[xplorer˛] — Keyboard Accessibility
home » blog » 9 December 2007

"Keyboard not found — press <F1> to continue"

Hands up who knows what the <END> keyboard key does? How about <Ctrl+Page Dn>? Or <Alt+Prnt Scrn>? Anyone? I can see a few of the old hands (pun intended) up. As computer users mature, they find themselves doing repeated tasks and therefore seek to maximize their efficiency, and that's the strength of the keyboard (ask any accessibility user). The story goes that QWERTY arrangement was devised to make people slower but have you ever heard people rated by their MCPM (mouse clicks per min :) achievements?

xplorer˛ is no typing program, and can be quite happily used by mouse alone, but in large folders you will appreciate the speed and precision offered by the keyboard, moving up and down lists with thousands of items. I remember one of the tips and tricks in MS Developer Studio 6 was "use Home to go to the beginning of the line" and that would sound lame advice, until you realize that not all computer users have 20+ years experience behind them. So today, in the interest of our less experienced friends, I offer the following table with some less usual keyboard navigation shortcut keys. Many can also be used in any standard windows listview control (e.g. even in windows explorer).
ArrowsMove selection to the nearest item in the direction of the arrow key
HomeMove to the first item in a folder
EndMove to the last item in a folder
Page UpMove up one page full of items
Page DnMove down one page full of items
Alt+UpMove to the previous selected item without harming the selection
Alt+DownMove to the next selected item without harming the selection
Ctrl+Alt+UpMove to the first item in the previous group (View | Arrange by | Show in groups)
Ctrl+Alt+Down Move to the first item in the next group

For more keyboard tricks you can check the full manual (Help | Contents command). There are several tables in page 270, section called "Commands outside the menu system". For example slightly different things happen if you use any of the above commands while pressing the <CTRL> key!

Almost all commands in xplorer˛ are accessible with keyboard shortcuts too. Next to each menu item you see the current keyboard shortcut for it. For instance, in Edit menu there is "Copy to... F5", which means you can press the key <F5> to issue this command without opening the menu. If you are used to a different set of keys for common commands, say you want <F5> to refresh the folder contents, or for any other reorganization of keyboard shortcuts, you can customize all commands to your taste using Customize | Keyboard (see this older demo). You'll find some interesting keyboard only commands in the "Miscellaneous" category.

ps. For the uninitiated, <Alt+Prnt Scrn> takes a snapshot of the active window and puts it in the clipboard. Then you can Paste the picture in any program, e.g. powerpoint. This is quite handy for submitting bug reports. Another obscure feature is pressing <Ctrl+C> while any message box is showing up to copy the error message as text (!) in the clipboard

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