How To Launch An App Automatically When You Connect Your Scanner

Let Keyboard Maestro get your Mac ready on cue.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

I love my ScanSnap scanner. Pop it open, push the blue button, and the page appears as a PDF on my Desktop.

Most of the time.

If the companion app isn’t running for some reason, it takes about 30 seconds of troubleshooting to diagnose the problem and start scanning. That’s 30 seconds of precious time and brainpower I shouldn’t have to spend. Besides, 30 seconds is a significant percentage of the two-minute rule.

So I did what I like to do and solved the problem so it stays solved: I figured out how to automatically launch ScanSnap Manager when I turn the scanner on.

It’s trivial and I could solve the problem with the tools I already use. The app is ready when I need it and stays out of the way when I don’t. It takes the friction and cognitive overhead to about zero.

The simplest solution would be to have ScanSnap manager launch when I log in. That mostly works, but I don’t like leaving apps running when I’m not using them. They’re always in the Dock and application switcher, creating a distraction when I’m not scanning.

I let the scanner sleep when I’m not using it. Wouldn’t it be great if I could also let the app sleep and only wake up when I woke up the scanner?

It turns out, you can do exactly that. I just needed to realize Keyboard Maestro can do more than I was giving it credit for.

If you’re not familiar with Keyboard Maestro, it’s a utility that runs in the background and watches for specific events, called triggers, to happen. When it sees a trigger, it leaps into action, performing a task you’ve defined.

The most common trigger is watching for a combination of keys to be pressed. This is what I use to keep my core productivity apps at my fingers.

But Keyboard Maestro is no one-trick pony. In addition to watching for keystrokes, Keyboard Maestro can also listen for USB devices to be attached.


Here’s how you can configure Keyboard Maestro to get ScanSnap manager ready to scan on demand.

  1. Create a new macro called “Start ScanSnap”. Put it in your Global Macro Group, someplace where it’s always available.
  2. Add a USB trigger. Watch for devices with name containing “ScanSnap” to attach.
  3. Add an action to activate ScanSnap Manager. The default settings work fine.

I also added a complementary macro to quit ScanSnap when the scanner is disconnected. When I’m done, it’s done.

Try it out! With these macros in place, you can open and close the lid on your scanner and the ScanSnap app will launch and quit. It’s fast enough that the app is launched and ready to scan by the time you’ve loaded the document and reached for the button.

Chances are, the tools you currently use are capable of more than you realize. Take some time to get to know them. Explore the menus. Learn what all the preferences do. Experiment. You’re probably not going to do anything that can’t be undone.

Question: What is your favorite task to automate with Keyboard Maestro? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.