Review: KeyQuencer 2.1
Published by: Binary Software
2118 Wilshire Blvd 900
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Phone: (310) 449-1481
Fax: (310) 449-1473
List price: $39.95
KeyQuencer from Binary Software is a macro program, as is QuicKeys from CE Software. The similarities end there. The two programs were designed with vastly different philosophies. Nevertheless, they compete for many of the same users. In this review, I'll focus on KeyQuencer and, when appropriate, compare it to QuicKeys. Those wanting more information on QuicKeys should refer to its review in ATPM 3.06.
KeyQuencer is simple to install and requires little disk space. It uses only about 200K of RAM, about a third of what QuicKeys requires, and everything about the program's design feels smooth, efficient, and quick. It's also very stable. Since removing QuicKeys in favor of KeyQuencer, my Mac has felt more responsive, and it's crashed less often.
Some examples of what KeyQuencer macros will do are: open applications and documents with a single keystroke; synchronize clocks on networked Macs; control an audio CD; create Stuffit archives from within the Finder; automate backups of important files; type boilerplate text such as your postal address or e-mail signature; and manage multiple clipboards. My favorite feature is the "Open With" command.
Open selected 'R*ch'
This simple macro opens a file selected in the Finder with the application whose creator code is 'R*ch'. In this case, it will open the file with BBEdit. Using multiple "Open With" macros, I can control which program opens a file selected in the Finder. This is much quicker than using Drag & Drop or opening files from within an application (especially considering that the latter method necessitates that the application be open already).
KeyQuencer lacks a recording feature. All macros are created with KeyQuencer's special macro language. Depending on what you're looking for, this can be good or bad. It will probably take a bit longer to write your first macro than in a recording macro program such as QuicKeys, but you have more control over exactly what your macro does. Furthermore, editing a language-based macro is quicker than editing a recorded one.
The idea of learning KeyQuencer's macro language sounds daunting at first. Prior experience with a programming language or Apple Script certainly helps, but is definitely not required. KeyQuencer comes with almost 300 pre-configured macros. Typically, they perform basic tasks such as: setting the speaker volume; playing an audio CD; and opening an Internet connection. It's a good idea to browse them because they are good examples of KeyQuencer's macro language in action. They're well annotated to help you understand how they work, and you can cut and paste code from the examples into your own macros.
KeyQuencer comes with a 250 page manual, most of which is devoted to explaining the program's macro language. The manual is well written and thorough. Rather than reading it cover to cover, you'll probably use it as a reference, to help accomplish specific macro-writing tasks.
To create macros, you use the KeyQuencer Editor. The main window of the editor displays a list of existing macros and the text of the one being edited. The editing window can be as large as you want; I've scaled it down to fit below:
KeyQuencer's designers did just about everything possible to make sure you don't have to learn its macro language in order to use it. The Command Palette sits along the left side of the KeyQuencer Editor screen. The top section lists KeyQuencer Commands, which you can insert directly into a macro's text by double-clicking. When you single-click on a command in the top portion of the palette, a list of relevant arguments appears in the bottom half of the palette. You can include individual arguments in a macro command by double-clicking them. This approach saves a lot of typing, and reduces the possibility of typos.
The Command Help window displays information about the currently selected command. It shows the title of the command, what it does, the syntax for using it, and how each of its arguments work. By using the Command Help feature, you can create macros without ever having to look at the paper manual and you don't have to memorize commands or syntax.
Many of KeyQuencer's macros use application creator codes (also called application signatures) and file path names as arguments. The KeyQuencer Editor simplifies creator code and file path definition by including menu commands for finding and inserting these arguments into your macro.
Macros are typically invoked by pressing a key combination you've defined in the KeyQuencer Editor. However, you can also run macros using the KeyQuencer Launcher or the KeyQuencer Batcher. The latter lets you apply a macro to a large number of files. For instance, you could use it to convert a folder full of pictures from PICT to GIF format or to find and replace text in multiple files. KeyQuencer can also save macros as double-clickable applications, which you can store in the Apple menu, Startup Items folder, desktop, or any other folder.
Unlike other macro programs on the market, KeyQuencer does not create toolbars from which the user can execute macros. I don't see this as a terrible drawback because toolbars take up valuable screen space and are slower than using key combinations. However, you can achieve toolbar-like functionality by using the KeyQuencer Launcher, which displays a list of your macros. Double-clicking a macro runs it.
In addition, you can attach KeyQuencer macros to buttons in Binary Software's SquareOne launcher/palette utility.
Probably the most annoying KeyQuencer omission is support for application-specific sets of macros. You can add code to the top of a macro, specifying that it only run if a certain application is active, but your macros still end up in one long list, making it hard to find ones pertaining to a specific application. Another partial solution is to use KeyQuencer's macro suitcases to manage sets of macros. Each suitcase contains a list of macros, and suitcases and be opened and closed to activate different sets. In practice, though, loading and unloading macro suitcases is a tiresome task which could be alleviated if KeyQuencer had built-in support for different macro sets.
KQ or QK?
It would be difficult to find a pair of programs more different than KeyQuencer and QuicKeys. KeyQuencer is quick, small, cheap (about half the price of QuicKeys), and stable; but it has a steeper learning curve than QuicKeys. KeyQuencer can perform a variety of tasks that completely baffle QuicKeys. Though creating macros is a less-involved process in QuicKeys than in KeyQuencer, once you know your way around KeyQuencer, it feels quicker than QuicKeys because of the latter's awkward interface. KeyQuencer's interface is sleek and efficient, just like the program behind it and it is a joy to use.
There is a shareware version of KeyQuencer called KeyQuencer Lite available for free trial at http://www.binarysoft.com. It doesn't support all the features of the full version, but it can give you a flavor for how the program works. From there, you can decide which macro program is right for you.