Keyboard reference on demand

Keyboard shortcuts are handy but don't really require much in terms of documentation. After all, in GUI operating systems most shortcuts are for menu items are defined for the user right in the interface. (Simply open your File menu and you'll see the shortcuts for each item, next to the command that it activates.)

In the days before the graphical user interface, a "quick reference card" that listed all the shortcuts was a common part of a product's documentation suite. This practice continues with some high-end applications, but for the most part has disappeared along with other printed pieces. Ergonis Software offers an alternative called KeyCue. When you activate KeyCue , a dynamically-assembled list with the current application's keyboard shortcuts gently fades into view. This serves as a reference list and, according to the authors, helps you remember shortcuts by making them easier to identify and utilize.

Technical writers and publishers will be pleased that no effort is required to support KeyCue, it simply generates the list based on what the application already declares in its menus. Unfortunately, this means that it can't remind the user about shortcuts that aren't associated with a menu command. (Those shortcuts will remain the hidden gems left waiting for discovery by those who read the documentation.) But KeyCue is certainly an interesting approach to helping users become more proficient without the expense of developing and updating additional documentation.

Posted: May 6, 2004 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item