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Mouse Gestures

September 11, 2006

I recently had an opportunity to meet the great Scott Hanselman at a Pittsburgh .Net group meeting.  I’ve scoured his Ultimate Developer Tools list and followed his blog for some time but until I actually saw him, ‘at the controls’, I don’t think I appreciated what a real pro can do with the tools in his famous list.  It was like owning an Audi for years and thinking you were a pretty good driver until you watched The Transporter.

Scott had little use for his mouse with all the hotkeys, alt-tab and command windows that he uses.  I however use my mouse all the time thanks to StrokeIt. (http://www.tcbmi.com/strokeit/)

I’m not ready to throw the gauntlet down and challenge Scott to a race just yet but I think for some, utilizing mouse gestures could be an option.  Think about where your hands rest while you’re at your computer.  For me, unless I’m typing an email or writing code in VS (where I’m a total hotkey junkie thanks to Scott and CodeRush), then my hand is resting on my trackball.

You want to open an explorer window.  You could hit some hotkey and type explorer, or you could click a quicklaunch.  I hold down my right click and draw a small ‘W’ on my screen.

Ok, I need to minimize it for a second.  Move both of my hands and hit Windows+M, move my pointer to the minimize button or I could just draw a quick diagonal line that slopes to the left.  Close the window?  Alt-F4 is a stretch for people with little hands, the X is usually a trip to get your pointer to or you could just draw a little ‘C’

Two more System examples.  I remapped two default keys to speed up common tasks.  Instead of doing Ctl-F for Find, I just draw a little ‘L’ and for alt tab I reverse the L.  Granted this doesn’t provide for tabbing through oodles of windows but if I’m using alt tab I’m usually just jumping between two windows anyway.  Copy is a line drawn straight up and paste drawn straight down.  Stop and think how fast you could do that.  Highlight some text, right click and draw a line moving up for about an inch.  I’m here to tell you, it’s stupid fast.

You can setup new programs to launch and associate a gesture with them.  An ‘M’ on my system opens MediaMonkey. (A fantastic Windows alternative to iTunes)

Gestures can also be associated with specific programs.  In IE drawing a line to the right would be like hitting forward but in MediaPlayer it would Zoom 100%. Oh and drawing the line to the left in IE is like hitting back (backspace).  In Photoshop it is a bit of a toss up.  I learned the hotkeys ages ago and flip through tools without even thinking about it but many of those things have a gesture associated with the by default as well.  As most common hotkeys are one letter you can usually have one hand on your mouse and another on the keyboard and fly.  To add an example though, instead of Find, ‘L’ in Photoshop activates the Lasso tool. Intuitive.   You can, of course, use the built in Spy++ tool to setup your own custom actions in programs that don’t have defaults you’d like.

Finally, the application is Freeware, has an almost non-existent footprint, and sports a nice SDK for developers who want to use aspects of the application in their own work.  Go get it. http://www.tcbmi.com/strokeit/

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