Thursday, October 28, 2004

Keyboard Navigation in 2.6

One of the things I tried to address in MacJournal 2.6 is better keyboard navigation. For those of us with laptops, keeping our hands on the keyboards as long as possible is very advantageous and programs that make every attempt to facilitate this prove a lot more usable than those that don't. To that end, you can do just about everything you want in MacJournal from just the keyboard. The biggest sticking point is getting the window focus where you need it easily. To do that, you can now use the F-keys to move around the window. F1 puts the focus in the main text view, F2 for the topic field, F3 for the last drawer opened, and F4 for the search field. You can also use the Tab key to move between the first three things listed (as an aside, it's not really possible to tab out of a toolbar item right now, but this is a limitation of the operating system itself). Obviously pressing tab in the main text view will give you a regular text tab, but you can use Shift-Tab to get back to the topic field (Shift-Tab is like reverse-tab). If you have multiple drawers open, you can press F3 multiple times to cycle through them, and pressing tab inside the drawer should get you out of it.

With a little help from Full Keyboard Navigation in Panther you can access all of the menu items and toolbar items to access all of the sheets (some have keyboard equivalents too). I'd like to bring the Keywords sheet up specifically, as that used to be impossible to navigate with the keyboard. Now when the sheet drops down the focus should be on the table view. From here you can tab down to the "+" button to add a keyword, or you can just start typing. If the focus is on the table view you can just start typing and your keystrokes will get added to a new keyword. I wish more tables worked like this.

Talking about things I wish more tables did, all of the tables in the drawers now support type-selecting. This means that you can start typing the first few letters and the app will look through any visible items and select whatever matches. It's important to note that it only searches the visible items. This means that entries inside journals that are not expanded will not get taken into account (but items that are just not on the screen but would be visible if you scrolled down are). This is to reduce the "noise" that might make it hard to find exactly what you want.

It was impossible in 2.5 to use the arrow keys in the journals drawer in 2.5. This was because you couldn't select journals so you couldn't move past any journal. This restriction has been removed and you can now move about the journals like you would any hierarchical view in the OS. Use the Right arrow key on a journal to expand it (will unlock if necessary). And, special to MacJournal, you can use Command-Up to move up a level in the hierarchy (from an entry to its parent journal). Command-Down also works as expected. This will become very helpful when nested journals arrive. And, just because there isn't a better place to mention it, press Option-D to cycle through the view modes for that table (Date, Topic, Text, Combined).

Keyboard navigation is one of the areas that improved by leaps and bounds in 2.6. There may be a few other things that I'm not thinking of right now, but those are the large areas.