Where did Keyboard Shortcuts come from? Inventor explains

This was the Apple Paladin, a prototype that never shipped.

Are you signed up to the Working Smarter for Mac Users list by Bob Levitus? I think it’s worth it, because along with great Mac advice he provides a regular supply of other gems, such as this latest story.

Where did Keyboard Shortcuts come from?

I love keyboard shortcuts.

I try to use them whenever I can, and while I do get stuck in old habits sometimes I think they make a huge deal of difference to getting things done more efficiently on your Mac.

That’s why this latest story is so interesting, as it seems that Bill Atkinson (an important part of the team that developed the first Apple Macintosh and created Hypercard after an acid trip) has the information.

[Also read: 6 Apple prototypes that never shipped]

He tells us that, Doug Engelbart who came up with the concept of the computer mouse talked Atkinson into adding keyboard shortcuts to the platform. “He urged me in our quest for a user friendly graphical interface, not to limit the ultimate power available to an experienced user,” Atkinson told Levitus.

Above: A hideously dated Apple Lisa ad from 1983. Now read this for balance.

Complex simplicity

Take a moment to think about that:

That decision to make sure powerful features are built inside the Mac is (by inference) also why powerful features are hidden inside of iOS devices.

The notion is so simple: make systems that are easy to use to get things done with as little friction as possible, but also make those systems capable of doing so much more if used by an advanced user, who can then get an extended range of tasks achieved with little friction.

That’s a key philosophy that has enabled personal, and now also mobile, computing. This idea still permeates Apple design. Apple, after all, looks for simplicity that so quickly becomes familiar it’s as if it has always been this way.

That’s the power of complex simplicity.

Atkinson added keyboard shortcuts to the Lisa within hours of that meeting.

And now we use them all the time.

More here.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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1 Response

  1. AveryS says:

    Apple has lost its edge with its GUI. Today, it is not as elegant, not as flexible, and not as discoverable as it was circa Steve Jobs. It remains better than the other platforms, IMHO, but it could be much better. The devil is in the details, and it’s those details that take excellence to the next level.

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