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Input Devices Programming IT Technology

Keyboards are Good; Mouses are Dumb 569

An anonymous reader writes "Most emacs/vi users know this, but it seems the more I use the mouse, the less output I am making. The keyboard does seem to make much more of a mind-meld than the imprecise mouse. Paul Tyma hits it on the head."
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Keyboards are Good; Mouses are Dumb

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  • Let the editor wars begin!
  • by inkdesign ( 7389 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:04PM (#12761187)
    ...when did opinions become news??
  • by rel4x ( 783238 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:04PM (#12761198)

    I've tried it. Absolutely impossible.
    • I did complete Quake1 using keyboard only, since I moved directly from Doom2 (which I also complete using only the keyboard). I kick-ass too.

      I nearly puked when I switched to mouse for Quake2...but eventually it became second nature.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:04PM (#12761199)
    Imagine trying to use a CAD program, or even browse a web-forum without a mouse. The mouse still wins in some applications.

    (Didn't RTFA).
    • It's pretty clear you didn't RTFA because he says in the article that his observations only apply to his situation - i.e. text editing, and not to graphics.

      But, that aside, the article overall is a pretty pointless, piece of fluffy opinion with lots snarky commentary used to hide the general lack of clever insight.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:26PM (#12761485)
      I make my living with a CAD program. While I wouldn't want to use it without the mouse, I am much faster than many of the people around me because I use the keyboard more. Rather than hunting around for a little tool button to click, I just type the command with my left hand. It's faster and it keeps my spacial focus on my drawing instead of on the interface. Like the blurb says (can't read the article), the keyboard is more of a mind-meld, because a touch-typist doesn't have to think about typing, it just happens. The best mouse user still has to look at where there mouse is going in order to be able to click the right thing. I shouldn't have to look at the interface, only the thing I'm working on.

      So, the keyboard and mouse are both useful interface devices. IMO The efforts to make everything point-and-click are misguided, because they throw out a very powerful interface device. I usually consider it a Windows disease, because Windows is more likely to aim for a least-common-denominator (It's a design choice). Programs like AutoCAD that grew from a Unix Workstation mentality assume that the user is intelligent, and provide power for those that want it. Autodesk Inventor seems much more stifling to me, because the interface (Created for Windows by Windows users) is designed to force me to use it their way, not mine, and they want me to click on things with the mouse.
    • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:36PM (#12762167) Homepage Journal
      Imagine trying to use a CAD program, or even browse a web-forum without a mouse.

      Even with one, CAD users are likely to complain. Take my wife, for example. She used to work a lot with CAD systems in several civil engineering offices. She still complains about the stupid 1-, 2- and even 3-button mice, saying how nice her old 16-button mice were.

      Of course, she had software that would let her quickly map any of a zillion library functions to any button. She even liked to demo using this with a text editor. The mapping had all the common edit operations mapped to buttons. She could rearrange text faster than you could follow with your eyes, just using the 16-button mouse.

      Funny thing; she now has a Mac with a trackpad input that uses a pen. She still complains about the lack of buttons. She has to keep putting the pen down and switching to the keyboard to type a command, then picking the pen up.

      "What a waste of time! They knew how to do it better 20 years ago."
  • This page cannot be displayed due to an internal error.

    If you are the administrator of this site, please visit the Xoops Troubleshooting Page for assistance.

    Error [Xoops]: Unable to connect to database in file class/database/databasefactory.php line 34
  • by theurge14 ( 820596 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:05PM (#12761201)
    Use Illustrator and only your keyboard. Go!
  • imprecision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unk1911 ( 250141 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:05PM (#12761202) Homepage
    I agree completely. The mouse is imprecise and takes too long, requires very good hand/eye coordination. When I have to work on a repetitive task I can either write a macro or have the exact sequence of key-strokes down and do the job much faster.

    The mouse is better when the datasets that you are working on are not localized / scattered around the screen (it's like a cassette tape vs. cd-rom which can quickly access random parts of data without rewinding)

    ahref= []http://unk1911.b>
  • Not quite. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Baumgarten ( 645894 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:05PM (#12761203) Homepage

    Can you imagine how many times I would have had to hit 'tab' just to get to this textarea if I only had a keyboard and was using w3m or something? I shudder at the prospect.

    • There's a good chance your browser has some shortcuts that will let you get there quicker. For example in Mozilla I can reach this text area by typing R-e-p-tab-tab-tab-tab. The first 3 keys take me straight to the "Reply to This" link.

      Of course you're also missing the point. It's easier to use the mouse in many applications because they have been designed with a mouse in mind. But an application designed with the keyboard in mind might be faster to use than one designed mainly for mouse.

    • Can you imagine how many times I would have had to hit 'tab' just to get to this textarea if I only had a keyboard and was using w3m or something? I shudder at the prospect.

      Not so insightful. Any well designed software that's designed to be used primarily with a keyboard, and with a mouse as an afterthought, it more efficient to use with a keyboard than with a mouse.

      Granted, web browser are naturally good candidates to be used with a mouse, but I guarantee you I know scores of people who can browse faste
    • Re:Not quite. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MattyIce ( 565167 ) * <slashdot@mattw.cot[ ]net ['se.' in gap]> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:09PM (#12761924)
      Being a blind computer user, I don't use the mouse at all--unless I am controlling the mouse pointer with the keyboard. I primarily use IE in conjunction with Window-Eyes as a screen-reading application. With this combination, I can very easily and quickly move to various types of controls on web pages etc. Most people who have observed me browsing the web etc. say I navigate through web pages much faster than they do. Granted, I am using some specialized software to do this but I don't see why someone couldn't write some scripts to do some of the same tasks that my screen-reader does to simplify web navigation.
  • by PopeAlien ( 164869 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:05PM (#12761218) Homepage Journal
    Hits it on the head..

    This page cannot be displayed due to an internal error.

    ..and apparently knocks it out.
  • by noselasd ( 594905 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:05PM (#12761220)
    They could read eyboard/index.html []
    for counter arguments. Ofcourse, as the tty/line based input interfaces on *nix, the mouse might do that much for applications such as vim/emacs as they are today.
  • "making outputs" are dumber ... but... putting a link to on Slashdot is dumberer!
  • by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:06PM (#12761227)
    ...all Hollywood movies and TV shows never allow the characters to use a mouse.

    I'm impressed how those guys can use the keyboard to rotate around and zoom 3D graphics in realtime, and then apply some amazing pixel-sharpening processing algorithm, all by using keyboard commands.

    I've often wondered how they could do this so quickly. Especially when they literally have to type everything they want into a text field on the screen. For example, "search for drivers license of all bad guys within last two days".

    I mean, it's a search engine - you don't have to type "search" into the text field!!!

    • How do you know its specifically a search engine? To quote the esteemed Lt. Jim Dangle: "Google? This is the Sheriff's department, we don't use f***g Google!"
    • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:39PM (#12761620) Journal
      display -dither -despeckle -gamma 1.8 -sharpen 2 0.5 thisSecretImage.jpg

      I do that stuff all the time. I stopped using windows altogether about two years ago, every day I still find myself using the GUI less and less. Sure some things are irreplaceable, but for most stuff -- I want to download an image gallery? I can waste five minutes setting up a download in d4x or I can type something like

      for ALL in `seq -w firstvar lastvar`;do wget http://somesite/gallery/DSC$ALL.jpg;done [somesite] ...and I'm essentially done. Takes less time to type that than opening the damn download program, and the "interface" is just as usable (at least it is to me).

      And yes, I DO use my system for video editing and photography work. I still long for Gimp to have the keyboard-ability of the SGI/Wavefront system I learned to use more than a decade ago.
  • Mouses?

    This is a man who thinks the plural of goose is sheep!

  • by ArielMT ( 757715 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:09PM (#12761275) Homepage Journal
    I got a computer to let my mouse surf the 'Net. What am I supposed to tell my mouse when he reads this article, you insensitive clod?

  • Yeah? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valar ( 167606 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:09PM (#12761276)
    Try using photoshop without a mouse.

    Or maybe, the correct answer here, like in every field, is USE THE PROPER TOOL FOR THE JOB.
    • Re:Yeah? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:33PM (#12761560)
      That's what I was thinking.

      I'd agree with the assertion that a word processor, spreadsheet, or other primarily textual application is definitely easier to use with a keyboard and control strokes than with a mouse -- if you're willing to overcome the initial learning curve. I am, but a surprising number of people aren't. Personally, it annoys the holy living shit out of me if a word processor requires me to use a mouse for anything at all. Sometimes, I'll use the mouse for selecting a field in a dialogue box, but this is less often because there are a lot of fields (legitimate reason), than because the UI engineer came up with a stupid tab order.

      For graphics apps, on the other hand, the mouse is going to be the primary tool. Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw, and so on would be virtually unusable for real work without a mouse. That said, I use keyboard shortcuts extensively in all of the above.

      The solution, IMHO, is to make sure that you can do as much as possible with either the mouse or the keyboard, and let the user decide which one works best for particular tasks in his or her own unique workflow.
    • Re:Yeah? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rolan ( 20257 ) *
      Try using photoshop without a mouse. Not a problem, I'll use my tablet. It's easier anyway.
    • I had a long comment about "where and when," but I think this table is a better idea:
      multi-avatar navigation
      Graphics Design/spatial data entry
      All other forms of data entry
      navigating when you have only one avatar(as in games)

      I'd say that a mouse is seldom the right tool for the right job. You can't even really do all the browsing stuff with a mouse, as it often involves some other form of data entry. Further, since clicking is so very primitiv

  • by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nk@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:10PM (#12761280) Homepage
    Most people feel that way, and I certainly do as well, but many usability studies have been done and for menu based commands the mouse is faster than arrow keys and drop menus.
    If what we are talking about is hot keys, then there is some speed gain, but I have found that for most select cut and paste operations (even in text editors) the mouse/hot key combination seems to be fastest.

    Oh and the article is already down.
  • Of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rasafras ( 637995 ) <tamas@pha.j[ ]edu ['hu.' in gap]> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:10PM (#12761283) Homepage
    He is sinply assuming that all anybody ever does is navigate file menus and some word processing. Choosing icons from a desktop, clicking buttons, things like that are not just eye candy... they matter. And for the things I do, multimedia editing and stuff, the mouse is more than essential. I agree fully with the poster that pointed out this is a thinly veiled 3 emacs news item, and rather terrible news. HEY, GEE GUYS, KEYBOARDS ARE BETTER THAN MICE FOR WORD PROCESSING.
  • While I spent much time in Emacs and VI in my younger years, I really can't imagine going back to them. BBEdit and my Logitech MX1000 are just too wonderful together to ever go back.

    A mouse is very useful in a text editor that was originally designed to use it. And, of course, the mx1000 kicks all kinds of ridiculous ass.
  • While both have cords, mice lend themselves to seconday use as garottes due to the small size of the mouse, espcially mini USB models for laptops. Keyboards meanwhile have a definite edge as a blunt instrument, able to focus the full power along one edge or to spread the impact across the face of the bottom, or even cause the embedding of key shrapnel.

    Other than these thoughts, WTF? is definitely going through my mind as in "WTF is this article for anyhow? Should be kiss Gnome and KDE goodbye and go back
    • by pizen ( 178182 )
      Keyboards meanwhile have a definite edge as a blunt instrument, able to focus the full power along one edge or to spread the impact across the face of the bottom, or even cause the embedding of key shrapnel.

      But only if you're using the IBM Model M. Modern keyboards just don't have the structural integrity to cause damage to anything but themselves.
  • by trybywrench ( 584843 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:10PM (#12761294)
    I do not wish vi to be seen so close to emacs lest someone think they are together. vi wouldn't be caught dead with the likes of emacs... the after prom party doesn't count there had been much drinking
  • Keyboards are good, yes. Mice are good too, that's true. They both are good... for what they're good at :-)

    Example: use a word processor, and you can be sure it's worthwhile taking some time learning keyboard shortcuts, since you're already typing text as the main activity in that context. Use a web browser though, and the situation is reversed: you spend a lot more time clicking around in a browser than typing. In this case, switching to the keyboard often is a hindrance more than anything.

    The only softw
  • No kidding. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Matilda the Hun ( 861460 ) <flatsymcnoboobs <at> leekspin <dot> com> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:13PM (#12761324) Homepage
    They're stupid. As a matter of fact, GUIs are stupid too. So are command lines. If you're a REAL geek, you'll do your computer work with a punch card. If it can't be done with that, well, it must not be worth doing.
    • If you're a REAL geek, you'll do your computer work with a punch card.

      Pfff, kids these days...

      Real geeks program their computers with 8 switches and leds, the ALTAIR way. Like real men.
  • That uses the keyboard almost religously. Tab-Tab-Tab-Space to submit for Slashdot articles too :)

    An interesting point for those of you who participate in online bulletin boards that use Invision Power or vBulletin... alt-s "submits" for you on almost any page :) I had actually written to Google to have them update Gmail to have some damn keyboard shortcuts, but I'm still waiting on that... :(
  • by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:17PM (#12761371) Homepage

    I thought this argument died in the 80's.


  • by billnapier ( 33763 ) <.napier. .at.> on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:18PM (#12761378) Homepage
    Because mice would have been the smart way.
  • Goms demonstrates this.
    It takes a reletive .2 seconds to tap a key. It takes a reletive 1.85 seconds to think about moving to the mouse, locating where to point the mouse, and moving it there.
    There is an interface that works all this out to be as fast as the command line, easier to use then any current GUI or command line, and is matched up to what humans can do cognativly. It's text editor is Archy, and as a whole it's called The Humane Interface. It is Jef Raskin's design. The man behind the origina
  • Let me lay it out for you nice and simple. If you choose to use tools that work best with a keyboard then the keyboard will be most efficient. If your tool works better with mouse input then a mouse will be more effiecient.

    Try using a keyboard exclusively with Photoshop. Oops!

    The tool you use dictates the hand action.
  • You can think about it like this:

    When you use a keyboard you have a number of keys + 10 fingers (most people). This allows for:

    1) lots of "parallelization" (as you are hitting A with your left pinky, your right index finger is hovering right above H, your brain is already lining up the other fingers, and so on)

    2) multi-finger/multi-key -> multi-function combinations

    On the other hand, when you have a mouse, you cannot type (most of the work is really typing), you have to make a roughly 10 inch latera
  • What's all this mouse/keyboard stuff? I simply think what I want these machines to do and it does it. So much for "right click" this and "alt" that.
  • and THEN complain about them. Geesh. Get it straight!
  • TFA only uses typing as the example of interacting with the computer, in this case, with text editors and using the keyboard shortcut instead of using the mouse and clicking on File-Save. His article works great in this sense, because the keyboard is naturally the most effective tool for the task of typing.

    However, it takes little to no tweaking of his "Cyborg" argument to say that mice are superior when using CAD and playing most computer games. After a certain duration at any of these activities, the
  • by gvc ( 167165 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:26PM (#12761486)
    Most input from human to computer is digital - selecting from a menu of items; selecting a particular window; clicking OK; entering text, etc.

    Some input is analog - like drawing a picture. Some is analog but maybe gratuitously so - like dragging or resizing a window.

    Mice are great for analog input, and not so great for digital.

    So why are mice used so much? Because it is easy to train primates to whack the right paddles to perform certain well-defined tasks. Not because such an interface is most efficient for an adept user.

    It is true that Windows has a hideous alternate digital input method using tab and enter. That's equivalent to unary.

    It is not clear to me that *any* current keyboard input convention is as efficient as it might be. Certainly not Emacs, which makes you escape the ordinary thing you do (navigating) in order to facilitate something you do less often (inserting stuff at a new place).

    All these ergonomic issues are amenable to evaluation by experiment, but the easy-to-implement experiments all involve short learning periods and previously unexposed subjects. Or, worse still, subjects who have already been exposed to a particular way of doing things. Such naive experiments will tend always to support "use a mouse, just like Windows."
    • Mice are great for analog input, and not so great for digital.

      Using the wrong words there... a common mistake, one I make myself. In reality, both the mouse and keyboard are digital of course, but the keyboard is discrete and the mouse is continuous. (And to be more pedantic, it's only "effectively continuous"

      Certainly not Emacs, which makes you escape the ordinary thing you do (navigating) in order to facilitate something you do less often (inserting stuff at a new place).

      You are using the word "E
  • No kidding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:26PM (#12761487) Homepage Journal
    The mouse is a selection tool, a filter. The keyboard is a creative combinatorial tool. There is a reason why every modern desktop computer has both. Actually there are probably several reasons.

    We're comparing shovels to screwdrivers here, folks.

  • You know, I think he might be on to something. When I click on the link in the article with my mouse, nothing happens!
  • by Ruger ( 237212 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:37PM (#12761604) Homepage
    ...then we'll have something to debate.

  • WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @04:39PM (#12761618) Homepage
    This kind of reminds me of WordPerfect 5.1, where you could do everything with one of Alt,Ctrl,Shift, and the function keys. Once you mastered all the functions, or all the common ones, operating in WordPerfect was very quick. I know my highschool had labels on the top of every keyboard that had all the shortcuts there. Made them a lot easier to memorize. You could probably still set up a word processor like this if you took the time, but who wants to do that.
  • by Paradox ( 13555 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:38PM (#12762184) Homepage Journal
    Awhile ago, I bought a Fingerworks Keyboard. [] These things use a heat-sensing technology to allow the same surface to detect gestures, button presses, and mousing without any "pushing" required. Contact is all it takes.

    It's pretty slick, and it really helps me when I'm doing somethign that requires alot of transitioning from mouse to keyboard. It also adds gesturing to any application, which is pretty damn slick. Gestures can be even faster than keyboard input.
  • data input rate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iammaxus ( 683241 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:58PM (#12762441)
    Here is an extremely quick, and extremely dirty analysis of how much data each method can input.

    Ignoring simulatneous key presses (trust me, the number will be enormous even without them), the average workplace typer can achieve 50 wpm ( []). At 5 characters per word (same site), that comes to 250 characters per minute, or 4.17 per second. With a set of characters including the alphabet (26), punctuation (11), numbers (10), we have

    (26+11+10)^4.17 = 9,389,621 distinct inputs possible per second

    The mouse input question is significantly more difficult. One possible approximation of data input is clicking on distinct points on the screen. Just by playing around with a mouse, I believe I can hit any point on a 250x250 grid on the screen each second. I can mark that point with, say, 1 of 3 distinct button presses.

    (250*250*3)^1 = 187,500

    Keyboard wins by 50 times, apparently.

    One can pretty quickly see, though, that no human can possibly generate this much data. Typing words at that rate is using no where near the complete set of possible data, and I can't imagine any useful situation where a person could be click ing on one of 187,500 points every second...
  • by The Famous Druid ( 89404 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @06:09AM (#12766555)
    ... to the opinions of people who use words like 'mouses' ?

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman