TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Pwn your Tab Key

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Utilities

Pwn your Tab Key

Mice are for wimps

By Allen Hancock, ACTC

If you don't know me, and as this is my first published article, you probably don't, you may not know that I am a zealot. There are many aspects of the Mac experience I feel strongly about. Of course, only Apple controls the hardware, so I tend to focus on what we can improve on: the software that we can use to make our computing experiences better. This article will discuss software that touches on how we use the hardware, namely the Tab Key.

It all starts with Command Tab. This venerable command is probably in everyone's bag of tricks, but I would be remiss if I didn't start here. In case this is new to you, go ahead and use this keystroke now, but don't release the command key yet. What you see is the Application Switcher with a list of running applications right there at your fingertips. Keep hitting tab to move the highlight over to your desired application, let go of the command key, and you are golden — it comes to the front. Is your application too far to the right side of the list? Using shift-tab will cycle you backwards in the list. I will touch on the shift key again later.

Remember how I said I like to run a few different applications to help me out? QuicKeys, DragThing and QuickSilver are great tools, but rarely needed in the foreground. They need to be running, but I would rather not have to tab past them. Enter LiteSwitch by Proteron. This small app will allow you to resize and/or relocate the Application Switcher bar. What I particularly love about it, is that it can omit given applications from the tab cycle — even if the app in question itself can't hide its icon. No more hiding an app from the dock making it hard to activate, just get it off your application switcher with LiteSwitch. Of course, there is even more to LiteSwitch, so, please take a look for yourself. Download it at http://www.proteron.com/liteswitch (30 day trial, currently $14.95 to purchase).


Figure 1-LiteSwitch and its options

So, now we can switch from our email client to our web-browser with ease, but what if you want to bring up your RSS reader? Enter Quicksilver, freely downloadable from http://www.blacktree.com. Quicksilver is an application you can configure every which way from Sunday, and many of you have already done so. The basics, though, are useful and easy to pick up. Because Quicksilver is first a launcher application, it seemed natural to me to involve the Tab key. On my system, I can use a fat thumb to hit "Command-Option-Tab" to bring up Quicksilver in all its launching glory. Because I move from computer to computer so often in my work, leaving Spotlight in its default Command-Space helps me as I would just as soon as not have to remember too many non-standard keys.

OK, so Command-Option-Tab opens my desired applications, and Command-Tab toggles me between apps. But what if I want to get to a different window within an application? Being the serial window-opener I am, I might have five or ten browser windows open at any given time, twelve or more emails, etc. Which one do I want at a given moment? Witch can tell me!


Figure 2-Witch in action, showing just my Camino windows.

Let's get comfortable with what we have so far. Everyone hit Command-Option-Tab to trigger Quicksilver, type in "Saf", hit the enter key, and Bam!, we have Safari running. Browse over to http://petermaurer.de (Command L gets you to your location bar... no cheating with your mouse) and look for Witch on the lefthand menu. Once you get this PrefPane installed, let's set it to respond to Option tab. (Which is donationware.)


Figure 3-Witch tab settings.

Now, you will see I have "All applications" set to nothing. When I am looking for something I have open on my computer, chances are I know which application it is, and I feel no need tab past all my browser windows to get to that email I am working on...

Another window switching trick, still closely related to the whole command-tab subject is Command-`. See it? It's right there above the Tab key. If you don't have too many windows open in an application, or if you know just which level the window you want is buried in, Command-` is great for cycling through the non-minimized windows of your current program. That this is built into the system is an extra-added bonus. Thanks Apple!

With all these keys available now, you be able to move from application to application and window to window with the greatest of ease. Giving that mouse, and your precious wrists a rest. But what about within a program?

Here is another favor Apple has done for us, Full Keyboard Access


Figure 4-Look in the Keyboard Shortcuts section of Keyboard & Mouse PreferencePane, or Tiger users, type Control-F7

With this feature enabled, your mouse usage will drop considerably. Smart application developers allow mouse-haters like myself to move through the application with ease. Even complex programs with tons of features, like Mac HelpMate, are easily navigable with just the Tab key and a space-bar. Full Keyboard access makes navigating a matter of tabbing the blue highlight from control to control, then pretend your space-bar is the mouse button, and magic is made!


Figure 5-Note the blue highlight on the pop up menu, no mouse use here!

Yes, that's right. I got into a pop up menu with no mouse. Think of how happy you will be the next time you tab from the City field to State, and can select your state without having to reach for the mouse, click on the menu, and fight the scrolling menu! Next time, tab the blue highlight onto the pop up menu, hit the space-bar to activate it, type your state, then hit return or enter to make your choice. (NB That is in Safari, other browsers will treat the menus differently, but in any case, you can leave your mouse alone.)

So, developers, please, take this into consideration as you build your apps. For example, Splash ID is OK, but wow, how much more useful would it be if I could make it through the app without having to grab my mouse and click time after time to make a new entry...

Remember how I said the shift-tab keystroke was important? Here is why: Apple has made it a pattern to put the control you are most likely to need at the end of the line of items to tab to. A bit odd at first, but once you realize this, holding down the shift key and hitting tab is as natural as can be. Next time you are installing a .pkg file, give this a shot. You will find that in every case, Shift-Tab brings the blue highlight to the button for continuing with the installation. As an extra-added-bonus, shift-space activates the control just the same as the space-bar alone, so just keep that shift key down, and you will be through those installer screens lickety-split.

Let's recap a little bit. If you've installed the behavior-enhancing apps mentioned in this article:

To start with, the Tab key can bring you from control to control in your web-browser, and most applications.

Command Tab will bring you to the application you want.

Comand-Option-Tab for Quicksilver, in case the app you

want isn't open.

Command-` to move to the window you are looking for.

Option-Tab to bring up that list of windows in your current

application

Space-Bar — use it instead of a click when in using a Full

Keyboard Access control

Also built into the system are ways to activate the dock and menu. While the default controls are a bit hard to get used to: Control-F2 for the menu, and Control-F3 for the dock. Once you have activated the dock or menu bar, your arrow keys will move you, and the Return or Enter key will activate your selection. These controls are admittedly are a bit convoluted, but since they are built into the system, knowing these controls has come in handy in situations where the mouse isn't working. Of course, this and so many controls are editable in the Keyboard Shortcuts area of the Keyboard & Mouse Preferencepane.

Before we end, here is a bonus tip. As you get more and more used to tabbing through your controls, you will find that every once in a while you will get the little blue box stuck. I was setting up a signature in Mail.app, and sure enough I could tab into the signature block, but once inside, the tab key was just another keystroke. Control-Tab to the rescue! Yep, use the Control-Tab key to free your little blue box and move on to bigger and better tasks.

Add this all up, and your mouse may even start to gather dust, and your carpal tunnels may just thank you in the end. Happy keyboarding everyone!


Allen Hancock has been providing on-site and remote based support based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana since 1997. He is a member of the Apple Consultants Network, and an Apple Certified Technical Coordinator. When not working, he spends time with his wife and son. Of course, they might want to know just when that is ;-) He can be reached through his website: www.hancockconsulting.net

.
 
AAPL
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.2.1 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2014 13.2 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2014 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). After Effects CS6 is still available... Read more
Evernote 6.0.5 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
Command-C 1.1.7 - Clipboard sharing tool...
Command-C is a revolutionary app which makes easy to share your clipboard between iOS and OS X using your local WiFi network, even if the app is not currently opened. Copy anything (text, pictures,... Read more
Tidy Up 4.0.2 - Find duplicate files and...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Fre...
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Free for the Holidays Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Pros for...
 B&H Photo has new MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP as part of their Holiday pricing. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1699... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Airs for...
B&H Photo has 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, for a limited time, for the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holiday shopping season. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: iMacs for up to $...
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software: - 21″ 1.4GHz... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac minis availab...
B&H Photo has new 2014 Mac minis on sale for up to $80 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459 $40 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $629 $70 off MSRP... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $500 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2599, $400 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3499, $... Read more
Save up to $400 on MacBooks with Apple Certif...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Save up to $300 on Macs, $30 on iPads with Ap...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
iOS and Android OS Targeted by Man-in-the-Mid...
Cloud services security provider Akamai Technologies, Inc. has released, through the company’s Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert), a new cybersecurity threat advisory. The... Read more

Jobs Board

Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.