I am a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts.
For tasks that I do over and over, Bam!, hit it with a keyboard shortcut and, Poof!, it’s done. What’s not to like about keyboard shortcuts? Even if you prefer doing everything with the mouse, keyboard shortcuts don’t get in your way because you never need to use them.
And Apple has done a great job – as have many other vendors – in not only providing keyboard shortcuts, but in allowing us to customize them. So, I was cruising along in my happy little keyboard bubble until Aaron Taylor asked an innocuous question that started a whole new train of thought:
I’m an Avid editor (based in Toronto) looking to use FCP X. I recently tried to re-map the FCP keyboard to match my Avid “muscle memory.” After about 20 minutes I gave up in frustration.
So, my question is: Is there someone who offers pre-made keyboard settings that are available to download and import?
Aaron asks two key questions here and, when I first read his letter, I missed the bigger of the two.
QUESTION 1: DO AVID KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS EXIST FOR FINAL CUT PRO X?
The answer is, as far as I can tell, no.
There are none shipped with the package and I could not find any when doing a Google search. Still, there was one more resource to try, so I contacted Apple.
The word came back that, as far as Apple knows, there are no readily available keyboard mappings for other software.
But, Apple’s answer went on to say something that caught my attention: all too often, keyboard shortcuts that emulate other software prevent you from learning new features in the software. They act more like training wheels, providing security but preventing you from seeing beyond what you already know.
I never thought of it this way. Remember Aaron’s earlier comment: “After 20 minutes I gave up in frustration.”? It was a perfect example of this. He was trying to fit a triangular peg into an octagonal hole.
QUESTION 2: DOES EMULATING KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS PREVENT US FROM LEARNING NEW SOFTWARE?
This opens an entirely different discussion. Like many, I’ve spent time looking at other editing software. Adobe has done a great job of including FCP 7 and Avid MC 5 keyboard shortcuts with the CS6 version of Premiere.
I was grateful to have these familiar shortcuts available, because it made the software feel less foreign and I could explore the new interface comfortably. But, at the same time, I couldn’t discover any of the new features in the software because I was using keyboard shortcuts to emulate what I already knew.
It wasn’t until I switched back to Adobe’s shortcuts that I could start to explore the new features in the software. This wasn’t easy – and I still have a hard time typing “V” for “A” – but by forcing myself to look through the menus and discover the new shortcuts, I discovered features in the software that I never knew it had.
This discovery changed the question to: “how do we learn new software?”
THINKING ABOUT LEARNING
When I was writing software in the 1980’s I learned that good software embodies a philosophy – a way of thinking about a problem. Good software starts with a clear description of how it views the world, then codes that into a tool.
Keyboard shortcuts are added to speed up specific functions of that tool – but those functions will vary from one piece of software to another because each software embodies a different philosophy – a different way of viewing the world.
Much has been made of the differences between FCP X and FCP 7 — and I don’t need to rehash that conversation here. But those differences stem from an evolving and significantly different philosophical perspectives on what “video editing” means.
As we all know, our technological world is evolving rapidly – and perspectives that worked well in the world of tape no longer fit in the new, file-based world of tapeless. How does our software need to evolve to allow us to keep up? More importantly, how do we learn that new software?
I’ve been fascinated by this thought for the last day or two – all starting from such a simple question.
Keyboard shortcuts are essential – at least to me – for running software at full speed. But they can also prevent me from learning new software by hiding new features in a cloak of the past. Just as remembering about how things used to be done in the past are not always useful in deciding how things need to be done in the future.
Training wheels for the mind – what a concept!
Let me know what you think.
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