capsule review

Ditch Your Arrow Keys With TouchCursor

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder TouchCursor

    PCWorld Rating

    TouchCursor tries to wean users off the keyboard's arrow keys by using home row keys for navigation.

Once upon a time, computer keyboards did not have cursor keys. When text editor Vi (and later, Vim) needed a way for users to move the cursor, the solution was to remap the arrow keys to H, J, K and L on the keyboard. Modern computer keyboards do have cursor keys, but if you're pining for the past, freeware utility TouchCursor lets you use those same home row keys instead of cursor keys across your entire system.

If you are using an alternative keyboard layout (such Colemak), TouchCursor allows you to remap keys as needed.
Nostalgia isn't the only reason to use the home row keys instead of arrows: It can also be faster, especially if you're a touch typist. With TouchCursor, instead of moving your hand to the arrow keys, simplypress and hold the Space key and tap a movement key. By default, H is Page Up, I is up, J is left, K is down, and L is right. This is different from the Vim binding (IJKL versus HJKL), but TouchCursor lets you easily remap keys as needed. This came in handy for me, because I use the Colemak keyboard layout.

Another thing that's nice about TouchCursor is that it is fully graphical. I usually remap keys using AutoHotkey, which is a scripting language devoid of any GUI. Being able to configure TouchCursor with a graphical interface makes it much more accessible for beginners than AutoHotkey.

Most of us have been using the arrow keys for years now, and making the switch to home row keys can seem nearly impossible. TouchCursor helps out with a "training mode" that tries to get you to use the new keys by disabling the arrow keys. It's very annoying at first, but I can see how it can be effective, too.

In day-to-day use, TouchCursor yielded some surprising results, especially when typing fast (around 80-100 words per minute). Since TouchCursor moves the cursor when pressing Space-key, false positives occurred where TouchCursor moved the cursor when I was just typing a word like "will" followed by a space. I would then suddenly find myself typing into the middle of a sentence that was a couple of lines above where I should have been. This prevented me from making TouchCursor a permanent addition to my toolkit.

Apart from its erratic behavior when dealing with rapid-fire typing, TouchCursor is a nice modern-day take on an ancient concept. If you find yourself reaching for the arrow keys too often, try it out--just be prepared for a learning curve.

--Erez Zukerman

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    TouchCursor tries to wean users off the keyboard's arrow keys by using home row keys for navigation.

    Pros

    • Nice idea
    • Beginner-friendly implementation

    Cons

    • Doesn't work well for fast typists
Related:
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.