Friday, June 23, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Is the Keyboard Faster Than the Mouse?

Dan Luu:

The most cited AskTog page on the topic claims that they’ve spent $50M of R&D and done all kinds of studies; the page claims that, among other things, the $50M in R&D showed “Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing” and “The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.”. The claim is that this both proves that the mouse is faster than the keyboard, and explains why programmers think the keyboard is faster than the mouse even though it’s slower. However, the result is unreproducible because “Tog” not only doesn’t cite the details of the experiments, Tog doesn’t even describe the experiments and just makes a blanket claim.

[…]

Unlike claims by either keyboard or mouse advocates, when I do experiments myself, the results are mixed. Some tasks are substantially faster if I use the keyboard and some are substantially faster if I use the mouse. Moreover, most of the results are easily predictable (when the results are similar, the prediction is that it would be hard to predict).

[…]

I didn’t realize that scrolling was so fast relative to searching (not explicitly mentioned in the blog post, but 1⁄2 of the text selection task). I tend to use search to scroll to things that are offscreen, but it appears that I should consider scrolling instead when I don’t want to drop my cursor in a specific position.

3 Comments

Grumpy Greg

My two cents: a good tactile keyboard is often faster than a mouse for some tasks, a mouse is 1000x faster and more precise than any touch screen, and anything and everything is faster than the awful Touch Bar and a butterfly keyboard.

We spent how many years learning to never look at the keys as we type? And then Apple introduces touch screen keyboards, a Touch Bar, and an awful minimal travel keyboard that requires staring at your fingers with every slow cumbersome character entry, as if we're all in elementary typing class all over again. Ugh.

"Unlike claims by either keyboard or mouse advocates, when I do experiments myself, the results are mixed. Some tasks are substantially faster if I use the keyboard and some are substantially faster if I use the mouse. Moreover, most of the results are easily predictable"

While this is specifically about programming, I think it extrapolates well to all computer tasks.

Obviously, an often performed task where the keyboard shortcut is sorta hardwired into your brain is going to be faster than using a mouse. Same with a web bookmark you often use that can be triggered by LaunchBar.

Just as obviously, there are many other tasks where a mouse is going to be faster. My web home page is just a grid of links, and clicking on one of them is faster than using LaunchBar, to pick one example out of the air from many.

This isn't rocket science, and attempts to make universal assertions on one or the other side is pretty much insane.

Yeah, he lost me when he said this:

"My experience with benchmarking is that the vast majority of microbenchmarks have wrong or misleading results because they’re difficult to set up properly"

And then proceeded to do a whole variety of microbenchmarks using himself as the subject and then decided that (because they supported his case) they meant something.

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