Keyboard shortcuts ideas

Colin Clark colinbdclark at
Tue Jan 22 22:00:24 UTC 2013

Hi Arash,

Thanks for sharing your idea. I'm wondering if perhaps you can elaborate a bit more on the specific problems you're endeavouring to solve, and for what uses cases? It feels a bit abstract--like a solution searching for a problem. Often looking at specific examples--a type of application and a particular user--can help refine a concept like this.

Some specific comments below...

On 2013-01-22, at 11:26 AM, "Sadr, Arash" <asadr at> wrote:

>>> I tried mapping my research on different types of keyboard shortcuts in this mindmap. What I realized was that keyboard shortcuts ( for example ctrl+c, ctrl+v) are designed for computers with keyboards, and if the user wants to perform the same task in other devices, they would interact in a different alternative way. I believe that is because the architecture and interface of those devices are different. One of the things I found out with this mind map was that most of the keyboard shortcuts used in computers is also used in other devices with alternative shortcuts.

One of the things to keep in mind is that keyboard shortcuts are closely aligned with, as you say, commonly-used actions. What's interesting is the fact that these commonly-used actions are often not very common across different types of devices. Some of the examples you have in your concept diagrams are like this; for example, Open and Save.

These are typically only relevant as shortcuts within an environment where filesystem and document-oriented interactions are commonplace. So on my desktop computer, I use a lot of programs where I need to open and save files (like, say, Microsoft Word or Keynote). On the other hand, when I'm using the Web or listening to music or sending a text message, there are no documents--nothing to save or open.

So, before you can go very far with an idea about cross-device shortcuts, you need to think about which actions are useful and common to users across a broad range of devices, platforms, and goals. Interestingly, I suspect you'll find that there are really only a handful of actions that are common, which might lead you to a very different kind of design solution.

The second issue to aware of is that often shortcuts are combined with other actions. For example, cutting and pasting: the user needs first to be able to select something (say, some text), and then execute the action on that selection. So in both of your diagrams, there are subtleties to think consider. 

Does your gesture system potentially conflict with other gestures on the system? How does it recognize the difference between a scroll, a select, and an action gesture? We might be able to explore modal interactions (eg. the timing distinction between "press, hold, then drag to select" vs. "swipe immediately to scroll"), but it gets pretty awkward fast. I suspect this is why it took Apple so long to introduce cut and paste on the iPhone at all.

I hope this helps,


Colin Clark

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