Re: CTS and Interleaf and rodents and...

Subject: Re: CTS and Interleaf and rodents and...
From: Jack Shaw <jsh -at- SOFTWARE-AG -dot- DE>
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 1996 13:32:57 -0800

Within a given group of some 20+ Interleaf V.5 users, I know of at least
three who have complained of RSI/CTS problems...I'm one. I don't even
imply to speak for the other two, but one thing we all have in common:
heavy to the point of almost exclusive long-hour Interleaf usage. Mine
could be arguably attributable to long, tedious use of IBM 327x
keyboards in past years...but I'm the exception. And the combination of
Interleaf and Sun technology aggravate things a lot.

It is my view that the menu-intensive orientation of Interleaf
does, indeed, aggravate (if not downright cause) these problems.
This, I base on the completely personal experience I have had
that when I avoid conventional pointing device usage (mouse and
trackball) and rely as much as possible on keyboard (so-called
"shortcut") sequences such as Ctrl-x-i for italics, Ctrl-x-b for
bold, etc., my hands are less sensitive at the end of a day. But
Interleaf is *very* skimpy with keyboard shortcuts. What shortcuts
it has (as you see above...) are convoluted and non-intuitive.

Secondly, one of the most unfriendly setups for me was the optical
mouse with the special mousepad that Sun workstations (the usual
UNIX platform for Interleaf) use. I needed to make repetitive strafing
runs with the mouse over the pad--and ONLY over the pad works--to get the
cursor over long distances. True, there is an acceleration/speed
macro control...but then the fine "brain surgery" operations like
picking out an index tag (no keyboard shortcuts for this, like lots
of other critically minute Interleaf actions...) to open its property
sheet, are painstaking/ful.

So all in all, I would put Interleaf V.5 in the most-suspect category
for aggravating if not downright causing RSI problems for those of
us that work with it long periods per day. But it's no secret that
I've picked bones over Interleaf here before...so in fairness, I have
to acknowledge Interleaf's recent claims to more "Windows-like" char-
acteristics that they alledge for Version 6 (either true Windows for
PC environnments or for UNIX). But I have no personal experience with
either of their Version 6 platforms, so I'm only citing their hype.

So why do I use Interleaf? Seemed like a good idea back in '87...and
it was about the only really prof. DTP thing around at that time. That
and a good deal of blind faith that such an outrageously expensive system
would always be human factored at least as as well as any dumb old
shrink-wrapped software. So much for blind faith. And like many of these
tools aspects, decisions to acquire are not made by those who must use
them but by those--including the purchasing dept.--who'll never see them
again.

But as for pointing devices, a partial but by no means complete solution
for me was to get rid of the chintzey Interleaf/Logitech mouse, and buy
a heavy-duty trackball. Mine is called "Mouse-Trak", from ITAC Systems
in Garland, TX. It's a soft-cover-book-sized housing, bible thick, with
a billiard ball centered in the upper half that is framed on the two
sides and the bottom with three buttons. The bottom housing half tapers
toward you and has a cushioned surface where the hand should rest. The
whole thing is relatively heavy, so it doesn't get pushed around
accidentally. It sits on non-skid feet, right next to the keyboard. You
can see it at http://www.mousetrak.com.

The Mousetrak people want to sell, but they do make a point...you have
the most precision when you use your middle fingers to move the ball. I
think there's even more than with the thumb-forefinger combination that
predominantly guide a mouse. So their design takes advantage of this
characteristic. That's why the ball is heavy and in the middle amongst
the buttons. Those, you catch with the side of the thumb or pinkie.

But for me, the greatest relief would be NOT having to reach for the
pointing device at all, and instead to be able to keep my hands on the
keyboard. I notice that each time I reach for the trackball, mouse or
whatever, I hit my wrist against the table surface--or worse, the table
edge. The trackball lessens this tendency somewhat, but the fault lies
mostly with the pointing-device devotion of the Interleaf V.5 software.
And for the price you pay, well...it's not too much to ask for
accommodation, in my view.

So I'd be keen to know more about the device I saw featured on CNN that I
call a "rat"...a foot-actuated pair of pedals, one to maneuver the cursor
and the other to click. This is something I could get excited about...

Regards,

Jack


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