QIDO: Hardware Qwerty to Dvorak converter

KeyGhost, and it’s called QIDO. That’s short for Qwerty-In > Dvorak-Out > Portable USB Adapter.

I’ve been testing out the QIDO for several weeks now on Mac and PC platforms. Here’s how it works from a user perspective. It’s a small plastic device with male and female USB connectors. To set it up, you plug your USB keyboard into the female end of the QIDO, and plug the male end of the QIDO into a computer USB slot. Then you pull up any text editor and type ‘keydvorak’ to bring up a simple configuration menu (see above image) which allows you to choose from Dvorak Standard, Dvorak-Qwerty, Single Handed Left, or Single Handed Right. After you go through this configuration, you really don’t need to do it again. If you want to temporarily switch back to Qwerty, simply hit the ‘Num-Lock’ key (PC) or ‘Clear’ key (Mac) twice in quick succession. Do this again to toggle back to your chosen keyboard layout.

in dvorak, review | 162 Words

Hidden Opera

Opera is installed by Adobe as part of the Creative Suite.

Turns out Adobe has been using Opera for years as a rendering engine. I’ve read that it’s used in all kinds of places: to display Adobe Help files, in Device Central (to preview how applications would look in different mobile devices), in Photoshop, in Bridge, and in Dreamweaver (which has apparently been using Opera since Macromedia days). I’m sure this is only a partial list.

With a little digging, I found the hidden Opera installation in the bundled contents of Adobe Bridge (you need to view the application’s package contents to peer inside).

I discovered Opera was on my system when opening a torrent. Expecting Transmission to open up, I was surprised to see an Opera browser window. This, it turns out, is a common occurrence. If you run in to this, the easy solution is to right click the .torrent file, choose ‘Get Info,’ and then choose Transmission. Then choose ‘Change All’ so that all future torrent files will open with Transmission.

While I was a bit annoyed to see a browser I never installed on my machine, I’m not going to do anything about it since it’s needed by my Adobe apps. But it should stay there, behind the scenes. I think I know how this happened. I recently reinstalled Mac OS X and reinstalled all of my applications. I installed the Adobe Creative Suite, and I later installed Transmission. When I opened a torrent link, the Mac OS had was still associating all .torrent files with Opera, as that was (prior to installing Transmission) the only application on my system that would accept this file type. That explains why I had to re-associate the file type. So the real problem here is that the Mac OS associated a file type with an application that is hidden inside a bundle. That seems like odd behavior to me.

And since I’m talking about Adobe applications, I can’t pass up the chance to rant about Dvorak-Qwerty. All Adobe apps that were once Macromedia apps (Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks) function as expected with the Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout. All other Adobe apps do not support the D-Q layout.

This drives me crazy. We’re now on the fourth iteration of the Creative Suites, and this inconsistency persists. Guess it’s time to send Adobe another message.

On Dvorak and the future of the keyboard

1. Dvorak-Qwerty redux

I decided to test out Tweetdeck, a new Twitter application in Beta developed on the Adobe Air platform. I like it. But when I attempted to hide the app with the shortcut ?-H … it didn’t work. Then it hit me. It’s an Adobe app. Of course it doesn’t work. That’s because I type using a keyboard layout called Dvorak.

It’s a common enough layout that it’s included as an international keyboard option for both the Mac and PC. The Mac also has a unique keyboard layout called ‘Dvorak-Qwerty,’ which I use. This allows one to type using the Dvorak layout, but use Qwerty key combos. It’s a thoughtful tip of the hat to Dvorak users who know and rely on standard Qwerty keyboard shortcuts.

Most of the applications on my Mac respect this convention and work very well with the D-Q layout. The glaring exceptions are Microsoft Office and Adobe products. I’ve given up on Microsoft ever fixing this problem, seeing as the OS still doesn’t include a D-Q option (and likely never will). But Adobe? Come on. I can’t imagine that fixing this little glitch would take much time. Correct me if I’m wrong, Adobe.

I’ve written about this on Adobe forums, I’ve sent in suggestions, I’ve posted on this topic here and on other blogs. Nothing has changed. While I’m sure that there are not many Dvorak typists using Adobe creative suites who rely on Qwerty key combos, I’m surely not the only one! And, hey, we’re paying customers. And those suites are expensive.

Someday, I hope that Adobe will fix this relatively simple thing. Adobe: take heed that Smile on my Mac fixed this same problem with TextExpander with one simple update. I wrote to them about the problem. And it was fixed with their next update a few weeks later. Now that’s service.

2. This Dvorak post rocks

So, I got an email a while back from Francis Siefken from the Netherlands, a fellow Dvorak user. He put forward a convincing case that switching the U and the I on the Dvorak keyboard would lead to even greater efficiencies. I love this kind of analysis.

Check out his post even if you don’t use Dvorak, if only to appreciate the time and thought he clearly put into this. It seems that his blog may have went into hiatus after this one post (something that I can certainly appreciate!), but it’s worth the read nonetheless. As is how he named his son, which also appears on this page. I hope we’ll see more posts on his blog someday soon.

My view: why not switch the U and I keys? The point is that the keyboard—our primary interface to the digital realm—must continue to evolve. Dvorak, while imperfect, is arguably an evolutionary leap forward from Qwerty. But why stop there? I say let’s continue to perfect the layout of keys to meet our needs.

Note that Siefken emphasizes that the primary benefit of Dvorak isn’t necessarily speed. It’s comfort. If you’re someone who types a lot (as in all day, every day) it may be worth your time to learn Dvorak if you’re not already heavily invested in Qwerty. Let the keyboard evolve, and let repetitive stress be damned!

The careful reader might now ask why I don’t use Dvorak keyboard shortcuts, preferring instead to keep using Qwerty shortcuts. The answer? The most-used shortcut keys are largely grouped down by the ? key, so it’s easier and faster. D-Q is a great combo.

3. On the evolution of the keyboard

And speaking of the evolution of keyboards, check out the Optimus Maximus. It’s expensive as hell, but wow. It’s the future of keyboards.

And what’s Apple doing on this front? Perhaps making an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) keyboard of their own. Will it be cheaper than the Optimus Maximus? Probably. Will Art.Lebedev Studios, creator of the Optimus and other wonderful and expensive design goodies, sue Apple? This might be a story we hear more about next year.

Dvorak-Qwerty support for Adobe CS

So, here’s my latest Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard support rant.

I received a very odd ‘personal’ response from an Adobe customer support representative regarding my request for Dvorak-Qwerty support for Adobe’s Creative Suite applications.

My complaint: Dvorak-Qwerty does not properly work with Adobe products.

(See my previous post for background on DQ if you have no idea what I’m talking about)

Here’s a snippet from what I wrote to Adobe about this annoying problem:

I must toggle to the QWERTY layout to use my shortcuts, then toggle back to Dvorak when I need to type. This is very annoying. Would Adobe consider posting a relatively minor update to address those users who rely on the Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout in Mac OS X?

They wrote back to me today (within 24 hours, as promised on their website):

I understand that you would like Adobe to post a minor update for Macintosh users who rely on Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard, as you have to continually toggle between these two keyboards in order to use it to type text and use short cut keys respectively.

I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

We need to inform you that Adobe® Systems continually develops new applications and improves existing products, but cannot comment on unreleased products until a press release is posted. When new releases become available, the details regarding new features and purchasing information will be posted on the Adobe Web site at the following URL: http://www.adobe.com

Ok. So they seem to grasp the issue, but then again … the response mimicked the phrases from my complaint so closely that it left me with the distinct impression that some sort of AI compiled and regurgitated a customized automated response based on my input. The part that annoys me most is that the automated response tries too hard to appear like it came from a real human. Or perhaps what annoys me is that it doesn’t seem like it came from a real human, but Adobe would like me to feel as if it did.

I can’t say that I expect to see a software update from Adobe that addresses my issue anytime soon. I’m guessing there aren’t too many users out there who suffer from lousy DQ support (and it’s not just Adobe products that lack DQ support), and I’m assuming that the Adobe user base is so massive and the number of suggestions to improve their software are so many that my little complaint may be backlogged until Adobe CS 10.

It’s nice that Adobe has a system in place to so quickly respond to a customer input. I bet a lot of R&D went into this auto-rapid-super-friendly-personalized response system. Still, it raises a larger philosophical question about automated, rapid customer support. Is a quick reply better than a delayed reply (or no reply at all) if it is canned and impersonal? Is it actually worse if it’s canned and impersonal and it attempts to be personalized in a very fake way?

In addition to the mimicry of my original complaint, the ‘personal’ message also included my name at awkward intervals throughout the response. Here’s an example:

Troy, also, please visit the following URL on the Adobe Web site for the latest customer service and technical information: http://www.adobe.com/support/main.html

And later on in the (relatively short) message:

Troy, the Web Support Portal Representatives are available from Monday to Friday.

I’m convinced that a human would not reference my first name repeatedly in such an awkward manner.

The Adobe response was signed by ‘Victor M.’ of Adobe Customer Service. I’m sure that Victor M. exists, but he surely would not have typed out such a weird response to a customer. I really wouldn’t expect a human to type out a detailed response within 24 hours from such a massive company. It had to be a generated response. So what’s my point? If Adobe is committed to a personalized, rapid customer response, I would rather receive a message that said:

Hi Troy, we get a bazillion comments and suggestions every week. We got your message. A real human will read it. We will consider your input.

A week or two later, perhaps I would get a message that said:

Hey Troy, We read your input. We understand that you’ve submitted a feature request about our support for Dvorak-Qwerty. It may be part of a future Adobe release, but we can’t make any promises. We’ll do our best. We’re considering it. Really. Please understand that we have a bazillion other feature requests already in the queue, so your input will be addressed in the order it was received since we’ve determined that it’s not a critical application error.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see a response like that. To be fair, perhaps the response I received wasn’t automated. Perhaps Victor M. used creative cut-n-paste to respond to my query. Still, it seemed disingenuous; it seemed like a cookie-cutter response cloaked in a ‘personalized’ message. It seemed, in other words, automated in the worst way.

If any of you reading this are Dvorak typists who use QWERTY shortcuts (and use Adobe apps), please consider dropping them a note. Maybe all ten of us will get them to consider updating their software…

Never share a user account, but if you do…

There’s an ongoing struggle in my household. I don’t want to use any names…but if it weren’t for my tireless, unrelenting efforts to keep my iMac (which is shared by one other person) free of desktop clutter, there would now be a virtual sea of files cluttering our desktop. You might never guess I was an organized person if you happened to open my sock drawer, but I keep the Mac lean and clean. The only icons I prefer to see on my desktop are mounted drives. To be fair, I drive my wife crazy (ok it’s my wife, but I won’t use her name) with some of my user habits because I can’t leave the Mac alone. I’m always installing things, deleting things, moving things, changing things … above all, I like to test out third party mac software.

So, you may ask, why on earth do we share one user account on our primary Mac? It’s not the recommended way to do business. The preferred solution is to create separate user accounts; this is more secure and it gives you the freedom to organize your own workspace just how you want it. But I maintain there is at least one scenario when a shared account makes sense — when you have a Mac that always stays at home and you and one other person you completely trust are using it to share the same pool of data.

We share the same music library, the same iPhoto library … we share pretty much all of our data. For several years, we managed seperate accounts, but I grew weary of constantly dropping and dragging files and folders back and forth. We had iPhoto and iTunes set up for sharing, but this requires one to be logged in to both accounts to access the others shared photo/music content. Much of the mail we receive is for both of us. It just seemed easier to combine the two.

Would I recommend this arrangement? Again, and this is critical: only if you completely trust that one other person and you can live with different user habits on one account. For me and my wife, life is just easier using one account, despite our different organizational styles. I’d venture to guess that no one would really recommend this set up, but it’s good for us. Here are a few of the ways we make it work. Even if you don’t share an account, this list may provide you with some fresh ideas.

 

1. Admin or Standard account?

We set up our shared account up with ‘Standard’ user privileges and then created a separate Admin account. This is a good practice, even if you don’t share an account. If you want to learn more about user accounts, check out this affordable E-book from TidBITS.

2. IC-Switch and DeliBar

We prefer to use different browsers and news readers, so we use IC-Switch. This free little Menu Bar application allows us to quickly toggle between default internet applications. I also use a Menu Bar application called DeliBar that allows me to view my stored online bookmarks (via my del.icio.us account) right in my Menu Bar. I like managing and storing my bookmarks online because it enables me to access my favorites in any browser, and in any location. If you like Menu Bar items, by the way, check out this list.

3. Documents folder

We created three main subfolders within our Documents folder: one for me, one for my wife, and one for shared items such as our finances. We did the same for our Pictures folder (for those images that we do not want to manage from within iPhoto). We use color labels to easily identify our folders at a glance e— my folders are labeled with red, my wife’s are purple, and folders with shared documents are gray.

4. Alternate keyboard languages

Things are a bit more complicated for us because I use the Dvorak keyboard layout and my wife uses Qwerty. Solution? We set up our Mac with both languages via the ‘International’ system preference (System Preferences > International > Input Menu). We then checked the option to ‘Show the Input Menu in menu bar’ so we have a nice visual way to see what language is currently active. Finally, we established a key combination to quickly toggle between the two input languages (this option is also available in the Input Menu).

5. The Dock

I don’t really use the Dock, but my wife does. She also uses Spotlight, and I never do. I use Launchbar to launch applications and navigate around the Mac (a free alternative is QuickSilver); DragThing is my preferred ‘Dock replacement.’

6. Finder

My wife uses Finder and I use PathFinder. This works out well — she can set up Finder just how she likes it and I can set up PathFinder with my personal preferences. If you’ve never tried PathFinder, by the way, give it a spin. I couldn’t live without it. Some people say, though, that it has too many features and options.

7. Web browsing

I use Firefox when I’m doing webwork and OmniWeb when I’m just having fun. My wife prefers Safari.

That’s about it. One final note: I recently downloaded the trial for a program called Hazel from NoodleSoft. This little program automates file organization, manages trash, monitors and organizes folders, and more. It’s very clever and quite easy to use. I think this may be a great new tool to help me and my wife manage our shared account.

Dvorak victory! TextExpander fixed

Dvorak users of the world scored a little victory this week. The TextExpander team at SmileOnMyMac fixed the problem with the Mac OS Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout, detailed in an earlier View from the Dock post.

A recap of this bug: when using the Mac OS Dvorak-Qwerty option, TextExpander did not previously work. Now it does. How did this come to pass? Me and at least one other user asked that it be fixed. And it was fixed, very promptly. I’d like to thank SmileOnMyMac for listening. I am a very satisfied customer. And here’s more unsolicited praise for TextExpander — it saves me an amazing amount of time (I just used it to add the previous Em dash). My wife is a devoted user, too. She uses TextExpander to save keystrokes on her website.

Now I am going to try to get Adobe to fix their Creative Suite. Unfortunately, I must still switch to the QWERTY keyboard layout when I’m using PhotoShop and the other Adobe apps, and I shouldn’t have to do this. Maybe it will be fixed if Apple buys Adobe!

If you do your typing on a Mac and you use Dvorak, I want to ensure you know that you can quickly toggle between Qwerty and Dvorak (or Dvorak-Qwerty, or other languages). Once you enable these option in the International Preference Pane (found under Apple’s System Preferences), you can choose to show this input menu in the Apple Menu Bar. You may then quickly toggle between the different keyboard layouts using a keyboard shortcut of your choice (I use option-command-space).

A quick reminder: if you use Windows, check out SkyEnergy’s HotKeyz. This little freeware program allows you to easily remap shortcut keys (paste, save, copy, etc.) to match the QWERTY key positions while using the Dvorak layout. It works quite well.

Finally, I want to point out a new development that is full of potential for those of us who use alternative typing layouts. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to look down at my keyboard and actually see the Dvorak layout. I may be able to do just that in the not-to-distant future. Check out this ArsTechnica report about a recent Apple patent for a dynamically controlled keyboard.

Imagine a keyboard with organic LEDs on each key. If you’re curious about the possibilities, see Art Lebedev’s Optimus Maximus (it’s available now, if you can afford it). I imagine a future Apple keyboard that displays the Dvorak keys, then dynamically displays QWERTY keys when I press a command-key combination. And I envision my keyboard dynamically changing to display game-specific commands or key combinations for shortcut-intensive programs like Photoshop or Final Cut Studio. This is surely the keyboard of the future, and I can’t wait to get one.