Avoid boring, repetitive work by getting your computer to do it instead

If you find yourself repeating the same computing tasks day after day, there’s a better way. Whether it’s resizing images or filling in spreadsheet columns, many modern applications can be programmed to repeat an action on their own.

How to Automate Tasks in Adobe Photoshop

In Photoshop, these shortcuts are called Actions, and you can use them to apply the same crop, resize, or effect to a series of photos over and over again. The Actions panel may already be open, depending on how you’ve configured your application, but if not, you can choose Window and Actions to view it.

Photoshop gives you a few actions to get you started, and you can run any of them by selecting it and clicking the play button at the bottom of the panel. To the right of the play button is a folder icon, which you can use to create a new set of Actions; this allows you to group actions to keep them more organized.

[Related: How to use advanced editing tools without messing up your photos]

To create your own action, click the create new action button (a plus symbol inside a box), which is just to the right of the new settings button. You can then give it a name and put it in a set (or folder). The recording starts immediately, so do whatever you need to do inside Photoshop, and then click the stop button (to the left of the recording). Your action will be added to the list and can be launched directly from there whenever you need it.

With a spreadsheet open, click Extensions, Macros strong> and then Record Macro. A new panel will appear at the bottom of the screen showing that you are in recording mode, so perform the actions you want to save and then click Save. In the same panel, you can choose between Use absolute references (the macro will record precise locations such as A1 or B2 in the spreadsheet) or Use relative references (the macro will record precise locations relative to where you started, like three cells to the right).

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To use your macros, click Extensions, then Macros to select something you want. you have recorded (or Manage Macros to edit or delete them). In fact, you can get further with the macros in Google Sheets by writing your own scripts, although you’ll need a bit of coding knowledge for this. If that intrigues you, we’ve previously written about the process in more detail.

How to Create Macros in Microsoft Office

The interface to create or record a macro for repetitive tasks in Microsoft Word.
Macros in Word and Excel can be linked to on-screen buttons and keyboard shortcuts. David Nield

You can set up and use macros in Excel and Word if you have the Microsoft Office suite, so if you want to fill in spreadsheet columns, repeat headings documents or automate something else, these applications can speed up the process. PowerPoint also supports macros, but you’ll need to code them yourself, you can’t record them step by step.

First, open a spreadsheet or document, then choose File , Options, Customize Ribbon and check the option on the Developer tab on the right before clicking OK. Open this newly visible tab and select Record Macro. You will be asked to give it a name, you can give it a keyboard shortcut, and you can also create a new button to launch it. the ribbon menu.

Work through the steps of the action you want to record, then choose Stop Recording on the Developer tab (you can also choose Pause recording if you need to take a breather). Once you’ve created your macros, you can launch them using the keyboard shortcut or ribbon bar button you created, or you can click Macros on the Developer tab. strong> for a full list.

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How to Set Up Macros for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge

Many of us do much of our computing inside a web browser on these days, so it may be useful to enable macros here as well. While there is no browser with built-in macro support yet, you can add the ability to record tasks in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge by installing the comprehensive iMacros extension. It’s free with a limit of 50 steps per macro, and you can remove this limit and get more features with a one-time upgrade payment of $99.

Once you’ve installed the browser extension, you’ll see a new button iMacros in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Click here to open the main interface of the tool.Then switch to the Record tab and click Record Macro to follow the steps you want to save and repeat, on the website of your choice. When you’re done, click Stop and then Save and Close.

To get back to your macros and start them again, switch to the Play inside the plugin window; you can also edit and delete macros by right clicking on them. Everything is simple and straightforward, though if you’re familiar with a code editor, you can also manually edit the macro scripts.

The interface for creating macros for Windows programs in web browsers.
You can use the power of macros in your web browser by downloading iMacros. David Nield

How to repeat tasks in other Windows programs

If you want to repeat tasks in a Windows application that does not have macro support built-in, you can turn to a third-party program for the job. We don’t have space here for a full rundown of options, there are quite a few, but we can point you to one of our favorites, which is the Free Pullover Macro Creator.

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The cluttered interface can be a bit off-putting at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly, and plenty of example macros are included to help you figure out how it all works (double-click any of them for a closer look). ). You’ll also find plenty of help and tutorials on the app’s official website.

[Related: 20 Essential Windows Keyboard Shortcuts to Save You a Click]

To enter and create your own macros, click the red record button on the toolbar, then press F9 to start recording keystrokes and mouse actions. When you’re done, press F9 again: your new macro will be added to the master list and can be edited and executed from there. To play selected macros, F3 is the default key, but you can customize it (as well as many other program settings and features).

Of the options we’ve seen, Macro Recorder It’s one of the best: it’ll set you back $7.89, but there’s a free trial you can use to see if it suits your needs first. The tool manages to be easy to use and intuitive, while also offering several more advanced features that are likely to be useful (such as the option to delay recording for a certain number of seconds).

To record a new macro, just click the Start Recording button at the top, then perform the actions on your Mac that you would like to record. When you’re done, click Stop Recording. You can save and load macros by clicking Menu in the upper left corner, and if you choose Menu, then Settings, you can customize various options (including which mouse and keyboard activities to log and which to ignore).

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