Friday, May 14, 2010

Speed up the Human: Keyboard Layout

If you are using a more or less current computer chances are pretty high that Bibble is waiting for you most of the time and not the other way round. While one could drink unhealthy amounts of coffee or your favorite Austrian energy drink to speed up yourself, this might not the best idea on the long run.

In computer games you might collect power-ups, potions, health-packs or build your abilities along the way to become stronger-faster-better.

In Bibble we can assign keyboard shortcuts to almost anything. So without further ado i'll show you my current keyboard layout without any actual keys because the idea matters, not the actual assignment, even more so with all the different international keyboards we all are using and accustomed to.

How I arrived there and why it is set up this way. ...after the jump...

For those more comfortable with German might want to read this on my blog.

Well, it all started with computer gaming. While playing Battlefield Heroes (look for =Mj-Mo=) I got owned all the time because I used the right abilities at the wrong time. I was mixing my three characters with all their abilities and got oh-so confused in the heat of the battle. So I sat down, sorted my stuff, assigned my keys in a logical and consistent way and boom! I owned the others ;-)

Some days later I was working on a folder with a lot of pictures in Bibble and Bibble owned me. Well, it would if there was some "hey, I have nothing to do" head-up-display. Thanks for leaving that out, Bibblelabs. ;-)

Next thing I was sorting, grouping and assigning my keyboard shortcuts. Does the "A" and "D" for previous and next image sound familiar to anyone who plays games? That was my starting point. From there on I gathered all the spread-out keys close to the left hand. Looking for things in the keyboard-assign list I liked, wanted, needed etc. Sticking to single-keystrokes for all the major functions I use regularly. Another thing I had in mind: the layout should work without problems on a laptop. so sticking to the main part of the keyboard was mandatory.

Some original assignments were in a place where I could leave them on my German keyboard. W (Warning) E (Exif) S (Straighten) C (Crop). Others had to go far away (like the slideshow). Some were moved into better reach and replaced original assignments, like (Multi image view) going from M to G and the (Filter panel) being assigned to F, replacing the Full JPG batchQ.

All the cursors for the regions were grouped into one block and in the same order the icons are on screen (Circle) - (Polygon) - (freeform-Curves) - (Brush). The underlying keys seem not logical (mnemonic) on a German or English layout, but who cares? Mnemonic keys are helpful to remember rarely used functions, but here we want to tune for max speed.

Another block I use is (Reject) - (Tag pick) - (Clear tag). On an US keyboard this is a group, but for the German keyboard I had to reassign it.

And finally three of my favorites: (Zoom toggle fit) (Zoom toggle 1:1) and the (Magnifier). easy accessible and while the classic (Zoom to fit) and (Zoom to 1:1) are more common, these two allow a third zoom-state to be ready at hand, which can be very helpful in checking out in-between zoom-states. You have to try it to understand. and the (Magnifier) - well I was not going to let that huge key right under my thumb go to waste.

The following ZIP file contains the above layout for all three languages of Bibble and their "home" keyboard layout. These settings are in conflict with some of the standard batch queues, so you might run into problems there. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. The three files in the zip are:

Now for some adjustments that my personal layout-file contains but that I left out in the above XML-files because they might be causing too much confusion for you when trying the layout.

I have (Undo) (Redo) on keys F3 and F4, the only lower F-keys that are not used and incidently i have been using the same keys in Photoshop to flip through the history via actions for years, which is very helpful when retouching scans from films, something i do a lot. In PS this trick with the actions even allows me to retain the default Ctrl-Z and Ctrl-Alt-Z keycombos and still have fast and easy access to the history. While other programs do not allow the assignment of keys and Ctrl-Z is a classic, the F3-F4 combo became second nature to me.

Another personal adjustment is (Selective Copy) being assigned to Alt-C, close keys, easier also on my netbook which has not the Ctrl but the Fn-function key in the lower left corner of the keyboard.

For those wondering where the BatchQs went: Alt-1..9 - output is only a once-in-a-while event, so the keystroke-combo does not slow me down. I assigned the keys in a topdown fashion, starting with (16bit TIFF) at Alt-1 and going down to a (rough proof) output on Alt-9.

A short requirement list of my keyboard layout looks like this:
- only main part of keyboard in use, because of laptops and macs.
- all major functions accessible without moving the hand (for people who use the mouse with the left hand just mirror or shift my layout to right side of the keyboard)
- similar functions grouped together in logical order
- no key-combos for highly used functions (Ctrl-Z!!)

Final words? This is quite sure not my final keyboard-layout for Bibble, after all there are still some keys close at hand available. but it is very evolved and it proofed its efficiency for over two months now. Since I adjusted my layout slowly key by key, I was able to get accustomed to it. If you jump in head first, confusion might be your companion. You can still print out the cheat-sheet from above to help you along the way..

Have fun, enjoy the sun.


Anonymous said...

Bernd, thanks for the take on it. I am a heavy keyboard user (emacs generation) and I always liked bibble for the possibility to use the keyboard.

So I will give your layout a try.

Dentharg said...

I was always wondering why it is WSAD for gaming when F key is natural position for pointing finger and not D. So it should be EDSF and not WSAD :)

grubernd said...

@dentharg: my guess is that the WASD usage might have started with dual-player games on one keyboard, so they spaced the keys as much apart from the other player who would be using the numpad or cursor keys..

Kristofor Jensen said...

@dentharg: I appreciate having my index finger free to pound away at all the other keys on the keyboard to pwn the noobs! ;)

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