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Key sequences instead of chords in Windows

I recently learned about the real use of the Alt key in Windows from http://xahlee.info/kbd/banish_key_chords.html

I haven't used a Windows PC since 2008 for longer than an hour or two, so the fact that I never noticed this might be because I didn't spend my most nerdy years on a Windows machine. But maybe you Windows users out there didn't know this either.

So for ages now, Windows menu items have an underlined letter, as do button labels like OK. You can trigger the OK-button by pressing Alt+O, very much like Ctrl+C does "Copy". That kind of shortcut is a key chord.

I never knew you could let go of the Alt key in between. You can hit Alt and wait a bit and then hit O and it still works. That's a key sequence.

Now this applies to application menus as well. Instead of holding down Ctrl+C to copy, you can use the underlined characters from the main menu to navigate: Alt e (for "Edit") c (for copy). This is localized, so in a German menu, it's Bearbeiten → Kopieren.

Spacemacs users willl recognize that their Spacebar-based key sequence shortcuts work in a similar way.

I probably wouldn't switch away from Ctrl-C, but this approach scales well for complex applications. Eventually, you run out of sensible key combinations for key chords. As an app developer, how would you proceed to offer quick access to important actions? Letting users customize the shortcuts is a good option. Shipping with support for key sequences is very nice, though, because users can memorize shortcuts much like typing words in foreign languages. You also avoid conflicts more easily: Alt Edit Copy can work next to Alt Image Crop. With key chords, Ctrl-C to copy is already taken, so you need Ctrl-Shift-C to crop, or something else entirely, or abandon using any of the 4 letters from "crop" to make the shortcut memorable.

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

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