KeyboardI always knew that I had a special fondness for keyboards. Just read my article on the IBM 101 and you’ll see what I mean. I’m very picky about the touch and feel of a keyboard. Maybe it stems from the fact that my first keyboard was a Commodore 64, and I’m just trying to re-create that experience. I don’t know. I just know what I like and don’t like and I just figured that I was particular about the feel of the keyboard and that was it. Well, since moving to the MacBook, I’ve learned that it goes deeper than that.

I gave up my beloved “Clacky” when making the switch from Windows to OS X. My old IBM keyboard isn’t a USB keyboard, although there is an adapter, and it doesn’t have the Apple key, so I made the decision to let her go. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I opted for the Kensington SlimType Standard Keyboard for Mac, figuring that if I can’t get a buckling spring feel, I’d go for a laptop feel, which I also enjoy. I thought about getting the Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard, but no one has one in stock here in Nashville and I so dislike the Apple keyboard it resembles I was unwilling to make the $150 gamble.

I figured that was the end of my keyboard fetish, but that was really just the beginning. After installing all the applications I needed, I found that the dock spread from one edge of the screen to the other. It was jamed packed with shortcuts and I didn’t like the look at all. That sent me in search of alternative program launchers. A third party application that would allow me to cut down on the number of icons in the dock.

In my research, I came across QuickSilver and after seeing a demo of the launcher by Merlin Mann on the video podcast MacBreak, I knew that I had found not only a solution, but a little slice of Nirvana. After just five minutes of playing with the program, I removed all but 3 icons from the dock.

  • The Finder, which I can’t seem to remove.
  • System Preferences, which I removed, but then put back. QuickSilver didn’t load one time and I found it handy to keep in the dock.
  • QuickSilver, which I can’t seem to remove from the dock either. I’d prefer that it just ran in the background, or had a small icon in the “menu bar”.

Of course the Trash Can icon is still in the dock and any programs that are running appear there as well. Other than that though, the dock is very sparse and clean, which I like ALOT.

So how can I get away with so little clutter? It’s easy with QuickSilver. If I want to launch an application, I just press “ctrl + space” and type the first few letters and QuickSilver figures out what I’m looking for. If all I want to do is open the application, I just hit return and the app launches. I can open file directories, address records and even system preference panes. For example, if I want to fiddle with the “Display” system preference, I just hit “ctrl + space” and type “dis” and QuickSilver shows “Displays.prefsPane”, I hit enter and it’s up. Depending on the application, I can take things further and do more advanced stuff, but for now I’m more than content with just launching applications.

I’ve talked with long time Mac aficionados like Fred Heumann and Mike Rohde about QuickSilver and they don’t seem quite as thrilled about the program as I am. When talking about it with Fred and about why he didn’t think the app was for him, he made the remark “Well, I can see why you like it, because you’re such a keyboard guy.”

That threw me a bit for a loop, because I didn’t think of myself in that context. Many of my Linux and Windows programmer brethren do a lot more with the keyboard than I do, so I figured I was more in the camp of users that used the mouse more than the keyboard. A “mouser” if you will. Now that I’ve moved to the Mac now, it would seem that is not the case.

Certainly QuickSilver allows me to use the keyboard more, but I’ve discovered that my use of the keyboard goes way beyond that. I’ve found that I’m a huge sucker for a keyboard shortcut. I’ll hit “Cmd+P” to print before I’ll use the mouse to click on the print button, or “Cmd+S” to save, over the save button. I’ve always done that, but it’s only recently that I’ve been made aware of how often I use keyboard shortcuts. In one last example, I now think that one of the primary reasons I’ve made the migration to Apple Mail over Thunderbird is because of the Mail Act-On plugin which allows me to file e-mail via a keyboard shortcut.

What does this matter? Well, it doesn’t really. This doesn’t amount to a hill of beans other than to illustrate the fact that I’ve seen a new side of my “technological self” and I’m somewhat surprised by what I found. I suppose I’ve always thought of being a “keyboard guy” as a badge of honor, or something. That a true geek primarily uses the keyboard and that I wasn’t in that league. Now that I see myself with these new eyes, it would appear that I am a “keyboard guy”.

If there was a show like Top Chef for keyboard geeks, I don’t know that I would be in the top 3, but I do think I could qualify for the show itself. Wouldn’t that be cool? I can picture the it now. The program would air on Bravo and it would be called… wait for it…

“Project Keyboard”

I’m such a nerd. 😉