Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The best $5 I Ever Spent on Technology

I recently discovered xGestures and someone had better tell my wife because I'm in love!
I've been a long-time user of mouse gestures in Firefox (the plugin I currently use is FireGestures, but there are others). I recently changed to a combination of Camino and Safari, but there aren't any really good gestures plugins available for them.
My search led me to xGestures, and it truly is the best $5 I've ever spent on a piece of technology. Not only does it make my browser more productive (or rather, almost as productive as Firefox on Windoze), but as an added bonus it applies mouse gestures to every application. It's an amazing productivity boost.
For those who aren't familiar with mouse gestures, they are an alternative input mechanism whereby you combine a mouse click with dragging motions in order to trigger a command or action. Basic drag-and-drop is, essentially, a mouse gesture (one that every personal computer user is familiar with); the iPhone and iPod Touch use gestures quite extensively. I've heard them described as "controlling your applications by drawing little mini-pictures with your mouse." Wikipedia introduces them like this:
In computing, a mouse gesture is a way of combining computer mouse movements and clicks which the software recognizes as a specific command. Mouse gestures can provide quick access to common functions of a program. They can also be useful for people who have difficulties typing on a keyboard. For example, in a web browser, the user could navigate to the previously viewed page by pressing the right mouse button, moving the mouse briefly to the left, then releasing the button.

For those like me who make heavy use of the mouse, the productivity boost gained by not having to find menu items or awkward keyboard combinations is outstanding. If you've never used mouse gestures before, it's probably kind of hard to understand the value unless you try them out.
As I've said, I'm in love with xGestures on my MacBook, but there are also similar programs for Windows. I haven't tried any of them out, but some that look promising are:

So, Planet Eclipse readers are probably asking why this is showing up there... Well, I haven't yet configured xGestures to do anything in Eclipse, but I'm thinking about it. Sometime today I'll set up some gestures for the things I do most frequently in Eclipse (like open the Find Type and Find Resource dialogs). But I'm curious if anyone else uses gestures in Eclipse and, if so, what gestures do you use frequently? I'm interested in exploring the power of combining the best IDE and this great "new" input method to make me even more productive. Eventually I'd like to explore the possibility of writing an Eclipse plugin that adds gesture support and contributing it for inclusion in the platform.

Also, if any Windows users have other gestures programs that you like, let us know.

1 comment:

Tomasz said...

If you like interesting input solutions, you could try software like ControlMK - mapping gamepad events to keyboard and mouse events. For example, internet browsing gets really interesting with that: Cursor movement with an analog stick is quick to get accustomed to, scrolling with the second stick feels SO MUCH BETTER than tapping page down or rolling the clicky scroll on my mouse, and tab switching with trigger keys just feels awesome!

ControlMK made my Google Reader experience so much more pleasant, kind of like reading a newspaper: no clicky keys or mices, just me leaning back and a comfortable, ergonomic gamepad in my hands.
I believe Linux has some solutions for that too.

I wouldn't say that my Logitech gamepad was my best 15$ spent on technology, but it's close, really. :)