Mousetrap!

At my first job as a computer support technician, I watched my guru, under whom I was training, checking a computer. We noticed that the mouse didn't work. I reached for the power button to resolve the glitch by restarting the computer. He grabbed my arm. "Wait! Don't reboot, it's OK," he said. He then pulled the keyboard closer and began to play it like a well-rehearsed maestro. After watching him open/close windows, switch programs, print, and move items on the screen with no dependency on the mouse, I wanted to stand and applaud. I was amazed by his proficiency in the ancient computer language called "keystroke."

"Where did you learn that?" I asked, hoping he'd confess that this skill came from some expensive, grueling, month-long seminar.

"Mice aren't really necessary," was his reply with a smile. He then hit CTRL+ESC > UP > ENTER > RIGHT > ENTER. The repaired PC obeyed by shutting down.

Since then, I've developed my keystroke vocabulary -although I doubt that I could manipulate a computer as deftly as my guru did. Like many keyboard advocates, I find that keystroke commands are more efficient. Some key combinations can execute a command that takes four or five mouse clicks. Mice may be more fun to use due to the visual feed back the user gets in the process of executing a command, but mice require more motor skill and coordination. Your eyes must track the more complex muscle movements of your hand -a challenge which can sometimes be compounded by a dirty mouse ball or cable tangle.

I notice another mouse-hindrance when I have to move my hand from the keyboard to the mouse while I'm on a "typing roll." The interruption breaks my flow! Learning some keystrokes has allowed me to ignore the mouse for all but a few commands.

In the old days of DOS, everyone who used a computer was familiar with keyboard commands. Today when I see people using keystrokes on a Windows or Mac computer, they'll usually boast that their computer experience dates at least back to the early 90's!

If you are interested in learning both mouse and keyboard, a great way to train yourself is to move your mouse to the opposite side of your keyboard and use the hand that is unaccustomed to the mouse. The mental cost associated with using the mouse with your inexperienced hand will encourage you to stick to with keystrokes.

A great resource for learning keyboard commands for Windows is found at www.microsoft.com. Type 126449 in the search box to see the article.

Mac users can go to www.apple.com and enter 75459 in the search box for a list of OS X keyboard commands.

Sure, mice have reduced the need to learn keyboard commands, but the advantages of learning these commands can be rewarding and improve your computer efficiency. After all, if one depends heavily on one's computer, it behooves one to learn one's instrument!

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