How to Automate Tasks On Your iMac Monitor

A s a user of a 27″ iMac monitor, I find the extra screen space to be both a benefit and challenge. But by using powerful automation tools, I can get around many of the problems of dragging my cursor across the screen to trigger menu items, resize windows, or delete items on my desktop.

The screenshot below demonstrates the significant distance between various the various part of large desktop.  While such a large monitor provides a larger work surface, the extra space can also slow down my workflow.

27inch_desktop

The following tips are some tools and strategies I use for being more productive while working on my large screen iMac. All these suggestions work just was well for smaller screen laptops.

A Large Screen Problem

Here’s one example of a large screen problem: if I have to lift my hand off the keyboard, drag the cursor across the screen over to the iClip application parked on the left side of my monitor, in order to click and paste a bin of copied text, then I’m seriously interrupting my typing workflow.

Luckily, iClip includes a keyboard shortcut that highlights the last ten bins, allowing users to type the corresponding number of the bin content they want to paste into a document. Copy’em Paste also has a similar feature.

mac_automation_dxJB3F

Also,  as a Keyboard Maestro user, I don’t have to press the iClip shortcut. Instead, I can use a string trigger to trigger the shortcut. I simply type my assigned string trigger, “psb”, which in my mind stands for “paste bin”.  I do however sadly have to lift my hand off the main keys to press one of the numbers.  Nevertheless, with this string trigger action setup, I save a few steps in the process of pasting text when I need it.

The following tips are to give you some ideas about what you can do with automation programs to increase your workflow on your desktop. Even if you’re not familiar with applications I refer to, each of them is accessible to general users. You can download trial copies of the applications and start building these and other workflows and actions.

Drag-Saving Tips

Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
Avoid dragging your cursor to click items in the menu bar. Use keyboard shortcuts instead. For example, in Safari instead of dragging your cursor and clicking on the tiny x button to close a tab, use Command+W to close tabs.

Use Finger Gestures
To reduce dragging your cursor around on the screen, use a multi-touch finger gestures to trigger shortcuts. For example, you can use a BetterTouchTool finger gesture to close Safari a tab instead of dragging the cursor to manually clicking on the close button or pressing the Safari shortcut.

You can also use BetterTouchTool to resize windows, either with a shortcut or a finger gesture.

Type and Trigger
With applications like Alfred and Launchbar, you can launch applications, do web searches, play iTunes, and perform other actions by typing instead of dragging your cursor across the screen to the Dock or the menu bar.

For example, when I want to perform a quick Internet search, I typically don’t have to switch to Safari, drag my cursor to the URL search bar and type in my keywords. Instead, I trigger Alfred and simply trigger what is called a “lucky” search which often takes me to the exact page I need.

Alfred

Menubar In Context
When I need to trigger an item in the menu bar of an application, including the Finder, I can save some dragging time by doing a 4 Finger Swipe Down to trigger the BetterTouchTool Contextual Menubar, which opens the current location of my cursor.

 

Use Voice Commands
Nearly any menu item that I can trigger with a shortcut, I can also trigger with a voice command using Dragon Dictate. Most people know that Dragon Dictate is used for voice-to-text dictation, but it works even better for triggering computer actions with voice commands.

Dragon Dictate_spotlight

For example, if my hand is not already on the keyboard to trigger Spotlight, and if I don’t want to drag the cursor all the way to the far right side of the menu bar, I simply say, “Spotlight” and the window pops up, hands free. And because I’m using Dictate, I can even dictate the keywords I want to search instead of typing them.

By the way, OS X also has built-in voice commands. Though they are not as powerful as what can be created in Dragon Dictate, the OS X commands can at least enable you to trigger your most regularly used Mac actions.

Type and Trigger
Instead of pressing keyboard shortcuts, and dragging your cursor to the menu bar, you can use what are called “string triggers” to type and trigger actions on your Mac.

For example, if I want to quickly view the Fantastical calendar in my desktop’s menu bar, I can simply type “showcal” and it will trigger the shortcut for Fantastical.

If I want to quickly switch to my Mail application while I’m typing, I can type the string trigger “,mail,” saving me the trouble of dragging my cursor to the Dock, or even using the Application Switcher.

fantastical_keyboard_maestro

Hands-Free

As I was finishing up this article, Kareman, one of my Twitter contacts, reminded of me of an article I once tried called iTracker, which literally allows you to move your cursor by moving your head.

I haven’t experimented enough with iTracker to explain how best to use it, but Kareman, an avid user of the application, has written an article on his experiences using iTracker.

iTracker uses your iSight camera to track the movement of your head, which in turn moves the cursor on your screen. Thus, you move the cursor to a clickable item on the screen, and iTracker will click that item after few seconds.

You can adjust the speed and movement of the tracker, as well as use DwellClick to help you control-click on items.

Mac_automation_qrSNaF

Boss Your Mac

The purpose of computers is increase our workflow and reduce the number of steps it takes to get particular tasks done. That’s why the applications I write about in this blog are so important to Mac users who spend a lot of time working at their computers.

Let me know what you think of the above suggestions. I look forward to hearing about your strategies for dealing with a large screen monitor.

 

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