Usability on the Mac – tricks for Mobility Impaired Programmers

On the 1st of January I had a skiing accident resulting in the injury my right arm – actually my right shoulder. After about two weeks of waiting for the pain to go away, I got the guts and visited a doctor who didn’t think twice before putting my entire right arm into a tight bandage and forbidding me to use my right arm for the upcoming 10 days.

Easier said then done – after all, I’m a work-from-home software developer, right-handed on top of that. Medical leave being out of the question, how am I supposed to get my job done by typing with only my left hand?

Luckily, I managed to work something out, and here’s a couple of the tricks I did for it, just in case they might help other imprudent skiers out there:

  1. System Preferences -> Universal Access -> Keyboard -> Sticky Keys – this is the single greatest mobility impaired aid on the Mac: all special keys become sticky and appear on the screen as you type them, thus allowing you to single-handedly type complex, 2, 3 or more “simultaneous” keys combinations. Option+Backspace, Fn+Backspace, Cmd+Option+Escape and many more contorted keys combinations become now available to anyone
  2. Quicksilver – I never really understood the full impact Quicksilver has on my productivity until now – launching an application without a mouse becomes really a life saver when you can only type with your left hand…
  3. Textmate – luckily for me, I’m a Ruby(on Rails) programmer using Textmate on a daily basis. Although no longer being able to use the complex keyboard shortcuts that trigger all kinds of snippet generations, I was still able to remain productive using its built-in code completion and the tab-triggered snippets.
  4. Terminal – a ROR programmer can’t get any kind of work done without the command line – be it just to change the working dir to the project’s one, or to start a server or.. many more. But typing in Terminal becomes an annoying pain when you need to run the same commands on and on. So I edited the .bash_profile and added a couple of alias for the most common commands I use on a daily basis. The .bash_profile is to be created(if not already existent) in the User’s home directory (just run cd ~ in Terminal and you’re there); here’s a couple of the aliases I defined for my daily use:

    alias pr='cd ~/Work/MyProject/'
    alias prr='cd ~/Work/Projects/MySecondProject/'
    alias matem='mate .'
    alias ss='./script/server'

There are more to say about tricks that made my programmer life better these last days, but I’ll take a little break for now; hopefully I’ll get back some day with more cool Tricks for the Mobility Impaired Programmers

(image by The Pack)

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