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GUI Software Input Devices

On the Widespread Misuse of the Mouse 405

An anonymous reader writes "Recently launched blog "The New Interface Advocate," has an entry about how mice are being applied to situations they are intrinsically poorly suited for. It also has an interesting proposal for how to keep most of the current paradigm of GUIs and still take advantage of the other control devices, such as the keyboard."
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On the Widespread Misuse of the Mouse

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  • As their webserver smolders in ruins and I lack the credentials to apply it to the story myself...
    • Article Text (Score:5, Informative)

      by an.echte.trilingue ( 1063180 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:46AM (#19799553) Homepage
      I had no problems reading it, but since you can't seem to get to it, here is the text:

      Now, I am by no means hoping to abolish the mouse. Its price to performance ratio is unmatched, and the best alternative pointing device (the tablet) can't be found for much less than an order of magnitude greater expense: hard to justify for the relatively small performance edge it offers. What I do wish to decry is the enormous reliance on the mouse to cover every possible user interface situation, failing to take advantage of other, better designs. Years of lazy design and low opinions of the user's desire (even ability) to learn have left us with a constant testing of Fitts' Law for such trivial tasks as saving, broken paradigms (what about a real-world button relates to replacing an old document irrevocably with the current one?), and a user experience that is more patronizing than productive.

      Let's start with a few key ideas about interface devices. The keyboard is quantized (that is, it consists of discrete units of input, like a piano's notes), while the mouse is continuous (its input ranges without breaks across the entire screen, like the strings of a violin which cover every possible pitch in their range).

      Now, think about the actions you perform on your computer in a given day. You type, save, open, close, select, resize, navigate, refresh, cancel, approve, and perform scores of other actions.

      Now divide the tasks into groups. Which ones consist of discrete actions, and which require fine, continuous control? I'll be generous (and rude to my fellow console text editors--I know vi/emacs can both comfortably rely on keyboard input only) and say text selection and input positioning, color selection, drawing, and most (spatial) navigation is most naturally, perhaps even most effectively, performed with a continuous input device such as a mouse.

      Now, for the discrete actions: type, save, open, close, refresh, cancel, approve, and most of the other basic actions. In fact, I'd say many users could count scores of daily activities that are discrete, whereas breaking a dozen continuous actions would be a challenge. (Let's put aside all window management like switching between windows, resizing them, moving them, and so on. These mostly seem continuous but I'll explain in a later post why they're usually not.)

      Now, which of those actions are new users taught to do with the discrete input device? Typing.

      Now, advanced users have memorized ways to do a large fraction of (or, if they're fanatical, all) discrete actions with their discrete-input device. If you're looking for evidence of the superiority of a keyboard over a mouse in most situations, look at these users. There is a strong correlation between how much time a person uses computers (especially professionally) and how much they switch away from the mouse whenever readily possible. I challenge you to find a hundredth as many IT professionals who prefer the mouse as who prefer the keyboard when either will perform a given action.

      Further advantage of a keyboard over the mouse lies in "muscle memory." (For those who might not be familiar with the term, it's the re-enforced skill of repeated actions--and the reason we can speak, write, type, and a host of other skills, without having to consciously perform every muscle contraction in careful coordination.) This, however, isn't because it's quantized, but rather because our position on the keyboard is generally absolute, whereas whenever we grab the mouse the cursor could be anywhere. In fact, there are only five pixels we can hit with our eyes closed--the one we're on plus the four corners. That's less than 1/150,000th of the median computer screen's real estate that can be associated with muscle memory. The keyboard, on the other hand, can be entirely memorized (or close to it) in the course of general computer use. With combinations of control, alt, and shift, and even the more modestly skilled typists have literally hundreds of key combinat

      • Article Text, part 2 (Score:5, Informative)

        by an.echte.trilingue ( 1063180 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:53AM (#19799669) Homepage
        And this is part 2:

        Since I said the mouse needed to be seriously re-examined as the primary device for interacting with the user-interface (see my previous entry), it's only fair that I give an example of a better way to do it. In this entry I explore one possible way to minimally change the interface to almost remove the mouse entirely, without increasing the difficulty of learning how to use software.

        (Note: Click on Images for a full-size view.) Original OOo Screenshot (Here we have an unaltered screenshot of the experimental subject.)

        First step: rip out essentially all of the traditional controls. That means drop-downs, buttons, and menus. Notable exceptions include the scroll bars and status bar (both of which provide excellent and frequently needed feedback like what the open file is, and where in the document the user is). Also, I'm going to take some liberties with the status bar to pull out some of the more cryptic (and rarely referenced) information in favor of somewhat more relevant data.

        Original OOo Screenshot (The closest thing to a decapitation of an application you'll see.)

        Second step: sit a user down (possibly with a close supply of anti-anxiety medication for those less comfortable with change), and tell them that if they want to "Control" the application, they need to press the "Control" key (great name for that key, huh?). When they do, overlay the application window with something like the following:

        Design proposal for mouseless GUI (Okay, so I'm not a graphic designer, but I bet there are a few around who could pretty this up.)

        Notes on the sketch: (1) Yes, this is a lot few functions than OpenOffice writer has. I'm just trying to present proof that all the icons and the most used part of the menu can readily be represented this way. Comprehensive feature lists are better represented by my menu-replacement sketch below. However, the idea is that that should be rarely needed. If it's used with any frequency, the application designer anticipated the user needs poorly. (2) I know some of the key-bindings are less than intuitive. I blame the 3am restarting of the whole design thanks to a bug that trashed my last design (followed by the same bug killing it a second time at 6am).

        Now, there are some subtleties to the design. First, there could be two ways to access the dialog--tapping control, alt, or whatever could toggle the reference screen on until the modifier is tapped again, or, if the user holds down one of those modifiers, the reference screen disappears as soon as it's released. This makes the use of the control key much more accessible for those of us who haven't moved it from it's instant-carpel-tunnel-inducing location at the very edge of what an average-sized hand can reach.

        Next, commands can be put in bold if they've been used recently. (The definition of "recently" was the subject of extensive debate when I was working with highlighting recently changed items in my last project. I'll leave "recent" undefined for lack of true resolution of that question for me.) Microsoft's "adaptive" menu system (also known as "Help! Where did half my menu go?") tries to address the same problem of adapting to user's usage patterns. This, however, is a much better way to speed finding of common commands. It doesn't shuffle items around or hide them, (both of which confound the user's ability to memorize the interface and wreaks havoc on users trying to use someone else's copy of a program).

        Now, imagine the user's thought sequence as they try to enter a command. "Hm. I need to save. Hit 'Control,' save... ah, 's.'" Imagine that a few dozen times, and it starts to sound a lot like studying flashcards. For free, just by using the interface! Within weeks (assuming fairly sporadic usage), a user has memorized the shortcuts to all their common commands, obviating even looking as they execute them. Daily users could be fully proficient in even uncommonly-used combinations within days, with the pop-up

        • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:27AM (#19800137) Homepage Journal
          Best sentence in the whole article: (Note: Click on Images for a full-size view.)
          • by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @12:52PM (#19802247)
            It has been a pet gripe of mine: why do developers insist that data entry can be performed with a mouse? Programming, writing the great novel etc. that is what folks think of with this but..BUT! What of the lowly clerk? This poor soul data enters all day...They must key enter the vouchers the salesman brings in, the payment coupons, the thousand and one non-OCR compliant bits of data that need be digitized.. Ever watched a clerk do their job? - type type type in a field, click to the next field (because some wit forgot to make the fields tab-able), type type type, click, type, click, etc.. right hand is on the keyboard, then the mouse, then the keyboard then the mouse.... The action of reach and click reduces the clerk's effectiveness at their job by a goodly percentage. "elephant: Mouse designed by committee and built to government specifications" -seems to apply in this case too.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by secolactico ( 519805 )
              because some wit forgot to make the fields tab-able

              Or made them tab-able but not following a logical order (such as the order the fields are on the screen)
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rthille ( 8526 )
              I can never be sure when watching someone type-click-type-click that the developer is at fault. Hell, even my wife does that sometimes, despite me harping on her that she can just hit return or tab...I think it's intellectual lazyness: "I'm too lazy to try to understand the tool I'm using so that I can use it better."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I stopped reading after the first paragraph. A tablet? Orders of magnitude more expensive? What? A good mouse costs at least 20€ (Logitec/Microsoft), and a tablet costs a whopping 80€ []. A Voltio2 costs a whopping 40€ []. Both are Wacoms, I'm sure you can get cheaper elsewhere (Trust []). Sure the Graphire Intuos3 A4, that I bought for my wife was 500€ back then (it still is), but not everyone needs that. Heck, my wife doesn't even need it!

        Tablets have become very affordable, and if you

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Randolpho ( 628485 )

          I stopped reading after the first paragraph. A tablet? Orders of magnitude more expensive? What?

          That was hardly a good reason to stop reading any of the articles. You yourself mentioned that you don't like using a tablet as an input device, and I don't blame you -- I don't draw and can't stand using a pen for anything other than drawing. The article is about how we software dudes over-use mouse input, and does a fair job backing that point up, regardless of the "an order of magnitude" hyperbole.


      • I could be wrong, but it seems to me that this is all about the way he defines "discrete" and "continuous" tasks. It looks rather like he is simply re-defining as many GUI actions (note he does not define those parameters exactly either), as requiring discrete (and not continuous, fine, control), and then surprising us all with the idea that a keyboard is better for all that "discreteness."

        Are not most of these tasks accomplished *either* in discrete steps *or* in less linear ways? Isn't that the entire po
  • by b1ufox ( 987621 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:45AM (#19799521) Homepage Journal
    Really my wrist hurts as using mouse is obligation on my desktop, and that too for an average of 12 hours a day.

    I know, i know CLI is there but CLI browsers are no match for GUI browsers sadly.

    Moreover i would love to use keyboard keys for everything and for those who feel like me shifting to a more keyboard centric environment, try fluxbox. Wicked cool with all things in place, plus it is fast too, not to mention custom ways you can mould it to.

    • by GFree ( 853379 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:50AM (#19799609)
      Sorry... suffering massive packet loss... your post came out rather fragmented. I could only make out the following:

      Really my wrist hurts

      average of 12 hours a day

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ThePyro ( 645161 )

      Really my wrist hurts as using mouse is obligation on my desktop, and that too for an average of 12 hours a day.

      Buy a trackball / TrackMan. I switched to using a Logitech TrackMan about 2 years ago after having wrist pain from too much mousing. The pain went away and it hasn't come back since. I've never met anyone who switched to a trackball and regretted it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I tried that, the pain it caused in my thumb was much worse than any write pain a mouse ever caused.
        • s/write/wrist

          damn typo daemon.
        • I've been a huge trackball believer for about 15 years. I find new users I introduce to it have exactly the same problem with their thumbs, but that it goes away after about a week. It seems that during the first week, the thumb muscles are too tight as they're not used to it. You may also want to start with the sensitivity lowered, and gradually raise it as you get used to the device. Try it again with this in mind.
      • I used a trackball from around 1998 till 2006 to get around issues of RSI, however whilst I cannot talk up the benefit of this (and a natural keyboard) enough, after discovering the G5 laser mouse I'm now someone who's gone back to using mice. The reason is an incredible dot pitch which at max resolution lets me move the cursor across three screens (1600+1920+1600) in less than the width of a hand.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zero_offset ( 200586 )
        I've never understood the trackball crowd (and I tried one for awhile). Simply put: the way our thumbs work is very sub-optimal for pointing. It's also the reason most current game-console controllers suck so much. I still think one of the best mouse-replacements was the old IBM "eraser" thing between the TYGH keys...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Txiasaeia ( 581598 )
          Old? The TrackPoint is still used on IBM laptops. They haven't even changed the default cap ("cat's tongue"), though they have added two new alternatives.
    • by Himring ( 646324 )
      ah, my hed asplode....

    • I know, i know CLI is there but CLI browsers are no match for GUI browsers sadly.


      Use Firefox, then use PgUp and PgDown for scrolling. For clicking links, use the accent key and type the last characters of the first word in the link. Almost as fast as a mouse.

      Buy a good keyboard, preferably from Kinesis [].

      Install a good anti-RSI tool like Workrave. Set it to 1 minute break every 15 minutes, and 20 seconds short break every 3 minutes. And STICK TO THE BREAKS.

    • by klubar ( 591384 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @11:50AM (#19801347) Homepage
      If you've ever watch an excel expert their hands almost never leave the keyboard. Excel is really well designed such that almost all the commands are easily accessible from keyboard shortcuts and power users quickly come up to speed on the commands. The interface for excel is extremely well thought out making it easy for beginners to be guided through the options and power users to be able to blaze through. Excel is perhaps one of the best designed and most usable programs ever. (The OSS alternatives for excel are good for basic lists and trival spreadsheets. Excel is one reason that Open Office is unlikely to succeed in corporate environments.)
    • Switch to a Wacom tablet. I tossed my mouse something like six years ago now; the growing twinges of wrist and finger pain from using the mouse completely vanished.

      If you have a huge multi-screen setup there may be some problems, and they suck for playing first person shooters. I only have one screen, and don't care for that genre of game, so there's been no trouble.

      You can splurge on a huge one, but I do great with the tiniest size available - and I'm an artist!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:46AM (#19799541)
    And here I though the story was about the abuse of medical mice.
    • Here is a true story about the real mice. My friend worked part-time at Dana Farber Cancer Institute while studying at medical school. He told me all mice and rats experiments had to be properly documented, to insure no unnecessary cruelty was done to the animals. At the end all mice and rats were killed with gilliotine (quick and painless). I remember meeting him one day and he was a bit upset. He told me the last night air conditioner broke down and all their mice and rats died. So much for prevention the
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:47AM (#19799565) Journal
    Well, this is a really interesting article that, I must admit, I'm guilty of just following the crowd in this respect of allowing--no, relying on the mouse to do everything. It's very interesting and refreshing to read about someone suggesting something new and intuitive about user input to a computing device.

    However, I found his premise inaccessible and, after reading the first part of this two part idea, I couldn't come up with a concrete advantage for using his method. At first, it seems like this is an argument for speed though I doubt rendering all those options in an overlay to display to the user would be much more efficient than a mouse click on a menu bar. The real estate gain is the obvious definitive advantage his system would have over everything I've used. However, the user must first know how to bring up the options overlay ... and I think he mentions the issues that would be associated with subselections. I tried to imagine the GIMP using this in my mind but the submenus would get out of hand. For example, you would like to use script-fu? Well, there's two submenus under that of a dynamic allotment of add ons that I can structure in directories however I want. Tough to deal with stuff like that.

    I guess what I would have preferred in a blog like this is a more comprehensive analysis of trade offs when going against the grain in UI input methods. For example, using method A provides you with the benefits of speed & real estate saving but may be inaccessible for some users who are very used to the point and click paradigm and find new learning curves challenging or scary (there are people like that out there). In my opinion, keeping it as simple as possible and knowing your audience are the two biggest things to remember when designing a UI and I think this blog raises an excellent point that we shouldn't be afraid with re-examining the window system in operating systems but I don't think this is applicable in all situations.

    Anyone out there (Edward Tufte students, psychologists, etc.) ever do a trade study on these features for their applications? Being a "form" ignorant engineer something like that would be most valuable to me.
    • some users who are very used to the point and click paradigm and find new learning curves challenging or scary (there are people like that out there)

      Yes, they all work at my office.

      Back OT, though, I'm afraid I'm stuck with a mouse (or similarly, one of those abominable pen tablets) until they can design a keyboard that lets me do things like effectively trace objects with the lasso tool in Photoshop. If all you ever do is data entry, sure; but most functions I perform require the continuous control of a mo
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Now that's where I differ. Depending on the application, I may use the mouse or the keyboard more. If it's a more typing-oriented application (like a word processor, text editor, spreadsheet) than I'm more likely to use the keyboard shortcuts for things like Save, Copy, Paste... If it's a more visual-interface-oriented application (like, say Rosegarden, Blender, or Ardour), then I'm more likely to use the mouse.

      In some applications, I take a hybrid approach. For example, when using Inkscape or Corel Dra
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
        The thing that the article doesn't appear to touch on, and the real reason for the fact that you can perform most actions using both a pointing device like a mouse and a button/chord device like a keyboard, is that the most time consuming part of operating a computer is switching back and forth between them.

        If you really wanted to sit down and build yourself something that would be highly efficient, you'd use a chording keyboard on the one hand, a pointer with gesture support on the other hand, and never ta
    • To be fair, I'm not sure the GIMP (or any graphics program) is a good example of how his ideas fall down. With graphical packages you're using the mouse (or stylus) as your primary mode of contact rather then the keyboard, so having an interface that is more dependant on the primary contact isn't a terribly bad thing-- of course keyboard shortcuts for the most popular elements are still a great timesaver. The huge benefit comes with programs where the keyboard is the primary contact between user and machi
    • "I found his premise inaccessible"

      That's nothing. I found the article itself inaccessible (slashdotted).
  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <> on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:47AM (#19799569) Homepage
    I know of one misuse, is the overuse of popup lists in forms, especially when entering dates (one popup for month, one for day, and another for year)

    When people are entering alphanumeric data give them as much keyboard access as possible, leaving the keyboard just adds to the entry time, stress injuries as well as potential for typing errors (reorienting to typing position after mouse usage.)

    The second is popups instead of checklists and radio/selection lists, which add to the mouse gymnastics to select one or more options from a single line field.

    It may be easier to make the popups (unfortunately many tutorials use date popups as an early example of web programming), either way you still have to validate the information, so take the extra effort to out in a generic text box, checklist or selection list and add a few more lines of validation code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )
      Actually using the TAB key and the up/down buttons works in those cases. Alternatively you can try typing in something like 05 really fast and it may pop up without having to do multiple up/down keypresses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Do you mean a drop-down list instead of a pop-up? If so, you can use the keyboard to enter data into those (on Windows, anyway - OS X still has some problems with keyboard-accessible forms). They're usually accelerated by the keyboard, so when entering a date, you can type it in, and it'll select the one you type. A good feature on Windows (I know, oxymoron, emphasis on the moron, etc.) is in Explorer, instead of using the mouse to select a filename, you just type it in, and it'll select it.

      Using the mou
      • They can be inconsistent. For instance, if I TAB to a day field and then type 1 and then 2, I want to I get 12. But in practice, sometimes I get 2. Other times, I get 20. Rarely do I actually get 12.
        • The area where internet explorer gets it wrong is that (at least in version 6) when you start typing it just uses the first letter. For example: If I'm asked to enter my state I start typing "Indiana" in a drop down and internet explorer will go to Idaho, Nebraska, Delaware, etc. Firefox at least gets that right.

          Other "full keyboard" usability IE errors that bug me: I can't control-a in the URL bar and select the whole thing and delete it. The same goes with most of the rest of Windows. If I miss type a pas
    • When people are entering alphanumeric data give them as much keyboard access as possible, leaving the keyboard just adds to the entry time, stress injuries as well as potential for typing errors (reorienting to typing position after mouse usage.)

      You should never have a problem reorienting to typing position unless you don't use your home keys. That's exactly what they're for: starting position for typing. On a rare occasion I've had a problem with my typing position, but that was when I was trying to typ

  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:48AM (#19799573) Homepage Journal

    I skimmed the article, and I didn't see one other reason why I think everything that can be done with a mouse should also be doable by a keyboard, even stuff that is more efficient to do with a mouse: scripting.

    Generally, scripting and automating mouse actions is very difficult. Scripting and automating keyboard actions is trivial.

  • CoralCache links (Score:4, Informative)

    by Toffins ( 1069136 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:49AM (#19799607)
    page 1 [] and page 2 []
  • by bheer ( 633842 ) <> on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:52AM (#19799651)
    When I read that in TFA, I swear the first thought in my mind was -- he's going to reinvent Emacs?

    • by Dausha ( 546002 )
      "...he's going to reinvent Emacs..."

      Don't be absurd. Emacs is already the finest operating system in the world. He's quite obviously not going to suggest creating a new OS.
  • Cat the Mouse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:54AM (#19799677) Homepage Journal
    I hate the mouse, except as a children's/newbie's teaching tool. If I've got desk space for a mousepad, I want to use that for my display. And why do all that (carpal tunnel inviting) work to move a virtual pointer?

    I prefer the trackpad. But why don't I have a touchscreen with stability and accuracy already? There's no reason for a "pointer metaphor" device when I can just move the actual pointer.

    Give me a touchscreen and maybe a little rubber pointer fingercap, if I'm freaked out by smudges, or need to see the pointed pixel under my fingertip. Or give me an antiglare screen that doesn't collect smudges, and put a rock-solid pointer just above my fingertip. Put some bumpy, but invisible, texture on the screen, and we've finally graduated from Xerox PARC [] into the 20th Century.

    Hey Apple, can you finally redeem us from the nightmarish little box you cursed us with when you tempted us out of the terminal?
    • Re:Cat the Mouse (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:00AM (#19799795)

      I prefer the trackpad. But why don't I have a touchscreen with stability and accuracy already? There's no reason for a "pointer metaphor" device when I can just move the actual pointer.
      Touch screens are nice, but they have a major flaw: user fatigue.

      Stick out your arm, just do it. Now hold it there for 5 minutes. Do you start to feel a little tired? Now leave it out there for another 10 minutes, see how good you feel.

      Now imagine doing that straight through an 8-hour work day.

      The only ways around this would be to make all screens flat against the desk (like a piece of paper) or to pivot your arm at the elbow. But even the elbow lever method would wear you out after a while. Sure it would probably be good exercise but I'm sure it would cause more health problems than a mouse in the long term.

      If you don't like the mouse, try track pads, roller balls, pens, etc. Personally I use the trackball, with my only complaint being I have to continusouly clean the thing (more than my old ball-type mice).
      • by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:17AM (#19799995)
        You know there are professions that have been in use for ages that require you to use your arms all day. Blacksmithing, weaving, farming, manufacturing, etc, etc. You would learn to do it, just as you have learned not to do it. Besides, if it was laid down on the desk, it would be like ... writing, you know, that people have done for ages. Maybe we could get some Franciscan Monks to teach us how to hold a pen for 8 hours. Yeesh.

        • by Magada ( 741361 )
          Wish I had mod points. Bottom line, tha way we interact with computers is so 1960ish it's not even funny.
          Gimme voice commands and dictation via laringophone and maybe a stylus to point and drag with and I'll be happy.
          Dare I say "haptic interface"? Nah, let's save that for the 22nd century.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by billdar ( 595311 ) *
            While cool, voice commands/interaction is way too slow (even removing accuracy issues). It just takes a while to say what you want.

            Example: Those automated telephone bill-pay services that let you speak or use keypad to enter your credit card info. Time yourself speaking clearly the 16 digits or entering through the keypad.

            Now consider a complex command, like copying a block of text and inserting in the middle of a paragraph. How could you verbalize it quicker than a mouse stroke or a couple hot-key

          • by barzok ( 26681 )
            Yeah, voice commands will work great in my open-plan office where there's plenty of ambient noise already from people on the phone.

            Sure, the computer might be able to filter, but I don't want the noise going UP around me. I like quiet.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)


          Your post reads more sardonic than sarcastic, but I could be wrong.

          There's a difference between holding your arm out in front of you and actually doing something with your arms. I've done the whole physical labor thing; working outside, using tools all day, and carrying heavy loads of crap around; it's not bad. But holding your arm straight out (or pivoted) is oddly draining in comparison. Personally I'd rather be a blacksmith than just hold my hand face-level for 8 hours.

          As for the paper th

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Yeesh yourself, twerp. I know coming off superior on Slashdot is usually aided by a blissful ignorance of any prior understanding of an issue (and apparently there are a bunch of people with mod points who are impressed by this), but there's a substantial history of touchscreens being incredibly uncomfortable for long-term usage, from people who have been forced to 'learn to do it'. Small, repetitive motions in front of your face are far from 'blacksmithing, weaving, farming, ...': and where people in histo
      • When I have to plug a pointing device into a PC, I use a trackball. The Logitech "marble mouse" I use doesn't collect dirt against the sensors, but rather it falls through a hole onto the desk. I haven't had to clean it in several years of use, compared to several times a year for an actual mouse whose moving parts I never touch with my fingers.

        I said I prefer the trackpad. And I like the "display on desk" routine: it was great for centuries, millennia, without ever hearing about "carpal tunnel syndrome" or
        • by jrumney ( 197329 )

          The Logitech "marble mouse" I use doesn't collect dirt against the sensors, but rather it falls through a hole onto the desk.

          Maybe they've tweaked the design since I got mine, but I find that gunk builds up on the bearings that the ball sits on, and the movement gets rough and jerky after a couple of months until I scrape the gunk off the bearings. The sensor and ball itself manage to stay clean though, I think partly because the ball is hard plastic without the rubber coating that mouse balls tend to use

          • The ball rides on a few tiny rounded points that do not accumulate anything in my office. The sensor window seems to have a little bit of gunk flakes sitting on its bottom ridge, but it works just fine.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by *weasel ( 174362 )

        Now imagine doing that straight through an 8-hour work day.

        Artists and Draftsman have been doing it for centuries.
        Just shift to a drawing-table-style inclined workspace for display and input.

        The problem isn't that people don't like the mouse.
        The problem is that the mouse is not good at what it's being used to do.
        Further, touchscreens do what mousing does far better and the keyboard does the remainder even better than that.

        So why not combine it all into an inclined desktop with an app-programmable touch-base

      • Stick out your arm, just do it. Now hold it there for 5 minutes. Do you start to feel a little tired? Now leave it out there for another 10 minutes, see how good you feel. Now imagine doing that straight through an 8-hour work day.
        I think you just found the solution to the nation's obesity problem. And we would all have sexy shoulders, too.
    • by mrxak ( 727974 )
      I don't know about you, but my finger can't click in 8 different ways.
      • My four fingers can click in 16 different combos. My thumb makes it 32. Moving from binary to click, doubleclick, hold, (nothing) quaternary, that's something like 256-1024. Even if only the index and middle fingers have quaternary gestures, that's 16, with 2-3 other binary combos on the remaining fingers for 64-128 simple gestures.

        Then there's the huge range of other gestures. Like tracing two independent points with the index and middle fingers. Dragging with one finger while clicking (or quaternary gestu
        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )
          You can't do that at all. No touch screen is going to know which fingers you are tapping it with and which you are skipping. Distance between taps is not a good measure because different people have different widths for fingers. Also, it would require discipline which would make the system painful to use. The best you are going to get for reliability is knowing how many fingers are tapping. That doesn't make up all that many combinations. The problem with gestures is that you need them to be fairly un
          • Everything I said was merely to establish the maximum possible facility of a touchscreen, all much larger than the "8 ways" with a current mouse that someone claimed was superior.

            Most of your complaints can be overcome with user calibration, once, that can be transferred as a "preference".

            All of which is a much more expressive interface than a mouse.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:54AM (#19799687) by someone with no credentials, who couldn't even be bothered to make his own blog template.

    He blathers on about some "proposal," which basically involves popping up menus based on modifier keys. Then he says "Without further adieu." This is a worthless blog, and a worthless post, and a new low for slashdot being used to jack up hit counters.
  • I know there a few situations where they are one of the better input devices... but what i would like to see is a self reconfiguraing keyboard (maybe just a big oled/lcd touch display) that rearrages its layout for the application at hand. For example-- if you were using photoshop it would place a tool menu, a drawing square and a couple other options on the keyboard-- if you switched a word processor it would become a keyboard with some formatting options. no need for menus-- you could hit a "menu button"
    • by maubp ( 303462 )
      ...but what i would like to see is a self reconfiguraing keyboard (maybe just a big oled/lcd touch display) that rearrages its layout for the application at hand...

      You mean like this, Optimus Maximus keyboard?: []

      Of course, for maximum benefit it needs the software to aware of it...
      • by SolusSD ( 680489 )
        yes. that is a great start. :)
  • Emacs-ish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrokenSegue ( 895288 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:54AM (#19799693) Homepage
    Is it just me or does this "new" system look a lot like the control system employed by Emacs (and even vi), but with a colorful overlay?
  • Mouse Gestures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Romwell ( 873455 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:56AM (#19799725)
    Just two words to save the mouse: Mouse Gestures. The author tells us how limited mouse is in terms "muscle memory", yet he doesn't know that mouse isn't only for clicking. Mouse gestures can, and are performed automatically from muscle memory. I've learned a copule for Opera, and then I had to LEARN to NOT APPLY mouse gesture (down-right) to close Explorer windows.
  • That, and really good voice recognition would let me do everything I use a computer for except writing code.

    For writing code, there's no good alternative (that I've seen) to having both hands on the keyboard.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @09:59AM (#19799783) Homepage
    Was I the only one who immediate thought about abused gerbils and duct tape?
  • Programming.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by eggoeater ( 704775 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:00AM (#19799789) Journal

    ...about how mice are being applied to situations they are intrinsically poorly suited for.
    Yeah, like computer programming.
    I deal with a lot of different vendor products used for call routing and IVR applications. One thing that's happened over the past 10 years is the move from text scripts to proprietary GUI based programming tools. I'm talking drag-n-drop blocks that perform specific functions which "hook" together by dragging lines between them.

    Generally, this is to make configuring the systems more accessible to people not properly trained (or trained at ALL) in programming. ie. They're suppose to be good for writing error-free scripts. Unfortunately, these poor tools in no way reduce the number of bugs that find their way into the system.

    Additionally, they also have the following draw-backs:
    * Absolutely no error handling (try, catch, etc.)
    * No way to program function calls....once you choose a path, there's no going back...this results in TONS of duplicate code.
    * No way to know exactly what those blocks are doing under-the-hood.
    * You're limited by the functionality of the blocks provided by the vendor.
    * Many difficulties with source-control systems and build-and-release procedures.
    * Don't even get me started on what it's like to debug with these stupid things....

    Just this morning I was paged at 5:45am because someone made a change to a script. It took me an hour to find the problem because I had to zoom in and out, trying to get a feel of the layout, looking a block properties to see what's changed, etc. It turned out the lines connecting the day-of-the-week block were set correctly: they had the Monday line connected to Sunday's code.

    Talk about a fubar'd system.
    They should be outlawed.

    • by Shados ( 741919 )
      4GL tools tend to have this issue, but look at more recent ones...which while they DO have issues, solve most of the problems you're talking of (going to use MS examples, sorry!): Error handling: SSIS and WWF handle this quite nicely, with error paths and exception blocks, respectively. Duplication: Reusable blocks are in most of the recent tools. Knowing what it does: If its made in Java, .NET, etc, you can probably decompile it and get the code, often with the comments! (its what I did once having to twe
    • by LMacG ( 118321 )
      Sounds like a problem exists with allowing access to production systems by people who shouldn't have access to production systems.
  • by Strawser ( 22927 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:02AM (#19799825) Homepage
    It was called vi. [ctl]s isn't much more efficient than [esc]:s

    I like the idea of making as many commands as possible doable with the keyboard, but half the point to a gui is the ability to use the mouse instead of having to memorize a bunch of cryptic commands. Just keep the most used commands accessible by keyboard, and leave the rest to be hit with the mouse. Yeah, mice are kind of crappy for an input device, but redesigning the mouse will work better than redesigning the interface. The reason vi and emacs and other command-based editors aren't in common use outside of the geek world is because no one wants to do that except geeks.
    • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @12:46PM (#19802149) Journal
      >because no one wants to do that except geeks.

      Where 'wants' == 'spends enough time using the tool to make learning the shortcuts worthwhile.'

      Using a mouse is nice because someone who only uses the tool once a month, or who just started using it, can use it successfully and somewhat efficiently. However, people who use the program all the time, for hours a day, run into a whole other set of problems: their wrists hurt, and if they have keyboard shortcuts they learn to use them much more efficently than doing the same work with a mouse.

      I think it's like learning to touch-type. Yeah, it's a big pain in the butt to memorize a keyboard and force the keybindings into your muscle memory, and a lot of people refuse to do it, but once you DO, it's much more efficient.

      Now, it's entirely possible that anyone who uses programs enough to get to the point where learning and getting comfortable with keyboard shortcuts is, by virtue of that amount of use, defined as a geek. But I think that that's an effect, not a cause.
  • And so it goes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:03AM (#19799831)
    The mouse is simply a proxy by which the user indicates choices. It was just a matter of time before the need for a proxy was removed completely. Touch screens accomplish this. Problem is, no one, clear good method of using touch as the primary input method has presented itself...until now.

    What will become clear in time is the role the iPhone will play in the death of the mouse. The version of OS X on the iPhone, not Leopard by the way, is the next big thing - get on board now and enjoy the ride.
  • So this writer.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:08AM (#19799883)
    Wants to go back to the 'good old days' where you'd have to tab 20 times to get to the text box you want (enevitably you'd press it 21 times and have to start over), have to remember different key combinations for every program (most keep the basics the same but advanced functions usually are different) and generally do most graphical activities slower?

    Users like icons and using mouse for most activities because it's easier, safer and there's less risk of doing the wrong thing by accident. Who here hasn't experienced the frustration of losing 20 minutes of typing or resetting a connection because they pressed 'backspace' to try and delete some text only for a browser to go back a page?
    • by maubp ( 303462 )

      Wants to go back to the 'good old days' where you'd have to tab 20 times to get to the text box you want (enevitably you'd press it 21 times and have to start over), ...

      What was wrong with using SHIFT+TAB to go back one step?

      A well laid you screen (with a sensible tab order) can make tasks like data entry very easy. I cringe when watching people typing in one box, stopping, moving their mouse to the next form, click, and then go back to their keyboard! I'm sitting there shouting Just press tab! to myself.

  • by Himring ( 646324 )
    More importantly is the horrid misuse of gerbils....
  • Now that we've got that settled about mice, how about the widespread misuse in CSS style sheets of "body {font-size: 62.5%;}". I set my font size so that I can read the body text on pages which don't pull that crap, and now every blogger in the world has their body size set to 62.5% because that was the default that came with their TypePressBlogger thingy. So now I have to zoom the text on blog pages and Digg, and then un-zoom it when I go back to "normal" pages.

    If you want your headline text bigger, then

  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:13AM (#19799949) Homepage
    Try entering text with a mouse sometime... it goes something like this:

    1. Scan document for instance of the letter you want to type, scrolling as necessary.
    2. Highlight, right-click, hover to "Copy", click.
    3. Scroll back to your insertion point, right-click, hover to "Paste", click again.

    Man is that slow and inefficient!
  • From TFA: "Now, consider that without on-screen controls, the entire screen could be devoted to content."

    I read this as I notice that the article only fills maybe 25% of my screen, due to some column-size constraint placed upon the page by the blog software. How about allowing me to make use of the interface I already have before getting all nit-picky about menubars and buttons taking up relatively minute amounts of screen real-estate?
    • by mrjb ( 547783 )
      Now, consider that without on-screen controls, the entire screen could be devoted to content... and without any visual clues whatsoever, the usability of any program would soon approach zero. How do you know how to use a program that doesn't clue you about it?
  • ....35 comments and not a single gaffa tape joke.

    phew, my faith in /. remains
  • Misses the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i am kman ( 972584 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:23AM (#19800083)
    I doubt most folks would disagree with that for basic word processing, power computer users (which includes 98% of /. readers) often prefer memorizing tons of secret key strokes over using the mouse. Duh. But for folks that don't live and breath these apps, mouse-driven menus at least let folks easily access EVERYTHING.

    The issue is that it's inefficient to switch between multiple input devices so one should design GUIs that allow users to go with the flow rather than forcing them to constantly switch in the middle of their workflow. But the article obsesses with trying to argue that the keyboard is far superior to the mouse rather than saying the keyboard is better for applications that focus on text entry.

    Try creating Powerpoint slides without a mouse - or navigating the web - or playing games - or anything except for text-entry centric apps. It's a ridiculous premise to argue that the mouse is obsolete.
    • You are not suggesting keyboards are obsolete because the mouse is essential for power point slide creation, right? He is not saying the mouse is obsolete. Just that it is not the best user interface under all circumstances. Goes on to list when it is appropriate to use the keyboard.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:39AM (#19800329) Homepage
    He basically has two ideas. One of which is BRILLIANT, the other is questionable.

    Idea 1: Hide the non-essential icons/user interface tools behind a control key

    That idea is brilliant in my opinion. Take the Internet Browser. When reading the pages on the internet you do NOT need the three or four or more menu bars. When you add in the file set, my links, the back etc., the address bar, and any google/yahoo/ etc. menu bar, that can add up to quite a lot of space not always neccessary. I have two hands, I see no reason why we can not implement his concept of HIDING that all away until you press the Control key.

    Idea 2: Making all those controls key controlled. Now, I am in favor of more/better key commands. But honestly, I see no reason not to also button up those same commands. If we write "Alt-S: Save document" then why not draw a line around it and allow a mouse click as an alternate way to save the document.

    • by kisrael ( 134664 )
      Unfortunately the links were down by the time I saw the slashdot article.

      I feel so-so about hiding things. I hate the "Hide the _ characters 'til I hold the alt-key paradigm", because it slows me down, I can't start scanning for shortcuts 'til my finger is on the button and in general having the underlined characters there reminds me of the functionality.

      I do like windows start menu, and the division of "current tasks" vs "tasks you can start" that Mac lacks... in general Windows has better kbd accelerators
  • A fine blend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by British ( 51765 ) <> on Monday July 09, 2007 @10:39AM (#19800339) Homepage Journal
    For me, the quickest path is a nice fine blend of keyboard & mouse. I find myself using the keyboard much more often than the mouse though.

    The one thing I realized I can't live without is the mouse wheel. That saves quite a bit of clicking over to the scrollbar arrows, etc. Sadly, it's not supported everywhere, even in 2007. Windows' Remote Desktop often filters it out on scrollbars, which makes kitty unhappy.

    Sadly, my middle mouse button(scrollwheel) doesn't close firefox tabs in my newer Logitech & MS mouse like my old MS Intellimouse Explorer used to. that saved me a lot of rt click & close tab actions. The mice made today have a much stiffer wheel that doesn't adapt to your finger over time.
  • You are told to 'click' on images in the article to see examples of this mouseless interface...

    Mouse is more efficient for some things. Keyboard others. I like to use both, thanks.
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Monday July 09, 2007 @12:35PM (#19801973)
    Just remove any options from the screen and put everything in the context menu.

    You want to save? right-click on the document, save.

    You want to change the color of the text? select the text, right-click, change the color.

    You want to apply a new style? select the text, right-click, select style, apply.

    You want to load another document? right-click on the MDI form empty space, select 'open' and load the document.


If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.