Keyboard Katas

Hand on keyboard

Your development machine should be working harder for you!

One of the most solid pieces of advice I can give to you as an aspiring productive developer is to learn as many keyboard shortcuts as you can.

I want to convince you that it is worth your time to learn all the available keyboard shortcuts you can.

I also want to empower you to find out how to find out what keyboard shortcuts you can start using now.

Your Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

Is this you?

You spend most of your day inside your IDE. Your hands are on the keyboard,  rattling out code, siftingthrough for bugs, swiping and clicking the mouse, to get stuff done.

“Ah”, you think to yourself, “This method is too long, I shall be a good developer and extract into parts for the next person who has to read it.” You type it out. Move the relevant code down. call_the_methods(). Within minutes: job done.

Time for your fifth coffee of the day. “Oh, a red underline”! You exclaim. “I guess I forgot to pass in a parameter somewhere”?

Ok, that’s not that big a deal or not exactly you, but I’m pretty close, right?

Can your IDE do more of the work for you?

What if your IDE could** write code for you**?

What if you didn’t need to waste time moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse to point and click?

Moving the mouse is just so slow!

(Enter KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS: screen left)

Keymap Reference Guides

Do a quick google search for keyboard shortcuts for the IDE that you use. For example, “IntelliJ Keymap Reference”, or “Visual Studio keyboard shortcuts”.

There will be a webpage or PDF of all of the available default shortcuts.

Print this out and highlight all of those you want to use.  Alternatively, read them and scribble down in your notebook those that you want to start using and what they do when your fingers move into those positions.

Practice these shortcuts regularly. Transform them into daily keyboard katas to streamline your development workflow. You won’t want to go back, I promise!

Plugins & Tools

Look into whether there are plugins that you can install to prompt you every time you click something that there was a keyboard shortcut for. For IntelliJ, this is called Prompter X. There are equivalent plugins for most IDEs. Credit to GK for showing me that one.

Make custom shortcuts

If the app developer didn’t make a shortcut for that thing you keep needing to do, make one for yourself!

In MacOS, you can add a custom keyboard shortcut for any menu item at the OS level. You can do this from the keyboard settings area of system preferences.

On Windows, a lot of people install “auto hotkey for this purpose as well.

In most development software, you can assign custom keyboard shortcuts per application. Today I discovered that there was no shortcut to open the “Resolve Merge Conflicts” dialogue. Needless to say, one was created!

I remember working on a script that created a new database each time it ran. During development, when I was testing, loads of useless databases got created on my machine. For safety, there was no keyboard shortcut to drop the database from the database viewer I was using – only a menu item. I was able to create a shortcut to hit this menu item for me. This saved from a lot of repetitive actions. Of course, I deleted this shortcut afterwards…

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