Work Smart to Avoid Keyboard Stress

Work Smart to Avoid Keyboard Stress


Ergonomics Makes it Easy

by Kendall Callas

They say the typing done over the career of the average secretary is equivalent in strain to a walk around the world on your hands. Ouch! Now, that's got to hurt.

Small wonder then that you've probably experienced a bit of pain or tingling in the hand, wrist, or forearm yourself. Perhaps even a headache after an extended session at the machine.

Evidence multiplies that the heavy repetition of fine muscle movements that keyboarding requires is harmful in the long run. Wear and tear mounts not only from the incessant pounding of hand, wrist and eye movements, but the lack of movement in the rest of the body. The rigid posture and focus of most computer users impedes circulation and concentrates stress in the arms, shoulders, neck, back, and eyes.

Ergo, ergonomics, the science of adapting tools to fit our bodies and our work. In hopes of helping you avoid these problems, this article presents a few tips to improve your efficiency and health while using WordPerfect. Specifically, I hope to provide a few tips on how to reduce eye strain and repetitive keystrokes.


The ESCape key allows you to repeat a keystroke a given number of times. The factory default is set to 8 repetitions. I recommend that you set this to something more useful. Try Setup (Shift+F1), (4) Initial Settings, (6) Repeat Value and enter 35. That's a handy number for creating a signature line of 35 hyphens or underscores.

To reduce eyestrain, improve the highlighting of menu command letters. By default, Bold is used to emphasize the mnemonic characters in menus. To display them more brilliantly, choose Setup (Shift+F1), (2) Display, (4) Menu Options, (1) Menu Letter Display, (2) Appearance, and (8) Redline.


One of the best ways to reduce keystrokes while using WordPerfect is to get off the arrow keys. You will vastly economize your movement keystrokes by learning a few precise and powerful techniques:

Hold down the Ctrl key while you tap a sideways arrow to move the cursor along word by word. Ctrl+Right Arrow jumps to the beginning of the next word; Ctrl+Left Arrow jumps to the beginning of the previous word.

The Ctrl key works up and down, too. If your keyboard has an enhanced BIOS, Ctrl+Down Arrow jumps to the beginning of the next paragraph. Ctrl+Up Arrow jumps to the beginning of the previous paragraph.

Paragraph up
Word left < Ctrl > Word right
Paragraph down

Home, Arrow
The Home key is central to the scheme of larger movements. Tap and release the Home key, then tap an arrow key (up/down/left/right) to move in that direction to the edge of the screen. To move further (to the edge of the document), tap the Home key twice, then tap an arrow key. You'll save many keystrokes if you can remember that Home, Left Arrow jumps to the left edge of the line; Home, Home, Up Arrow jumps to the top of the document; and Home, Home, Down goes to the bottom.

This handy little key jumps to the very right edge of the line. It works at the document editing screen or any other editing situation. For example, even right after you tap F5 or F10, and within the Macro Editor.

The plus and minus key on the numeric keypad are the "scroll" keys. The plus key (+) works just like Home, Down Arrow -- tap it and the cursor moves to the bottom of the screen. The minus key (-) works just like Home, Up Arrow -- it repositions the cursor to the top of the screen. Tap it again and again and the cursor will move screen by screen in that direction. This allows you to read every line in a document, moving upward or downward a screen at a time, without over-exercising your wrist with the arrow key. (Some keyboards require you to tap the NumLock key to turn it off before this works.)

Goto (Ctrl+Home)
The Goto key offers three precise movements. First, hold down the Ctrl key and tap the Home key. Note the "Goto" message at the bottom left of the screen. Now tap the Up Arrow -- watch the cursor jump to the top of the current page. Similarly, when you use Ctrl+Home, followed by the Down Arrow, the cursor jumps to the bottom of the current page. (When using the Column feature, Goto is also very useful in moving left or right between columns.)

Second, the Goto key is also the "go back" key. When you press Ctrl+Home twice, the cursor moves back to where it was before your last movement or action that involved movement (search, block define, edit footer, etc.).


1-key Auto Search
The third use of the Goto key offers a one-character search function. Press Ctrl+Home, then tap any typewriter key and the cursor will jump to that character. For example, press Ctrl+Home, then tap the comma key, and the cursor will land on the next comma (unless one is not found within 2,000 characters).

This function is automatically active when you turn Block On. For example, turn on Block (Alt+F4), then tap the period key. The cursor will zip to the end of the sentence (that is, to the next period) extending the highlighted block to that point. Try another example: Hit Alt+F4 to turn on Block, then tap the Enter key and the highlighting will extend to the end of the paragraph (or where the next hard return [HRt] appears). So remember, when highlighting a block, tap the space bar to include the next word, comma or semi-colon to include the next phrase, period (or ? or !) to include the next sentence, and Enter to include the next paragraph.

The search function you're more familiar with, Search (F2), is also a handy way to move the cursor quickly and precisely. It's especially useful when locating a typo or a specific point in a highly formatted document. It charges right through columns, tables, indenting, and page breaks to find specific text or codes. Of course, Search also works with Block On to extend the highlighting. (Use Shift+F2 to search backwards.)

If you dress up your documents much, you'll love Extended Search. The Extended Search feature (Home, F2) scans through all text; that is, it also searches in headers and footers, footnotes and endnotes, and graphic boxes (contents and captions). So you can easily locate text (or codes) without having to first figure out, for example, if it's in a footer, footnote, or table box. Similarly, you don't have to know if it's in a text or user box, footnote 2 or 3, header A or B, or box 5 or 6. Extended Search finds the item and pops you right into editing it. That saves you several keystrokes compared to using the menus to open the item [such as Format (Shift+F8), (2) Page, (3) Header, (1) Header A, (5) Edit].


Another excellent way to reduce keystrokes in WordPerfect is to get off the Delete key. Several simple keystrokes offer efficient deletions.

To delete the word your cursor is on, hold down the Ctrl key and tap Backspace. Your cursor need simply touch the word; it can be on the first or last letter, anywhere within the word, or even blinking just after the last letter. (Ctrl+Delete is identical to Ctrl+Backspace.)

Tip: The easy way to delete a paragraph is to lean on Ctrl+Backspace. By holding it down, the keystroke will repeat until the remainder of the paragraph is gone (it automatically stops at the next hard return [HRt]).

To truncate the line, hold down the Ctrl key and tap the End key. This deletes everything between the cursor position and the end of line. Think of it this way: Remember that the End key moves the cursor to the right edge of the line? By adding the Ctrl key, you turn the movement into a deletion.

To truncate the page, hold down the Ctrl key and tap the PgDn key; this deletes the remainder of the page. The logic above applies: If you think of PgDn as a movement to the top of the next page, adding Ctrl turns this movement into a deletion.

Block, Backspace
The safest and most flexible way to delete text is to block it first, then tap the Backspace (or Delete) key. To turn Block On, hold down the Alt key and tap F4 (F12 works on enhanced BIOS keyboards), then use movement keys to extend the highlighting (or try the one-character search function described above).


Undelete (F1)
Once you've deleted text, remember that you can easily restore it (to the present cursor position). WordPerfect stores your last three deletions. A quick way to move text is to delete it, move your cursor where you want it, then tap F1, 1. Repeat to multiply your text.

Keyboard Stutter
Any key will repeat if you hold it down. Take advantage of this "stutter" feature when you find yourself wearing out your wrist on the hyphen, arrow keys, Delete, or Backspace. Press and hold down the key instead of tapping it 10 or 20 times.

Spell Check
Wait until a document is nearly final before you spell check, otherwise you'll end up doing it twice. Don't be afraid to add words to your dictionary, that way it will skip them in other documents too. If you need to interrupt spell check, you can resume it later by blocking from the point where you left off to the end of the document, then spell check the block.

Keyboard stress is lessened by varying the activities of your hand/wrist/arm. Try a mouse or trackball. A trackball is better than a mouse in reducing stress injuries because it doesn't use the arm or shoulder. Movement is isolated to just the fingers and thumb.

A mouse or trackball makes it easy to move the cursor or highlight a block by sighting. Clicking the left button to move the cursor to the mouse-pointer position is very helpful when moving through complex formatting such as columns or tables. "Paint" highlighting over text by rolling the pointer while holding down the left button, highlighting a swath of text to delete, move/copy, or bold.

Print View
Reduce printing by previewing! Use Print (Shift+F7), (6) View to visually inspect your document before you waste time, paper, and trips to the printer.

Don't retype! Learn to record simple macros with Macro Define (Ctrl+F10). Record frequently repeated company names, addresses, text, paragraphs, letter closings, etc., using this simple feature. (I like to reserve the name Alt+Z for recording temporary macros, discarding it each time I record Alt+Z again for a new task.)

The Styles feature (Alt+F8) offers a good way to re-use preset text or codes -- within several documents, or several times within a document. Styles are a great way to preset codes; for example, to setup a document (say, a letter format) or text mixed with fonts (such as a typeset company name).

Whereas a macro repeats an action, a style repeats text and codes. Moreover, styles remain linked. If a style is used several times within a document, by changing the style once, each occurrence of it in the document reacts and updates. But, only a macro can display a menu or use logic to react to conditions or user input. Both are good tools for standardization.

Work smart with WordPerfect and listen to your body. Take regular breaks and use them to stretch and shake out the stress from your hands and arms. Try to vary your activities, perhaps rotating between desk, PC, and telephone.

Equip yourself for health with adjustable furniture. Use a chair that offers good lower back support and a seat that can be raised or lowered to match the length of your legs. The right keyboard surface is also critical -- make sure your desk or table puts your keyboard at the correct height so that your arms are parallel to the ground as you type. A headset is also handy for heavy telephone users.

Save your eyes with a copy holder to minimize eye movement when referring between papers and screen. Periodically relax your eye muscles by looking off into the distance. Dim the room lights if you can to reduce eye strain.

Finally, don't neglect proper training, necessary to increase your PC efficiency and reduce your time at the machine.

Copyright (C) 1995 by microCounsel, (415) 921-6850. All rights reserved.

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