Keyboard vs. mouse

The keyboard is a wonderful PC input device unparalleled for its flexibility and potential for creativity; the mouse is a dirty, stinking, carpal-tunnel-crushing piece of plastic. Learn how to master the power of your own keyboard with launcher and macro

Heat map of keyboard dirt
Heat map of dirt underneath a keyboard. (Credit: Tony Targonski)

Inspired by Tony Targonski's wonderful heat map of the dirt distribution in his keyboard, I decided to take all my keys off and give my own keyboard a good cleaning yesterday. (Honestly, everyone should do it once a year, unless you've got some crazy, futuristic, self-cleaning device.)

As I painstakingly scraped off all of the gunk, I learned two things. No. 1: I'm a proud PC gamer. Most of the dirt was concentrated under W, A, S, and D. No. 2: I love my keyboard and I hate my mouse. My keyboard provides endless creative potential, while my mouse helps me click on stupid links. I never clean my mouse.

In order for we keyboard lovers to make the most of our wonderful input devices, we need good launchers, i.e. apps that let us run programs or load Web sites without clicking that silly mouse.

One of my favorites is AutoHotKey, classic freeware that lets you create unlimited macros for your keyboard. It's much more powerful than a simple program launcher, but it also provides unique default features such as expanding abbreviations like FWIW, BTW, or even WTF (?!) to their respective full phrases. (You can also use it to customize your mouse behavior, if you're into that sort of thing.)

Skylight\'s interface is clean and easy to read. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Another app that's been getting some attention this year is Skylight from CandyLabs, which also makes AppRocket. Skylight is still in beta, slightly unstable in my testing, but it offers quick access to real-time search results via Alt+spacebar.

A new program that I just recently discovered is Keybreeze , which uses a system similar to Skylight, but it's super lightweight and very stable. During install, Keybreeze creates shortcuts for all of your programs and desktop items. Hitting a hot key then typing brings up the Keybreeze interface seamlessly, and a very helpful tutorial demonstrates how to use the program very well.

Do you use keyboard launchers and macros to make your life easier? What are some of your favorite software programs for enhancing the power of your keyboard? Tell me your own picks in the comments.

About Peter Butler

Peter has been working at since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.