortcut in the middle of a shortcut (aka, set a breakpoint). Many debuggers
allow the developer to tag a step at which the execution process could be paused
so that the debugging process could start at that point. Providing this feature would
allow the developer to run the ten steps that are functioning properly at real time
and start the step-by-step execution on the eleventh step where the problem is occurring.
Since QuicKeys does not provide this feature, the developer is forced to go through
the ten good steps on a step-by-step basis before reaching the eleventh step where
the problem is occurring.
Shortcut Development and Usage
Retrospect was the application that was used as a platform for the bulk of my
shortcut programming in QuicKeys. I was trying to automate a process to reset the
Windows client that was on the backup list. This is a multi-step process that results
from an a consistency check error and was proving to be an annoyance due its frequency
of occurrence. Retrospect does not provide a mechanism to automate this process,
so it seemed like a good candidate for exercising QuicKeys. I split the problem into
two shortcuts. One shortcut removes the client from the backup list and adds it back
in. The second shortcut rebuilds the backup volumes that were lost when the client
was removed. Overall, the shortcuts were fairly easy to develop using the recording
feature, and then the shortcut editor to clean things up. They ran very quickly and
were generally robust. However, one problem that is endemic to this type of tool
did occur. Since selection of items in many of the Retrospect windows is positionally
based, changes to the location of these items (due to added or deleted items) caused
the shortcut to fail. This is not a flaw in QuicKeys capabilities, but simply a limitation.
In another test, I wanted to automatically retrieve email from my POP server using
Entourage, but did not want to leave Entourage running continuously. I was able to
easily develop a shortcut to launch Entourage, run the Send/Receive task while pausing
the execution of the shortcut, and then terminate Entourage. The shortcut was attached
to a set of timed triggers. This worked very well.
QuicKeys can be used
to automate a wide variety of mundane tasks, such as using a hotkey to type your
mailing address, and so on. It can be used to transpose two characters using a single
key combination. Several other examples are provided in the QuicKeys documentation,
such as setting hotkeys to open the Documents folder to read or save to depending
on the dialog. Overall, I found the development and usage of QuicKeys shortcuts to
be very easy and fairly robust.
Startly Technologies provides first class documentation in their User's Guide. The
QuicKeys User's Guide provides a thorough treatment of the tool and its usage. It
is systematic in its organization by providing a well thought introduction and tutorial.
In fact, one of the strengths of the guide is that the authors provide tutorial with
each major section. This tutorial reinforces the material that was covered. This
User's Guide also provides a comprehensive review of the menu structure of the tool
by taking each menu item with its sub-menus and provides a detailed description of
each item and how to use it.
I did find one serious omission in the documentation. Their advertised Password Vault
was only given very short mention in the text entry portion of their User's Guide.
There is no mention of the protection mechanisms that are used for this information.
I was apprehensive about using this feature without the appropriate information.
I did contact Startly technical support, and they indicated that the information
stored in the vault is encrypted using the Blowfish algorithm. The vaulted information
is not displayed in the editor or viewer. Based on this information, the risk with
the use of this tool is no greater than Apple's Keychain product .
QuicKeys X3 is capable automation tool that provides a great deal of flexibility
and richness in the commands that it can automate. The development environment is
easy to use and shortcuts are easily developed. The command structure provides a
robust platform for developing complex shortcuts. The tool provides a wide variety
of mechanisms to trigger shortcut execution, ranging from keyboard command to a scheduled
execution. QuicKeys includes a password vault feature, but it is not documented in
the User's Manual. QuicKeys may be a bit pricey for the average home user. I would
definitely recommend QuicKeys for environments where process automation is required.
- Strong User's Manual
- Interfaces to multiple
- Recordable scripts
- Script debugging
- Speedy Execution
- Sluggish Editor
- All steps must be executed
when debugging a macro (aka, no breakpoints)
- No documentation on the
Password Vault security features
- Pricey for average home
4 out of 5 Mice