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

.
 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

MARVEL Avengers Academy guide - How to g...
MARVEL Avengers Academy lets you build your own superhero school and fill it with heroes from the Marvel universe. It can be a little slow going to get your school's attendance up though, so we've gathered together somesome tips to help you do this... | Read more »
Shadow Blade: Reload guide - How to hack...
Shadow Blade: Reload is the kind of action-platformer that would have happily sucked up hours of your time on a console a few years back.Now, you can take it with you wherever you go, and its mobile conversion is not too shabby at all. To help you... | Read more »
Tomb of the Mask guide - How to increase...
Tomb of the Mask is a great endless arcade game from Happymagenta in which quick reflexes and a persistent attitude can go a long way toward earning a top score. Check out these tips to see if you can give yourself an edge on the leaderboards. [... | Read more »
Smooth Operator! (Games)
Smooth Operator! 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Smooth Operator is a weird, weird two-player kissing game. Squeeze in for 2 player fun on a single iPad, creating awkward... | Read more »
Sinless: Remastered (Games)
Sinless: Remastered 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
_PRISM Guide - How to solve those puzzle...
_PRISM is a rather delightful puzzle game that’s been tailor made for touch screens. While part of the fun is figuring things out as you go along, we thought we’d offer you a helping hand at getting in the right mindset. Don’t worry about messing... | Read more »
Fractal Space (Games)
Fractal Space 1.3.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.3.1 (iTunes) Description: Live the memorable experience of Fractal Space, a unique first person adventure & puzzle game by Haze Games! Will you... | Read more »
Set off on an adventure through the Cand...
Like match three puzzlers? If so, Jelly Blast, the innovative iOS and Android game which launched last year, is worth a look. Jelly Blast sees you head off on an epic adventure through the Candy Kingdom with your friends Lily, Mr. Hare, and Mr.... | Read more »
Ellipsis - Touch. Explore. Survive. (...
Ellipsis - Touch. Explore. Survive. 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Abzorb (Games)
Abzorb 1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1 (iTunes) Description: Abzorb is a tilt game about consuming orbs by getting as close as you can to them without touching. By tilting your mobile device, collect... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

cb Hardcase – Handmade and Premium Protective...
Baden-Baden, Germany based company cb innovations has introduced the new cb Hardcase for iPhone. Featuring fine Italian Premium leather that makes for a unique look and feel, the cb Hardcase... Read more
Sale! B&H Photo offers 12-inch Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has 12″ Retina MacBooks on sale for $300 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $999 $300 off MSRP - 12″ 1.... Read more
App Annie Reveals Future of the App Economy:...
App Annie, a San Francisco based mobile app data and insights platform, has launched its first comprehensive app economy forecast. This new offering will provide brands, agencies, investors and app... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished Mac mini...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $... Read more
What iPad Pro Still Needs To Make It Truly Pr...
I love my iPad Air 2. So much that I’m grudgingly willing to put up with its compromises and limitations as a production tool in order to take advantage of its virtues. However, since a computer for... Read more
21-inch 3.1GHz 4K on sale for $1399, $100 off...
B&H Photo has the 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac on sale $1399 for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP: - 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac (MK452LL/A): $... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Save up to $240 with Apple Certified Refurbis...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 12″ Retina MacBooks for up to $240 off the cost of new models. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available for...
Apple has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $120 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $179, $120 off - 3TB... Read more

Jobs Board

Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Rem...
…part of a team Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) Read more
Lead Engineer *Apple* OSX & Hardware -...
Lead Engineer Apple OSX & Hardware **Job ID:** 3125919 **Full/Part\-Time:** Full\-time **Regular/Temporary:** Regular **Listed:** 2016\-02\-10 **Location:** Cary, Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
Job Title Apple Mobile Master **Brand** Best Buy **Job Description** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** At Best Buy, our mission is to leverage the Read more
Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Rem...
…part of a team Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) Read more
Lead Engineer - *Apple* OSX & Hardware...
Lead Engineer - Apple OSX & Hardware **Job ID:** 3125919 **Full/Part\-Time:** Full\-time **Regular/Temporary:** Regular **Listed:** 2016\-02\-10 **Location:** Cary, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.