Early computers were keyboard-only. Then Macintosh and Windows pushed computing to be mouse by default, only to have the iPhone and Android's touchscreen interfaces make buttons seem a thing of the past.
Yet somehow there seems a new détente between keyboards and other input devices, and keyboard shortcuts along with command palettes and search-based interfaces becoming increasingly common.
Which do you prefer?
Keyboard is by far the most efficient way to navigate and control modern digital technology 90% of the time. Super users are keyboard only.
I think a future of touch super users is however very likely. I'd be interested to start to see an analog to keyboard shortcuts in touch interaction design through gestures and tap patterns etc. One easy example is zooming in and out. Pinching is generally faster and you have a wider degree of freedom than per se command plus and command minus.
Over the years, I have assisted in the coaching and training of many software engineers and designers. Consistently, the most effective students where those who had a deep knowledge of keyboard shortcuts. The efficiency of navigating a computer without shifting hand position compounds over time.
Not only does the mouse require greater precision and increased attention, there is no baseline for its starting position. Step one is always "orient yourself to where the mouse exists on the screen". By contrast, the keyboard is fixed and access to shortcut is immediate.
Among the list of the most common/helpful shortcuts for Mac: • command + tab: bounce between recent applications • command + spacebar: open spotlight (computer search) • command + q: close applications • command + w: close windows (in browser, finder, and other tabbed interfaces)
Nothing proves this better than forcing someone who has never use VIM to use it for the first time.
I understand the appeal of touch/click interfaces. They're usually more intuitive and approachable.
But, once you know what you're doing, the keyboard is much faster for things you do all the time. Case in point: Superhuman for email.
You can't beat the speed of not moving your hands to another device or to touch the screen. However, on poorly designed software or web forms that don't have a proper tabbing order, you might need a click or two. I use a trackball instead of a mouse, and this can make adding that click almost as fast as using the keyboard, because you can click the button without fear of accidentally bumping the cursor.
Mouse if I'm gaming. Macvim for code, with enough trackpad usage to make vim fanatics freak.
I always map caps lock to control.
A mouse is okay for browsing the web, but for getting working done I prefer a keyboard and easy to remember shortcuts. I love what Superhuman is doing with their shortcuts.
Few years ago, lots of UX designers thought that keywords would become useless. But actually more and more people rely on the keyboard. Why? Because it’s damn faster. You just can’t imagine how much faster it is to type than moving a mouse or even using touch.
Of course there are exceptions like moving or placing elements. But generally for everything else the keyboard wins.
One particular thing that I like is how it solves the eye tracking issue in most cases. When you use touch or mouse, you need to visually guide your action. But for the keyboard, if you type without looking at it, you just won’t have to waste that effort and time.
Keyboard shortcuts definitely are the most productive option once you've learned them. Many new apps—Sublime Text, Superhuman, and more—including command palettes to search through commands, as do all Mac programs from the Help menu where you can search through everything in the app's menus, as a nice in-between if you can't remember the shortcut.
But then, some things still need a mouse, for instance, taking a screenshot of a portion of your screen. Normally that means pressing a keyboard shortcut, then using the mouse/trackpad to select the portion of the screen to capture. I use BetterTouchTool to add a shortcut to the top right of my trackpad so I can press there, then just drag my finger to capture the shortcut in one go. Similarly, Shortcuts on iOS lets you run whole workflows with a button tap, almost the touch equivalent to keyboard shortcuts.
Then there are the weird things like shake-to-undo on iOS. Feels like there's a lot of unexplored territory in making modern devices more productive and rethinking what keyboard shortcuts could be without keyboards.
I mostly cycle between Figma, Sketch, Abstract, and Principle for interactive prototypes. What design tools make up your stack?
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