Wednesday, June 21, 2017

on mac modifier keys

"Hot Take" time!

Ok, not that hot.

With all its dandy ports I still think my Macbook Air is gonna remain my main personal machine for a while, but I was still daydreaming over at, and I noticed both the "Adorable" Macbook and the new Macbook Pro have much better iconography for the modifier keys- displaying the ^ over control and the weird broken equals sign for option, so that both of those join command key and its little clover in actually showing up on the physical keyboard the same way they do for the top of the screen menus.

 A definite improvement! But it raises the question, why are Apple's modifiers keys such a hot mess? Don't get me wrong, it's a pleasure to be back in a shell and have cmd-c copy and ctrl-c break, but really, fn, control, option, command (not to mention shift) - so often arbitrarily thrown together in strange combinations by various programs for random shortcuts.

Windows had a much more coherent strategy (despite its weird legacy of "alt-f4", and various exceptions in various software titles) - there's only three keys down there, really: the hubristic "windows" key, control and alt. And control keys usually are tied into commands meaning "do this now" and the alt key was tied into menu pulldown shortcuts.

I suppose this disdain for keyboard menu operations flows from the Mac history of relying on the mouse; remember, the first Mac lacked even arrow keys, and there's never been the same menu pulldowns via keyboard that Windows has enjoyed.  But it's weird they went from such minimalism to such a multi-key mess.

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