Keyboard vs Mouse

by Robert Daeley

Related link:

There's a new Ask Slashdot today with a subject dear to my heart: 'Balancing Use Between Keyboard and Mouse?' in which the poster talks about a preference for hands staying on the keyboard. Of course, there are certain tasks when a mouse or other input device is easier, but for a lot of geeks, myself included, the keyboard is usually the way to go.

As a rabid Quicksilver user, I felt the need to post about it in that Ask Slashdot. You'll find I mention it, oh, probably every other entry here or on my own site. ;) That may be because I seem to be using it every other minute, all the time. It's that useful.

What's most profound to me is its dual nature, combining the best of GUI and CLI, not to mention connecting the two worlds. Though arguably not alone among operating systems in this regard, Mac OS X sure does seem to have real power in both, and Quicksilver (among other utilities) help you to exploit that.

Another poster in that Slashdot story wrote that, while switching from Windows to Mac, they missed the ability for the keyboard to access pretty much every menu or widget. This is an area that I've found Linux apps often follow along in the Windows model. However, here's what I wrote in reply:

Not *quite* the same thing, but if you go to the Keyboard & Mouse System Preference, then to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, you'll find at the bottom 'Full Keyboard Access' -- change that to All Controls and you'll be able to tab to most controls. In that same Preference tab you'll find a metric crapload of navigation shortcuts for moving keyboard focus among windows, Dock, menus, etc.

Also, there are a ton of sometimes poorly documented Mac UI keyboard shortcuts that even long-time users don't know about, but which will speed your usage tremendously. There are various places to learn about them -- the Help menu in the Finder is a start, but also see for the occasional gem.

Naturally, fine technical books are available by certain publishers that are great references as well. ;D

The point is that with the latest technologies built in to OS X, combined with various third-party utilities, as well as the Brave New World (for Macs at least) of the CLI, the GUI vs. CLI debate can be limited to -- as the original inspiration for the Ask Slashdot was -- a question of usability for a given application, rather than an OS debate.

What's your take on this?


2005-11-24 04:43:07
Content negotiation
"You'll find I mention it, oh, probably every other entry here or on my own site."

What, no content negotiation? And from a hyper-geek, like you.

Or is that nitpicking? I'm not trying to be funny: I'm not convinced this issue really matters, but some are insistent that it does.

2005-11-24 06:25:17
keystrokes, and mice
I prefer keystrokes for as many things as possible, provided that it's also possible to mouse to a menu to remind me of the keystrokes. I dislike the undocumented features in quicksilver (and no, a wiki doesn't cut it!) that I keep "stumbling" across. Get the darn docs complete before more coding, guys!

As for mice, I hate them. Having used Apple powerbooks (since the powerbook 140 first came out) as my "main machine", the idea of a separate little puck that has to be moved around seems so foreign. I started with the trackball, got very happy when the first trackpad came out, and now you cannot pry the trackpad/dragpad from my cold dead fingers. A mouse? You have to move your hand a long ways from the keyboard. How annoying.

2005-11-24 09:42:00
keystrokes, and mice
I know what you mean on the docs front, although the 'guys' are one guy who prefers spending time coding.
2005-11-24 13:00:59

I like both devices equally. What needs to be minimised is switching between them.

In generally, I find that I browse the web almost exclusively using the mouse, while I do almost everything else on the keyboard only.

2005-11-26 10:34:44
Keyboard & Trackpad preferred
To me the keyboard is the clear winner. I'm a longtime LaunchBar user and it clearly speeds up my work by far. By now I feel really handicapped without it. The DropBar Plug-In for LaunchBar even makes it more valuable as I can do drag & drop of files onto applications with the keyboard as well now.

I don't like rodents for a few reasons. I'm a 24/7 PowerBook user who does a lot of travelling. So a mouse adds to my luggage which I try to keep as small as possible. Every single gramm counts.
I prefer the trackpad, because it's faster to switch from trackpad to keyboard and back. Switching between a mouse and the keyboard takes a lot more time and space.
The Trackpad also offers more functionality for me with the great SideTrack driver.
The last reason is personal comfort. I repeatedly got cold hands and fingers after longer use, especially in well frosted areas like Server rooms. With the trackpad by hands stay warmer for a long time.

So to me the preference is clearly keyboard, then trackpad.