The Linux Cast

Daily Linux Content on YouTube and Odysee

The Keyboard Challenge Is Really Hard

So a little while ago, I made a video about how I was going to attempt to ditch my mouse as much as possible and just use the keyboard to do most if not all of my computing. I knew going in that there were going to have to be some exceptions for this challenge to work. Kdenlive, for example, is almost useless without a mouse. Yes, there are loads of keybindings, but the mouse makes it work just so much better. I thought, at the time of that announcement, that kdenlive would be the program that I had the hardest time with. I fully expected to just pull out the mouse when I was going to edit a video, and then put it away again when I was done.

Little did I know that this was going to be much, much, more difficult. Let me explain.

Discord Is a Pain in My Ass

So, I know that as a FOSS enthusiast, I should not like Discord because it is a privacy nightmare and a piece of proprietary garbage, but I do like Discord. Not because it has great software, but over the last two years, we've built a great community there that I enjoy immensely. I've made friends and had wonderful discussions there that have made this entire YouTube experience much better than it would have been if I was doing this mostly alone.

But there's an issue with Discord beyond the proprietary nature of the software. The keybindings are horrible, and even if they weren't my damn keyboard (of which I've been so very proud of for over a year), doesn't have the necessary keys to make a keyboard only usage of Discord possible. Turns out you really need page up and page down, and I don't have those keys. Now I could get VIA up and running and reflash the keyboard to get those keys, and I have done, but it was a pain in the ass simply because of the layout of this particular keyboard (for some reason it only has 3 keys along the side instead of 4, which makes it hard to get everything I want on one layer).

So, Discord has been the second app that has caused me problems when it comes to this challenge. I've bought a Moonlander, and with that I will get used to using layers again, so that should solve my Discord+Keyboard quandary, but we'll see.

File Management

I love my file managers. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, knows that I love my file managers. Specifically, I love Krusader more than I love pizza. Well, maybe not that much, but it's effin close, man, I tell you. But the file manager has proven to be the second place where this challenge has become mostly impossible. And the reason is, and this sounds dumb even as I type it, drag and drop. Turns out, fuck me, you can't drag and drop with a keyboard. Whoda thunk it? Jeez, Matt, you effin' idiot.

I didn't realize that I dragged, and I dropped things so often. But apparently, I do. The moment I tried to do something in Krusader, I realized that I had no clue how to replicate that functionality with keybindings. And yes, I figured it out eventually (and customized it to make it better), it still doesn't feel as natural to do it with the keyboard. It's copy or cut commands and the paste in the other tab, it's so much more motion and work to do it with the keyboard than it is to do it with my trackball. So I did end up using my mouse there as well, just because it was so much easier.

Keybindings Everywhere, For Everyone

Those were just two of the apps I found that I had a hard time abandoning the mouse in. But by far my biggest issue is that every program everywhere has a different set of keybindings. I know that sounds like a duh moment, but I hadn't realized how different a keybinding layout could be between apps. Luckily, a lot of apps do use vim bindings for some things, at least for movement. This makes some of this easier. But when you get to more complex operations, the keybindings keep piling up and some of them are the same (which presents its own problems when you think about it) and some of them are different. Some of them make total sense, some of them you look at and think 'what the fuq?'

So it has taken time to get to the point where I know the bindings, and even after a month, I'm still mostly lost in quite a few apps. Some apps have the ability to customize the bindings, which has made it easier, but others don't. It has been a HUGE learning curve, one that I was not at all prepared for. And I should have been.

I Should Have Known

The thing is, I had to know that this was going to be difficult. I had tried once before, and I failed then for the same reason it was so hard this time: the mouse is important to the usage of your computer, whether you want it to be or not. It has taken a ton of effort to even get as far as I have, and I still use my mouse more often than I want to, in apps that shouldn't really need it. And that's another thing: the habit has been really hard to break.

If I had been able to go cold turkey, just completely turn the mouse off and move it away, I'd have been much better off. But as you've read, I haven't been able to do that. There are places where the mouse is still basically a necessity, and that has meant that because it is there, I use it. Even when I know the binding to do the thing I want to do.

So, I should have known that I was going to not be as good at this as I had hoped going in. But I didn't and I find myself disappointed. This is one challenge I wanted to do better at.

All Is Not Lost

But, I have gotten better. Despite the hardship of doing this, I have started to use the keyboard more for motion within my workflow. I use it to move windows and scroll and all sorts of things, whereas before I'd have always used the mouse to do those things. So, this experience has been somewhat successful, even if not as much as I had hoped it would be.

And I'm not giving up. The month may be over, but I'm going to keep working on removing the use of my mouse as much as possible. I like that workflow a lot, and the less I use the mouse, the more I like using it less. The issues I have above, I will find solutions for. Discord will be easy once I have the keyboard that has the keys necessary to do what is needed. The drag and drop thing will be harder, because that is such an easy way of moving a file, but I think the solution for this is to abandon the GUI file manager completely and move things around either in Ranger or just in the terminal. That makes more sense, and will get me some more nerd cred, so win-win.

The keybinding confusion I talked about, will be solved in time. The more I use the bindings in every app, the more I will remember them. Or I should say, the more I will remember to use them.

So, I will keep on keepin on. I think this is going to be good for me long term. I will be sure to update you on my progress.

Hope everyone has a good week,