Originally published Monday, August 21, 2000
I've always taught that successful computing requires a good marriage between the mouse and the keyboard. One cannot live by either alone, but the mouse has definitely become the input device of choice in the graphical Windows environment. The downside of this point and click popularity has been an increase in RSI, or Repetitive strain injury. Repetitive strain injury, Repetitive stress injury, Repetitive motion syndrome, Overuse injury and Cumulative trauma are all terms describing modern day workplace injuries.
While excessive keyboard use contributes to RSI, the mouse is particularly menacing since only one finger is usually used. According to Dr. Emil Pascarelli (a specialist in RSI treatment), "some of the most serious injuries come from mouse use. The mouse strains the hand by forcing repetitive use of one finger, and is awkward to hold. Users tend to grip mice too hard, often with the wrist cocked."
When I realized my painful tendinitis of the wrists and elbows were mouse-induced, I had to learn less stressful ways to perform ordinary computing tasks. I immediately switched the mouse to the left side of the keyboard and became a left-handed clicker. I replaced my original keyboard with the Microsoft natural keyboard, which keeps the hands, wrists and forearms in the optimal position. I added a wrist rest and an ergonomic chair with armrests adjusted to desk level to relieve pressure from the shoulders.
These physical changes helped, but I still needed more keyboard alternatives to using the mouse. For starters, I began using the Windows Logo key (on newer keyboards) for expanded uses. One tap of the Windows key pops up the Start Menu, enabling navigation using the Up, Down and Right arrows to follow menus and submenus. Pressing the ENTER key executes the program.
To multi-task between more than one program press WINDOWS+TAB to highlight each program on the task bar and press ENTER to switch programs. ALT+TAB also toggles you between all open programs, while ALT+F4 closes the active window.
WINDOWS+D minimizes all windows and takes you back to the desktop. If you have multiple windows open, this is faster than clicking the minimize button five or six times and much easier on the tendons. Your directional arrows move between all the desktop icons and ENTER executes the command. WINDOWS+D again restores all windows. Other useful Windows key commands include WINDOWS+E to display Windows Explorer; WINDOWS+F to display the Find Files dialog box; and WINDOWS+R to display the Run command.
Windows applications share a number of keyboard shortcuts that are common to all programs. CTRL+S is save, CTRL+O is open, CTRL+C is copy, CTRL+X is cut, CTRL+V is paste and CTRL+F is find, for example. To select text without using the mouse, hold down the SHIFT key while pressing the directional arrows to highlight portions of a document or spreadsheet. CTRL+A is the command to select the entire document.
To access any of the menu bar commands in a program, press ALT and the underlined letter of the command, such as ALT+F for the File menu. CTRL+F6 toggles the user between all open document windows in an application. F1 is the universal command for Help and CTRL+Z is the ever-helpful Undo keystroke combo.
Within individual programs there are often hundreds of unique keyboard commands relative to specific tasks. In Word, for example, ALT+CTRL+C inserts the copyright symbol in a document while ALT+CTRL+T inserts the trademark symbol. CTRL+ENTER inserts a page break and CTRL+2 sets the line spacing to double. Refer to the Help menu within each application for specific keyboard shortcuts.
While we can't live by keyboard alone there are plenty of alternatives that minimize mouse-caused RSI. For more information on Windows keyboard shortcuts, press the Windows key, Up Arrow to Help and press ENTER. CTRL+Tab to move to the Index tab. Type "Keyboard Shortcuts" and press ENTER. UP or DOWN arrow to select a topic, then press ENTER to display.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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