Should You Kill Your Mouse?


Magnet for Foolishness got me started thinking about frustrations with technology.  The gizmo that I most want to abolish is the mouse.  Not the squeaky kind, but the computer kind. The second thing that drives me absolutely batty is software without keyboard shortcuts.

About fifteen years ago I discovered web page design on AOL. After about a month of intense work I came down with a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome.  I tracked the pain down to excessive use of the my computer mouse. I bought a couple of wrist braces and started looking into ergonomic fixes.  I got a trackball and a Microsoft Natural Keyboard.

The next thing I did was to force myself to use keyboard shortcuts for as much as I could. It slowed me down in the beginning. As I got used to using shortcuts and memorized the majority of Excel Keyboard Shortcuts, I noticed my speed pick up dramatically.

This is the source of my frustration.  When there are missing shortcuts in an application and I have no choice but to reach for the mouse I want to tear my (non-existent) hair out like Mr. Pocket in Great Expectations.

For example the main software package used at work has a print queue function.  There are shortcuts to navigate to the print queue, open the drop-down menu, hit G a couple times to get to my report, but nothing to execute the job.  The job name is highlighted, but <Enter> or <SpaceBar> won’t work to start the report.  I have to reach over and find my trackball, roll it around to click on the report that is already highlighted, then I can keyboard through all of the report options.  There’s just that one little hangup in the middle where I’m forced to use the mouse (trackball).

Now this isn’t giving me carpal tunnel, ’cause I dealt with that by buying the trackball.  But still, something that should take nanoseconds now takes two or three to find the mouse and click.

I asked our tech support to submit a request for universal keyboard shortcuts.  Then I found out the software is moving to a “browser-based” platform.  Tech support thinks that keyboard shortcuts are going the way of the dinosaurs (like me).

Business Case for Keyboard Shortcuts:
1) Keyboard shortcuts pave the way for increased employee efficiency.  Users who know and consistently use keyboard shortcuts are much faster than mouse users.  Every-time a user has to take their hands off the keyboard to scroll and click with a mouse they lose several seconds. Those seconds add up throughout the day.  Just like macros speed up routine keystrokes in Excel, keyboard shortcuts speed up manual data entry.

2) Mice present a serious productivity problem in the workplace. Mouse usage is a CFO’s nightmare, not to mention a Human Resource migraine.  Mouse use is a primary cause of increased workers comp claims with all the attendant expense, lawsuits and downtime for Carpal Tunnel.  A little bit of prevention on the front end (keyboard shortcuts) save a lot of pain and moolah on the back end.  We might even save enough to buy an extra software module or two. Something for software developers to think about.

Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics for Engineers (Human Factors and Ergonomics)

Browser based applications programmers should find a way to build in keyboard shortcuts for every function.  It just takes a little research on Google.com and some JavaScript programming.  Check out Jason Stiles Blog for some Programming tips for Java Developers.

It should be a company standard that all tasks in the software can be run from the keyboard without ever touching a mouse.  All modules should be trained this way.  Trainers should never have to mention the words, “mouse”, or “click”.  I know this may sound extreme to some mouse addicts.  If a little time and effort is spent learning shortcuts you will see a dramatic increase in productivity.

The GTD guru, David Allen recommends learning touch typing and keyboard shortcuts to improve executive efficiency. Keyboard shortcuts take efficiency to a new level.

Let me know what you think: How do you feel about your mouse? Has mouse usage contributed to your carpal tunnel syndrome? Do you use keyboard shortcuts?