Double Quick: A Review of QuicKeys v2.1.3
Author: Joe Duroux
Date: July, 1993
Keywords: software utility program macro macros
Text: QuicKeys is one of those neat things that makes life a little easier for computer users. You can perform a wide variety of complex activities with ''shortcuts.'' They can be activated by keystrokes (function keys or keys with modifiers), which is how QuicKeys got its name. Now there are additional ways to activate them, as I'll describe later. One of QuicKeys' nice little things is called Buttons. A shortcut can produce a mouse click on any button with a certain name, regardless of its location in the active window. In almost any dialog box, the 'Enter' or 'Return' key clicks the highlighted button, but that isn't always the OK button. With QuicKeys I have programmed another keystroke to click a generic button labeled OK, located anywhere in the active window, highlighted or not. And another to click a generic button labeled 'Cancel,' whether the 'Command-Period' or 'Escape' keystroke works or not. But there are still exceptions. It is difficult to make shortcuts compatible with all interfaces used by all application developers, in spite of the Mac guidelines. One exception to remember is that keystrokes don't always work in the QuicKeys programming environment. In some cases, they are interpreted as keystroke entries. In other cases they are just not recognized because of the nature of the environment. It doesn't make sense to use keystrokes while programming keystrokes, but one can forget, especially when they sometimes work. Perhaps there should be some sort of warning or reminder. In addition to clicking labeled buttons, a shortcut can be program-med to produce a mouse click, a multiple click, or a drag at any desired location(s). Each location may be specified relative to the screen, to any corner of the active window, or to the cursor location. A drag can either go from point to point quickly or follow the actual path in real time. A shortcut can also select a menu item by name (in case you change the position) or by position (in case the name changes when selected). Or it can type a stored piece of text, or open a specified document, application, or control panel. There are ten special shortcuts that do things like Restart and Shut Down the computer and call up some of the QuicKeys programming functions. Others can manipulate windows in twelve different ways, including zooming and scrolling. At the bottom of the main QuicKeys window is a palette for selecting different categories of shortcuts to view and edit (Figure 1). The Define menu is used to select a category and initiate its unique dialog procedure to define a new shortcut. The shortcuts are organized into keysets, one for each application (including the finder) and a universal keyset that works in all applications. Shortcuts can be copied between application keysets if limited duplication is desired. Or the same keystroke can represent different shortcuts in different keysets. If a universal keystroke is duplicated in an application keyset, the application keystroke overrides the universal keystroke in that application. But a universal keystroke overrides a duplicate internal application keystroke (not generated by QuicKeys). I can't find these priorities in the book, but they seem to work that way. Some shortcuts don't work in my Microsoft applications, namely Word and Excel. But these applications have their own keystroke programming capabilities for their listed commands. I have programmed the same keystrokes to do the same things within Word and in the universal keyset. Horizontal scrolling has no listed command, and using mouse clicks to scroll left is inconsistent. Vertical scrolling works, but much more slowly than with Word's own keystrokes. But QuicKeys can make alias keystrokes that perform other keystrokes. I have duplicate keystrokes in the Word keyset that operate Word's internal scrolling keystrokes with little loss of speed. And I have duplicate keystrokes in the Excel keyset that operate Excel's equivalent macro keystrokes where QuicKeys shortcuts don't work. In addition to performing an individual function, a shortcut can perform a sequence of functions. A sequence can be created by recording user actions that produce all or part of the sequence, or by importing existing individual functions, or any combination of the two. It can be edited by importing or deleting functions or recording additional functions (Figure 2). A sequence can't be imported as an identifiable unit into another sequence, but all, or any subset, of its functions can be copied and pasted into another sequence. Or a sequence can be copied, and one copy can be renamed and edited to make a new one. A sequence can be very long, and may take a long time to run, but it will normally be faster and easier than performing the same operations by hand. Another neat characteristic of QuicKeys 2.1.3 is a provision for incorporating 'extensions,' provided by contributing developers. Extensions can create shortcuts that perform unique tasks, some of which can't otherwise be accomplished with QuicKeys and others that would require long sequences. These shortcuts are individual functions and can be imported into sequences. Thirty extensions were provided with my version of QuicKeys. New extensions are expected in the future as a way of improving QuicKeys without having to revise the basic application. QuicKeys includes an Extension Manager which can install or remove extensions or turn installed extensions on or off.
Here are some examples of extensions and their corresponding shortcuts: A 'Choosey' shortcut switches to a specified available printer without opening the Chooser dialog box. It can also turn background printing on or off for printers using the LaserWriter driver, but not for my DeskWriter. I have to use a sequence that opens the chooser, clicks on the driver icon, and selects the On or Off button. (In Figure 2, I turn off background printing to avoid an awkward envelope interface.) A 'Display' shortcut stores and displays editable text items, like a list of addresses or phone numbers or a set of reminders. The Grab Ease, Paste Ease, and Type Ease extensions provide a sort of scrapbook that works directly like a clipboard. Grab is the equivalent of Copy, but it can store many items. Type can replace Paste, with text only, in environments that do not support pasting. The Paste or Type shortcut can bring up a pull-down menu of stored items, or an individual item can have a separate shortcut that works directly. A ProcessSwap shortcut makes a specified open application active (in System 7), hiding the one that was active if desired. Other extension shortcuts can change the number of colors or gray scales on the screen, produce a sound, or change the volume of sounds, without opening control panels. A special sub-application called CEIAC can enable shortcuts that work with Inter-Application Communication under System 7. And much much more, as the ad writers like to say. In addition to keystrokes, there are many other ways to activate shortcuts. There is a QuicKeys menu, which is actually a submenu of the Apple menu. Certain standard items are on this menu permanently, but any shortcut can be added to it. There is also a SoftKeys extension that can produce a palette of numbered and labeled buttons, and each button can produce a similar sub-palette of shortcuts. Clicking a button, or using a corresponding numerical keystroke, activates the sub-palette or shortcut labeled above the button. Also, a shortcut can by turned into a mini-application represented by an icon. Thus a shortcut can be activated in all of the ways that an application can be opened. And another variation allows a shortcut to be activated at a specified time. The time can be relative to startup, at a specified date and time, or periodically at any desired interval with any starting point. My only important negative comments about QuicKeys have to do with the documentation that came with my package. It was obviously in transition, to be replaced by a new version. There were five booklets, although one of them is almost trivial. Its two plus pages describe CE Toolbox, which just supplements the Apple Menu. In addition to the User Manual, there are separate booklets for Extensions and for Instant QuicKeys, which is a mini-application for quickly generating a set of common shortcuts. Then there is a booklet called Read This First. There is also an eight page read file on one of the floppy disks. Only the User Manual has an index. The Read First book contains new installation instructions and a warning not to use the installation instructions in the User Manual. It also describes many new features and new extensions, and it mentions some changes in nomenclature since the printing of the User Manual. One significant change is that the ''shortcuts'' were previously called ''QuicKeys'' and are still called by the old name in the User Manual. Getting started was a bit confusing. The Read First book recommends looking through the other books, starting with the Instant QuicKeys book, before trying to use the software. It implies that the best way to start is to use Instant QuicKeys first to generate an initial set of shortcuts, some of which already exist upon installation. So I fooled around for a while with the instant variety and had some problems. The shortcuts that I generated didn't seem to work, and I even had the computer freeze on me a few times. So I decided to try the regular QuicKeys application. When I turned it on, it requested my name and the serial number of my copy of the software. I filled it in, and from then on things worked much better, including Instant QuicKeys. This registration procedure is mentioned in the installation part of the User Manual (the part that I was told to ignore in the Read First book). Hopefully, by now, the literary transition period is over and a new manual has been published. Notwithstanding the disorganized documentation and the few inconveniences with certain applications, QuicKeys appears to be a stable and effective program. I like it because I'm lazy, and because I like to do things in efficient, elegant, ways. Others like it because it increases productivity. I think the vast majority of Mac users would enjoy using QuicKeys. At its mail order price of about $89.00 (Suggested retail $149.95), not everybody would be willing to buy it, but I think most sophisticated users would. It requires a Mac Plus or better with System 6.0.4 or later. CE Software, Inc., P. O. Box 65580, West Des Moines, IA 50265-9852.
Copyright © july, 1993 by Joe Duroux