what are keyboard macros

What are Keyboard Macros?

In the world of computers, a “macro” is a series of scripted actions that your computer will execute upon command. The actions are most often mouse actions (moving the cursor to a certain position, clicking, etc) or keyboard related (typing a sequence of keys or a key combination, etc).

For example, let’s say you find yourself repeatedly doing the same task over and over again throughout your workday. Maybe you frequently have to start emails with the following sentence – “The TPS report has been rejected on the following grounds: “. By using a macro, you have those 59 characters appear nearly instantly instead of having to type it out from scratch.

As you may already be able to tell, using macros will give you a huge boost in productivity. Here are the two main benefits of using macros –

  • Saves you time. In the example above, if you mapped your macro to a combination of keys (Ctrl + 1, for example), then what used to take you several seconds to type out 59 characters can now be done in half a second by pressing 2 keys instead. Depending on your macro system, you can even do some pretty advanced actions like creating a new email in Outlook and filling in the subject line. Heavy Excel users also benefit greatly from the use of macros to save them time.
  • An increase in accuracy. Once you have your macro setup correctly, you’ll never have to worry about a typo or mistake occurring as it will behave the same every time. This will let you focus on the other, non-routine parts of your workday.

Creating Macros – Hardware or Software?

When you’re sold on the benefits of macros and ready to get some setup for yourself, the first thing you’ll need to decide is if you’re going to be using your hardware (keyboard) or software (downloaded program) to manage your macros. There are advantages and disadvantages of each that we’ll discuss now.

Hardware Macros

The first thing you need to understand about hardware macros is that only certain keyboards support them. Most keyboards don’t come with the onboard memory or functionality to record and store a macro. Some that do include the Division Zero X40, Corsair STRAFE RGB, and CODE 61 Key. Some of these keyboards also include dedicated macro keys, which means you can press one single key that’s dedicated to a macro function instead of having to rely on combinations of keys.

division zero x40

If a keyboard has an onboard macro recording, it will typically be advertised on the box or web page for that keyboard.

Here are some advantages of macros recording directly on to the keyboard –

  • Stored on the keyboard. You can take this keyboard to any computer, and your macros will go with you. No software to install or additional setup required.
  • More reliable than software. The software is a lot more likely to fail or hit a glitch than a macro recording directly on the hardware.

Generally speaking, hardware macros are best for gamers who don’t need to do incredibly complicated macros. The simplicity of setup and being able to take them with you fits the gamer lifestyle the best.

Software Macros

Software macros are creating using a program on your computer, which then typically saves the macro to a file for you to use as needed. Some examples of popular software for macros includes TinyTask and AutoHotkey (our personal favorite).

Here are the advantages of using macro software –

  • Share macros with friends and colleagues. Since the macros can be exported to a small file, you can easily share them with others so long as they have the same macro software installed on their computer. AutoHotkey can even convert a macro to an executable that can run without having AutoHotkey installed on the computer, but you won’t be able to edit it further.
  • Ease of use. Having a GUI, or at least a text-script of the step-by-step process that your macro is doing makes it a lot easier to customize and spot errors. This is vital for creating complex macros.
macro gui

Useful Macro Guides

Coming soon, we’ll have helpful guides for macros you’ll find useful for your most used applications! This will include guides for office suite software like Microsoft Excel and Word, as well as video games like League of Legends.