RE: Keyboard AND Mouse Instructions <opinions>

Subject: RE: Keyboard AND Mouse Instructions <opinions>
From: Lyn Worthen <Lyn -dot- Worthen -at- caselle -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2004 14:41:34 -0700

Dan -

There are a lot of of people who prefer to use keyboard shortcuts, so when
they're available, you should include them.

I tend to include keyboard shortcuts in a couple of ways (speaking
generically here):

1) I create a table showing the button icons, listing corresponding keyboard
shortcuts and menu commands, and giving a brief description of each button's
function. This table usually appears early in the document, and generally
covers all of the functions that appear globally throughout the application.
For a more complicated application, or one with buttons/shortcuts that are
specific to different screens, I might create a separate table to accompany
the relevant screen.

2) I don't see the need to write out the keyboard shortcut as you've done
(" [Alt] [P], then [C]..."). Instead, I would probably write it as
simply "...Alt+P+C..." in the table description.

I seldom include the shortcut in the text - I'll usually say something like
"...Save the file..." and leave it at that. Because I've described
alternatives for the procedure up front (i.e., buttons, shortcuts, menu
options, etc.), this is usually sufficient for a technically-savvy audience.

If I were writing for non-techies, I'd still write the keyboard shortcut the
same way, but would be sure to explain what that notation meant in a
"conventions" or "using this document" section near the beginning and/or
near the button/shortcut table.

Depending on the document conventions (and the level of "newbieness" of the
audience), I've also found that it can be helpful to include pictures of the
buttons or write out menu options (i.e. " File | Save..." etc.).
Also, there are applications (such as data entry programs of various types)
where using the keyboard shortcuts actually makes the user's job more
productive - in these situations, I would definitely include both the
keyboard shortcut and the button they can click in the instructions for
performing a function (i.e., " the YYY button or press

It boils down to anticipating your audience's needs and the way they'll use
the software.


p.s. Just saw your second note - that these instructions are going into the
This almost makes it easier, as you could put the table (in #1, above) into
it's own help topic (i.e., Buttons & Keyboard shortcuts). If the application
has context-sensitive help for each button, you could even include shortcuts
and corresponding menu options with the description of the button's
functionality. The help item might look something like this:

Save button
Saves the file...blah blah blah.
menu: File | Save
shortcut: Alt+F+S


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