2010-08-13

emacs, alt, Win, Meta, keys

Drew Adams wrote:
> > > It mentions explicitly Alt+Letter.
> So what? No one said that menu accelerators do not _exist_.
> And no one said that Microsoft has no doc describing them.

> I say that my guess is that the percentage of Windows users that regularly use -
> or even who have _ever_ tried to use - menu accelerators is very, very, _very_
> small. It simply is not a large part of the global Windows experience. That's
> my guess.

> Do do guess differently? Do you guess that _most_ Windows users use menu
> accelerators? Or even 10% of Windows users? Or 1%? What's your guess?

> Do your mother, sister, cousin, neighbor, doctor, dentist, car mechanic, and
> grocer (who all use Windows no doubt) use Windows menu accelerators? Have they
> even heard of such a thing?

> No way. That's _my_ guess.

> Would they care to use accelerators if you told them about their existence and
> how terribly handy they are? Point them to the URL you passed along as proof of
> the importance. See how quickly they adopt this feature that you feel is so
> vital to Windows.

> No way. That's _my_ guess.

Windows's mechanism for accessing menu is pretty old, starting from mid 1990s or earlier.

my guess is that most programers use it, and extensively.

when i first started to use Windows in a company in 1998, i learned it and use it extensively. I haven't used Windows from about 2002 to 2008, but in 2009 i switched from Mac to Windows as my main machine. I still use the Alt as a efficient way to operate applications.

for example, one trick is that Alt+Space brings out the generic window menu, then you can press c to close the window, or other letter to max or min the window. So, typically if i want to close a window, i press Alt+Space c, in any application. That's faster than Alt+F4 because F4 is far up. Same for minimizing the window. And it works system wide.

likewise, in Explorer (aka a folder on desktop), i can quickly press

Alt v d to change to listing view.
Alt v m to change to thumbnail view.

and likewise many other operations in diverse applications.

For emacs, it is a different beast so i don't use the Alt way to access emacs's menu (after all emacs doesn't really rely on putting commands to menus.). But the point here is that the Alt key on Windows is quite old and very clean and efficient keyboarding system, and i suspect is still heavily used by programers on Windows today.

i think the original design is that it allows people to operate the computer wholly without owning a mouse. (at the time mouse is still a novelty from Apple) If i recall correctly, it was well praised. It was so for Windows in 1990s, and i can still operate Windows completely today with just keyboard, reasonably effective (without turning on mousing keys on the number keypad; and without considering 3D apps or drawing apps etc that really requires mousing.)

though, Lennart's and Uday argue that Alt key under Windows is more important than the Win key. This i'm not sure. In last few years, i think Microsoft has de-emphasized the importance of the Alt key, and put more emphasize on the Win key. Because the Win key got new logo design with their new keyboards, and there are more shortcuts assigned to it in Vista and more in 7. By default, Windows Vista has the underscore in the menu names turned off. I recall reading that it's because few people use the Alt key today and the underscore in menu names is a eyesore (because average users is happy to use the mouse to pull menus, and the underscore confuses them).

in general, the Win key's function is for system wide OS management such as app launch/switch, logging out, system sleep. While Alt is for system wide control of menus by keyboard for each app.

There are common exceptions of course. e.g. many games will disable Win key when they are running. Because, in gaming situation, user don't usually want to do any system mangement tasks, and the accidental hitting of Win key is a problem. Likewise, many specialized apps will have different use of Alt key. e.g. In Second Life (a 3D app), Alt is to control camera used in conjunction of mouse. In Blender (3D app), Alt also has specialized purposes.

just some input from my experience.

Xah


2010-08-13

> On Fri, Aug 13, 2010 at 18:01, Jason Rumney wrote:
>
>> Â On 13/8/2010 11:37 PM, Chong Yidong wrote:
>
>>> If there is any technical reason why this cannot be done on Windows, I
>>> have not yet seen anyone argue it.
>>
>> Such a program might theoretically be possible, but as far as I know it does
>> not exist.
>
> I haven't tried it, but shouldn't AutoHotKey be theoretically able to do it?

Lennart Borgman wrote:
> I might misremember, but I think that was not possible. That was one
> of the reason I added the low level keyboard hook to my patched Emacs.

i researched this about 3 months ago, and in one of the doc page, it stated no. (can't find the page at the moment, but i should be able to find it if anyone needs)

here's what i've written on my AutoHotkey tutorial:
«the “Win+L” (lock computer) and “Win+U” (easy access center) cannot be disabled.»
http://xahlee.org/mswin/autohotkey_examples.html

it was quoted or rephrased from one of the page in the official doc. (i myself didn't need/want to disable it)

basically, it's easy to completely disable the Win key. Can be done with IntelliType that is bundled with every Microsoft keyboards, thru a GUI.

but there are certain Win+key combinations that's hard or impossible. See e.g. http://www.autohotkey.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=345326

btw, same situation with Mac. Certain Opt+key and/or Cmd+key are hard to disable.

Xah

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