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The Graphical Keyboard User Interface — Followup

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Original post here.

It seems that there’s a lot of active discussion going on about this right now. There’s a new blog by Clay Barnes that seems to be focused solely on this issue, and he’s posted two articles about the mouse’s decline. He also references a couple of great posts by Jeff Atwood (I’m a huge fan of his blog). The first one talks about going commando and weaning yourself off the mouse. I think that’s a great idea and increases productivity by leaps and bounds. As I said in my previous post, I only use the mouse when I absolutely have to. His second post about how Vista makes it easier to find things via the keyboard is good, but I wouldn’t be a true Mac zealot without saying that Microsoft ripped it off from OS X’s Spotlight feature, which was then copied and made better by Quicksilver.

I really like this new trend of research in the keyboard navigation arena. Perhaps the resurgence is due to the old school DOS/UNIX junkies getting nostalgic for the days when all you had was a keyboard. I remember using the a DOS word processor called Textra back in the late 80’s, and it was controlled entirely using the Function keys. F1-F10-F7 saved a document. Each time you pressed a function key it changed the menu options along the bottom of the screen. Pico/nano in UNIX are similar, only they change the menu options along the bottom when using Control-key combinations.

I remember in college I was a total emacs guy, and got very adept at using all the various tools using Control-key combinations. I’m now lazy and use TextMate, but at least it integrates well into the shell and has bundles. I’m really hoping to get deep into vi, but I just haven’t had the time to learn more than the basic shortcuts. Any great tutorials that people can link me to?

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 9, 2007 at 11:57 am

Posted in HCI, Technology, Usability

The Graphical Keyboard User Interface

with one comment

I just happened to stumble upon Alex Faaborg‘s latest blog entry, The Graphical Keyboard User Interface. I think he makes a lot of great points about the tradeoffs between using a command-line vs. using a GUI. However, I don’t think that command-line vs. GUI is necessarily the real debate as much as it is keyboard vs. mouse.

I think that GUIs are great, as they have made it possible for the masses to enjoy and utilize these great tools called computers that were once only used by those adventurous enough to learn all the various text commands. I grew up using DOS for many years so I guess I was one of those nerds, but nowadays my eyes appreciate a well-designed GUI since I spend a good majority of my day staring at it and manipulating it as I work. So in my mind it isn’t the GUI that slows me down as much as it is the mouse. I use the keyboard almost exclusively for navigating between windows, launching applications and using shortcuts. I really only use the mouse when I’m feeling lazy or it’s a faster means to accomplish something.

Needless to say, I’m really excited to see Alex’s idea take place for navigating with the keyboard through Firefox. However, what I’d really like to see is a more unified framework built directly into the OS for accomplishing this very idea. For example, someone could use the new Core Animation framework in OS X to build a framework that provides an interface similar to Quicksilver that application developers could directly tie into for application navigation. It would significantly reduce the burden on application developers while giving a consistent UI feel across the various applications that utilize it.

If you’ve never used Quicksilver (or if you use Windows there are clones such as Enso), I highly recommend trying it as it will change your computing life forever.*

*Note: Side effects may include making you crazy when trying to use your friend’s computer and they don’t have it installed.

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 7, 2007 at 4:02 pm


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