I’m considering Hazel but afaik Automator is same but better save for more simplified UI. Am I missing something?
I think it kind of depends on what you want to do. I’ve got some Automator actions tied to folders, and I’ve got some Hazel actions, too.
So what’s your use case?
Automator is a general purpose, action based tool for automation. One of the things it can do it be tied to a folder to take action on content added to that folder.
Hazel is a specialist automation tool that only takes action on things within a folder. It has a user interface designed around that, which makes simple folder actions easier to create than Automator, but also has built in functionality to make more advanced operations possible (e.g. tokens, utilisation of content from within a file).
Think of it as a spectrum of file triggered automation where power and simplicity happen to be bound together. Automator is at the bottom end, Hazel is at the top end, and Keyboard Maestro is somewhere in the middle.
The majority of Mac users who do a lot of automated file processing use Hazel. This is because it is the easiest tool to produce simple rule-based processes with, and the one that can support you all the way from the simplest to the most complex processes.
If you only have occasional lightweight needs, Automator should be sufficient. If not, then Hazel is a great choice, and don’t forget that Hazel offers a free trial so that you can test it out for your own needs.
I view Hazel not as “more powerful” than Keyboard Maestro overall but rather as a niche product.
Hazel is specialized in folder automation; if that is your need, then it is superior to all other options.
Otherwise between Automator and Keyboard Maestro, as you say Automator is easier to learn but has less capabilities. Keyboard is not hard to learn the basics but certainly has a steeper learning curve to master its full abilities.
That said, one you master Keyboard Maestro, it is arguably a standalone programming environment in its own right; neither of the other two come anywhere close to that capability.
Hazel is a super tool to have and good to have in the arsenal to use for a variety of tasks on your Mac.