Why I am Anti-Mouse

I do what I can to avoid moving my hands from the keyboard when I’m working.

For years, I’ve been anti-mouse. I read a study once that said that most carpal tunnel issues are with scrolling the mouse, not the keyboard. So I’ve made using the keyboard over the mouse a priority. Especially in productivity applications.

Oh, I might have to use the mouse to set audio from speakers to a headset. Or maybe I want to move applications from one virtual desktop to another. Perhaps I’ll play Mahjongg with a mouse. Or Solitaire. But the use case for the mouse in productivity applications is very slim for me.

Whenever I work on a new operating system or a new application, I am quick to find the keyboard shortcuts. Why?

I find that keyboard shortcuts are so much more satisfying than using a mouse. I am more prone to error with a mouse. I might miss the button or click the wrong button. I just have greater accuracy and speed with the keyboard. The tab key is my friend in most user interfaces. The mouse slows me down.

Here’s one of my favorite examples: the selection of text in a text document. Try it with a mouse and see how much effort is expended for desired precision. If you select text and you move too far down the screen while using your mouse, you’ll scroll fast and select too much text. Move too little and you’ll be waiting for the text to be selected as the text crawls up during your selection. The mouse is unpredictable when it comes to selecting text.

Using a keyboard is relatively straightforward. Use the arrow keys to position the cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select. Then press the shift key with one hand and the down or right arrow keys with the other hand until the text you want to select is selected. While holding down the shift key, you can tap the arrow keys until your selection is exactly what you want. Easy. Far easier than using a mouse.

I can whip around a user interface with keyboard shortcuts faster than I can with a mouse and with greater accuracy, fewer errors. My confidence with the keyboard far exceeds that of the mouse.

Alt-tab allows me to switch applications easily and to choose between multiple applications with better precision. I use keyboard shortcuts for common application operations, too. Ctrl-X, C and V for cut, copy and paste. Ctrl-Z to undo. Ctrl-Y to repeat formatting. Ctrl-O to open. Ctrl-P to print. Ctrl-N for a new document. Many of these keyboard shortcuts are cross-platform, too. If you find them on Windows, chances are very good they work in Linux. Not so sure about Mac, but they are worth a try there, too. Apple seems to adore the mouse.

I look for application menu shortcuts, too. For example, with LibreOffice, when I press the Alt key, the menus show underlined characters indicating the keyboard combination to use. For example, Alt reveals that the letter F in the file menu is underlined. Enter the sequence Alt followed by F and the file menu drops down. Look for more underlined characters to select the menu option you want to use and just press that letter. You can even use the arrow keys to select from a menu. It’s that simple.

In Windows, navigating the file system in Windows Explorer is easy. To get to the C drive, press the Windows key to bring up the Start menu. Then type “c:” and press enter. Windows Explorer brings up the C drive for your review. If you type the first letter of a folder name, that folder will be selected. Type the letter “U”. This will select the Users folder. Press enter to open the folder. Look for your folder (the one with your name on it, usually) and press the first letter of that folder name to select it. Then press enter to open it. To go back up one level, press the backspace key.

If you see a document, like a Word or Excel document in a folder, you can press the first letter of the file name and press enter. This will open that document.

File system navigation in Nautilus (a Linux file manager for Gnome) is very similar in Linux, but backspace to go up one level has been replaced by the Alt-left arrow keys. One other difference is that in Windows, repeatedly pressing the first letter of a file or folder name will cycle through all the files and folders that have names starting with the same letter. In Linux, once you enter the first letter, a window will pop up to show you what you’ve entered so far and the system waits for other characters to use for matching. As you enter succeeding characters, the folder with the closest match will be selected. Then you can press enter to open that folder, or application if the object is a document rather than a folder.

I use keyboard shortcuts in Google Chrome, too. Ctrl-N for new browser. Ctrl-T for a new tab. Alt-D to select text in the address bar. Ctrl-Page-Up or Down to switch tabs. Chrome remembers my favorite places to go, so I can open a new tab, type the first few letters of the website and the address auto-fills the address bar. Sometimes just one letter gets me the address I want. Then I press enter to go there. With this one feature, I can open a new tab and navigate to Medium in a second with just a few keystrokes.

I’ve also found that with Google Docs, I can create a short alias for a document that I edit often. Once I have the document I wanted open, I copy the address, then I right-click on the address and select “Edit Search Engines”. This opens a new page showing all of your most frequently visited pages. Look for the Add button and click there. Then I added new alias. Here’s one for Medium:

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Image for post

Once I have the new alias, I can open a new tab and type the first few letters of the document or location I want to see and have it on display in very little time.

With web forms, I always tab around the fields to complete them. At work, most of my work is done in a browser, so I tab around to find the tab order for the forms and I memorize the order for future use. But sometimes, the web programmer wasn’t thinking of guys like me and forces me to use the mouse to get around. It’s unfortunate but it does happen. In any web form, the tab key is my friend.

Keyboard shortcuts have made my life on the computer much easier, much saner. Sure, I have to memorize the shortcut, but after a while, it’s not the shortcut I remember, it’s the muscle memory and finger pattern that I remember, so I really don’t mind.

If you want to know more about keyboard shortcuts, a search for keyboard shortcuts will yield plenty of results. I hope you find this article informative. Got a keyboard shortcut you like? Please share it below in the comments section. Thanks.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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