I press j/k everywhere I go

20091219907

One of the main reason I stick with Google Reader is the keyboard shortcuts. I can read and do everything I need without ever touching my trackpad. The way it should be. I don’t use the web interface to Gmail nearly as often but I’m finding it has much of the same sweetness as Reader. These two web apps are making my j and k keys extra worn as they are bound to next/previous functionality in lists. Press j, you get the next item. Press k, you get the previous.

Delightful. So delightful in fact that I find myself expecting these shortcuts to work on every website I go to, whether it be the next article or photo or page or just advance the screen.

Trickle down

Skateboarding often likes to criticize snowboarding for stealing all its 2 year old trends. In fact, skateboarding likes to claim fashion in general steals its 3 year old trends (yes, snowboarding is a little quicker on the uptake than general fashion). The “trickle down” effect. Computers and software have a similar relationship with shipped product and user modifications. Firefox is a great example. Many features of the current version come from functionality that was first brought to the browser though add-ons in previous version.

What about trickle down from websites? We are seeing javascript hacks become part of the HTML5 API specs, drag and drop being a notable example. The J/K pattern is becoming popular. It’s used in the Google Reader, Gmail, a Labs Google Search, Ffffound, Tumblr, The Big Picture galleries, jQuery plugins and a Firefox add-on called NextPlease that brings some of this functionality to popular websites. If enough websites do it through custom javascript it will become a user habit and from there a standard.

An aside on quick search

I love the “Find as you type” setting. If I can avoid a shortcut to bring up quick search, I’m all for it. But that means whenever I type a j or k, it should start a search. I’m willing to sacrifice the extra command+f keystroke when I do want to search for something starting with those letters if developers are willing to add the return false; to positive keycode matches. Just make sure to only do it on positive matches for j and k so all my other find as you type queries work. Please. I beg you. Not returning false means that delightful j/k combo does not work with my preferred browser settings. Oh, and make sure it works through pagination as well.


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