Going Commando - Put Down The Mouse

I have to back up the comments about the Dvorak keyboard. I’m disappointed only two people have made it so far.

It’s really hard at first, just like learning to type again, but very much worth it.

One problem: it makes using the mouse even harder. Keys under Dvorak are positioned so that you use a finger on your left hand then a finger on your right, alternating, as much as possible. If you’re forced to type with one hand while keeping the mouse in the other (pretty rare, but it happens when I play online crosswords, which are all terribly designed) your left hand jumps from one side of the keyboard to the other all the time. A real pain. Also happens if I’ve got a cup in my hand.

Apparently there are Dvorak-type layouts optimised for either left- or right-hand usage also, which would be great for amputees.

One final problem: you’ll eventually lose your qwerty skills which is inconvenient when you’re forced to use someone else’s machine. I could actually quite comfortably use both for quite a few years, but over the last couple I’ve finally lost my qwerty skills.

As a touch typist I avoid anything that would make me hit two keys simultaneously unless one of them is shift. Using unfamiliar combinations of two or even three keys fast and frequently is asking for finger joint problems or RSI later in life. (I do use ctrl-X, ctrl-C and ctrl-V, though.)
I am also not in any case going to clutter up my brain with dozens of cryptic key sequences for every combination of application and operating system I use.
I very much liked the GOLD key (hit GOLD and the next key is magic) from VAX and VT-220 days and have customised emacs so that the keypad-minus key behaves similarly for some common functions.
Thanks to those posting about the use of normal keys such as / or ’ in Firefox - those I may well start using.

I exclusively text-edit with Vim, and use ViEmu in VS2005. I have gvim.exe mapped to CTRL+ALT+V if I need to do some “heavy editing” on the current file in the IDE. I also use the Dvorak keyboard layout with some modifications.

I switched to both about 3 years ago and it was really painful, but the benefits have far outweighed the initial discomfort.

In Windows Explorer, there is no keyboard shortcut for New Folder
Alt+F, W, F? Or use the right-click equivalent menu (ctrl+f10) key.

Not sure what you slaved ctrl-f10 with, but on a default layout it’s equivalent to an alt press. Unless that’s what you meant. (I usually use the context-menu key for that, keeps mousing and keyboarding mentally in tune.

Plus alt-F, W fails if some other bull%# adds a shortcut with w to the context menu for any files. Ugh.

What I’ve noticed is that it’s the context switch (taking my hand off the keyboard to grab the mouse or vice-versa) that’s expensive. So my tendency is to minimize the context switches.

For example, I’ve memorized all the MSDEV shortcuts so I never use the mouse while I’m coding (the VC6-VS2005 transition for me was quite painful; now I know the default keyboard shortcuts for both !).

Similarly, when I’m browsing, my hand’s already on the mouse, so I like to have sites I visit regularly on the toolbar.

Dvorak keyboardist here, too. Taught myself to type on it 15 years ago, when I reached the limits of hunt-and-peck, so I can’t compare it to QWERTY.

Mac OS offers a Dvorak keyboard layout with command keys in the QWERTY locations (e.g. undo-cut-copy-paste in the bottom-left corner of the keyboard), but that would make it more work to discover and memorize shortcuts in new programs. In Dvorak, these four shortcuts are all on the right hand, so I think it encourages keeping both hand on the keyboard and learning more shortcuts, especially text-editing navigation.

The MacBook’s two-finger drag scrolling on the trackpad is also great for reducing dragging and clicking, in both vertical-scrolling text windows and free-scrolling graphic windows (and over the iTunes volume slider!). When I have a mouse plugged in on the desktop, I still often use the trackpad for certain operations. I’d like to see a desktop keyboard with a trackpad built into the wrist rest.

The other quick way to increase your productivity on the computer is “Think about what you’re doing, before actually doing it”.

I prefer to use my (few) precious brain-cycles to think about the code I’ll be writing in the next hours, and find a way to “write less code” instead of “writing code more quickly”. I use some shortcuts for the actions I perform more often (no more than 10, I think), and my mouse for everything else.

Honestly I’ve seen system administrators and developers “going commando”, and eventually they all seem under a schizophrenia attack :slight_smile:

By the way… if someone decided that the mouse was a good idea, maybe it’s because learning dozens of shortcuts was slowing users down…

“Another obstruction to productivity just as big as ONLY using a mouse is a qwerty keyboard”

It took me about 3 weeks before I was sufficiently competent in dvorak. Now I’m faster (although I never did time tests and it was quite awhile before I got really fast) and there’s much less finger and hand movement.

You don’t have to get a new keyboard:
You can teach yourself:
Dvorak Background:

This is one of the reasons I love Vista*: the new Start menu is like this new super-shortcut / command-line thing. If I want to launch the Windows SDK documentation, for example, I hit the windows key, type sdk, and then enter (don’t wait for the search results, it figures it out automatically and just launches the first result). Want Firefox? Windows key, type F, then enter.

The quicklaunch area is much more awesome now too, since you can use Windows key + a number to launch shortcuts. So if I have a link to Wikipedia as the 4th quicklaunch item I just hit Win+4 and I’m there.

  • Full disclosure: Remember, I work for Microsoft

as i said on the shahine.com site in regards to browser url input, i didn’t know about the alt-d shortcut, but hitting F6 does the same thing (focuses and highlights the location bar) in ie and firefox.

also, you can not only do ctrl-enter for .com websites, but also shift-enter for .net and ctrl-shift-enter for .org. this only seems to work with firefox and not ie though. :frowning:

The debunking of Dvorak consists of bean-counters asserting that the cost of re-training people will never be recouped by a marginal (about 2%) speed gain. It ignores the undeniable fact that QWERTY requires a lot more finger travel, thus probably more hand strain, thus quite possibly more injury. (Note that I explicitly went from what is proven to what seems probable there – I have no hard evidence that QWERTY causes more injuries than Dvorak; Dvorak haytuhs don’t have any hard evidence that it doesn’t.)

If the debunkers have any concern for typists’ comfort, their articles don’t show it. Me, I care about my comfort, and am very glad to have learned Dvorak for that reason.

I couldn’t agree more. I luv using keyboard shortcuts and seeing people’s reaction when I use one and I get a “How’d you do that?!”. However, I dislike the fact that my laptop doesn’t have a windows key on it for using windows shortcuts like ctrl-l, ctrl-e etc.

Great post, Jeff.

I wanted to point your readers to an excellent interface related to this idead. Can you resist the urge??


Yeah, I don’t count Alt-menu shortcuts as “real” shortcuts - they’re long, and they can be stolen like Foxyshadis says.

Why not Ctrl-N? It isn’t used for anything else in Explorer.

I think it’s a great idea to use shortcuts, or at least use the keyboard and mouse together.

Heh, I didn’t even realize that I was learning new shortcuts for my Start Menu:

(Windows Key) § (M) (N)
Opens Start Menu, goes to all programs, goes to misc, then starts Nero Burning ROM.

I’ve even started using the keyboard to navigate Explorer too, with the same idea as the Start Menu.

“Go to the Washing Mutual Bank website: www.wamu.com
Do you by default end up in the login form elements? NO
Number of TABs to get to the username: 19”

I literally will type “user{TAB}” to place the focus in the correct field in these cases (using aforementioned FF option).

This is the first article I have read here that is just flat out wrong. In addition to the links given above, I would add:


If you still think that the keyboard is faster than the mouse, do as the linked article suggests and “time yourself”.

“One final problem: you’ll eventually lose your qwerty skills which is inconvenient when you’re forced to use someone else’s machine.”

XP allows you to place a layout switching icon on the taskbar. I set this option on all my relative’s machines (they don’t mind the icon and each newly opened application defaults to qwerty if you want).

“If QWERTY really is so much more uncomfortable and injury-prone than Dvorak, why does almost nobody use it?”

Doesn’t this go w/o saying? 99.99% of the world’s keyboards are qwerty, and when any person undertakes the task of learning to type, they know nothing of dvorak. Once qwerty is learned, it’s very difficult to switch.

Can you disprove the fact (not saying you can’t) that the original layout was designed with the idea to discourage fast typing so that the mechanical arms wouldn’t get hung up? Or that there is much less hand/finger movement using dvorak? That was enough to make me switch when (I thought) I had carpal tunnel…

I once wrote a Browser Helper Object (BHO) for Internet Explorer 6 called KeyboardAccess. It does the link enumeration thing (like the Firefox addons mentioned here before in the comments) with almost all click-able elements in a web page and it works very fast.

When I switched to Firefox I pretty much stopped developing KeyboardAccess, but you can take a look if you’re interested:


It should work on Internet Explorer 7, and it’s open source so if you have any suggestions, be sure to implement them too :slight_smile:

Launchy is the sh*t! I rarely use the mouse to start any program. It’s the best thing I’ve used for many years.