Help me make my mouse a paperweight.
April 2, 2008 5:36 PM   Subscribe

How can I learn to use my keyboard more and wean myself off my mouse?

I surf the web, of course, and use programs such as Photoshop and Final Cut Pro (Mac OS X). I've noticed from my computer geek friends, a graphic designer friend, and countless nerds on the internets that using the keyboard is a much more efficient way to "get around" than with a mouse. I've read all the glowing praise about Quicksilver and how convenient it is.

But after all that, keyboard shortcuts feel like a rather momentous memorization task, and I've never been able to use only my keyboard. I just don't get the convenience of it. Does anyone have any advice or even some online tutorials for this switch?
posted by zardoz to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
One of the best ways for me to learn to get the hang of the keyboard commands is to put the mouse someplace awkward. I found this out while using my Mom's computer. She's a lefty with a Mac so the mouse is on the wrong side for me, literally plugged into the opposite side of the keyboard and not easily switchable without unplugging it. I often found it easier to learn the keyboard commands for things rather than try to use a backwards mouse.
posted by jessamyn at 5:43 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Every day, keep an index card near your keyboard with the two or three new keyboard shortcuts you intent to practice that day. It's O.K. to repeat a shortcut if it takes a few days to work it into muscle memory.
posted by dws at 5:48 PM on April 2, 2008

If you can find and print a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet (like this website has) you'll find using keyboard shortcuts becomes easier, which is half the battle won since a lot of these shortcuts aren't obvious or even documented.

As for QuickSilver: Nthing its use. I've been using it for about 2 years and am still finding new things to do with it; pity development seems to have stalled. Here is a guide to QuickSilver. Here is an introduction from a couple of productivity nuts (I think they're fairly popular, FWIW). And the manual from Blacktree, makers of QS.
posted by WalterMitty at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

While the link I included above obviates the need for Character Palette, a quick Google for Mac Keyboard Shortcuts yields the following:

Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts (from Apple)
Mac Keyboard Shortcuts (Dan Rodney)
Magical Macintosh Key Sequences
Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts

If you manage to use keyboard shortcuts long enough (maybe a month of medium-heavy usage) they'll become second nature, which is when the savings in effort/ time really kick in.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:05 PM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

jessamyn has it: by switching the mouse to a left-hand position (which i did to alleviate a neck/shoulder injury), you can not only work on your ambidexterity, you'll also find there's an incentive for learning the keyboard shortcuts to most things.

the power of the keyboard shortcuts lies in the overlap of (some of) them across a few programs.
posted by garfy3 at 6:10 PM on April 2, 2008

Start by hitting tab every time you open a new window and see what it highlights. There are many, many keyboard shortcuts out there, but most navigation is done with tabbing to different UI elements and hitting enter to execute them.
posted by ignignokt at 6:13 PM on April 2, 2008

- Install LiteSwitch which makes the command-tab application switcher much more powerful.

- Install Keyboard Maestro (or another key-macro tool) and set command-key macros that open Terminal documents that SSH to your various servers.

- Set a command-key macro for Mail that clicks the "Message" menu then types "mo" which will open the "Move to" submenu so you can file the selected messages from the keyboard.

- Install MondoMouse so that you can move and resize windows by holding down meta keys while dragging the mouse anywhere over them.

- Open the Keyboard prefs pane and click the Modifier Keys... button, then set the nice big Caps Lock key you never use to be a second Control key that you'll use all the time.

- Clear out your Dock of anything you don't often drag stuff on to and learn to use command-space to open the Spotlight search menu-bar field which is much faster and smarter in Leopard than it was in Tiger.
posted by nicwolff at 6:13 PM on April 2, 2008

Don't bother trying to memorize charts or cheatsheets of keyboard shortcuts. It's truly a waste of time, and is sure to cause you to NOT want to become a shortcut wizard.

The best way to become good at using shortcuts is to start off by learning the shortcuts for *only* the most common tasks that you perform every day. And then when those shortcuts have been committed to mere muscle memory, start taking notice about other things that you find yourself repeatedly going into menus and whatnot to execute, and use those "cheat sheet" charts to find the shortcut for them, then start using them.

Eventually you'll have committed a huge catalog of keyboard shortcuts to memory, and reflexively invoking them (command+s for "Save" is one of the obvious ones that I don't even think about invoking just "happens")

Keep in mind that many programs (especially Final Cut) allow you to customize the keyboard shortcuts. It actually may be easier to learn if to create your own, since the ones you create may be more logical to you than the default shortcuts.
posted by melorama at 6:16 PM on April 2, 2008

Opera (or I guess Lynx too, but you probably want graphics) is the only web browser with any kind of reasonable keyboard support.
posted by meowzilla at 6:16 PM on April 2, 2008

Jessamyn's suggestion us spot on. When I'm learning a new app, I put the mouse so far away that I have to stand to reach it. After 20 minutes of having t get up from my chair to hover over a tool or menu item, I know where all the common ones are.

The next step is having to use the app to do a repetitive task that's not "common". The more complicated tasks and combinations just follow after you hit a threshold of comfort with the basic stuff. Then time you save REALLY starts to add up.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:28 PM on April 2, 2008

Don't bother trying to memorize charts or cheatsheets of keyboard shortcuts. It's truly a waste of time, and is sure to cause you to NOT want to become a shortcut wizard.

Should've made it clear - when I said "print", I meant so it could be nearby (on a wall, or something) for easy reference, instead of having to go and search for documentation on what a particular shortcut is.

Melorama's main point still stands, though. Memorization for the sake of learning shortcuts doesn't work, it's just a pain in the ass.

By the by, something that helps with using a keyboard is a typing keyboard shortcut utility like TextExpander or Typeit4me - you enter a small snippet which expands into a commonly used phrase, or corrects a common typo. (e.g. I use "eem" as a shortcut which expands into my email address, or "intl" as a shortcut for "international") These add up over a long time.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2008

My experience with the mouse-haters is that they are either word processors (writers, typists, etc.) or programmers (writing code, editing HTML, etc). Thus, almost everything they do is on the keyboard, and taking their fingers off it in any way is a major interruption. So they figure out all the ways to not do so (or learn to operate a MBP trackpad with their thumbs while typing) - and for these tasks, there's very little that can't be done via keyboard tricks.
But if you are mainly doing Photoshop & video editing (not familiar with that area), isn't it absolutely necessary that you use the mouse to choose which elements are placed where, etc? Easy to cut and paste text without using the mouse; not sure how you'd manipulate images with just the keyboard.

Compromise? RollerMouse.
posted by bartleby at 7:54 PM on April 2, 2008

Oh, this is also the reason for the red 'pointing stick' that looks like a pencil eraser in the middle of IBM/Lenovo laptop keyboards - so one can mouse without ever leaving the home row. Everyone I've ever met either igored it or tried it and hated it, until I showed it to a mouse-hater - his last 4 laptops have been from them for precisely this feature.
posted by bartleby at 8:11 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everyone! I actually wish I had clarified more help with Firefox in my original question. I have some problems with FF keyboard shortcuts: namely, using (Shift + Tab) to navigate around a single page (with lots of links and fields and such) seems to be not working for me at all. In other words, how do I click on a link without using the mouse. Also, how can I select a bookmark--which I leave open on the left side all the time.
posted by zardoz at 9:30 PM on April 2, 2008

Opera (or I guess Lynx too, but you probably want graphics) is the only web browser with any kind of reasonable keyboard support.

Nonsense. Mozilla / Firefox has had great support for years. I do everything via keyboard, and only have to go to the mouse when dealing with a plugin (e.g. Flash), a focus problem, etc.

Just off the top of my head:
- Control-L
- / to find text (omit the "/" to just search links)
- Control-T
- [Google] search via URL bar (Control-L, enter search terms, up arrow, Enter)
- Tab of course

and so forth, lots of which can be found just be looking at the submenus, and Googling for a minute. Now, MSIE? Oh yeah, truly awful.

Lamenting the slow and steady demise of Ctrl-Ins / Ctrl-Del / Shift-Ins ... Ctrl-C for copy? An entire generation of computer guys cringes.
posted by intermod at 9:37 PM on April 2, 2008

oh. not at my mac, but wherever you've tabbed to (how does it indicate? ring around the link? different color?), hitting Enter should act as a click on that link. If you've got a full-size keyboard for your mac, there's something out on the internets about using the number pad keys to control your cursor(keyboard & mouse properties?); just failing to locate it now.
posted by bartleby at 9:42 PM on April 2, 2008

I have some problems with FF keyboard shortcuts: namely, using (Shift + Tab) to navigate around a single page (with lots of links and fields and such) seems to be not working for me at all.

The mouseless browsing Firefox extension will do you wonders.

I suggest altering the default preferences so that it only shows you the number shortcuts upon command. I use the period on the numpad for that. Then you type the number for the link or text field you want to activate and hit enter.
posted by nobody at 9:43 PM on April 2, 2008

Most everything has already been said already, but I'll just reiterate the easiest way to start this.

Most activities can be controlled via keyboard. The command key is essential, you can quit (Q), close a window (W), hide an application and all it's windows (H, probably the most useful shortcut ever, I'm serious), minimize (M), open (O, this means applications, finder windows, anything), and a bunch more. If you get these down, you'll greatly reduce how often you use the mouse.

You already know Cmnd+Tab, what about Ctrl+Tab to switch tab in your browser? Shift+Ctrl+Tab does the reverse. Switching between application windows? Cmnd+` does that.

Quicksilver is the most useful tool written for OS X. Period. Find a nifty key command that feels natural to launch it and then start using it. It'll start as an app. launcher, but soon you'll be using it to change iTunes playlists, send of emails, find contacts, navigate folders, move files around all without ever touching the mouse.

Just try it. No tutorials necessary, just get yourself using just those basic shortcuts that are application-agnostic and you'll find yourself seeking out the most obscure one. Installing Quicksilver is the biggest favor you can do for yourself or any OS X user.
posted by cgomez at 11:24 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what it says about me, but I've found negative reinforcement works. When you find yourself reaching for your mouse, stop, raise your hand, and smack your wrist. Then use the keyboard shortcut instead.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:45 AM on April 3, 2008

You want keycue.

Actually, that's *sorta* what you want.

What you need is a way to relate to the keys.

For example:
I want to command this application to Hide. What do you think the keys are? (Cmd-H)
I want to optionally command other applications to Hide. (Opt-Cmd-H)

The secret to learning keyboard not to learn them...but understand why they're used Straight memorization doesn't work. Finding a way to 'relate' to them does.

Another example (say this in your head....I Command you to....)
What's the Command to....
Print (Cmd-P)
Open (cmd-O)
Save (cmd-S)
Quit (cmd-Q)
posted by filmgeek at 1:19 PM on April 3, 2008

A couple of final cut keyboard commands (since nobody has responded in hours:

You know I/O, how about how to SHIFT the playhead to the I/O points? (Shift I/O)
Do you know an OPTIONAL way to clear your I/O points? (Opt-I/O)

Now, look, this next one, is literally like gold. Wanna know how to mark a clip in the timeline?
Pirates bury treasure. They make a Map. "What" marks the Spot? (X). So X, marks a clip....(and if you know the Optional way to clear an I/O know how to clear both points from the keyboard.)
posted by filmgeek at 6:55 PM on April 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, for the help. Every answer has been at least good, if not great, so I won't bother marking all of them!
posted by zardoz at 12:10 AM on April 4, 2008

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