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What? Still rolling the rodent???!!!

Don't you know that excessive pronation caused by extended mouse activity can lead to CTS, RSI, ESP, EPA, PDQ Bach and a host of other ailments? (not the least of which is the tendency to use bad puns and too many acronyms-Editors)

Those millions of us with the operating system I'll just call “la Fenestra Diablo” have several options at our disposal to avoid the dreaded “index finger fatigue” or IFF. (We warned you, continue reading at your own risk-Ed.)

Now everyone, recite after me: “The tab key is your friend.” The 3 PC keys to mouse freedom are alt, shift and tab (For MacOS programs substitute command for ‘control,’ option or apple-symbol for ‘alt’ as appropriate to your application).

Summary for the horologically challenged:

  • You can either tab & shift-tab to move around the dialogs
  • or you can press the alt-key along with the underlined character to highlight and act on the menu dialogs.
  • The description below of the advantages of keystroking over mouse-clicking is written for experienced users. If you're not experienced, post this article on your bathroom mirror and read it until the concepts are second nature. After all, do you want to spend the rest of your life reading the “for dummies” and “idiots” series of help manuals?

    While “surfin' the net” I typically have at least these three applications open:

    1. Netscape, Mosaic, Cello or whatever browser you use (if you have a favorite not in the shortlist I mentioned, tell me all about it.)
    2. Notepad or other bare-bones editor (you can use a full featured word processor, but that's overkill for the application I'm describing.
    3. File Monger, I mean “Manager,” of course (or Explorer if you’re using Win98).

    Keystroking Sequence

    For those of us looking to blend the best of the functionality and shallow learning curve mice allow, with the speed and productivity keystroke equivalents bring to the table, a few ergonomic basics are in order: Your fingers remember their position on the keyboard (the whole concept behind touch typing) so every time you move a hand off the keyboard to touch the mouse button, there is a quite measurable period of time for the travel and for the reorienting. Race car engineers measured the average dashboard reorientation at one-half second for experienced drivers. Fractional improvements are the state of the game today: if you can get a 3% reduction in cycle time or a 5% increase in output, many industrial engineers would sing your praises on Sunday.
    blue dot spacer

    Saving a web page from Netscape

    The routine way:

    (For the geek-averse, only read this section in small doses.)

    You've surfed to a cool page on the web (specific directions given for Netscape, your specific keystrokes may vary for other browsers), and you want to download the page to study the code.

    If you're mousing around like the majority, you would

    1. click file to open that menu
    2. click on “save as” or “mail doc to”
    3. click on the filename line (an additional two clicks if you have 1.1 or greater and you want to save as text only - Great feature; way to go Netscape!)
    (4. or) 6. click on “otay”

    Six clicks to save as text. No big deal you say? Ask again after a full eight-hour day of data entry, complex editing or basically if you get paid by the amount of work accomplished. Your fingers can remember simple action patterns without a federal subsidy or special investigation.

    Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) are among the fastest growing industrial injuries, climbing by more than 100% between 1985-1995. Documenting and treating your injury as well as paying the paperwork-pushers that control your company's health plan costs you money in the long run. Money that could be spent much better on your salary or updated equipment. (For those interested in mouse/pointing-device related trauma, surf to:, an RSI survey of internet articles or read about pointing-devices)...For those who imagine any winslug product is the answer, review Steve Manes ‘Full Disclosure’ Nov. ’95 PC World, p. 45 (a print reference—gasp!)or e-chat with Duane Roberts, now at Altura, who along with Lee Lorenzen wrote GEM (the Graphic Environment Manager) issued by Digital Research back in 1985(!) We're talking decade old technology here folks and yes, I know WinXP is the latest rage but waiting until the third version before it actually works is not something I enjoy…)

    One of the easiest ways to reduce the incidence of CTS is by adopting the Dvorak keyboard: (A brief quote from eeshop/changes.html)

    My experience is that memorizing the new layout took under a half hour, followed by at least a couple weeks of extremely wearying typing because I had to think of every single individual letter as I typed instead of blasting along doing whole words and patterns. But in about two months I was acceptably proficient and comfortable at the new layout. Switching back now to use a QWERTY keyboard means making some mistakes, but the letters are written right there on the keys, and the brain doesn't forget years of QWERTY that easily - I find I can "shift gears" between the two in a couple of minutes. Too, on any computers I must occasionally use (like the student PC lab machines we maintain) I have put the Dvorak driver files so I can make the switch when I am using them. This is not the problem most people think it is, in my opinion. And the reduction of tension available with Dvorak was evident to me from the first ten minutes I tried it. Using QWERTY now feels like a lot of extra thrashing around in comparison.

    The keyboard-equivalent way:

    control-M to bring up “Mail doc” OR Ctl-S to bring up “Save as” Ctl-S

    1. Type the file name, since it's already highlighted for you. You can either tab & shift-tab to move around the dialogs or use the underlined character pressed along with the alt-key to highlight that menu dialog.
    2. Tab twice to reach the save type OR type alt-t, down arrow to show the choices.
    3. Hit “enter” to select your choice from the menu. Try the alt-t on your system under various applications and see what happens. It's always alt-t on the machine(s) I use.

    Tabbing always works, yet it's kind of an intermediate step, better than moving your hands back-and-forth from the mousepad, yet not as efficient as the direct keystroke. If you're concerned over learning different keystrokes, just tab away until you've gotten the hang of it. After all, a good tabby keeps a place free of mice if she's earning her keep. (Pets are always “she” in our house, my wife objects to male animals, other than me, most of the time.)

    Control-M (mail document to)

    1. Type the address if you know it or Tab to the “quote doc”
    2. and hit enter. Often I use the “mail to:” feature to save only a part of the web text. Since my Netscape doesn't scroll and if I want the text, not the code, “mailing” something (stay with me, we don't really mail it) gives us the ability to put in ASCII, or plain “text” in other words, form and then copy to Notepad where we'll actually edit it and or the material we'll add to it to reply-mail someone. E-mailing a resume and cover e-letter is a goodexample of taking their text and massaging it to your benefit and providing them a proposal in return.
    3. Once you've got the quoted text, use the arrow keys or page-up
    4. and -down to find your text, say the address. Select the address by shift-arrow highlighting it.
    5. Copy with control-c (copying instead of control-x to “cutting“,
    6. gives me a backup so to speak in case the incredible happens-I louse it up...).
    7. Tab to the main text section and do your additional editing
    8. or shift-tab, tab and arrow around until the whole text is selected. For long passages, this ungainly method is better than spending your life holding down the mouse, shift or arrow keys.
    9. After selecting your text, alt-tab now either to the open Notepad
    10. or to Program Manager to open it up. It's a toss up with program manager:
    Keyboard Mouse
    Alt-w to scroll down to the program group Scan to find the icon or label text
    Select the group Click to open groups to find it, when your scan didn't lock on to anything.
    Tab to your program Double click on the application to actually get on with your work (and your life, as Alan Laiken would say).

    Admit it, icons can DECREASE productivity when significant time is spent making our systems look “cool.” I'm guilty of it, that's why I've become such a keystroke evangelist. Interesting research has been done on the computing “futz factor ” in office productivity.

    Once in Notepad, use control-v (Paste) and put the text in the final form you want to either save with

    • “alt-f”, “a”
    • (“save as”, follow the filename, etc. guidelines above)
    • or mail off by pasting back to Netscape “alt-e”, “a”(select all).

    In Netscape, tab to “Send” or if you were only using my text-editing shenanigans, tab to “Cancel.”
      Either use “alt-g” to open up the “Go” menu entry and hit enter for back;
    • arrow-down-enter to go forward or
    • directly “alt-right arrow” for forward and
    • “alt-left arrow” for back.

    If anyone is interested in keystroke hypertext selection, i.e. keystroke equivalent of clicking on the linked text, read closely the where pointers to several handy net-available software tools are mentioned. One of the juiciest tidbits is quoted for your convenience:

    Having both hands in the same position - one on the mouse and the other on the keypad - is more balanced and relaxed than doing all the mousing with one hand. Give this a try and see if two-fisted mousing doesn't feel a lot easier to you also. Set your browser to download and click to download ACCP.EXE (200K),the self-extracting file of the Access Pack.

    The accessibility functions of the Access Pack are now built into the Control Panel of Windows.

    There you have it. Life, Liberty and the American Dream, all by keystroking your way to success.


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