Tim Spurling

letterplanks

I hate computers—and some things about them are even worse than others. For example, today’s winner of the grand annoyance prize: the ‘key board’.

Rather than spend the next eighteen paragraphs whining though, I’m going to list some tiny ways of improving the situation.

hardware

Standard Apple keyboard
Apple, what is this even?

Strange wavy Microsoft keyboard
Yeah, much better! Well… apart from still having this ridiculous asymmetrically staggered key layout someone decided on two hundred years ago. And being a bit awkward and clumpy. (Apparently the old ones are better, but no USB…) It’s an improvement anyway, and probably the best thing that doesn’t cost incredible thousands of #{currency}.

But obviously, if you’re going to use one of these with a Macintosh it will result in some mild inconvenience and/or pain…

⌃⌥⌘___⌘⌥⌃ (modifiers)

The modifiers must be remapped to their normal Appley locations in keyboard preferences—but once this is done it’s great; the command keys are even more thumb-friendly than on ‘proper’ Mac keyboards.

Sadly the menu key is special and can’t be remapped without external assistance. Luckily said external assistance is even more generally useful…

remapping

There’s an odd but effective utility, misleadingly named KeyRemap4MacBook (it actually works on anything running OS X), which provides a huge list of remapping options. Some of them are even useful! I use these:

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 14.50.15
  • ‘Application Key to Option_R’ solves the problem with the Menu key that keyboard preferences cannot.
  • ‘Pause/Break Key to Eject’ provides an eject key! Who cares? People who use old-school shortcuts for sleep and things.
  • ‘Fine grained volume controls’ remaps volume controls to option+shift+themselves, which (subtip of the day) gives you a smaller increment. (Sadly it also seems to cause endless glitches where things decide you’re pressing shift all the time, so it isn’t that useful at the moment).
  • ‘Simultaneous Key Presses to Capslock’ is useful in combination with another decision…

cAPS lOCK

What a totally senseless key. Presumably designed for using a typewriter with hands that aren’t 100% prepared for it, it now takes up valuable space on millions of desks.

I remap mine to backspace for a left hand advantage. Tom, who (allegedly) makes fewer mistakes, prefers escape. Command-line nerds generally seem to like ctrl. Basically any option is less useless than caps lock.

For doing that, I use Seil, by the same developer as KeyRemap4Whatever (it’s a separate application because the caps lock key is ‘special’).

If you’re a fan of more elaborate hacks, it’s even possible to use both applications combined, to achieve advanced multifunctional mayhem!

custom layouts

Bored of QWERTY? Want to confuse people? Why not try something different

I’ve been using the Dvorak layout ever since I tried it to force myself to touch type, and while it was designed by trial and error on typewriters, I’ve totally failed to find anything better for general use.

Obviously this is massively subjective though, and trying out all the options is a great way to waste time.

the end

So, that’s probably the nerdiest and least useful post on this blog so far. More of that next time!

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