Designing on a Laptop? Keyboard Help

January 26, 2005 - 2:00am ||| 1 Comment | Add new

A couple years ago I got rid of my studio's last remaining desktop Mac. We're now an all-laptop (PowerBooks and iBooks) studio. Okay, there's one Dell Dimensions box still hulking in a corner, but that's next up for replacement with a slick little PC laptop.

A wireless network along with multiple LCD monitors and wireless keyboards and mice scattered around the place make long work sessions a pleasure, but many times — in the summer on the deck, in between appointments in a coffee shop — I've found myself laying out a website with just my laptop's keyboard and built-in 15" screen to work with.

One big pain in the butt is the abbreviated keyboard … to fit it into a laptop case, manufacturers sacrifice niceties like dedicated keypads for quick number entry, forward-delete keys, and many others that we take for granted on normal-size keyboards.

If you're on a Mac laptop, you may not know that you *do* have a forward delete (it deletes the character to the right of the cursor). It's fn-delete: Hold down the fn key at the lower left, and press the normal delete key on the upper right. I can't believe I went for months without knowing this.

But at least Mac laptops have both a Return and an Enter key — many PC laptops don't, they just have one Enter key that's supposed to do double-duty.

A few times this month I've read posts from HP laptop users asking why they keep getting text overset icons in InDesign frames when they want to start a new paragraph. These particular models, apparently, communicate to InDesign that a tap on the keyboard's lone Enter key is the same as a number pad's Enter key — which is InDesign's default shortcut for the Insert Column Break command — and not a Paragraph Return.

So InDesign thinks the user wants subsequent text to start at the top of the next column. If the text frame has just one column, it pushes the text to the top of the next threaded frame. No frame threaded to the current one? You get an overset text icon.

These users might want to modify the command's keyboard shortcut in InDesign. Go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts -> Product Area: Type Menu and look for the "Insert Break Character: Column Break" entry. Delete the existing default (Enter) and use the Type menu to insert the break character when needed, or replace the Enter shortcut with a different keystroke combination.

It's likely, though, that other software with dedicated Enter key uses will encounter similar glitches, and they might not let you modify its shortcuts.

In this case, PC laptop users should check out SharpKeys 1.1, a donation-ware solution that lets you remap what a key "does" to another key. For example, you could turn a seldom-used right-hand side Ctrl key into a Tab key, so you have a Tab on both sides of the keyboard.

A user on the Adobe InDesign Windows forum said she solved her HP laptop's Enter key problem with InDesign (and other programs), by using SharpKeys to map NUM ENTER to SPECIAL ENTER.

SharpKeys 1.1 is here:
 http://www.randyrants.com/2004/03/sharpkeys_11_of.html

A similar keyboard remapping solution exists for Mac OS X users, DoubleCommand:
http://mac.softpedia.com/get/System-Utilities/DoubleCommand.shtml

Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 June 4, 2011 - 2:04pm by liz (not verified):

Help 2011
Spent a fortune on a nx90 asus laptop having this exact issue
using quark. It is driving me nuts. The enter key will not act as an enter key but only as return. Just shifting the whole page but will not give me line breaks.

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