I love coding, consulting, teaching, and presenting (in that order too!). One of the things I get a big kick out of is giving a presentation and having people remark about how fast I can navigate around windows without the mouse!! I have to admit, I can’t take the credit. While I am pretty pleased with my typing speed; it is the small, fast, targeted utilities that allow me to slice through windows like a hot knife through butter. What’s my point? I showed up at work today without my mouse ( I have a laptop with a trackpad, how I loathe trackpads) and realized that I was going to have to work the day without the mouse. Aside from the odd tasks that are a bit of a pain to accomplish without a mouse (resizing windows, moving windows etc) I realized that I do not use my mouse much at all anymore. My mouse of choice currently is the Logitech MX Revolution:
The MX is a phenomenal mouse with an extremely small transmitter and rechargeable battery, it also has a wicked free spin mode that allows you to traverse long documents extremely fast.
OK, enough of the advertising, I’ll get back to how you can become more effective using the keyboard. I’ll highlight some tools and techniques that you can start using today to slowly make yourself more in a less mouse reliant state!!
- Develop your touch typing skills. You don’t need to become a fast typer. You just need to become more effective at using all of your fingers on all of your hands, without looking at the keyboard. Even if you make mistakes, your errors will be corrected faster as you are always looking at the screen. Look at downloading a good, fun, typing tutor and spend a couple of minutes in the morning and afternoon going through some exercises. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t have the time!!
- Drop your mouse for a week. That’s right, I actually said ‘drop’ your mouse for a week. There is nothing like going cold turkey to force you to learn the keyboard shortcuts you need to learn to navigate around windows properly. This March, I forced myself to not use my mouse for a 2 week period. It was during this period that I developed the baseline of my mouseless computing experience. Trust me, it will be a big investment, with bigger rewards.
- The ALT key is your friend. Learn to use the ALT key to navigate your menu items and you will fly through windows, sure lots of apps have other shortcuts that allow you quicker access to some options, but ALT is universal throughout windows. If you are stuck in a scenario where you can’t find a predefined shortcut key hit ALT and start working your way through the menus. If the menus are built properly you should be able to navigate through the menus without using the arrow buttons. Example, if you are in a list view in windows explorer and you want to create a new item (folder,text document etc) just hit ALT –> F –> W –> Pick the item you want to create, hit enter if you just want to create a new folder, as that is the first item in the list.
- Download some launcher utilities. The 2 I am currently running on my system are SlickRun and Launchy. SlickRun is an awesome floating command prompt.
- I used to use SlickRun to launch all of my programs, but now that I am using Launchy for that, I now use SlickRun to navigate quickly to folders on my machine, as well as for configuring MagicWords that are basically little macros that can execute by typing in the name of a command. I just hit the hotkey for SlickRun start typing and it fills in as I go!!
- Launchy is another floating command prompt style application that allows you to quickly launch any executable it has been configured to recognize. Unlike SlickRun, I can configure Launchy to look at any directory I want (at all .exes), and when I hit the hotkey to launch Launchy it presents me with a floating dialog which I can start typing into for it to filter a list of applications:
- Once it finds the application that I want, I can hit enter and it launches it. Launchy can launch almost anything you can think of. Administrative Tools, display, any program under program files, any program under your custom utils folder (as long as you tell it to). Launchy also comes with a bunch of awesome skins and,like SlickRun, you can customize the hotkey so that it and SlickRun play well together.
- If you are a Visual Studio Developer, and if you read this blog it is probably safe to say that you are. You should invest and take a look at purchasing either ReSharper or CodeRush. My personal favorite is ReSharper. Being a test driven developer ReSharper just seems to be a bit more fluid for me. From folks that I have talked to who use CodeRush, they also have nothing but awesome things to say about it. I cannot stress enough how much ReSharper has revolutionized my coding experience inside of studio. If ignorance is bliss, then lots of VS developers are in heaven!!! What I mean is, you do not realize how bad an editor studio is until you code with ReSharper for a while and then try to disable it and code with plain old studio. Don’t take my word for it, download a copy and follow along in one of my Applied TDD Videos. I am planning to make some ReSharper specific posts sometime in the near future.
- Last on the short list of essentials is Firefox 2 coupled with the Hit-A-Hint extension. Hit-A-Hint coupled with Firefox 2 has become my way to achieve completely mouseless browsing!! When you load up a web page, you can hit and hold down the space bar and numbers will appear next to every link on the page (including images). Type in the number of the link you want to click and release the space bar. Voila, you are off: