How can I get OFF my mouse? Keyboard shortcuts & more

Hi everyone! This is definitely the right, smart community for this question… Does anyone know of a definitive, helpful guide to re-jiggering a Mac to facilitate using keyboard shortcuts across multiple apps?

I need to leave my pointing device (mouse, trackpad, trackball…) behind as much as possible. (FYI for a very good reason: for pain reasons, I need to eliminate pronation – palms-down position – of my forearms and wrists.)

HOWEVER, the esoteric keyboard shortcuts I’m staring down and the very tedious Voice Control/Siri worlds are also making this way too hard. How am I going to learn all that stuff save making a zillion flashcards?

I’ve messed around a LOT with this obsessive project, Googled it a lot, and I’m hoping someone has an idea of an already-developed guide. I’m willing to make the time for setup if I learn of something brilliant. Exported macros or scripts would be even BETTER though! I’m also up for using Voice Control/Dication/Siri to a certain extent, especially in conjunction with Apple Shortcuts.

My tools: I’m on a MacBook Air 2022 (M2) using MacOS Ventura. I own/use TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro, Apple Shortcuts, KensingtonWorks (for trackball), Hazel, and probably some other software that would help. I use MacOS shortcuts like command-space for Spotlight all the time. And my main apps for my work are Arc Browser (thanks, Adam!), Spark 2.0 email, Asana, Sunsama, Todoist, Fantastical, Numbers, Pages (I am anti-Microsoft software).

ANY suggestions at all are so very welcome. Thanks in advance.

There are pointing devices where your hand rests in other orientations.

Some examples:

(h/t https://techrrival.com/best-alternatives-to-a-regular-computer-mouse/)

I’ve literally tried every pointing device… since 2005. I have 2 vertical mice (one left and one right) from Cherry as well. Of course I CAN use a pointing device, but I want to minimize having to. So I’m focused on voice and keyboard shortcuts.

You didn’t mention it, so I will. You can navigate the menubar and the dock, and other elements, completely from the keyboard.

Two utilities that will probably be helpful in your quest:

KeyCue makes it easy to see all available keyboard shortcuts for any given app:

And Homerow is a new app I came across yesterday which promises to make almost anything easily and quickly accessible from the keyboard. I haven’t used it yet, but the information and videos on the website look good!

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I notice that you included Keyboard Maestro in your list of tools. How much time have you spent with KM? Because it’s been my experience that with a decent amount of time and effort, Keyboard Maestro can get you to a place where you almost never have to use your mouse. And the best part is that it works in virtually any app.

In my previous life, I spent 12 to 18 hours a day using Avid Media Composer. Unlike Final Cut Pro, which has an enormous number of keyboard shortcuts for nearly everything, Avid Media Composer only has some; there are a lot of things you simply need the mouse to complete. Since I spent so much time inside of Media Composer, and since so many things required using a mouse, I was very motivated to figure out Keyboard Maestro, and gladly spent the time learning how to make keystrokes and macros out of nearly everything. Don’t get me wrong. It took a lot of time and effort, but by the end of my career, I almost never needed to touch my mouse once I was inside of Avid. It was very satisfying (and helped me to avoid carpal tunnel, at least in my judgement). After you get over the initial learning curve, it’s actually kind of a fun challenge to see how much you can do without a mouse. As a bonus, it’s usually faster.

Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Let’s say that there’s something that you do every day inside of one program that only works on a mouse. See if you can figure out how to do that one thing with a keyboard macro. Assign it to key. Use that for a few days. See how you feel. See if you can change your muscle memory to use that key instead of the mouse for that one one thing. And then move on to the next thing. Iterate. Iterate. Pretty soon you’ll have dozens of replacements for mouse actions. And then you’re on your way.

There are two areas where you will get some help First, the application forums for the applications that you use most. If you use say, Photoshop a lot, go to the Adobe forums and ask around to see if anyone has successfully made keystrokes out of some of the more common mouse actions. My guess is that this has come up before.

Secondly, the Keyboard Maestro forum https://forum.keyboardmaestro.com is a terrific place to get help. The folks there are enormously helpful in guiding you to solutions to get Keyboard Maestro to do everything. They’ve seen it all and helped lots and lot of folks. You can browse there for macros that others have designed to do some of the same things that you want to do, and you can ask questions if you get stuck trying to design you own macros.

Good luck freeing yourself from the mouse!

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My hand is virtually stuck to the mouse. I use keyboard shortcuts very, very little, mainly because I can never remember which keys to push. Some people say keyboard shortcuts are faster, but not for me.

Great suggestion of KeyCue, @jzw — that was on the tip of my keyboard too. And HomeRow looks quite interesting.

@jenniferberger, are you using a launcher like LaunchBar or Alfred or even Spotlight? Those can be a big help, and the new kid on the block that’s worth checking out is Raycast.

When it comes to dictation, I’ve never quite managed to use it on the Mac, but it works pretty well for me on the iPhone for shorter texts. I prefer Voice Control’s Dictation to the main Dictation feature because Voice Control lets you edit as well (Uppercase “mac”, change “well” to “while”, that sort of thing).

And while I know you’re not looking for more pointing devices, I’ve long used the Contour Designs RollerMouse Pro trackbar, which I far, far prefer to mice or trackballs because it sits right in front of the keyboard so there’s less arm movement and wrist angling.

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Cheatsheet will show you all available keyboard shortcuts in the active window by pressing the command key. This can speed your learning of the available shortcuts in the active window. Of course an app may also allow you to configure additional keyboard shortcuts.

bel1226star – I will give it a try and compare it to KeyCue! Thank you.

You know, Adam, I was just thinking about RollerMouse and how I tried it once in around 2004, and didn’t like it at the time. But hey, that was um, 19 years ago and I could have another try. It IS appealing for the ability to not move my arms out to left and right. Would love to know how you use it and will also check the TidBITS archives for that. I can’t justify $250 for a tryout but I will have a look on ebay. I did just come back to the Kensington TrackBall that way.

Agree on dictation – that’s exactly how I feel/what I do.

Oh yes, right Jeffrey – I absolutely have those on my list to re-learn or learn new ones. Thanks for the reminder.

Darryl,

This response was so darn helpful I had to mull it over for a couple days! I appreciate these thoughts a LOT. Especially about a little at a time, and the recommendation for the Keyboard Maestro forum.

What’s unfortunate is that I’m not using the same app for many hours, but lots of different small-business-like apps.

So it’s the “decent amount of time and effort” thing that gets me down a bit. I’ve spent just enough time with Keyboard Maestro to feel like learning it is quite a curve for me, so I need to be ready to really get into it. (t takes a lot of CLICKING, you know!?) I had tried to make macros for Spark mail but there was a lot of programming mouse clicks at certain points from the upper left corner of the screen, etc. Then they upgraded the app substantially. :sob:

With KB Maestro, my brain says “but HOW!? How do you choose what keyboard shortcuts to assign to certain actions if you’re making your own?” So I started my own list of what I want/need, exploring my assumptions about the key combos that would help me create my own “language”. I’ll post on that next.

Anyway, I’ve decided to start, on your recommendation to do a little at time, with Arc and MacOS. Just making a list of 5 shortcuts (maybe not full macros), write them on an index card, turn it face-down on my desk, and practice those for a while, only peeking when I’m really stuck. And yes, Arc also has shortcut hints that pop up, so I will need to slow down to actually use/learn them.

Thanks a bunch for all these ideas! I’m on my way!

yes yes yes! I will do trials for both of these. I’m intrigued by each of them, and KeyCue looks extremely useful. What do you think of Homerow so far?

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I still haven’t had a chance to use it :see_no_evil: Things are a bit busy right now so it’s in my list to explore when I have a bit of time.

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Here’s a picture. The palm rests get stained over time with skin oils.

I have the left big gray button as a click, the right big gray button as a Control-click (default behavior) and the two white buttons at the top as back (left) and forward (right)—mapping those requires Keyboard Maestro, which can use any of the buttons as triggers. I’m apparently not using the middle big gray button; not entirely sure why.

The RollerMouse hangs off the edge of my desk because I’m standing in front of it and I need it to be that far out so I’m the right distance from the screens.

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Hi Adam — so helpful to see how you’ve mapped your buttons. I’m looking at eBay for a gently used Rollermouse — but not opposed to buying full price with a return policy. You’ve had yours for quite a while, huh!? Those buttons look different from what Contour is selling now.

Yeah, my units are old. So old, in fact, that when I queried Contour Designs about buying a new one a few years ago (as you can see, I like the design that cantilevers off the side of the desk, which the current ones don’t do), they said, “Oh we have only one of those in the back room, if you’d like to buy it.” So I did. (One of the buttons on my previous one had gotten flaky after many, many years of use.)

This one on eBay looks like what I have, and the seller seems to have others in similar condition and for roughly the same $45–$60. Hmm, I might have to get myself one as a backup… :-)

That might be smart! I won’t be mad if you outbid me. Thanks for the eBay link!

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Based on my experience with supporting a Graphic Designer with serious pain problems I can recommend the Rollermouse.