Typing one handed

9 January 2004


A Blue Perspective: Typing one handed

» The mouseboard «

I was eating lunch at my desk today and thought I'd go visit the Onion after a hard day reading blogs. Unfortunately, it isn't in my favourites list. Even more unfortunately, my keyboard was covered with the dismantled packaging of a 6-inch Subway, and my left hand otherwise occupied with its consumption. So, armed with just my right hand and a mouse, I was determined to browse there.

Recalling something about six degrees of separation I figured that I'd be able to map a six step path from one of my bookmarks to anywhere on the Internet. But after 45 fruitless seconds I discovered that I lacked the patience and the capability to binary search 75,000 links, so I had to be content sitting there watching my wallpaper and munching on satay chicken. Of course, to avoid this tragedy in the future I just had to make a web page with a fully functional in-built keyboard, special function buttons, a browse-to feature, and Googlability. And here it is.

The whole web page is coded in XHTML/CSS with no fancy graphics and gave me some good practice in building a page using lots of floats and relative units (ems). This means you can shrink the page to as small as you want, or blow it up and project it on the moon and it'll still look the same (just bigger ... and with more craters); try changing the font size in your browser.

Makiko also reminded me that I should sharpen up my JavaScript skills so, as well as for the functionality of the mouseboard, I also started manipulating CSS with JavaScript via the Document Object Model. Go ahead, click on the "Shift" and "Caps" buttons. Do the keyboard letters change to their shifty, capsy counterparts? This wasn't strictly necessary given my initial requirements, but I thought "if I'm doing a keyboard, I might as well model it properly". This little trick was done by changing the class of the body tag (object.className = x), and setting CSS rules to display/hide, uppercase/lowercase the characters on the keys.

So, now when you find yourself keyboardless and 50% handless, you can just use the page to go where you want (given your physical state, you may want to type in "prosthetic keyboard supplier" and hit "Google it!"). The only downside is that one of my pages will have to be in your favourites already, but what a good reason to bookmark my site! :o]

OK, it just occurred to me that I could have opened up the Windows character map, clicked in the letters using my mouse, copied them to the clipboard, then pasted them into the browser, but that wouldn't have been half as fun, would it?


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  1. 1/13

    kartooner commented on 9 January 2004 @ 06:34


    This is indeed useful for when I'm cradling my infant daughter in one hand and trying to surf the web with the other.

    Before this, there was trying to find a happy medium for the both of us. Now, she'll rest peacefully (and comfortably, I might add) in my arms and I can continue surfing the web at my leisure.

  2. 2/13

    mauriz commented on 9 January 2004 @ 10:44

    Great idea! I need an AZERTY one!

  3. 3/13

    Matt Burris commented on 9 January 2004 @ 11:14

    It should be a crime to be that bored. LOL

    Well done, it is certainly interesting to see where boredom sometimes take us. Ironically, I've been there before -- surfing the web with half the keyboard covered with a sub from Subway.

  4. 4/13

    mauriz commented on 9 January 2004 @ 11:17

    I took a look to the code, seems pretty easy to understand. Can I use it to make a french/azerty one?

  5. 5/13

    The Man in Blue commented on 9 January 2004 @ 18:37

    Yeah sure, translate it to whatever you want, just leave a small credit somewhere.

  6. 6/13

    mauriz commented on 11 January 2004 @ 09:07

    Find the azerty mouseboard at this url: http://www.svay.com/experiences/mouseboard/mouseboard.html

    I roughly translated it into azerty but I didn't changed non-letters characters, it seems to be easier to use like that.

  7. 7/13

    The Man in Blue commented on 11 January 2004 @ 19:53

    Hehe, I've never seen an azerty keyboard before. Is it mainly a French thing?

  8. 8/13

    mauriz commented on 11 January 2004 @ 22:44

    As long as I remember, other european country are using qwerty. It is probably a French thing.

  9. 9/13

    patricia commented on 12 January 2004 @ 11:00

    this is great. i already have your site bookmarked but nothing says i can't have two links coming back here! :D

  10. 10/13

    Joe Clark commented on 25 January 2004 @ 12:49

    Why not just use Edgar Matias's Half-Keyboard?


  11. 11/13

    The Man in Blue commented on 25 January 2004 @ 15:32

    Errrr ... this isn't exactly a long term replacement to anyone who needs to type one-handed full time. Plus, it's free.

  12. 12/13

    Jarrod commented on 28 November 2004 @ 23:08

    That's weird... I just stumbled across this keyboard, before reading the explanation. I typed in 'the' and googled it - and the first result, lo and behold, was "The Onion"! Of course, I didn't think anything of it until I read the explanation...
    Is this part of the six degrees of separation? :-)

  13. 13/13

    NikLP commented on 1 March 2005 @ 01:42

    Is it worth suggesting that this might be worth of building into some sort of Firefox extension? Haven't thought about the possibilities much, but....?

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