Monday, June 22, 2015

Tools of the Trade

or, Computers Make the Man.

The "goto" tool in this biz is Microsoft Word. While there are other ways to get text into a computer, massage it into shape and send it off to the world, Word is the de facto standard for such machinations. We also rely heavily on the Adobe tools, including Photoshop and Acrobat.

I have started experimenting with a new toya piece of hardware.

Yup, that's a USB keypad. "But, wait," you say. "Don't you have one of those on your keyboard already?" Very perceptive. If the picture showed more, you would see it at the other end of my keyboard.

This new keypad does more than meets the eye (mostly cause I haven't labelled it, yet). It does not duplicate the function of the keyboard keypad, but instead adds shortcuts to many of the most-used editing functions like copy, paste and so forth. How it does this magic is via an HID macro program. What in the world is that?

Not that you need to know to make it work, but HID is the protocol that USB keypads (and mice and) use to communicate. Macros, for this purpose, allow key substitution. On my keypad, when you press "-", you actually get a cut command. When you press "+", you get paste. Here is my current key map:

Most of the document editing around here can be done with my right hand on the mouse and my left hand on the keypad. There are no awkward control keys to press. Of course you can use the HID macro program to make the keys anything you like. It was actually developed for gaming use.

You can label the keys to suit. This instructables article explains how to make key labels and where to find the HID macro software. (One note about thatI just discovered that if the software isn't running, the new key functions don't work. I will be adding it to my startup folder.)

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