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Review: ShortcutFoo turns you into a keyboard hotkey ninja

Erez Zukerman | Feb. 26, 2015
When watching a seasoned pro use their favorite application to get stuff done, you'll notice something within the first minute: They know their keyboard shortcuts cold. Where most of us reach for the mouse or rummage through the menus, the pro user knows all of their favorite key combos by heart, and doesn't hesitate to use them. Knowing your hotkeys saves time and frees you to think about what you're trying to do, rather than how to get it done. And the best part? With ShortcutFoo, mastering keyboard shortcuts doesn't have to take years.

When watching a seasoned pro use their favorite application to get stuff done, you'll notice something within the first minute: They know their keyboard shortcuts cold. Where most of us reach for the mouse or rummage through the menus, the pro user knows all of their favorite key combos by heart, and doesn't hesitate to use them. Knowing your hotkeys saves time and frees you to think about what you're trying to do, rather than how to get it done. And the best part? With ShortcutFoo, mastering keyboard shortcuts doesn't have to take years.

A Web-based service, ShortcutFoo offers hotkey courses on a number of popular applications, ranging from programmer's text editor Vim to Gmail, Excel, and Photoshop. Each course is called a Dojo; you can purchase access to a single Dojo for a one-time fee of $5, three for $12, or all for $20.

Each Dojo is broken into multiple lessons, and each lesson has three parts: Learn, Fight, and Test. In the Learn part, you acquire new keyboard shortcuts, and get a bit of practice reviewing shortcuts you already know. Learning a new shortcut for the first time is easy: ShortcutFoo tells you what key to hit, and what it's for. For instance, "delete 5 lines" is "5dd" in Vim. Then, you just type out the hotkey and move on to the next one.

Next time, though, ShortcutFoo won't help you with a hint: It'll just ask you for the key to "delete 5 lines" (or whatever), and you'll need to remember what it was. Once you get all the keys for the current lesson right, you're done with Learn mode — and you won't be able to use it again that same day. It's time to up your game, and move on to ShortcutFoo's most vexing bit: the new Fight mode.

Fight mode pits you against an imaginary rival in a battle of hotkeys. It's all about speed: You get a flood of directions, such as "Switch to edit mode," "Save file," "Replace current character," and must hit the correct hotkey for each as quickly as you can.

When you get it right, your ninja advances across the screen. Get it wrong, and your ninja takes a step back. All the while, your rival gradually moves across the screen (while taking an occasional step back, just to keep things interesting). If your mortal enemy gets to the end of the screen first, you lose.

Fight mode isn't easy, and it often takes multiple attempts to win. But once you've acquired a hotkey through the heat of battle, you won't forget it so quickly. Future lessons will have you review that key again in Learn mode, as well as use it in fights — so it'll become ingrained and utterly familiar to you in time.

 

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