Marius Gheorghe

Building software : make it work, make it good, make it fast

Ditching the mouse and going keyboard only

A few months ago i have decided to ditch the mouse. As a developer my hands are one the keyboard all the time so the occasional "context switch" to the mouse was getting even more annoying (and i felt that it takes way to much time to reach for the mouse and resize a window or whatever). Plus the hands position when you're using both the mouse and keyboard is not that good. 104 keys (btw a real keyboard has 104 keys. Never less.) should be enough for doing things and there shoudn't be any need for the mouse. And with the right tools there isn't.

So i'm happy to report that going keyboard only works great (as a side note, i've been using Windows 8 as my main OS for 6-7 months now and reading impressions about the OS and being only for touch devices when i was using only with the keyboard.....that always made me chuckle out loud).
So here are some (mostly free) tools you'll need if you want to throw away the mouse :

Conemu is a console emulator for Windows which has (almost) the same features (including path autocomplete !!!) as the terminal for Linux. Personally i found CLI invaluable so Conemu does a pretty good job of making CLI enjoyable for Windows.

Mouse Emulator
The irony is that i don't need a mouse anymore but i still need an app which emulates the mouse when using certain apps (apps ported using QT/Gtk/Swing etc especially misbehave and you can't even "click" a button using the keyboard even if it has the focus).
Windows does come with a built in mouse emulator but is not that good (look for it under Accesibility) so Mouse Emulator is the only viabile option (hint : you can tweak the cursor speed, event the "high speed" is too slow for me). Also make sure you run this as a admin.

Winsplit Revolution
For resizing/moving windows with the keyboard. Invaluable tool.

Proper task management for Windows (the build in task manager is pretty bad). Don't let the name foll you it works equally great on Vista/7/8 . Switching between apps with the keyboard can be done in 2 ways :
- using the builtin Windows shortcuts (Win + numeric keys).
- using the task manager ( i find this to be a better alternative using VistaSwitcher).

Mouseless browsing
A Firefox addon which allows you to browse the web using the keyboard. I looked at something similar for Chrome but couldn't find anything even remotely useful.

Total Commander (not free)
For file management grab a proper app which support dual list view panes. Explorer was never good at file management and the treeview is not very fit for keyboard navigation. Heck, ditching Explorer as file manager is a good advice event if you still use the mouse.

Visual Studio
Useful keyboard shortcuts for using it without the mouse:
- Alt + F6 is switching between VS dockable windows. Shift + Esc will close the the current highlated window.
- when a breakpoint is hit you can navigate to the variable and pres Shift + F9 to see its value.
- Cltr + Shift + L to locate the current file in solution explorer.
- Alt + Enter for full screen.
- Cltr + , to search or if you're using R# like me use Cltr + Shift + N (search in files) or Cltr + N (search in types). Basically that's how you should "get around" in the solution.

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