Physical and Motor Skills
Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard provides built-in and assistive technologies that can help you navigate your computer even if you have difficulties using the keyboard, mouse and trackpad.
Slow Keys changes the sensitivity of the keyboard to filter out unintended multiple keystrokes. It adds a delay between when a key is pressed and when it is entered, so you have more time to press it and more time to remove your finger to avoid mistakes. The delay is adjustable and you can choose to have a sound play to let you know when a key is entered.
Using Sticky Keys, you can enter key combinations (called chords) — such as Command-Q (for Quit) and Command-Control-Option-8 (to reverse the display to white on black) — by pressing them in sequence instead of simultaneously.
When Sticky Keys is active, Mac OS X visually displays each modifier key in the sequence in the upper-right corner of the screen, accompanied by a sound effect, so you can verify the sequence and correct it (if needed) before it’s entered. When you press the last key in the sequence, Mac OS X plays a sound, enters the keys as a chord and removes the visual representation from the screen.
Use Sticky Keys in combination with the Keyboard Viewer to create an onscreen keyboard that you can type on using a mouse, trackball or other similar input device.
Alternative Keyboard Layouts
In addition to the standard QWERTY keyboard layout, Mac OS X includes several Dvorak keyboard layouts that may be useful for those who have difficulty typing. The traditional Dvorak keyboard layout places the most commonly used keys under your fingers. The Dvorak-Left and Dvorak-Right layouts place the most commonly used keys under your left or right hand, respectively, reducing the need to move your hands and fingers. You can use the Keyboard Viewer to preview these layouts and many others included in Mac OS X.
Custom Keyboard Shortcuts
Using keyboard shortcuts (or key combinations), you can quickly perform a wide range of tasks. In addition to the large number of predefined keyboard shortcuts included with Mac OS X, the Mac lets you customise existing shortcuts, create your own or remove shortcuts you don’t use. Shortcuts can be systemwide or made to work only in specific applications. Use the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences to add or modify shortcuts.
If you have difficulty using a mouse or trackpad, you can use Mouse Keys to control the mouse pointer using keys on a numeric keypad. You can even click the mouse button and hold it down to drag and drop items on the screen and to navigate menus, the Dock, windows, toolbars, palettes and other controls.
Adjustable Mouse and Trackpad Sensitivity
Using System Preferences, you can adjust the sensitivity of the mouse and trackpad, including tracking speed, double-click speed and scrolling speed.
Ignore Trackpad Input
When a mouse is connected or Mouse Keys is enabled on a Mac notebook, you can turn off the trackpad to prevent accidentally brushing it and interfering with the mouse pointer.
Assignable Mouse Buttons
To keep things simple, Mac OS X is designed to work with a one-button mouse, so you don’t have to worry about whether to click the right or left button to accomplish a task. With a Magic Mouse or an Apple Mouse, the entire top shell is a button. Simply press down to click. Their symmetric, ergonomic shapes make them work equally well for left- and right-handed users and they use laser tracking so there’s no roller ball to clean and no mousepad required.
But these two mice can also do much more. Magic Mouse features a Multi-Touch surface that lets you use gestures as if you were touching what’s on your screen. For instance, swiping through web pages in Safari gives you the feeling of flicking through pages in a magazine. And Magic Mouse supports momentum scrolling (similar to iPhone and iPod touch), where the scrolling speed is dictated by how fast or slowly you perform the gesture.
Apple Mouse features a Scroll Ball for 360-degree scrolling, a touch-sensitive area on each side and a user-assignable button on each edge. You can turn all the buttons off and use the entire mouse for simple clicks or you can assign a button to access commonly used Mac features such as Exposé, Dashboard, Spotlight, Spaces and the application switcher. You can even program a button to open your favorite applications and utilities. You can also use the Scroll Ball for instant access to screen magnification. Just press the Control key and scroll and you can zoom the entire screen up to 20x.
Multi-Touch Trackpad Gestures
All Mac notebooks and Desktops (using a Magic Trackpad) now support Multi-Touch technology. This technology lets you use gestures on the trackpad to control the computer. With pinch, swipe or rotate gestures, you can zoom in on text, advance through a photo album or adjust an image. iPhone and iPod touch also use Multi-Touch technology.
VoiceOver provides complete keyboard control of the computer and includes additional gesture capabilities. You can assign commands to gestures to launch applications and utilities, open documents and run Automator workflows and AppleScript scripts. (If you don’t require VoiceOver spoken descriptions and the VoiceOver cursor, you can mute and hide them while retaining access to the additional key commands and gestures VoiceOver provides.)
Full Keyboard Navigation
In addition to using a mouse or trackpad, you can use a keyboard to navigate through applications, documents and websites. The Tab key lets you navigate to lists, text boxes and other controls and the Space bar and Return key can be used to interact with them.
Adjustable Key Repeat and Delay
You can adjust the key repeat rate and the delay until a key repeats when you hold it down. You’ll find these settings in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences. Use them in conjunction with Slow Keys to adapt the keyboard to suit your abilities, improve your typing efficiency and avoid accidental typing mistakes.
Assignable Modifier Keys
If you prefer having modifier keys such as Control, Option (Alt) and Command in different locations on your keyboard, you can reassign them using System Preferences.
Mac OS X comes with built-in handwriting recognition technology called Inkwell (or Ink). If you connect a graphics tablet to your Mac, you can write on the tablet using a stylus and Inkwell translates what you write to typed words in your document.
Some applications allow you to enter text directly; with others, you first enter the text into a “scratch pad” (where you can edit or revise it) before bringing it into the application. Inkwell supports several stylus gestures, making it easy to select, edit and delete text. It also understands English, French and German.
If you find it easier to use a pointing device than a keyboard, you can use the Keyboard Viewer to enter text. You’ll find this onscreen keyboard in the Language & Text pane of System Preferences.
The Keyboard Viewer floats above other applications (so you can’t misplace it) and can be resized to fit your screen. Though you “type” with a mouse or other pointing device, it otherwise works just like a physical keyboard. When you use it in conjunction with Sticky Keys, you can enter multikey keyboard shortcuts, such as Control-Option-Command-8, by pressing the keys in sequence.
Located in the Language & Text pane of System Preferences, the Character Viewer makes it easy to find and use special characters in your text documents. Instead of typing key chords that may be difficult to remember or that require multiple keystrokes, just drag them from the viewer.
If you have trouble using a mouse or trackpad, you can have Automator perform complex, routine tasks for you. Using its “Watch me do” feature, you can quickly and easily record what you do on your Mac, save it as a workflow and run the workflow whenever you want to perform the same series of steps.
To run an Automator workflow, you can double-click the saved file, add it to the Script menu or assign it to a folder and have it run automatically when you drop a file in that folder. Once you create a workflow, you can use it as often as you want.
Speakable Items, built into Mac OS X and located in the Speech pane of System Preferences, lets you control the computer using your voice instead of the keyboard. And you don’t have to train your Mac to use it. You can use Speakable Items to navigate menus and enter keyboard shortcuts; speak checkbox names, radio button names, list items and button names; and open, close, control and switch among applications.
If you want to perform speech dictation on your Mac, you can use an application from MacSpeech called Dictate (sold separately).