More keyboardy goodness

Some web sites have their drop-down list boxes set up in such a way that as soon as you select a different option from the list, you jump to a new page. The BBC’s weather page is a typical example. If you choose a different UK region from the list, you will be immediately transported to the local weather page for that region.

So what do you do if you don’t have a mouse for clicking on the drop-down and making the list options visible? Just pressing the down key on your keyboard changes the selected item in the list, and jumps you to a different page, so that doesn’t work. The answer is Alt+Down Arrow. This expands the list, and allows you to run up and down with the arrow keys without changing the active item. Press Enter once you’ve made your selection, and Bob’s your uncle.

Many, many more keyboard shortcuts are listed on Microsoft’s pages for keyboard assistance.

How to move and resize windows using only the keyboard

Alt+Space brings up the system menu for the window you’re working in. This menu contains Size and Move options. Choosing Move option turns the cursor into a directional compass, positioned in the centre of the window’s title bar. You can now move the window around on screen with the arrow keys. Press Enter to finish the move operation, or Escape to snap the window back to where it was previously.

The Size option also turns the cursor into a directional compass, this time positioned in the centre of the current window. Pressing any of the arrow keys turns the cursor into a resize cursor, and moves it to the relevant edge of the window. You can now shift that edge of the window either horzontally or vertically. If you want diagonal resizing from the corner of a window, press the up then the right arrow key (or any other horizontal + vertical combination), and use the directional keys to resize that corner in any direction. As with the Move operation, press Enter to fix the resize, or Escape to restore its previous dimensions.

Handy for when you find yourself stuck without a mouse!

(Don’t ask.)

Update (30 Jul):

When using this technique to move or resize a window, each press of an arror key moves or resizes the window by about 10 pixels. If you want to change the window position or size in smaller increments, hold down the Ctrl key at the same time for single-pixel control.

Movable Type 3.1 announced

MT 3.1 has been announced, and it looks like a substantial upgrade from 3.0. The addition of subcategories, dynamic PHP templates (rather than static HTML output), and post scheduling are major features that people have wanted for a long time now. So my discovery of the “Future” posting status code was an indication of things to come. How about that.

Of course, these new features mean that I’m going to have to (just have to, you know?) rip up my fresh new site design and start again. Oh well.

I want to work at Amazon in Edinburgh

Just when I thought I was getting myself straightened out and toughened up with the proper contractor mindset, along comes something like this:

“ is delighted to announce the launch of a new software development centre in Edinburgh. The new centre offers a unique opportunity to be a part of a rather unusual start-up — one which will serve 41 million active customer accounts around the world.

“We are now looking for outstanding individuals across a number of different areas of expertise to join the start-up team.

“The Centre will be imagining and building new and innovative features for our global family of web sites. Deciding exactly what we’ll do is in no small way up to you, but it will certainly involve the building of scaleable distributed systems which offer superb performance while operating over huge datasets, and will require us to stretch the frontiers of e-commerce and our creative talent.”

If I had to choose a company I would really like to work at, there would be two on the shortlist: Microsoft and Amazon. I know that I have slagged Microsoft in the past for some dodgy business practices, but the fact is that they a) create some excellent products, b) have thousands of smart, interesting, and creative people working for them, and c) are almost universally acknowledged as being a great employer. Amazon may be an independent bookseller’s nightmare, but there is no other company that has done as much as they have to make web commerce work. They are ruthlessly focused on making web shopping not just a simple experience, but an interesting, pleasureable, and satisfying one.

Me, I’m all about the User Experience. Interaction design, information architecture, web standards compliance, accessibility, semantic web–that’s where I’m at, baby. That designer job they’ve got going? It’s mine. Hands off.

PS: to any Amazon HR staff reading this: hi! My CV will be with you shortly!

Guerilla marketing at the cinema

Our local cinema has taken pre-film advertising to the next level. After handouts of bread last month, now they’ve started with live-action commercials.

There I was on Saturday evening, waiting for Spider-Man 2 to start, when the house lights went up after the main commercials had ended. I heard some voices at the rear of the the theatre, and for a moment I thought there was some kind of technical fault, and that we were all going to be ushered out into the rain. But it was just two guys starting up their act.

One was dressed in a set of full-body white coveralls, and the other was dressed in Hollywood casual, with a baseball cap and a clipboard. They proceeded down the aisle and in front of the screen with a little sketch about a director and a stunt man. The stunt man was objecting to being set on fire and having to run about like crazy. He was happy enough to be torched, but he was feeling low on energy, and his contract had said nothing about any running.

The commercial turned out to be for Lucozade (a British energy drink), to tie in with their big summer promotion: buy a bottle of Lucozade, and win the chance to go to Pinewood Studios and be a stunt man for a day. Woo hoo.

I suppose that with the Festival just around the corner, the streets of Edinburgh are littered with actors and comedians, many of whom won’t be making much bank, and, well… you’ve got to make ends meet somehow. I wonder what other oddities the Fringe will throw up this year?