Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Computer program lets users learn keyboard shortcuts with minimal effort

Date:
September 30, 2013
Source:
University Saarland
Summary:
A computer scientist has developed software which assists users in identifying and learning shortcuts so that they can become as fast as expert users. This new interface mechanism is easy to integrate in programs using a toolbar, a menu or ribbons as a graphical user interface.

The interface mechanisms shows small boxes in which every equivalent keyboard shortcut is displayed.
Credit: Image courtesy of University Saarland

A computer scientist from Saarbrucken has developed software which assists users in identifying and learning shortcuts so that they can become as fast as expert users. This new interface mechanism is easy to integrate in programs using a toolbar, a menu or ribbons as a graphical user interface.

If somebody wants to shift text elements within a Word document from one position to another, he usually uses the mouse. This procedure is rather cumbersome for the user, since he first needs to click and highlight the text element before he can put it at the appropriate place. The user could avoid such complications by using a few shortcut keys, so-called hotkeys, instead. Certain hotkeys correspond to mouse clicks regarding the actions they perform. Nevertheless, users frequently do not know enough keyboard shortcuts to work with them efficiently, or are not aware of the available combinations.

Gilles Bailly, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and the Cluster of Excellence at Saarland University, wants to change that situation. By making the shortcuts readily accessible to everybody, he wants to increase the use of hotkeys among less-experienced users and help them maximize expert performance by using consistent shortcuts. To accomplish this, Bailly developed a special interface mechanism in collaboration with other researchers from several universities. It enables hotkey browsing, supports physical rehearsal and assures rapid hotkey identification.

"To see the hotkeys, the user needs to press a certain key button," explains Sylvain Malacria from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He calls this special key the modifier. On an Apple keyboard, this function is taken by the command key; at a Windows computer, by the control key. As soon as the user has pressed the modifier, the software overlaps the icons on the screen, as for example all the symbols in a toolbar for a Word document, with shortcuts for a few seconds. Thus, the interface mechanisms shows small boxes in which every equivalent keyboard shortcut is displayed. In so doing, users who rarely use the computer are given the essential hints to apply the shortcuts until they know them by heart. The program supports them by proposing the hotkeys very quickly; they need only press the modifier key. To use the shortcuts more generally, the user frequently has to repeat the same finger moves. In this way, the user keeps remembering the key combinations. Professionals, on the other hand, can expand their shortcut knowledge and accelerate their working speed by using this mechanism, which the researchers named "ExposeHK."

"If the user is in the middle of a workflow, he does not need to remove his hands from the keyboard and reach for the mouse. He is able to enter his commands into the computer directly," says Bailly. To test their software, the researchers ran some studies. They asked participants to identify icons in toolbars and select them as fast as possible. To do that, the participants could either follow the instructions of a speaker, who was reading the key combinations to them, or they could use the mouse or the new software's hotkey display. After that, the test participants had to choose which of the methods was easiest to manage. Most of the participants decided in favor of Bailly's mechanism. The study results show that amateurs used the keyboard shortcuts four times more often after they had sampled them for a few minutes. "It's no matter if the user forgot a shortcut. The only thing he has to do is to press the modifier again and the shortcut overview pops up," Bailly explains.

He could observe how positively the user community responded to his software when he exhibited it at a Human-Computer Interaction research conference (ACM CHI) in Paris. "With our mechanism, we offer the user a simple and elegant solution to operate efficiently. And it is neither expensive to integrate nor to learn," says Bailly. He is therefore confident that his mechanism will be available every conceivable application soon.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Saarland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Saarland. "Computer program lets users learn keyboard shortcuts with minimal effort." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930093728.htm>.
University Saarland. (2013, September 30). Computer program lets users learn keyboard shortcuts with minimal effort. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930093728.htm
University Saarland. "Computer program lets users learn keyboard shortcuts with minimal effort." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930093728.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Let's Review Apple's Latest iPhone Reviews

Let's Review Apple's Latest iPhone Reviews

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The tech press has shared its thoughts on the latest iterations of Apple's iPhone. We summarize the reactions to help you decide: iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Facebook Reportedly Building Another New Photo Sharing App

Facebook Reportedly Building Another New Photo Sharing App

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Sources tell TechCrunch Facebook is working on Moments, an app for sharing photos with close friends and family. But why develop yet another new app? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Not To Do When Installing iOS 8

What Not To Do When Installing iOS 8

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Several sites are warning early adopters not to enable Apple’s new iCloud Drive feature during the installation process. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
2K Drafts Face-Mapping Tech for New Game

2K Drafts Face-Mapping Tech for New Game

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) "NBA 2K15" is angling for a slam dunk with an innovative new way to put players in the game. Gamers will be able to digitally graft lifelike 3D renditions of their faces onto virtual players using the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One cameras. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins