IKey 2.4.4

For those who tire of performing the same actions on their computer time and again, macro utilities can replicate those actions with the press of a key. Plum Amazing's $30 iKey is just such a tool. Though lacking some of the power of Stairways Software's $36 Keyboard Maestro and Startly Technologies' $60 QuicKeys, iKey is a capable and affordable utility for executing your day-to-day tasks.

Like other macro utilities, iKey defines macros by three stages--a launcher (an action, such as a keyboard command or timed event, taken to start the macro), contexts (the conditions under which the macro can be activated), and commands (the actions that the macro performs). You configure these stages within a single Shortcut window.

iKey offers a fairly comprehensive repertoire of commands. These are broken into categories that include--among many other things--commands for manipulating applications (launching, quitting, and switching, for example), modifying text, pressing keys, choosing and moving windows, selecting menus, mounting servers, printing documents, executing scripts, adjusting audio, and inserting pauses (to allow other commands to execute before the macro proceeds to the next step). The launching options are likewise broad, allowing you to trigger macros with the keyboard, date/time events, application and system actions, and USB-device events. You can create macros that occur within all applications or are confined to specific applications.

Launcher events aren't the only way to trigger macros. iKey also lets you create menus and palettes containing macros; you can you can activate those macros using the mouse cursor.

iKey lacks a couple of useful features found in competing products. Both Keyboard Maestro and QuicKeys include a recording feature that lets you record your onscreen actions with the click of a button. Such recordings often need to be heavily edited to create a useful macro, but they're sometimes the easiest way to start cobbling together a complex series of actions. Both utilities also include a text-expansion feature--one where you type an abbreviation to insert a chunk of boilerplate text--similar to SmileOnMyMac's TextExpander ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) and Ettore Software's TypeIt4Me ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ). And QuicKeys additionally lets you place conditionals (decision points) within a macro, and includes a feature that identifies Web page elements, making it easier to automate interactions in Web-based forms.

iKey is a good macro utility and the most affordable one available to Mac users. Its set of commands is reasonably complete and its option to trigger macros from menus and palettes is welcome. For those on a budget who need a basic-to-intermediate macro application, iKey is a good fit. If you're looking for more advanced options, Keyboard Maestro or QuicKeys are better choices.

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