September 7, 2010

QuicKeys - fix bugs, speed things up

After, literally, years of griping about various annoyances of my beloved Mac, I finally found a way work around for many of them.

QuicKeys is one of the oldest end-user customization tools (for PC and Mac). I've known about it for years, but finally started to put it to use because I was just so annoyed by a few minor things that I kept running into over and over again. Here are a few of the (admittedly minor) Mac annoyances that are now fixed!

iCal: Pressing Shift-Command-T brings up a dialog to go to another date. But there is a bug that makes it impossible to use the keyboard to either activate the dialog (to actually go the date you've specified) or dismiss the dialog. I wrote two simple shortcuts so that pressing return activates the dialog and pressing escape dismisses it. Shame on Apple for making me do this after years of iCal's existence, but anyway now I can use iCal without cursing Apple 5 times a day.

iPhone Simulator: When debugging code with XCode, you press Shift-Command-Return to stop the process. But if the focus happens to be on iPhone Simulator (as it often is when debugging an iPhone app), you have to press Shift-Command-H to stop the process. This is typical Apple keyboard shortcuts. Each one makes some sense on its own, but they don't work together (on iPhone, you pressing the "Home" button, thus the "H"). So I added a shortcut for iPhone so that Shift-Command-Return generates a Shift-Command-H to stop the process. Problem solved.

WriteRoom: The control-A and control-E keys move the cursor to the beginning and end of the paragraph instead of the line, which they do in most other apps. I remapped them.

Mail: Having to use the cursor keys and delete key is adequate, but I do *SO MUCH* cursoring and deleting that moving hands off the home keys turns out to be a significant burden. So, I made Control-N & Control-P move to next and previous emails and Control-D delete the current message. Ahhhh.

Firefox/Instapaper: I like to use Instapaper to read things offline later. The normal way to do this is to put a bookmarklet in your bookmark bar on the top of your browser. But I hate extra bars - especially on my laptop. So I started by making a shortcut to hide/show the bookmark bar so at least I don't have to dig around in the menu for it. Of course, then I realized I should just make a key to run Instapaper (which I'll do as soon as I finish this post).

Finder/Terminal: I regularly want to use Terminal to look at the contents of a directory I am looking at in finder. You can copy a directory from Finder, open Terminal, type "cd ", paste the directory, ... to get there. Instead, I made a single key that does that.

You get the picture. If there is a slow and consistent activity that you do frequently, it takes about 1 minute to write a quickeys shortcut. They can be applied narrowly so they only work for the app in question - and only when, say, a certain dialog is open. So they don't hurt anything else. I haven't observed it slowing down the system. The only issue is that you have to remember the new shortcut. But if the task you are speeding up really is one that you do frequently, then it isn't a problem. If you don't do it frequently, then don't bother speeding it up.

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