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Macro has two computer-related definitions, both of which involve making your computer experience more efficient.

1. A Keyboard Shortcut

The term "macro" is often used synonymously with "keyboard shortcut." Keyboard shortcuts are key combinations that perform commands, such as saving a file, closing a window, or copying and pasting data. For a list of keyboard shortcuts available for Mac and Windows, view the pages below:

- Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts
- Windows XP Keyboard Shortcuts

2. A Small Program

A macro can also be a small program, or script, that automates common tasks. These scripts are usually run within programs and can often be created by the user. For example, a user might record a macro for Microsoft Word that inserts his entire address when he presses a custom key combination. A Microsoft Excel user might record a macro to format the data in the selected column of a spreadsheet.

While Word and Excel both make it easy to create custom macros, many other programs allow users to create macros as well. However, not all programs refer to the automated commands as macros. For example, Photoshop allows users to record changes made to an image and saves the series of steps as an "action." These actions can then by applied to other images. Regardless of what they are called, macros can save you a lot of time by automating repetitive tasks. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again when using a certain program, you may want to simplify the process by recording a macro.

Tech Factor:
Updated: October 21, 2006
Category: Software Terms