How to Easily Record Voice Memos on Mac

We all have ideas that come to us in the spur of the moment and then they are gone. If you want to keep them, you could write it down, but then, you either have to go through the annoyance of getting out a pen and paper to write it down, or you will have to open a new program, stop what you are doing and create a file for this one simple idea. Neither one of those options is exactly an elegant solution. As a matter of fact, they are both pretty clumsy when you compare them to the zen simplicity of being able to record an audio note whenever you want to. No fuss, no muss, just your voice and your mac.

But wait, you’re saying. I don’t want to have to open a recording program every time I have an idea either. That is just as clumsy as writing a new email for the idea. Well, have no fear. You won’t be opening a program to get what you want. You will be using the ease of a keyboard shortcut. How is this possible? With the help of a little known program called Automator. For those of you not familiar with it, this tool is designed to make customized tasks on your Mac easy by automating them. Let’s get started.

Setting Up The Recording Capability

1. Launch Automator by double clicking on the icon in your Applications folder.

2. Click on Workflow and then on Choose.


3. Using the search field in the left of the window, add the following actions: New Audio Capture, Start Capture, and Stop Capture. You can simply search for the names of the actions you want and then click on them to add them to your work flow.

In the start and stop actions, you will see check boxes. Click them. They should read, “Wait For Capture To Complete” and “Close Movie After Stopping”. Configure the top of the window to read Service Receives No Input in Any Application and then save your application with a name that you will remember, such as Voice Reminders or Remotely Nagging Kenny. It is your choice depending on your needs.


4. Close and re-open Automator. Choose “Open existing workflow”, then navigate to and open your file. You should see the same elements in your workflow as before.


5. Click on “Workflow” and then on “Run”.


6. When a recording window appears, begin speaking. When you are done, tap on the space bar to end and save the recording of the file. The file will be saved with the name Audio


Now that you can record whenever you want, let’s attach your memos to a keyboard shortcut. That way you can make a new memo on the fly.

Adding a Keyboard Shortcut to Record Anytime

1. Open your System Preferences, and choose the Keyboard preferences.

2. Click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. Click on “Services” on the left hand side of the pane. Then on the right choose the “General” heading. You should see your workflow at the bottom of the list. Click to the right of it and a text field will appear. Choose a set of keys for your shortcut and press on them now. Just be sure not to duplicate any existing shortcuts in the process.



Katie Gatto

Katie Gatto is a technology writer with seven years of experience, and a native Mac user. She has previously written for Apple related site such as Appletell and Mac Apper.


  1. Thanks for this! Love the Workflow, but it doesn’t show up in Services. Any suggestions? BTW, I’m running Lion. 

    1. Hey, hey it worked for me. But step 2 is wrong. Don’t click on workflow. Click on service. Then go through the steps & you’ll have no problems with it showing up in Services.

  2. This seemed very promising until the ‘Configure the top of the window to read Service Receives No Input in Any Application ‘  bomb hit. How are you supposed to do that?  After 20 minutes of trying to decode what this meant, I gave and went to the next steps. In the end, it didn’t work.  Maybe you can help, thanks for the post.

    1. Here’s the solution / step that he forgot to mention: 

      When you open workflow to create this process, you want to save the template as a “Service” (so, look for the cog symbol titled “Service”) instead of saving it as a “Workflow.”   It will then show up as described and you WILL have the option to configure it so the “Service Receives No Input In Any Applications”.    

  3. Thank you!  :)  I really appreciated this solution too… but had the same issue…I couldn’t get it to work at first.Here’s the solution, the step they forgot to mention: When you open the workflow application to create this process, The first step asks you to choose a template for your workflow and it shows several options; Instead of saving it as a “Workflow” you need to save the template as a “Service” (so, look for the cog symbol titled “Service”).  It will then work as described, and you WILL have the option to configure it so that the “Service Receives No Input In Any Applications”. 
    Hope this helps!  Thanks again for this tip!  :)

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