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Use the Option Key to Pull Up System Preferences on a MacBook [Mac OS X Tip]

From the files of the Total Mac Beginner Dept.: Some things on a Mac require System Preferences fiddling to fix—keyboard settings, Expose/Spaces, and so on. Press Option and the related function key, and up comes the related preferences. More »







Hold Down Command-Shift-Option-Escape to Quickly Kill a Troublesome Application [Keyboard Shortcuts]

Mac OS X: There are plenty of ways to force quit an application in OS X, but you can do it quickly from the keyboard with this simple key command. More »







Review: Kensington KeyFolio Keyboard Case for iPad

I love the iPad, but I don’t always love not having a hardware keyboard at hand. You could carry around Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard, or another alternative, but adding additional devices and giving yourself more to carry around and keep track of sort of defeats the purpose.

That’s why I find the concept of the keyboard case so appealing. Build a Bluetooth keyboard into an iPad case and you have a single-package solution that keeps everything nicely organized on the go. At least, that’s how it works in theory. I was recently able to see if that theory would pan out with the new Kensington KeyFolio for iPad. I’ve been using the KeyFolio with my iPad for a little over a week now. During that time, I haven’t removed the iPad from the case once, so I feel confident I gave it a fair shake.

Build and Design

The Kensington KeyFolio presents a nice face. It looks good, and the fake leather is both animal-friendly and easy on the hands. Some padding means your iPad feels more secure, and the fit and a clever foldback tab ensures the iPad isn’t sliding out anytime soon.

My only problem with the case aspect of the KeyFolio is that my iPad doesn’t screen doesn’t sit in the window quite where it’s supposed to. The top of the screen is right to the edge of the window, while there’s extra room at the bottom, and the home button is almost right at the edge of the groove provided for it. It’s close enough that it works, but for the absolute perfectionist, it might be annoying.

The keyboard is the one we saw from an FCC filing towards the end of summer. In fact, the KeyFolio is the KeyCase rebadged by Kensington for the U.S. market. At least one other manufacturer is using the same keyboard part for sure, and Sena was supposed to, but has since removed the case from its list of offerings.

It’s around 90 percent the size of a full keyboard, like you’ll find on most netbooks. It has rubberized keys to prevent damage from spillage, and to prevent the keyboard itself from harming the iPad screen in any way. It’s a weird feeling, but it makes for quiet typing. I did find that once in a while I’d get double-presses because of how sensitive the keys were, though.

Function

Connecting the iPad to the keyboard is a breeze; just flick the hardware switch on the case to “on” and press the connect button. Go into your Bluetooth preferences in your iPad’s Settings, and pair the device there. You’ll have to type a code on the keyboard followed by “Enter,” but that’s it.

Once you’re paired, the keyboard should simply work. I say “should” because I encountered some hiccups. Sometimes, the keyboard would drop and regain the connection without warning, which would pop up the on-screen keyboard briefly. A manual on/off reset using the switch usually fixed this, though, and it may have been because I was testing iOS 4.2 on the iPad I was using. Either way, it wasn’t a big enough problem that it would cause me not to use the case.

You don’t have to manually turn off the keyboard unless you want it to not connect, since it sleeps after a period of disuse. Battery life is said to be around 100 days in standby mode, or 90 hours of actual usage. It takes around four or five hours to charge. I haven’t managed to burn through a charge yet, so I think the claims are pretty accurate.

The way the case folds for typing is perfect, in my opinion. It takes up very little space, and even provides a stable enough base that you can use it on your lap without an additional support surface. It only provides one viewing angle, but in my usage I felt no desire to adjust, no matter where I was using it.

Highs

I grew to love using the KeyFolio. I often use my iPad primarily as a chat client, and that became a lot more pleasant with a hardware keyboard. So did managing my email from the couch, and working with the device on the train and subway to get some serious work done.

Combined with Pages and even blogging sites in Safari, the KeyFolio is a road warrior’s best friend. It isn’t a new MacBook Air (and in fact, it might weigh more than one combined with the iPad), but it’s a lot cheaper even at $100.

Lows

There were the rare connection issues I mentioned, but there’s also the keyboard itself, which requires some getting used to. There’s no shift key on the right, and if you happen to use the apostrophe key a lot, which I apparently do, you have to train your fingers to look down below the period key. I actually picked up the trick pretty quickly, but it’s still a bit of a pain.

Finally, keeping your iPad in the case does take away a bit from its own design benefits. It’s heavier, and harder to use as a tablet. I found turning off the keyboard and folding it behind worked fine, but it still didn’t feel as good as using the iPad on its own. Also, you’re stuck with landscape mode when you’re using the keyboard, something which didn’t trouble me as much as I would’ve thought.

Verdict

The Kensington KeyFolio may seem a tad expensive at $99.99, but consider that most iPad folio cases cost around $50 on their own. That means you’re really only paying an extra $50 for the Bluetooth keyboard. Even Apple’s own will cost you $70. I recommend it, especially if you’re someone who likes to work with their iPad while travelling, or you just want your tablet to be even more of a laptop replacement. The KeyFolio isn’t yet available, but you can pre-order yours from Kensington’s site.

Disclosure: The Kensington KeyFolio tested was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.

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Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Secrets of the Camera Connection Kit

While it may be intended as a tool for adding photos to your iPad, the Camera Connection Kit can do more than Apple tells you about. Having had one for the last week or so, I’ve tested what capabilities the kit has, and what secrets are hiding under the white casing.

Importing

It’s clear what the main purpose of the Kit is: importing and managing photos and videos from digital cameras. What Apple doesn’t tell you is that you aren’t limited to using an SD card or the USB cable for your camera.

Most of the time, when you buy a MicroSD card, it comes with an adapter that lets you use the MicroSD in an SD card reader. Since part of the Camera Connection Kit is an SD card reader, this means you can, perhaps unsurprisingly, use it to read a MicroSD card as well. This also works with Memory Stick Pro Duo, the card Sony uses in its cameras as well as the PSP. All you need is an adapter to change it into an SD card.

The Kit also works great if you have an all-in-one card reader. If you do, you can use it in a USB port to read CompactFlash, MMC, Memory Stick Pro Duo and other types of card as well. One half of the Camera Connection Kit is a USB port, so, although the functionality is undocumented, a USB card reader will work. Reading the card isn’t as fast as when using a card directly in the slot or a USB cable, but it works and doesn’t break the iPad or the memory card, which is always a good thing.

One last thing that Apple does mention, but doesn’t push much, is using the USB slot in the Kit to connect your iPhone to your iPad. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything fancy like transferring apps or tethering, but you can import photos from your iPhone camera roll to your iPad. You can even use the iPhone camera while the devices are connected, and any new photos you take show up directly in the list on your iPad.

Saving Space

If, unlike me, you’re running out of space since your iPad is host to thousands of songs, videos, photos and apps, you can use the Camera Connection Kit to your advantage. Memory cards are fairly cheap nowadays; you can pick up an 8GB SD card for around $20. You can save precious space on your iPad by storing videos, such as TV shows and movies, on an SD card instead of directly on your iPad. When you want to watch them, plug the SD card reader into your iPad, pop in the card, and import the video (you can’t watch directly from the card). When you’re done, delete the video to make room again. The downside is keeping enough space free on your iPad to import the video. However, keeping about 1.5GB free still gives you more free space than you’d have if you had 8GB worth of video on the iPad.

Other Accessories

Since the iPad was released, people have been upset that it didn’t have a built-in USB port. Apart from a camera cable, USB keyboard or a headset, what would you plug into it? Probably not much else.

There are some keyboards that don’t work with the iPad; the Apple wired keyboard for one. If you try to use it, an error message will be displayed saying the accessory uses too much power, probably because of the keyboard’s two USB ports. However, a cheap Windows keyboard works just fine.

Headsets have the same issue. Some models work; others don’t. While I haven’t been able to test any personally, some users have been able to get them to work and say they work well.

To my knowledge, those are the only accessories that work with the iPad, but let us know in the comments if you’ve found any others that work using the Connection Kit.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: The Case For Removable Media on the iPad




Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts

I was pretty excited to hear that the iPad supported a hardware keyboard. With my history in Unix, I’ve become pretty comfortable as a touch typist, enough so that there is no faster way to get words out of my head and into the text editor. My excitement was short-lived, however. Soon after receiving my Bluetooth Apple keyboard in the mail, I found that most of the keyboard shortcuts I was hoping for were not there.

So, after trying every keyboard shortcut I could think of, here’s a rundown of all the shortcuts that work on the iPad.

  • CMD – c (Copy selected text)
  • CMD – x (Cut selected text)
  • CMD – v (Paste)
  • CMD – z (Undo)
  • CMD – shift – z (Redo)
  • CMD – Up Arrow (Jump to top of document)
  • CMD – Down Arrow (Jump to bottom of document)
  • CMD – Left Arrow (Jump to beginning of line)
  • CMD – Right Arrow (Jump to end of line)
  • CMD – Delete (Delete everything on the current line to the left of the cursor)
  • Option – Delete (Delete the word to the left of the cursor, and its preceding space)
  • F1 (Dim Screen)
  • F2 (Brighten Screen)
  • F7 (Back one song)
  • F8 (Play/Pause Music)
  • F9 (Skip one song ahead)
  • F10 (Mute)
  • F11 (Volume Down)
  • F12 (Volume Up)
  • Eject key (Show/hide on-screen keyboard)

Luckily, all of the standard shortcuts for special characters still seem to work, like our beloved option – shift – k.

If I’ve missed any shortcuts, please let me know in the comments!

Apple’s keyboard dock has additional keys for locking the iPad, search, and home. I’m disappointed that those keys did not find an equivalent on the Bluetooth keyboard. I’m also disappointed that not all applications have full access to the key events sent from the keyboard. Most third-party apps that I’ve tested only have access to basic text entry and ignore the escape key or control characters.

The good news is that the shortcomings of the iPad’s keyboard integration are software, and can be fixed. I’ve heard rumors of good things coming in iPhone OS 4, so I’m hoping that CMD-q, CMD-tab, CMD-i, and CMD-b make a comeback. I’m also hoping for some better integration of the keyboard with Safari. Safari will recognized the keyboard for any text entry, but little, if anything, beyond that. The biggest missing feature for Safari for me is the ability to search for text on a page, CMD-F. CMD-I would be great for sending a page via email, and CMD-1 through 9 would be nice for bookmarklets like Instapaper.

Part of the problem with keyboard integration is the melding of the old world and new world. The iPad is meant to be touched and gestured to, but many tasks still require text entry. Typing is faster, far faster for me, than handwriting, and not as awkward as voice recognition software like Dragon Dictation (App Store Link). Looking at Apple’s track record for developing its products, it introduces a new product with very, very few features, and then hones and perfect those features over time, and adds new ones as the product matures. I’m confident that the iPad will one day mature into a writers companion, and a power user’s dream.

Alt+Tab Tuner Makes Windows 7’s Task Switcher Thumbnails Larger and Much More [Downloads]

Windows 7 only: System tweaking utility Alt+Tab Tuner customizes everything about the Windows 7 Alt-Tab dialog, from setting the transparency to increasing the size of the thumbnails. More »






Restore the XP Backspace Functionality in Windows 7 and Vista [Downloads]

If you’ve settled into Windows 7 but find the change in the functionality of the backspace key while browsing files to be too much to bear, use this simple hack to turn the backspace key back to its XP state.

For the unfamiliar: in Windows XP pressing the backspace key while browsing files in Windows Explorer would navigate you up one folder level. In Windows Vista and Windows 7 however, the same keystroke doesn’t move you up a folder level but back one stop in the history. It’s a small thing but if you’ve coded the backspace into your muscle memory as a quick way to navigate up the folder hierarchy it can be a very annoying small thing to deal with.

Over at How-To Geek they've put together a guide to using AutoHotkey to resolve the backspace issue. You can either add their script to your AutoHotkey installation or download a stand alone executable—both are provided. Throw a link to the application in your Startup folder and you'll never have to deal with the backspace key not navigating the way you want. Check out the link below for full details and the files.






TouchFreeze Disables Your Touchpad As Soon As You Start Typing [Laptop]

Windows only: Most laptop owners have experienced the frustrations of an unpredictable cursor when your wrist grazes the touchpad. Free, open-source utility TouchFreeze disables your touchpad as soon as you start typing, re-enables it when you stop.

Photo by AlishaV

Although you can always go to your Control Panel and then to Mouse Properties to disable your touchpad the long way, it still means you have to turn it back on when you’d like to use it. TouchFreeze makes things a little easier, and as long as you’re not doing any heavy photo editing that might necessitate the simultaneous use of the touch pad and keys, this should be a winner of a program for you.

TouchFreeze sits in your system tray and simply turns off the touchpad when you start typing. It’s a dead simple, free, and open-source program that works with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003/2008, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7.






Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your Workspace [Lifehacker Top 10]

It's easy to forget about your body's needs when you're deep into your work or the net—until your body offers a painful reminder. Save your physical shell some strain with these cheap, customizable ergonomic workspace upgrades.

Photo by IMG_3771 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

10. Elevate your laptop to eye level

Your neck can’t text you to explain how annoying it is to have to keep looking down at your laptop. Over time it will let you know, though, in a nagging, painful way. If your laptop is your day-to-day work machine, elevate it to eye level using any one of a number of clever solutions. Perhaps one among our Top 10 laptop stands will do the trick, or a built-to-fit DIY pipe stand. Any of them are better than imagining yourself as a hunched old man or woman, constantly warning the neighborhood kids to sit up straight and look ahead.

9. Mix up your positions with a standing desk

It’s hard to slouch when you’re not in a seat. To help your body benefit from your upright instinct, and give your lower body a break from sitting, work a standing desk into your workspace. You can go for it in a big way, like with this handcrafted setup, stick with something as simple as a $20 model or a surface on a storage rack. If you want to go really fancy, you could try a treadputer or something like this adjustable desk. It doesn't have to be your only desk, either—just a break room for your butt.

8. Get better sleep support

How your back, neck, and joints fare over eight hours of work can be influenced by how they spent eight hours in bed. Give your body a better night’s sleep by catching up on Lifehack.org’s pain and posture basics. According to the post, the standard, no-pain position to shoot for is “on your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees, and your head resting on a single pillow,” or on your back with one pillow under your knees and one under your head. You might need to leave out an element or two from that ideal if you’ve got a hard-set sleeping habit, but it’s worth considering a switch-up. Photo by james.thompson. (Original post).

7. Invest in a real mouse and keyboard

If you’ve stuck with your mouse and keyboard just because your desktop came with them, we feel for you. If you’ve been using a laptop at a desk without an external mouse or keyboard, we’re in tears. Invest in the tools your hands spend thousands of hours on every year by perusing the best mouse recommendations from Lifehacker readers and their ultimate keyboard picks. All of them are designed with a good hand feel and better functionality in mind. Consider your hand comfort worth five cents an hour? You’ll amortize these puppies in no time.

6. Align yourself properly with your computer

Adam’s had his problems with hand, wrist, and back pain from repetitive stress and other conditions at his workspace, and a few years ago, he decided to set up a healthy, usable workspace to get back in shape. His post is a front-to-back assessment of what healthy working spaces should include, but his basic sitting setup involves keeping your elbows bent near 90 degrees, keeping a mouse comfortably within reach of a keyboard, avoiding slouching, and keeping a monitor at eye level, between 18-28 inches from your face.

5. Build your own ergonomic desk from scratch

You don't have to have Bob-Vila-level woodworking skills to craft your own workspace—after all, college students have been laying doors on cinder blocks for years. To make an actually ergonomic desk from medium-density fibreboard, you need two power tools (your neighbor has them if you don’t), time enough to sketch and plan your cuts, and measurements to know how high you should set up the legs, so your monitor is at eye level and you’ve got just enough room for everything you’re working with. When you’re done, you can paint or stain it whatever color you’d like, and when your friends ask where you got that desk, well, you know the answer. (Original post)

4. Use exercises to ward off RSI

You can do a lot to prevent stress and pain in your hands working at a computer all day, but you’ll almost inevitably have bad days full of overly long hours, and, over the long haul, risk sidling yourself with repetitive strain injury (RSI). Percussionist David Kuckhermann knows a thing or two about repetitive wrist and forearm strain, as does RSI expert Sherry Smith, and they both recommend and demonstrate a few simple exercises that can ward off and heal the effects of working your hands into knots. (Original post)

3. Fine-tune your desk spacing

Are you the type that busts out the tape measure whenever you’re putting anything up on the wall? For setting up your workspace with proper distances and heights between yourself and your computer tools, ergonomic goods firm Ergotron offers an ergonomic workspace planner that, once you enter your height, gives up the details on suggested seat heights, monitor heights and distances, and keyboard shelves. If you’re thinking about working in a standing desk, they’ve got measurements for that, too. (Original post)

2. Use software enforcers

It's great that you're dedicated to pushing out this project on time, but unless your deadline's right this hour and you need every second, you should be stepping back occasionally to give your wrists, eyes, and arms a rest—and maybe even read something off-screen, while you're at it. If mental reminders aren't enough, apps like AntiRSI and Timeout for Macs, and Workrave for Windows and Linux, force you, in differing levels of subtlety, to take a break and physically remove your hands from the keyboard every so often. (Original posts: AntiRSI, WorkRave, Time Out)

1. Go easy on your eyes

Eye strain is particularly bad news for those who write (code, copy, or anything else) or assemble things on a computer all day—it hits you right in what feels like your brain, and makes concentration terribly hard. Two simple solutions are to turn on ClearType and increase your monitor refresh rate in Windows systems, or install a serious protection scheme like EyeDefender. Reader’s Digest suggests other easy eye fixes, like keeping your monitor slightly below eye level to bring less glare into your retinas. And simply using a darker desktop theme is often a nice first step toward reducing the amount of time you feel like you’re staring into a flashlight with words written on it.


What improvements, big or small, have made the greatest difference in your workspace health? Pass on the knowledge in the comments.




The Master List of New Windows 7 Shortcuts [Windows 7]

Windows 7 adds loads of great shortcuts for switching between apps, moving windows around your screen, moving them to another monitor altogether, and much more. Here’s a quick-reference master list of the best new Windows 7 shortcuts.

We’re nuts for keyboard shortcuts here at Lifehacker, and Windows 7 brings a handful of great new ones to add to your muscle memory. It’s also got a few handy mouse-based shortcuts you’d do well to add to your repertoire. So let’s get shortcuttin’.

Window Management Shortcuts

One of the best changes in Windows 7 is the ability to “snap” windows to the side of the screen, maximize them by dragging to the top of the screen, or even move them to another monitor with a shortcut key. Check out the video for a demonstration of how some of the keys work.

The full list of keyboard shortcuts includes:

  • Win+Home: Clear all but the active window.
  • Win+Space: All windows become transparent so you can see through to the desktop.
  • Win+Up arrow: Maximize the active window.
  • Shift+Win+Up arrow: Maximize the active window vertically.
  • Win+Down arrow: Minimize the window/Restore the window if it’s maximized.
  • Win+Left/Right arrows: Dock the window to each side of the monitor.
  • Shift+Win+Left/Right arrows: Move the window to the monitor on the left or right.

You can also interact with windows by dragging them with the mouse:

  • Drag window to the top: Maximize
  • Drag window left/right: Dock the window to fill half of the screen.
  • Shake window back/forth: Minimize everything but the current window.
  • Double-Click Top Window Border (edge): Maximize window vertically.


Taskbar Shortcuts

In Windows 7, using the Windows key along with the numbers 1-9 will let you interact with the applications pinned to the taskbar in those positions – for example, the Windows key + 4 combination would launch Outlook in this example, or Win+Alt+4 can be used to get quick access to the Outlook Jump List from the keyboard.

You can use any of these shortcut combinations to launch the applications in their respective position on the taskbar, or more:

  • Win+number (1-9): Starts the application pinned to the taskbar in that position, or switches to that program.
  • Shift+Win+number (1-9): Starts a new instance of the application pinned to the taskbar in that position.
  • Ctrl+Win+number (1-9): Cycles through open windows for the application pinned to the taskbar in that position.
  • Alt+Win+number (1-9): Opens the Jump List for the application pinned to the taskbar.
  • Win+T: Focus and scroll through items on the taskbar.
  • Win+B: Focuses the System Tray icons

In addition, you can interact with the taskbar using your mouse and a modifier key:

  • Shift+Click on a taskbar button: Open a program or quickly open another instance of a program.
  • Ctrl+Shift+Click on a taskbar button: Open a program as an administrator.
  • Shift+Right-click on a taskbar button: Show the window menu for the program (like XP does).
  • Shift+Right-click on a grouped taskbar button: Show the window menu for the group.
  • Ctrl+Click on a grouped taskbar button: Cycle through the windows of the group.

More Useful Hotkeys You Should Know

The new hotkey goodness didn't stop with the taskbar and moving windows around—one of the best new hotkeys in Windows 7 is the fact that you can create a new folder with a hotkey. Just open up any Windows Explorer window, hit the Ctrl+Shift+N shortcut key sequence, and you’ll be rewarded with a shiny “New Folder” ready for you to rename.

Here’s a few more interesting hotkeys for you:

  • Ctrl+Shift+N: Creates a new folder in Windows Explorer.
  • Alt+Up: Goes up a folder level in Windows Explorer.
  • Alt+P: Toggles the preview pane in Windows Explorer.
  • Shift+Right-Click on a file: Adds Copy as Path, which copies the path of a file to the clipboard.
  • Shift+Right-Click on a file: Adds extra hidden items to the Send To menu.
  • Shift+Right-Click on a folder: Adds Command Prompt Here, which lets you easily open a command prompt in that folder.
  • Win+P: Adjust presentation settings for your display.
  • Win+(+/-): Zoom in/out.
  • Win+G: Cycle between the Windows Gadgets on your screen.

Windows 7 definitely makes it a lot easier to interact with your PC from your keyboard—so what are your favorite shortcuts, and how do they save you time? Share your experience in the comments.

The How-To Geek is quickly wearing out the keyboard on his new Windows 7 laptop. His geeky articles can be found daily here on Lifehacker, How-To Geek, and Twitter.






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