No More Mousing Around

silver apple keyboard and magic mouse

You can skip this post if you’re not interested in me nerd-ing out about keyboard shortcuts. 😄

It’s All About Accessibility (and efficiency)

Many computer users can’t/don’t use a mouse to navigate around on the computer. Some use the keyboard only, some use alternate access devices or software to read and move through pages with switches or voice commands, and some get irritated at the inefficiency of taking their hands off the keyboard when they’re working away in the zone – in flow.

For computer files and websites to be accessible to everyone, they need to be navigable (is that a word?) by keyboard only. Go ahead, try and tab through the menu items on a few sites and see how you would do without your mouse.

I spend whole days immersed in documents in MS Word – on a PC and increasingly on my Mac – often doing fairly repetitive things like formatting references for academic papers. My bliss is finding ways to do that quickly and consistently without having to figure out where my fingers and mouse cursor are and where I need them to be. In other words, I live for keyboard shortcuts.

How to Remember ALL THE SHORTCUTS?

Before my son turned 19 (yes, I’ll explain), I had a system that was less than stellar for when I switched from a PC (work office) to a Mac (home office) and my motor memory wasn’t enough to do things efficiently. I had all these little sticky notes with shortcuts I found helpful but didn’t use often enough to drill them into my brain. I didn’t like the notes because they had things like “CTRL+OPT+SPACE = emojis” which, while accurate, wasn’t very time-saving if I had to lift my hands up to figure out which was the option key each time. I rely on my fingers knowing where to go, not knowing my CMD from my CTRL or my ⌘ from my ~. AND, the messy little notes listed the shortcuts first instead of what I was trying to do, so my brain took a while to find the relevant cue each time. Thank goodness for my son’s birthday.

The Birthday

My new system has nothing to do with my son really, it was my daughter that (indirectly) made my life much simpler. She is a brilliant artist and in honour of the keyboard-related gifts for her brother’s birthday, she made this card.

hand-drawn keyboard with the letters on the keys saying "Happy 19th Birthday Andrew"
Her gift for him was a mechanical number-pad keyboard 🙂

AHA!!

I am quite sure I’m not the first person to think of depicting shortcuts in a more visual way, but it was a new concept to me and I got to work drawing my own keyboard.

hand-drawn keyboard on graph paper
perfect use for these adorable MUJI graph paper sticky notes

Then I added some colour coding.

hand-drawn keyboard on graph paper with coloured borders around some of the letters and explanations before
hmmmm not looking as good as it did in my head

It didn’t make my heart sing.

Luckily, I also know lots of shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator, so I was able to make a much better version. (Truth be told, I use the mouse all the time in Illustrator – moving objects around to the perfect spot is quite satisfying.)

My New System

I made a table with the function I’m trying to achieve, the shortcut keys, and a pretty picture for the ones with three or more keys to press. You can download the document from the bottom of the page if you’re interested – it’s a Word doc because making a pdf accessible is its own circle of hell. Here’s what a clip of it looks like:

screenshot of a table listing functions in Word (copying selected text with comments and track changes included) then the shortcut (Cmd+Fn+3) and a visual of the keyboard with those 3 keys highlighted.
so pretty

The Irony

Putting together this document was an excellent lesson, and now I seem to know all these shortcuts by heart. Maybe after a break I’ll need to refer to it again … or I’ll use the template I made in Illustrator to put together a birthday card or two 🙂

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