I decided to set up my new Mac book pro 2016 as a clean install, which means I have been busy setting up my keyboard remapping and commander. I thought I would take this opportunity to run through all of the custom things I have set up, in order to share my experiences, and invite others to do the same.
I'm going to be talking about remapping the keyboard, the voice over keyboard commander, and custom system keyboard short cuts; each of these topics have unique factors to consider, and I'll do my best to explain these factors as I touch each section.
To remap a key means you have completely transformed one key to another.
I use Karabiner elements to remap my keyboard.
Karabiner elements is a stripped down version of the Karabiner app; I have used Karabiner for a long time now, but the full version does not currently work in Mac OS Sierra, so for now Karabiner elements is a fine alternative.
The main reason I remap my keys is to have VO keys on the right side of the keyboard. This is great for keystrokes like VO f, VO g and VO a; I have become so dependent on this modification that I can barely stand using the Mac without it. To make this work I remap the slash physical key to the command key. I also have the caps lock key remapped to slash so that I can type question mark and slash. For me this works really well, and I would highly recommend it.
I also remap several of my media control and function keys. I have the play/pause key directly to the left of the volume keys, F 10, and then rewind and fast forward directly to the left of them, f 9 and f 8. I also have f 1, f 2, f 3, and f 4 remapped to the num pad 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys; I'll explain my reasons for these changes later.
system wide and application short cuts
I won't spend much time on this section, because I don't have too many of these short cuts set up, but I thought it would be important to mention these functions. In system preferences, keyboard, short cuts you can set up almost any keystroke you can imagine. In the system section you can browse dozens of pre existing functions which can be mapped to any keystroke you want. You can also create your own function in Automator and it will show up in this section. For example, I have an Automator service set up so that I can hit command option shift d to hear the definition of any word I have selected.
In the app section of the keyboard system preferences pain you can create a short cut for any option in any menu app. For example I have several short cuts set up for Amadeus Pro. This type of function might be nice to remember if your considering the new touch bar. You can already make any function key perform almost any action, and this with real physical keys.
Voice over keyboard commander
The voice over keyboard commander, found in the voice over utility app, can be used to customize a great number of things. I'm going to just give a basic list of how I have things set up. I have the num pad commander set up so that hitting 1 will launch Safari, 2 launches messages, three iTunes, and 4 mail. If any of these apps are already opened hitting the keys just moves focus to the app in question; I love knowing I can jump to my most used apps with only one key no matter what.
The rest of my commander set up is with the basic keyboard commander. I use either of my option keys as the modifier key. Option 1 through for activates Automator work flows I have created. option 1 moves focus to the first level of my home folder in the finder, with documents downloads etc. 2 brings me to a google search field where I can instantly perform a google search. three brings me to my applications folder, and 4 brings me to a blank document in the grammrly grammar checking web sight where, I can paste and check any text.
Next I have a few VO keystrokes remapped to keystrokes that make more sense to me. Option c copies last spoken phrase, option w twice opens the window chooser, and option x moves mouse focus to voice over curser.
The rest of my commander set up is for me to be able to use the arrow keys and quick nav as little as possible. As a long time Mac user I have realized that I use the arrow keys too much, and I do not believe it is ideal to constantly shift my hands from a typing position to an arrow navigation position. This might be my own insanity, and I do not expect that the following set up will interest most people.
Option with J, K, L, and I moves me left, down, right and up respectively. If you try this setup you will realize that it feels pretty close to arrow keys and it behaves in a very similar way. This means you can move around without moving far from the home row. Unfortunately the J, K, L, I, set up does not work exactly like arrow keys, so some more modifications are needed for the set up to really work.
Option shift K activates an item, in other words VO space. Option U stops interacting, option o interacts, option shift j moves to the beginning, option shift l moves to end. If your interacting with text option j, k, l, and I will move you through the text. Option n and option coma moves by character. I also have most of the quick nav single keys, like h for heading, b for button, etc, set up, just with the option key, So I never have to turn on quick nav.
As crazy as all of this sounds, it actually works pretty well, with one major exception; this setup does not work great when doing heavy duty text navigation, such as selecting text.
I would love to hear what other people have done with key remapping, short cuts, and the keyboard commander. My set up works for me, but it is still a working progress, and I would love to hear thoughts about how I could improve it. specifically I would love to hear from anyone who knows a way I could make the J, K, L, I keys behave exactly like arrow keys, with modifiers held down. Perhaps, this could be done with another remapping app, but Karabiner elements can not currently make remappings that are modifier dependent.
I know this post has been terribly long and boring, but I hope it has been interesting or helpful to someone.