If you ask me what is my biggest reasons for using Mac automation, it would be because I don’t like looking down at my keyboard as I type.

When I look down at the keyboard to locate a keyboard shortcut combination, click number keys, or to make sure I’m clicking the left or right bracket key, then I’m wasting a few seconds of typing time and speed.

Note: I want to develop a small case study about looking down at the keyboard to type certain keys, so please take a second to respond to the survey below and a similar survey in the next section.

So do you look down at your keyboard to locate and type certain certain keys?

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The Problem

So I would imagine that many of you reading this article use touch typing.  And on average, you probably type like 40 words per minute. Some of you might type a lot faster, especially if you’re from a generation like my children who grew up typing at an earlier age.

We also all know about and use the QWERTY layout of the keyboard that helps us type faster and more efficiently. The “home row” (A S D F G H J K L ; ) is where we always start and return to as we type.

But it’s the number keys, some punctuation keys, and a few modifier keys that are not easily accessible to many of us unless we are professional typists, pecking 100 wpm without breaking a sweat.

For this article, I’m going to focus on typing the number keys, because I type them a lot. I created a set of Keyboard Maestro macros to help me type those keys without looking down at the keyboard.

Which keys do you typically need to look down to locate on your keyboard? Check as many as apply.

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The Solution

As I have written in several other blog posts why I like using KM string triggers instead of keyboard shortcuts to trigger actions as I type. String triggers are similar to typing abbreviations for expanding assigned text.

Back in October of 2015, I created a set of macros for typing numbers using string triggers. But it was only like three or four months ago that I actually trained myself to use those macros consistently.

Here’s how of one of number macros is set up in Keyboard Maestro:

Number macro

The same action could be created in TextExpander or a similar text expansion program.


What the KM macro means is that when I type “,o”, the macro will type the number 1. My set of macros is broken down like this:

  • ,a = 0
  • ,o = 1
  • ,t = 2
  • ,h = 3
  • ,r = 4
  • ,f = 5
  • ,x = 6
  • ,v = 7
  • ,e = 8
  • ,n = 9

By using these strings, I can type numbers and keep my fingers on the home keys. Sometimes it may take me a second or two to remember string combination, but for the most part I’m now using these macros for about 95% of the time for typing numbers.

According the Keyboard Maestro Inspector, triggering the Zero Number macro has saved me 75 minutes of typing time. Now it’s impossible to determine the accuracy of the time saved, but I definitely know that the 419 times I’ve triggered the macro, is 419 times I didn’t have to look down at the keyboard.


Overall, to date the of this article, I’ve triggered my number macros 2138 times, which has saved me roughly 6 hours of typing. But it’s not really the time saved that I’m most concerned about. I benefit more from how much easier it is to type the string triggers than it is to look down the keyboard to locate and type the number keys.


How I Developed It

It took some trial and error to develop the set of macros. I first had to consider string combinations that could be easily typed while keeping my hands on the home keys. I also had to weed out any TextExpander abbreviations that conflicted with these string triggers.

Note: this strategy can also be done using TextExpander—using the same abbreviations/letter strings.

Next, I chose letters that would help me remember the numbers I want to type. So for example, the “t” for “two”, “f” for “five”, “e” for “eight”, “n” for “nine”.  The “a” and the “o” are the only two letters that don’t have an association, but with practice I’ve committed them to memory. This string strategy is one I use for also remembering hotkeys and BetterTouchTool finger gestures.

I put all the macros in a Keyboard Maestro folder for easy access.

 number macros

Click this Dropbox link to download the set of macros and install them in Keyboard Maestro. You can of course change them how you like.

The key to using them is to practice, practice, and practice. It’s easier if you’re familiar with typing string triggers.

Your Thoughts

I don’t of anyone who uses string triggers to type numbers. If you give these macros a try I would appreciate your feedback for how they work for you. I would particularly be interested in any changes you make to the macros that are helpful for you to type numbers.

I have similar macros for typing punctuation keys that I will share in a future post.

Also, if you try setting up expansions in TextExpander for typing numbers, please let me know how it works for you.  It should run the same way.

Thanks for your feedback on the surveys.

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More About Keyboard Maestro

If you’re not familiar with Keyboard Maestro, check out my webinar about the program.

MacSmarter webinar


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