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Overloading, part 2

As if context-sensitive overloading of keyboard shortcuts as discussed yesterday wasn’t enough of a problem, Tiger has unleashed introduced a whole new kind of pain in the ass for the unsuspecting user: shortcuts that go out of their way to cause conflict.

Take at look at your Spotlight preferences. The shortcut is Command-Space, right? That’s cool, Command-Space is, and always has been, a reserved shortcut. Some applications made use of it, like LaunchBar, but did so knowing that it was not recommended practice. Looking back, though, Command-Space wasn’t always reserved for Spotlight... it used to be reserved for switching keyboard layouts. That is, until... wait. It still is. Sucks to be an internationalist, don’t it? And the operating system ships like this.

I’m sure, as a reader of this site, you’re well aware of the yen I have for keyboard shortcuts and consistency, among other things, so forgive my need to rant, but there is a shortcut on ye olde reference sheete that has been yanking my chain for years. Command-Option-T, or as Apple puts it, the “Equivalent to the Show/Hide Toolbar command” has to be one of the most ignored shortcuts on the face of the planet.

[Big red tick] indicates that these are suggested keyboard shortcuts for applications. Unless your application does not implement the functionality represented by the shortcut, you should provide these keyboard shortcuts.

So Command-Option-T is the standard, but apparently nobody can read. I’ve rallied software companies for years to adopt this shortcut, my latest success with Panic for Transmit 3, but it looks like it was all for nought. Preview continues to use Command-B to toggle the toolbar (which has, sadly, been picked up by an awful lot of third-party developers), Safari uses Command-|, and Mail uses Command-Option-T to move the selected message to wherever you moved the last message; an archive folder, the trash, wherever.

Read that again: Mail uses one of Apple’s own recommended keyboard shortcuts not for its intended purpose, but for a potentially destructive one. Madness. Methinks Cupertino’s documentationeers should start writing in a gruff voice and switch words like “should” for words like “must”, and words like “suggested” for words like “mandated”, then forward copies of the new documentation to the head of UI on every internal project. Without internal consistency, external consistency will never follow. Apple needs the Consistency Police.

But hey! Forget about it! Tiger now ships with Command-Option-T as the default shortcut for showing the Character Palette! Thus, any application that doesn’t already use that key combo to show or hide the toolbar now uses it for ‘special characters’. We’re deadlocked. I can no longer recommend Command-Option-T as a toolbar toggling shortcut, despite the documents backing it up, because it’s in conflict with a basic system default. Why “Show/Hide Toolbar” never defaulted to anything in the first place is beyond me, so now we have nothing. Dumb and dumber.