Interview with Mac Automator: Kenneth Cox

One of the articles I enjoy publishing on this site are interviews with Mac automators, because it’s always a treat to learn how other Mac users are using automation applications.

For this third interview, I am pleased to share how photographer (and long-time MAT subscriber) Kenneth Cox’s uses Mac automation in his daily workflows.

Professional photography requires a considerable amount of work in various applications, including Photoshop, and thus automation is nearly essential to staying productive and getting the work done.

I hope that you enjoy learning about Kenneth’s workflows. And if you’re interested in sharing your own workflows via an interview like this one or by writing guest post article, please contact me.

1. Thanks, Kenneth, for agreeing to do this interview. First off please tell us about your background with using Mac computers. How long have you been a Mac user, and why do you prefer to use a Mac over another type of PC?

Sure. I’ve been a Mac user since 1987. My father purchased me a Mac Plus. It was a wonderful machine. I remember aspirations of programming in Hypercard but ended up creating music, graphics and hours of Klondite. That computer is still in my possession and still boots up system 7.

I dabbled in the PC space from 1995-2004. After virus activity consumed the Windows PC arena, I went back to an Apple MacBook Pro and haven’t looked back since.

I prefer Mac for the elegance, organization, and the attention to detail and support. If I have an technical issue, a call to the Apple support line, or a trip to the Apple store will get me a solution. With PCs, you are, at best, on your own.

2. I’m really impressed about your use of Mac automation. Please tell how long have you been using automation, and what caused you to start automating tasks on your Mac?

I’ve been dabbling in Mac automation since Automator came out. Previously, most of my automation was in the form of Photoshop actions. Photoshop allowed me to breeze through my wedding photography image processing from around 2003 to present.

However, when the MacPower Users Podcast started in 2009, my overall Mac related automation elevated. Now my favorite automation applications are Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, Typinator, Alfred, Default Folder X and Super Tab. They are all indispensable to my photography business workflow.

Hazel allows the organization of my documents and images. Keyboard Maestro allows for automating my photography related folders, sales tax workflows, ftp website uploads, and general overall productivity.

3. Awesome, you’re definitely using handy and very useful Mac automation applications. So tell us, what’s your process for automating a task? How do you decide which tasks to automate, and which applications and features to you use to automate a task?

The process I use is by confronting repetition head on. If I’m continuing to perform the same task, more than a few times on a computer, I should be able to automate it with the tools available.

My true automation journey began with Photoshop, because of the work I do as a wedding/portrait photographer.

Processing 1000 plus images, image-by-image, was tiresome and consumed much of my time. I learned to create and use actions to process and stylize my raw and jpg images while placing the files in proper client folders.

My problem is that I’m a very organized person because while growing up I used to frequently misplace my keys. I eventually learned that everything should have a place. Due to this organization sickness, I learned about applications like Haze, which not only places files where they need to go, it renames them to the proper naming conventions without error. These workflows allow me run both the labor and administration portions of my business so that I’m free to create and spend time doing other things.

Keyboard Maestro

As you know, I’m also a gigantic Keyboard Maestro fan. I call it the gift that keeps on giving.

In my business, Keyboard Maestro creates my necessary client folders, assists with the downloading and creation of my financials (documents, taxes etc.), and allows me to create and use Photoshop and Photoshop plug-in palettes.

Keyboard Maestro taught me how to make my Mac work for me, which is what a computer should really do. I could go on and on about my usage of Keyboard Maestro because it is phenomenal application.

Other Automation applications I use include BetterTouch Tool, Alfred, Popclip, SuperTab, Default

Automation applications I use include:
BetterTouch Tool, Alfred, Popclip, SuperTab, Default Folder X, 1Password, Typinator and Carbon Copy Cloner.
Folder X, 1Password, Typinator and Carbon Copy Cloner. The before mentioned applications are a must on all my Macs. Without those applications I’m not very productive.

Note: a few day before this interview was set to post, Kenneth posted his first video on YouTube about Keyboard Maestro. I’m happy to share it here. 

4. Describe one of your favorite and most used automations that might be useful for general Mac users?

Here is one of my favorites: I save all of my receipts from anything I purchase for various business and longevity (ink fading) reasons.

Let’s say I’m at a restaurant, and I take a picture of my receipt with my iPhone. I use the Photos app to crop and white balance the image. I utilize an iOS Shortcut workflow that allows me to select the Restaurant/store from a menu, and then it adds a date, and automatically uploads the jpg to my DropBox folder. From there, Hazel renames the file to the full naming convention, with the associated tags, and moves it to a receipt folder.

When the file is placed in the folder, my Keyboard Maestro Watch Folder macro kicks in to open the tagged jpg in Preview, converts the jpg to a PDF, and then files it in the appropriate folder.

5. I totally agree with you about Keyboard Maestro. It can mirror nearly any task that is done manually on a Mac. I also know that you use BetterTouchTool. Explain how that application fits into your daily workflow, and which are a few actions and finger gestures do you regularly use to be productive?

I use BetterTouchTool for a few workflows that are most important to me at the time.

My most used trigger is a Three Finger click gesture in almost all of my applications (Safari, Mail, Finder, Pages etc.).  This gesture works in conjunction with Keyboard Maestro to display a Palette of my most commonly used workflows and functions for those applications.

I also use BetterTouchTool for window management.  I use the TipTap gesture to move my windows left and right, and the Pinch-in and Pinch-out gestures to zoom in and out in Safari.

Amongst other gestures, I use a clock wise/counter clockwise gesture to modify my computer’s volume.

[Note: read more about BetterTouchTool here.]

6. SuperTab is another application that I highly recommend. Please also share how use it?

SuperTab is under utilized but still important.  My usage is for quick access to clipboard data and to access folders that I have on deck.  Other than that, I use it to access my system preference Energy saver and accessibility areas because I associate voice commands with KM Shortcuts.

7. Finally, Kenneth, what recommendations do have for Mac users wanting to start using Mac automation?

Mainly, the user would have to have an interest in wanting to eliminate monotonous tasks like filing, renaming and organizing files or anything that requires repetition.  

Automator is good for those that don’t want to invest further but want to get there feet wet. [See MAT article comparing Automator and Keyboard Maestro]

However, if they have bills, receipts and documents (we all do, right?), Mac users would find Hazel very useful.  Once they discover and utilize Hazel, they can move on to applications like Alfred, Typinator/Text Expander, SuperTab, 1Password, DefaultFolderX and then the incredible Keyboard Maestro.  

I enjoy Keyboard Maestro because of its power and amazing benefits. I couldn’t enjoy my Mac without it. Hazel is probably the most unsung as it works so quietly in the background.  

The first step is to want to automate, that’s the key.  Write down anything that you could have your computer help you with, and start there.


About Kenneth Cox

I am an easy going husband of 19 years, a cool father for 13 years and a customer pleasing Professional Wedding/Portrait and Fashion photographer for www.candidimagery.com(18 years) and www.prevoyez.com.  I work full time as an Information Technology Specialist/SDLC Release Manager.

I’m a huge fan of macautomationtips.com. The information is priceless and allows me to follow passion of mine – computer automation.  Without macautomationtips, I wouldn’t have learned several techniques using Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool.  I wouldn’t have heard or pursued tools such as SuperTab or PopClip.  I also wouldn’t have found the good natured Bakari Chavanu.  I’m grateful that he has shared this site with us.


Want to Share Your Workflows?

If you’re an experienced Mac automator, I would love to share examples of your workflows and how you use your favorite automation applications. There are three ways you can share: through an interview I do with you via email, through a guest post article that you write, or by producing a 3 to 5 minute video.
Contact Me

 

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