KEYBOARD NERD FILTER: What are some tips for ultra-efficient text manipulation within a document (a la vi's H-J-K-L or Raskin's LEAP idea) in OS X?
January 4, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

What are some tips for ultra-efficient text manipulation within a document (a la vi's H-J-K-L or Raskin's LEAP idea) in OS X?

I have a part-time job where I have to edit a lot of text written by non-native English speakers. This entails rearranging words, changing punctuation and all those other tedious little problems that need fixing.

Currently, I've progressed to the point where I rarely use the mouse to move around in the Word documents I'm given, and now I don't even used the normal arrow keys. KeyRemap4MacBook allows for holding the 's' and 'd' keys simultaneously to turn on H-J-K-L cursor movement like in vi. Combine that with holding 'option' for skipping a word, 'command' for moving to the beginning/end of a line and 'shift' to highlight text for cutting/copying and I'm fairly quick at getting things done.

But imagine how this works: I want to highlight the next 3 words to 'cut' them, so I must hold 's'+'d'+'shift'+'option' (4 KEYS!) and then tap the 'l' key three times. I assure you this is faster than having to take my hand off the keyboard and use a mouse or the arrow keys, but isn't there an even faster way?

I know many of you reading this are not the ├╝bergeeky types that don't like having to remove your fingers from the home row, but for those of you who are, what do you do?

I'm vaguely aware of Jef Raskin's idea of using a LEAP key to quickly move inside of text, but don't know if that's ever been picked up as a viable option.

So, any other ideas? Any other tips?
posted by phaedrus441 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you have the capability (ie: not dealing with large amounts of formatting), I'd suggest using vim directly. Your example would be `d3w`, deletes (which is vi-speak for cut) the next 3 words. Here's a guide specifically about moving around text in vim:
posted by ConstantineXVI at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2012

I use emacs, it has keyboard shortcuts for just about everything, and allows you to use vi movement keys if you want.
Per your example, to cut the next 3 words I'd hit C-space, M-f, M-f, M-f, C-w, where C is control and M is meta (alt on modern keyboards)- C-space starts highlighting, M-f moves you forward one word, and then C-w yanks the text. To past you hit C-y. To delete everything to the end of the line C-k. There are a zillion of these, and they all make sense (to me at least: Y to yank, a to goto start of line, k to kill...). I also find it pretty easy to get started in, as there are good guides, and you can use the GUI until you find yourself doing stuff enough you want to learn the shortcut for it.

You can also easily write macros if you are doing the same thing over and over again.

There is also a very good version of it for Mac (Or so I'm told; I'm a hater) called Aquaemacs.
posted by Canageek at 7:06 PM on January 4, 2012

Awesome suggestion ConstantineXVI, but unfortunately because I'm editing articles for a journal, I need to maintain a revision history, so .DOC files it is... Very cool link, though.

Are there any utilities that add more vim or emacs-type capabilities to GUI text editors (like Word) in OS X? Finding KeyRemap4MacBook changed the way I used OS X...
posted by phaedrus441 at 7:08 PM on January 4, 2012

@phaedrus441: Why don't you use a revision system like Git or Mercurial then? You could commit each change, and then would have a much more comprehensive log of what you've changed.

Sorry, I only know about stuff for windows and linux.

You might find the answers in this thread useful, has they involve remapping things on mac OSX, mostly for emacs but also for other text fields, with a focus on text manipulation.
posted by Canageek at 7:21 PM on January 4, 2012

Oh, here are some additional guides that might help you:

Add emacs key bindings to Microsoft Word

Emacs Key Bindings in MS Word. Make sure to read the comments for some more advanced ones then in the previous article.

Here is a much more advanced one that allows you to remap the keybindings for any cocoa application. I don't know exactly which applications for mac are written using those APIs, but I have to imagine there is something you can use.
posted by Canageek at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2012

You could use QuicKeys to make a single shortcut that, when activated by a certain keystroke, would press "'s'+'d'+'shift'+'option' (4 KEYS!) and then tap the 'l' key three times."

You could also use BetterTouchTool to activate that QuicKeys shortcut with a touchpad gesture, which is just too cool for words.

As far as I'm concerned, both of these programs are individually great, and they work great together for incredible efficient control of your mac.
posted by zachawry at 8:15 PM on January 4, 2012

Whoa, these are awesome responses!

Canageek, great links! As for using Git or Mercurial, the problem is that I'm basically sent huge numbers of Word documents that I review/rewrite/translate and then return them. At which point, my changes are reviewed by their staff...

Zachawry, I *love* BetterTouchTool-- the Window snapping with hotkeys is amazing on a big monitor.
posted by phaedrus441 at 4:58 AM on January 5, 2012

ViEMU claims to do this for a bunch of Microsoft products, but is spendy and Windows only.
posted by rockindata at 4:58 AM on January 5, 2012

Oh, one other thing you might be able to do is use Pages (which should be much more amenable to the cocoa solutions posted above) to edit the word documents. I have used track changes pretty seamlessly between Word and Pages on a Mac in the past.
posted by rockindata at 7:31 AM on January 5, 2012

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