New for 2010: Cursor Keys

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore described the new Windows Phone 7 Series  interface for smartphones as “typographically intense.” With its noticeable lack of graphics, the WP7S has elicited warm memories for some observers of a simpler, mouse-less time. I’d have relegated these feelings to a misplaced nostalgia, but then I detected another signal that I think may point to a t r e n d.

I recently visited the Google Labs page, which is where Google engineers showcase their pre-beta software and other experiments. While there I accidentally came across an interesting cursor-intensive project buried in one of the back-rooms. The idea is that instead of scrolling and selecting Google search results with a mouse, you can use, ahem, the keypad.

I was reminded of a long-ago time when ASCII console editors ruled the computer screen.

Google chose the “k” and “j” keys to let users scroll up and down. It’s exactly the same shortcuts used by that antique UNIX editor vi. (Of course, it’s still a valid and marginally useful editor when working with emulated consoles.) I immediately signed up as a test user, and I was delighted that that my finger memory quickly relearned the up-down sequence.

The Googlers also re-purposed vi’s “o” key to  allow you to land on a  search entry’s URL entry.

I don’t miss my mouse at all.  My hunch is that someone’s already making good ROI arguments for cursor-ing through search results.

I just hope no one decides to sue Google.


  1. As I tell people, the more you use the mouse, the less you get done, so keep your hands on the keyboard. Learn the “quick keys” and if you can LOL and cUlL8r – U can do this too! Besides, if CTRL C, V and X aren’t the most powerful commands in the world, then what are?

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