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Keyboard V. Mouse

I read an older Bruce Tognazzini article in which he says this:

  • Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing.
  • The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.

He later postulates that mousing is faster because the user, when going to enter a keyboard shortcut, has to pause and switch contexts or modes. In other words, they have to stop thinking about the sentence they're working on and instead wonder "what's the keyboard shortcut for bold?"

The thing is, I don't. I'm in the rare breed of "power users" who doesn't have to think about things. It's natural, it's muscle memory, and so on. I've got ten buttons or so on my mouse, and in some apps some of the buttons delete and in others they do other things, and even then I'm capable of keeping things straight. I pay the price for "learning" these keyboard shortcuts (including non-standard, app-specific ones) with much greater productivity down the line.

I try to use the keyboard for as much as possible, but I've got a ten-button mouse so that when I do need the mouse, I can remain using the mouse for as long as possible. It's the context-switching that kills you!

5 Responses to "Keyboard V. Mouse"

  1. I can't live without a 5 button mouse 🙂

    I always map the left & right side buttons to back & forward in web browsers, spacebar & delete in email & news readers, and step over/in in CodeWarrior & Project Builder.

  2. My thing is not the context switch from typing to "what's the keyboard shortcut", but the context switch from home row typing to putting my hand on the mouse, figuring out where the cursor is, clicking the button (either physically or on the screen) and then coming back to typeing.

    I'm also an old unix hack that's lived in VI for the last 7 or so years, so working in a context switching system (insert mode vs command mode) is second nature to me, but all my context switching is done on the keyboard, so my fingers never leave it, and I have to say that if my hands stay on the keyboard, I'm far faster than if I am constantly having to switch from mouse to keyboard and back.

    That said, for non typing operations, surfing, gfx, etc, I use mostly the mouse, but that is probably a pretty common thing 🙂

  3. As for me I couldn't agree more with Arcterex. I am a keyboard guy. Perhaps I can type manipulate text faster using vi than perhaps say notepad. As for mouse, I am using a one button mouse on Mac and 60% of my time I navigate thru the Windows/Menu using shortcut keys rather than a mouse. I find it faster and less strain to my wrist. Just my once cent opinion... 🙂

  4. I agree, I had to do a presentation on a Tablet PC, and since my roommate had one, I got to give my Tablet PC presentation on a Tablet PC... 🙂 Anyway, it's fun and all, but it's really not that useful, both a keyboard and mouse, are vastly superior to that stupid stylus thing. I use keyboard shortcuts for everything, I love Synergy because it lets me operate iTunes with one button, even cooler, it lets me rate songs from outside of iTunes.

    There really is a huge difference between most people and "power users." I tried showing my mom tabs in Safari last night, and she was like, why do I need to open 15 pages at once? And I thought to myself "because I do it everyday anyway" Just a random thought

  5. I think reliance on the keyboard is a Mac thing. I've always used every shortcut I can find (partly a relic of years of using laptops rather than desktop machines) and it's heaps faster than the move hand-find cursor-navigate menus threestep. The same does not apply to my colleagues at work, all of whom bar two or three have never touched a mac. For them, the mere existence of keyboard shortcuts comes as a shock to the system. Even Alt-F4 (the equivalent, sort of, of cmd-Q) was a new experience...