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Keyboard Rant

Does anybody know why the "Cut", "Paste", "Front" and buttons have not yet made it onto PC Keyboards?

These buttons speed you up so much, it's not even funny. They have been around on Sun keyboards forever. I would die to have these buttons on my PC Keyboard.

OK, Ctrl X and Ctrl V does the job for Cut and Paste, but how about for Front?

(For those who are not familiar with it: On a sun station, Front brings the window under the cursor to the front of the screen, if it is behind a bunch of other windows.)

If anybody knows a PC Keyboard with a "Front" button, please do let me know.

Thanks for reading my rant...

Anonymouse
Thursday, April 08, 2004

If your hand is on the mouse (because you've moved the cursor to the window), then can't you just left-click with the mouse to bring the window to the front?

Christopher Wells
Thursday, April 08, 2004

The laptop manufacturers would have a fit! Dell didn't even put real Home (FN+PgUp) and End (FN+PgDwn) keys on my SmartStep that I use at home.  In fact, they even put the FN key all the way on the left, while the Home and End are on the right, so I have to use two hands to use these buttons!!!!

But at least the "email" button flashes when I have a new message.

That's MY rant.

Brian
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I just hate the fucked up 'Function Lock' system in my MS keyboard. This function lock will map the function keys [F1 .. F12] to special operations like Open, New etc.

And by defaul the keyboard will perform the special operations and not the normal operation of function key! Yikes!

JD

JD
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Caps Lock, the bane of my existence.

Sassy
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I can never get that Print Screen/SysRq key to work.  It never tells me what the system requirements for my keyboard are.  And nothing ever comes out of my printer.

Capn' Kirk
Thursday, April 08, 2004

How about the insert button?  Does anyone use "overwrite" mode?  It doesn't even make sense to me.  Yet just about every application supports it.  Might as well have a disk overwrite mode, where anytime you save a file, the bits on the disk adjacent to where the file happens to reside get overwritten, randomly corrupting your data. 

ken
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Christopher Wells:
> If your hand is on the mouse (because you've moved the cursor to the window), then can't you just left-click with the mouse to bring the window to the front?

Actually, I described it wrong. Front will cycle through all the windows on the screen, even those not visible at all (hence I cannot click on it with a mouse)

Anonymouse
Thursday, April 08, 2004

"And nothing ever comes out of my printer."

It used to! Back around the time Thriller was released. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, April 08, 2004

"Front will cycle through all the windows on the screen, even those not visible at all"

Alt+TAB?

Elephant
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I used overwrite when I was working EDI (fixed-length fields)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I used to use a Sun machine with those extra buttons (cut, paste, etc.) on the side.  The keyboard was HUGE and heavy though.  Not to mention that 'control' was where capslock is on a normal 101/104 keyboard.  Frustrated me to no end trying to hit Ctrl-C or similar only to hit some other combination...  Sun keyboards...  [Shudder]

Zekaric
Thursday, April 08, 2004

"How about the insert button?"

I use it in Access in an existing table to insert a new field in the middle.

But on my (Dell) laptop you have to hit Fn-Delete to get Insert.  Which is actually OK, because I'm more likely to accidentally hit it and start overtyping everything than to use it on purpose.

Kyralessa
Thursday, April 08, 2004

> Alt+TAB?

Alt-Tab works in cases where there are a "small" number of windows.

Unfortunately when I am developing I usually have some 50+ windows open, on 15 virtual desktops. Alt-Tab will randomly jump between desktops. It also doesn't behave as well on MDI applications (may be the application's fault).

"Front", OTOH, will limit itself to the same virtual desktop and works well with MDI applications.

Not sure where the problem would be corrected (as it could be either the Virtual Windows Manager's fault or Windows' fault). (I use enable Virtual Desktop, it's excellent.) The really great thing is that virtual desktop is built into Unix but not in Windows, so the concept itself is not well supported under Windows (with windows poping up in random desktops, etc.)

Actually, this leads into a related question. Do Windows developers use some sort of virtual desktop? (None of the Windows developers I know do...) I can't imagine living without virtual desktops, even when I'm not working!

I use a Windows machine, but am xterming (with xwin) into sun servers to write code, run simulations, and stuff.

Anonymouse
Thursday, April 08, 2004

"Do Windows developers use some sort of virtual desktop?"

I don't...  but then I can't imagine having 50+ windows open at once!

I may, at any time, have 50+ documents/files open at once across 5-6 applications -- but each file isn't in it's own window.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Yes why they gave us those lonely print screen / scroll lock / pause / caps lock keysbut not one for cut and paste or minimize everythhing on desktop (Windows key+M) is beyond me

Code Monkey
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Scroll lock is used by some KVM's to switch machines (Scroll-Scroll-number), so we're stuck with that one for a while. Print Screen captures the active window to the clipboard, and I know a LOT of people who use that, so I doubt it's going away any time soon.

And the Pause/Break key works in a lot of games. :)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I used to have a virtual desktop thing for Windows but I don't use it anymore. (although I'd probably want it for working on a small laptop screen)

Windows applications tend to use MDI rather than lots of separate windows (compare Visual Studio vs. individual Emacs windows). Perhaps because novice users would have trouble with many windows?

Also the "front" thing doesn't apply because Windows is (by default) raise-on-click.

Dan Maas
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I'm extremely happy about my Thinkpad's "history back/forward" keys, usable in e.g. web browsers and Explorer. Even the location is great: they are part of the cursor key block.

Martin
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Curiously, almost all games avoid Pause.

They use Esc or something like Ctrl-P.

I saw some Microsoft keyboards without the Insert key (Delete was promoted to double length). I guess they have their statistical reasons.

Personally I use Ctrl-insert and Shift-insert for copy and paste.

Alex.ro
Thursday, April 08, 2004

my old-time favorite game Descent paused on "Pause" key. It confused the hell out of me for a while, I could never remember the key :)

PrnScreen and Alt-PrnScreen are awesome for screen captures. Scroll Lock is totally useless to me, but I remember hearing that MS Excel used it for some scrolling functionality...

Ctrl-Break is invaluable for dumping stack traces in Java when it threadlocks.

genius
Thursday, April 08, 2004

> I just hate the fucked up 'Function Lock' system in my MS
> keyboard. This function lock will map the function keys [F1 ..
> F12] to special operations like Open, New etc.

> And by defaul the keyboard will perform the special
> operations and not the normal operation of function key!

I hated this too, but I found a hack that effectively swaps the "function lock", so by default it's in normal F-key mode:  http://www.mvps.org/jtsang/flock.html

Matthew Lock
Thursday, April 08, 2004

I don't see the point of virtual desktops, whether on UNIX or Windows.

It's fine if you have a set of tasks you do on your computer that are seperate from each other, I guess. You can then have your virtual desktop for web browsing, email, coding, whatever.

However, that's completely opposite to how I work. I want to write some code, then browse the web for something, then maybe reply to an incoming email. I'm constantly switching tasks, and I don't want to everything else to disappear when I do it. I want it to stay there in the background.

I guess I have a flat rather than heirachical view of my running processes, because I also hate the option to group multiple copies of the one program together on the taskbar.

Sum Dum Gai
Thursday, April 08, 2004

> Unfortunately when I am developing I usually have some
> 50+ windows open, on 15 virtual desktops. Alt-Tab will
> randomly jump between desktops. It also doesn't
> behave as well on MDI applications (may be the
> application's fault).

I don't know how the hell you can work that way, but I gotta blame this one on your window manager.  KDE will let you confine Alt-Tab to the current virtual desktop.  Not that that helps with Windows.

And while I'm fine with Sun keyboards (never use the keys in question though), and I'm very used to PC keyboards (and stop trying to add more keys to it! 104 is plenty), I hate having to switch between the two.  It takes five minutes to figure out where the $%#! backspace key is every time.

Michael Chansky
Friday, April 09, 2004

> Windows applications tend to use MDI rather than lots
> of separate windows (compare Visual Studio vs.
> individual Emacs windows).

Right. When I'm editing code I usually have some 5-10 emacs windows open all at once. Plus a hardware simulator that has 5-10 windows (one for the waveform, one for the logger, one for the hierarchy, one for the signal list, etc...)

It becomes a nightmare very quickly. Oh well. I guess there really isnt' much to be done about it right now. :(

Anonymouse
Friday, April 09, 2004

"I remember hearing that MS Excel used it for some scrolling functionality..."

If you try it out, you'll find that with scroll lock on in Excel, all cells move around the present cell.  i.e. If I'm in cell C4 and I press the
down arrow, I will now be in cell C5, however row 1 just scrolled off the screen.

I had a devil of a time figuring this out, as I had a KVM that used <Scroll Lock><Scroll Lock> to switch screens.  If I accidentally hit it too many times, and I was using Excel, it would take me forever to figure out what the hell I did that changed the movement behavior of Excel.

Elephant
Friday, April 09, 2004

> When I'm editing code I usually have some 5-10 emacs windows open all at once. Plus a hardware simulator that has 5-10 windows ...

Yes, I've noticed that Unix development calls for having far more separate windows open. The Windows O/S GUI isn't really designed for so many separate GUI applications; because, for example, when I'm working I have a single IDE (application) in which I open all my documents and debugger windows. So I have only a half-dozen applications open (the IDE, web browser, email, IM, Explorer, and the application being developed).

Christopher Wells
Friday, April 09, 2004

Right... Not to mention another 10-20 xterms, plus web browsers and email... There's your 50+ windows. ;-)

Argh, I guess I'm just asking for trouble using a Windows machine to do unix development... But I just haaaaate using a unix station. At least the web browsing and email is not dysfunctional.

Keyboard Rant aside, I do like my natural keyboard very much. Can't use a normal keyboard anymore. But it would sure be nice to have Cut, Paste, and Front keys. :)

Anonymouse
Friday, April 09, 2004

Why is everyone using so many windows for emacs?  Does no one use multiple buffers?  I never have the need to use multiple emacs windows.  In fact the native Mac OS X build doesn't even support it.

Oren Miller
Friday, April 09, 2004

>Scroll lock is used by some KVM's to switch machines (Scroll-Scroll-number), so we're stuck with that one for a while.

Really? I had KVM's which switched on pressing ctrl twice and a number which was much more convenient that hunting for the scroll lock key. I have no doubt that each key has some use in some universe but the question is is it used more frequently than cut or paste? How about a key to mute your speaker would not that be more convenient than one for KVM switching?

Print Screen captures the active window to the clipboard,
and I know a LOT of people who use that, so I doubt it's going away any time soon.

I found many people actually to be onfused by the "Print" part in "Print Screen".  They press it and wait for the printer to spew their screen out. Stupid them huh!  It does *not* print so why the heck it is called "Print Screen" is beyond me. One has to actually capture it, run paint, paste it in there (with some stupid messages while pasting...like do you want to fit the screen to the image....duh!) and then print.

Plus could it not be more intutive for printscreen to capture the active window and alt + prtscr to capture the whole screen instead of the other way around? Chalk one more work given to the dumb decisions dept at Microsoft.

>And the Pause/Break key works in a lot of games. :)

Actually ctrl+break is nice in DOS and Console mode  programs but now su much now.  Maybe this would be useful on the XBox but not on a PC :-)

Philo just because you work for Microsoft does not mean you have to defend everything they do :-)

Code Monkey
Friday, April 09, 2004

I don't see how he's defending Microsoft here. . .  The Print Screen button exhibits the same behavior in Gnome (although not KDE).  The Scroll Lock key is used specifically by Belkin KVM switches  (Note: CTRL CTRL is used by Rose KVM's and Avocent KVM's).

I don't see how this is a platfrom specific issue other than the fact that Sun makes its own proprietary hardware that isn't based on the x86 platform.  The same can be said of Macintosh keyboards (different).  Either way the PS/2 style keyboards date back to the AT keyboards which I believe were originally developed by IBM.  So how does this tie back to Microsoft other than the fact that MS now brands their own set of keyboards?

Elephant
Friday, April 09, 2004

> Why is everyone using so many windows for emacs?
> Does no one use multiple buffers?

Code is read up-down, and multiple buffers doesn't help with that. I'd rather have several emacs windows that I can maximize from top to bottom.

Anonymouse
Friday, April 09, 2004

>The Print Screen button exhibits the same behavior in Gnome (although not KDE). 

And the reason for that is the Gnome guys want to maintain compatibility even when it is plain counterproductive to do so.  And to a certain degree it might work in Gnome because the folks using Linux are dare I say a little more savvy about things like clipbaords, cut and paste etc...

Good usability says that when I press print screen I get to see a print dialog, I click OK and the screen gets printed out....not put on the clipboard....in which case the key should have said "copy screen"

>The Scroll Lock key is used specifically by Belkin KVM switches  (Note: CTRL CTRL is used by Rose KVM's and Avocent KVM's).

Avocent are by far the more "enterprise" KVM switches but the point is that just how many people actually use KVM switches and from that how many actually use Belkin? Scroll Lock was actually meant to stop DOS screen scrolling when you typed a file on the console...in Windows that functionality is of no use so it makes sense for Microsoft to use it for some other frequently used function

>I don't see how this is a platfrom specific issue

It is a Microsoft decision and hence a platform specific issue.  When microsoft wanted did they not get manufacturers to include the "windows"  key which drops down the start menu...so how can you say that this is not a platform issue.

I grant you that "caps lock" key might fit your argument...since it has been historically carried over from typewriters but Microsoft has and did control the keyboard for other keys right from start from Dos land to  current Windows OS's

Code Monkey
Friday, April 09, 2004

>> Code is read up-down, and multiple buffers doesn't help with
>> that. I'd rather have several emacs windows that I can
>> maximize from top to bottom.

Ctrl-X 3
Meta-X speedbar

Oren Miller
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Code Monkey wrote >>I found many people actually to be onfused by the "Print" part in "Print Screen".  They press it and wait for the printer to spew their screen out. Stupid them huh!  It does *not* print so why the heck it is called "Print Screen" is beyond me.<<

It's because Print Screen and all these other oddball keys had real (or at least somewhat defined, if unimplemented) functions when the original model 5150 IBM PC was released in 1981. Only later did Windows and other GUIs co-opt the keys for other purposes. For reasons of backward compatibility, the names never changed.

Back in those days, Print Screen actually did dump a copy of your screen to the printer (invariably dot-matrix). Pause actually suspended program execution, which was sometimes useful if information was scrolling off your screen too fast to view. Scroll Lock (at least in some situations) was kind of like Caps Lock or Num Lock; it altered the behavior of cursor keys so they moved the screen around rather than moving the cursor. (Notice that even modern keyboards usually have a Scroll Lock indicator light!) Ctrl-Break was, of course, used to break out of a program. Ctrl-SysReq, IIRC, generated some BIOS interrupt that you theoretically could attach a handler to so that a user could break out of a misbehaved program that was no longer polling the keyboard and accepting input.

As for Insert, in the old days, overwrite was the default behavior, and you had to hit the Insert key to change that. If that seems odd, you have to remember that at the time all characters were monospace, not proportional; that a cursor was an underline or other highlight for a given character on the screen, not an insertion point *between* two characters; and that many early computer users were former typists, so it was the notion of inserting that was really the exceptional case. (You used to get a "fat" cursor when insert mode was on.) It wasn't until GUIs and WYSIWYG environments became widely available with the release of the Macintosh in 1984 that people began expecting insert mode to be the norm and overwrite to be an exception -- such an exception, in fact, that it's often not clear why you'd want to switch into that mode.

As for Print Screen being confusing to users, it seems like one alternative to that would be for Windows and other GUIs to be more verbose when they detect that key press. Instead of silently capturing the screen, why not pop up a dialog box that says something like this:

Do you want to:
  () capture the entire screen
  () capture the top window
  () print the entire screen [select printer]

[ ] check this box if you never want to see this message again

Not that I'm recommending this specific language, but a key that has invisible side effects (especially ones that counter what the key's name implies) seems to be bad UI.

John C.
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Yep, you're right the Print Scrn, Scroll Lock and Pause keys are stupid keys.  Left over from the DOS and text terminals era when printing the screen (80x25), stopping the scroll and pausing actually made sense.

So why the heck would you want another few of this function specific keys? 


What we need is more generic functions (F13 to F20) or control keys(like the Windows key) and not a stupid email key.

Dr dee
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Ooh ooh can I play too? Nobody's mentioned my personal least-favorite key, Num Lock.

The only point of this key is to make the number pad *stop* working. Every time I plug my ThinkPad back into its docking station it's off again. My USB keyboard has dedicated cursor keys, so why do I need Num Lock? Why can't I lock it so it's always on? (yep, I know the Mac does this but I want it on Windows)

Nate Silva
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Never! The cursor keys on the number pad are much more convenient to use than the separate ones. Long live NumLock!

Chris Nahr
Sunday, April 11, 2004

Ok I have a related problem.

We use multiple Compaq branded KVM switches. With Compaq KVM's you use the 'Print Scrn' button to bring up the KVM's menu screen. It basically seems to interupt the print-screen function completely.

I need to use print screen on some of our servers. Anyone know how I do this without having to connect a separate keyboard?

Cheers.

Daz
Thursday, April 15, 2004

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