I use Keyboard Maestro to launch my most used programs, like MS Word using hotkeys (like COMMAND OPTION W ). This launches the closed program and works great. But, like all open programs, eventually it gets covered with other programs that I have open. What I would like to do is to use the same hotkey to bring the program to the front? Is that possible?

As I’ve written before, there are many ways to launch and activate applications using different Mac automation applications. But sometimes there might be subtle differences between the type of action you use to trigger an action like launching or activating an application.

In the case of Keyboard Maestro, there are several ways to launch or activate applications. First off, to answer the above question, the action, “Activate a Specific Application” will both launch and activate a designated application. Activate means the application is brought to the forefront of all other applications.

Screen Recording 2016-08-10 at 03.19 PM

Should I use gifs like these in articles?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


If you’re new to Keyboard Maestro, you can find the “Activate a Specific Application” action in the Actions library. Actions are listed alphabetically, or you can find it in the Application Control category along with several other application related actions. You can also do a search for it in the library.

Triggering Actions

With the “Activate a Specific Application” action, as with all actions, you can assign one of several triggers to trigger the action. The most common trigger is to use the keyboard shortcut.

Keyboard Maestro triggers

However, I personally find shortcuts difficult to remember. So I typically map an assign a shortcut created in KM to a BetterTouchTool finger gesture.  I prefer to trigger some actions when my hand is already on the trackpad.

I also like using string triggers, which work keyboard shortcuts, but a string consists of typing a few letters to trigger a macro/action. So for example if I want to quickly switch to Mail while typing, I can simply type, “,mail” to activate the application.

I can also activate an application using a Dragon Dictate voice command. Dragon Dictate will by default launch or activate any application with the simple command, “Activate [name application]”.

And one additional trigger that I like to use is the time trigger. Keyboard Maestro is one of the only applications that allows for setting actions to trigger at a specified time and day.  You can set it to open websites, applications, take screenshots, or posts notes.

timed trigger

Other Application Actions

As you can see in the Application Controls category of Keyboard Maestro, there’s about dozen other related application actions.


One particular one that I like using is, “Activate Last Application”, which I have mapped to a BetterTouchTool finger gesture. If my hand is already on the trigger, I spread my thumb and two fingers to switch back the previous application I was using. The action is really useful for when I find myself switching back and forth between programs to get something done.


As you can see in the BTT setup above, the assigned gesture triggers the assigned keyboard shortcut for the macro in Keyboard Maestro. I never manually use the shortcut, and couldn’t remember it if I tried.

Your Question?

You have an Ask Mac Automator question? Write and send the question here, and if it’s useful for other readers, I will post it in this column.

Also let me know your feedback on these actions. Do you have other other ways in which you launch Mac  applications, files, and URLs?


Is this article helpful?