Keyboards rock

Tags: keyboard.
By lucb1e on 2011-11-24 23:54:23 +0100

I love working with the keyboard instead of the mouse. Or even rather, not moving my hands from their position at all.

A mouse is not a binary system. I'm not sure who said it, but someone had the experience that computer people think in binary. Things are black or white, the key is pressed or not, the value is 1 or 0. And actually, he or she is probably right. I can't really explain why I think that, but it seems to be. My dislike for mice and touchscreens is probably a good example though.

A few weeks ago I met Vim, a text editor meant for Unix. I noticed it works a hundred times better on Unix, but I only used the Linux version a few times and learned most of my way around in the Windows port of it.
The thing is really ugly and seems unnecessarily complicated at first, but it's great. I don't use it really, the Windows port doesn't even seem to support syntax highlighting and Notepad++ is quite good already, but the idea is good.

For those who are not familiar: The idea is that you operate it entirely via the main keypad and escape key (not sure about function keys, didn't use them yet at least). You navigate with the HJKL keys, can delete with the D key, jump words ahead with the W key, give quanties by giving a number (5DW deletes 5 words ahead), etc. You might wonder how you can type then. Well there are two modes: the normal mode (for what the Vim creators call normal lol) and the "insert" mode. In the normal mode, commands like HJKL and D and W work, in the insert mode you can simply type text. To get to the typing mode, go where you want to type (via HJKL or W or E or / or however you can) and hit either I to insert text or A to append text. You can also use the cursor keys for navigation, but that's not the idea of Vim.

It works surprisingly well for lazy people who are so lazy they don't only want to keep their hands on the keyboard, but also are too lazy to even move their hand to the cursor keys. I'm one of those people.

Via Autohotkey I made something similar, when holding capslock down it maps the HJKL keys to the cursor keys. Caps+space is an enter. Caps+I maps to alt+up which goes a directory up in Windows Explorer (they removed the button in Windows 7 and backspace goes a directory back, which is something entirely different). Lastly I made Caps+N for going about 10 lines down, often pagedown is a bit too far but the arrowkeys (or hjkl for that matter) take longer than moving to the mouse.

Hereby I can traverse directories and navigate in textfiles without moving my hands off the main keypad to the cursor keys! Going to the D:\school folder goes like this: Winkey+E, Caps key down, L, Space, Caps key up, S, Caps+Space.

The above way requires you to press two keys whereas Vim would require one, but it feels better than moving your hand. When you move your hand, everything shifts at once. To reach any key, you need to make a (slightly) different movement as when your hand would be in the default position. This is annoying. I never really noticed it, and chances are you didn't either, until I tried this system. I don't use it all the time, only 1/5 times I think, but it often comes in handy.

Windows already supports the keyboard well though. I haven't been able to find many things which are inaccessible without mouse, or surely nothing you use on a day-to-day basis as I can't remember anything.
Also relatively complex tasks like selecting a few files in a folder, for example the first, fourth and seventh file, are not hard at all via the keyboard. I found them by logic and trying random keyboard combinations. Here is the solution:
Open up the folder and make sure via tab that you are in the right place. This by the way was way easier in Windows XP, in 7 they added like two or three places you can tab to (which you simply didn't need in XP, they were accessible via another way, and you actually never use them), and it was better visible when you finally got to the right place.
So after you've done that, hit space to select the first file, hold down control and go via the arrow keys to the fourth file. Hit space again. Hold down control again and go down to the 7th file, hit space. Congrats, you did it :D
Now say you want to unselect the 4th file. You go up while holding down control, but space doesn't work. You need to use control+space to select/unselect or space to select.

Another neat trick: Alt+space. Try it on nearly any window, just press alt and then space. You can then release both keys in any order you like. A small context menu will have popped up, usually on the left top of the screen. Use a letter to select what you want. In the English version of Windows, X is maximize, C is close, N is probably minimize (can't be sure, got a Dutch Windows here) and M is move the window. I recommend you try M once, it's fun to show off xD Most people are like 'wait, what did you just do?' when you first do that. Same for maximizing actually, but that's more normal now Windowskey+Up also works in 7.
So to show of this move thing, you hit alt+space and then M on a not-maximized window. A move cursor will appear, probably on the middle of the title bar, and you can move the window via the cursor keys. Hit enter to keep the new window position (or escape to restore the original position). Notice how your cursor key also returns to the original position.

'Mouse keys' are mostly great for small movements and clicking without moving your hand all the way to the mouse ("all the way", yes. It's relatively seen a big distance). It enables the numpad on your keyboard to move the mouse, click, doubleclick, hold the mousebutton, and set which mousebutton you want to use. Via the 5 you click and the other nummeric keys you move the mouse. Except 0, that's holding the mouse down, to then release it via the period. The + doubleclicks. The function of the enter key doesn't change.
You can still use the numpad by turning numlock on or off (you can set if you want to enable them when numlock is on or when numlock is off).
This comes in handy when:
- You have your hands on the keyboard and you need to click or doubleclick whereever the mouse is at that moment (you can't simply hit the mousebutton quickly, you'd move the mouse so you need to hold it in place. The numpad mousekeys prevent this—and it's a shorter distance);
- You need to move that selection border just one pixel in microsoft paint;
- You need to click a button in a game 100 times, you hit 5 and + at the same time and it clicks 3x as fast;
- You need to hold the mouse down for a while, this isn't often but there are occasions.

Alt+tab and windowskey+D are other examples of great hotkeys. They are more commonly used, and I use them all the time. Well Winkey+D a bit less because it tends to mess up which windows were on top and I don't often need to be on my desktop (got hotkeys for launching programs :P), but it's still a good one to know.
What people often don't know is that you can alttab, but also alt+shift+tab to go backwards. Or like you can use the space in your browser to move a page down (when no input fields are focussed), you can also use shift+space to move a page up.
Often shift also selects stuff, this works great in combination with other keys. You can go to the beginning of a document by ctrl+home, but have you ever tried shift+ctrl+home? It selects from whereever you are till the beginning.

Page up and -down are underrated keys I think. I hardly used them until a few months ago and I don't often see people use it, but it really works great for scrolling a couple screens distance without needing to switch to your mouse and scroll 50 clicks to get to the same place.

On forums you can often use tab+space or tab+enter to jump from the message field to the submit button and press it.

I could go on and on... ^^
Previous post - Next post