Keyboard only filing

Look at this product:

Study it. And then either licence the code or copy the functionality. Period!

Pretty snazzy. commits cardinal sin It doesn’t seem particularly complicated – just a search box that would narrow down recipients as you type…

That approach is fine for an environment with a relatively small number of filing locations and where the user holds in memory the names of the folders to which messages are to be filed, such as the Mail environment.

Many DT users have more than a thousand groups in a database. It would be difficult and likely nonproductive to memorize the names of hundreds or thousands of groups. And many complained about the “dynamic” list approach in Spotlight, where the list was built character by character as a user typed in a query term.

I can’t help but be reminded of a summary of Apple’s studies of UI alternatives. “Keyboarders” believe that keyboard operations are much faster than mousing using a visual GUI. But Apple’s repeated stopwatch tests of “keyboarders” versus “mousers” consistently had the “mousers” winning, although the “keyboarders” remained convinced that they were faster. Apple spent millions of dollars on those studies.

Most users mix keyboarding and mousing. DT does in fact have a number of keyboard shortcuts, and I’ll confess that I’ve made no effort to memorize all of them, but do consistently use a subset of them.

Most DT users appear to use drag & drop for filing, either into a view or into the floating Groups panel (which is also available in the Finder and in other applications). The “Classify” AI function is useful in a well-organized database that contains lots of content. The contextual menu option “Move to” provides still another mode, requiring the user to navigate through the organizational structure to choose the destination. Note that there’s dynamic assistance in that mode; recently chosen destinations are listed for subsequent repetitive use.

Perhaps in the future a keyboard-only filing option may be added to the existing options for filing content. For a database with many groups it likely wouldn’t be the generally chosen option, but would be useful for a set of content destined for a small set of known groups.

I suspect that the Apple data is a bit more subtle than your short summary implies. I have trouble believing that common operations like saving the current file or toggling boldface are faster with the mouse, especially in a UI without contextual menus. However, I can easily believe that the mouse is faster for more complex operations that might involve a series of keyboard commands (that the user might not remember) or a need to pick from a list of options. And of course the learning curve for (well-designed) visual interfaces is much shorter.

That’s probably why most users use both. Keyboard for the operations they perform most often, with the mouse as a fallback.

I’m mostly a drag and drop filer myself. When browsing and reading, I’m mostly using the mouse already. Dragging is more natural because I don’t have to change input methods.


Interesting! Can you provide a reference?

I do have many, many groups – but I do remember all of their names. Seeing as how they’re several levels deep, it’d be much quicker for repetitive actions to use the keyboard.

I’m primarily a mouse user, but there is no denying that the keyboard is much faster for repetitive actions.

Even if the mouse method were faster… so long as there is sufficient consumer demand for a keyboard filing technique, I would assume that the customer is always right.

Physicistjedi, there’s a quote about those keyboard vs mouse studies in a reference to a Tognazzini book on UI, in “Satisfying UI Design is Often Illogical” at I’ve got a copy of that 1989 article somewhere in a file box but couldn’t lay my hands on it. Perhaps that will get scanned one of these days.

Drag & Drop may not be the most efficient way of moving files, but it is commonly chosen. The floating Groups view somewhat improves efficiency. Personally, I usually use the contextual menu options to move, duplicate or replicate selected files, as that also provides cues for repetitive filing to previously made choices.

With a number of databases and with thousands of groups among them – one has 983 groups – I’ll never remember or even want to remember the names of the groups. Instead, because I’ve usually used a reasonably consistent approach to categorizing things, I can pretty quickly navigate to the appropriate group in which to file something, or perhaps create a new group, in any of those databases. Some of those databases are well organized enough that Auto-Classify works well; most are not.

I try not to be a slave to organization. Some of my most productive databases are not at all tightly organized and may contain large batches of important references that haven’t been “filed”. That doesn’t detract from the utility of searches and See Also. It’s easy to organize routine stuff like banking and tax records. It’s often not easy to organize items that are rich in ideas, especially when it’s relationships between ideas from disparate sources that I’m most interested in. Sometimes the file cabinet metaphor becomes irrelevant and not a good use of productive time.

Much of my use of organization is dynamic and temporary. For a new project I’ll create new clusters of data related to that project, using See Also and searches to suggest relevant material that may be replicated or duplicated into new groups. I’ll duplicate material that will be summarized or annotated, so as not to affect the original copy. Those new groups are often temporary in the database; I’ll likely spin them off into a project database when finished and delete them from the original database.

You spin the data off to a new database? How do you accomplish that? Is there a way to export into a new database?

You are also saying that you use many different databases… is it convenient to work with more than one database?

Regardless of which method is faster, I have tendonitis in my wrists and keyboarding is more comfortable. YMMV :wink:

Is this the article that you’re referring to? “Keyboard vs. The Mouse, pt 1” (Originally published in the AppleDirect, August, 1989. Republished as Chapter 6, in Tog on Interface)

The post pertinent quote in the article (for this discussion, anyways) is

Which does have a semblance of truth for novice users. Digging through the menus for a command (such as save) is just as time consuming as remembering which key sequence relates to the same command. However, I would love to see this survey done in an expert group who have the command committed to memory. Just my 2 cents of course.

I guess its a matter of preference. I don’t really use a mouse (I have a trackpad on the ol’ macbook) but I still get grouchy when I have to move my fingers from the keyboard down to the trackpad because I cannot remember the keyboard command for “erase boss’s hard drive.”

Karen, I get tendonitis, too, when I use a mouse for an extended period. That’s one of the reasons I do almost all of my work on a Mac portable, starting with the original Mac Portable and a series of PowerBooks and now a MacBook Pro. The trackpad doesn’t require wrist action and my pointing finger doesn’t get tired. Nor do I have to move my hand far from the keyboard to use the trackpad. Instead, I find three-finger keyboard shortcuts awkward. But to each his own. :slight_smile:

träsko, I’m managing more than 150,000 files among a number of databases. I couldn’t fit all of those files on my MacBoo Pro’s hard drive. So that’s one reason for working with topically designed databases.

Still another reason is responsiveness. My laptop has 2 GB RAM. That much RAM will let me get responsive performance with a database that holds, say, 24 million total words or less (you can see the total words count in File > Database Properties). My next Mac laptop will have 4 GB RAM, allowing quick performance with larger databases before starting to use slower Virtual Memory.

Finally, See Also becomes more useful to me when I separate the primary reference literature from detailed methodological stuff. My main database has a focus on environmental science (quite a number of disciplines) and policy. I find it useful to separate into a different database references that cover chemical analytical techniques, sampling methodologies, data evaluation procedures and similar technical matters.

To create a new database choose File > New Database. Now create (for each export session) a new folder in the Finder. To “spin off” material from an existing database, select material and choose File > Export > Files & folders and choose that new folder as the destination. Now open the new database, choose File > Import > Files & Folders and choose that destination folder. Finally, delete the destination folder from the Finder and the exported material from the original database.

I am also weak in remembering keyboard shortcuts, but the quicksilver approach is a blessing. When I write a letter, I often have to look up scraps of information from other applications, a phone number from address book for example. With quicksilver, it is so easy to browse addresses and copy numbers to the clipboard without changing applications. No shortcut has to be remembered, you can just type in the (beginning of the) menu item’s name. I like it a lot.

Try browsing your itunes database with QS - it is just the arrow keys and ‘enter’. You can even jump to a specific song by typing a part of the title.

If this were possible with my database in devon…

happy new year, by the way!


Being a new Mac user I do find it frustrating that there is no way that I can find to get to the top level tool bar with an Alt-Whatever key chord. There are some key chords available using the Function (Apple) key but it is inconsistent and spotty. Function-N will get you a new window in Finder, but all the top level options should work off the first letter and Function key. It is the only thing in Windows that I truly miss and find frustrating.

If someone knows a remedy to this I would be grateful.


Yeah, I agree. Unfortunately, anyone who mentions it is generally carried off by a rabid pack of Mac nuts and murdered in a bloody or violent fashion.

Try Control-F2. (Yes, that’s the Control key, not the Apple key.) That should get you to the menu bar, then use either the arrow keys or the first letter of the menu to move around from there.



First off thank you for your knowlegdable support.

But I find I am really a baby in the woods. I can’t figure out how to toggle the function keys on my MacBook from brightness controls to F2.

Yikes, what a yutz!


PS I will figure this out later today.

Ctrl+Fn+F2, or, if you don’t use the hardware keys that often, go to System Preferences -> Keyboard and Mouse -> Keyboard -> “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” and check it.

I think that’s only quasi-useful, though. It will take a two-key combination to get to the Apple menu, and then you’ll have to move around using the arrow keys, then down the appropriate menu to the item you want to use.

It’s no replacement for a simple Alt, F, X.

It is some commentary on me that I could not find this quickly on my own. I have been complaining about this for the 6months I have owed this MacBook.

It is altogether another commentary on the waste of $99 for unlimited support from Apple “creatives” and “geniuses” who have been unable to help me with this and the other questions I have that go beyond how too download music from the iTunes store.

I can now get to the menu with ease, if not with alacrity. I really mis key chords. The height of my key cord use was in EMACS editor, it felt like playing a piano moving text, cutting and pasting from multiple buffers, moving the cursor any number of ways. I will have to find some key binding program and set to controlling this laptop the way I want and not how Steve Jobs wants. He also has this thing about buttons that was in a recent NY Times article about the iPhone.