The Perils of the Shortcut Keys

The Perils of the Shortcut Keys

Once upon a time I lived in Italy and bought a laptop. Things were going swimmingly until I moved to the USA and got several jobs. The nature of my work means that each company requires a different software or two. And since we’re all working remotely, it’s messenger services, online documents and shareable links all day long. Flitting between each software, I’ve been faced by a frustratingly persistent issue.

The dang shortcut keys.

Each software is designed for one language at a time. Not someone who writes in two intermittently. Not someone who purchased a laptop in another country (Italy) and set it up in a different language (Portuguese).

The main issue lies with the question mark. There is no question mark above the “P” like on a normal keyboard so you have to use shortcut keys.

So, when I hit my laptop’s question mark shortcut key (which is “alt + W”) in Microsoft Teams, erratic popup windows flash across the screen with a stern warning that that was an illegal shortcut key.

The design software Illustrator, depending on whether I open it before or after Microsoft Teams, results in a loss of the hand zoom key altogether. Therefore, I have to use the painfully slow arrow keys, one pixel at a time, to simple pan a little to the right.

The question mark shortcut key in Google Docs crashes the browser entirely. I must pray that when I relaunch the browser, they’ll be some remnants of what I had been working on saved.

I have somewhat of a half-baked system to overcome this.

I type my question mark at the beginning of the day in my laptop notes. I can then zip back and forth copying and pasting my question mark because thankfully the copy and paste shortcut keys seem to have surpassed the language barriers and programming differences. It remains firmly in the language of technology/ internet whether you’re pro Mac, pro Microsoft, pro Google or speak another language.

Alas some common ground.

Mine is a slow solution to overcome the issues of being bilingual in our tech mad society.

But it’s still a whole episode every time I want to ask someone a question. And it got me thinking, why is each software in a fierce battle with all the rest? 

It’s an angry battlefield of tech companies that are each set in their ways.

They want your loyalty rather than to help you streamline your work process. Did you see that Facebook just spent hundreds of thousands on slating Apple for changing their data privacy settings because it will disrupt personalised ads?

Why didn’t they spend thousands on helping businesses learn the new ropes of combining Facebook’s services with Apple’s? 

It’s the same with France. They spent the last weeks slating the UK’s vaccine (which is working brilliantly), whilst their sweet old folks await the slow arrival of alternative vaccines. For what? To prove they make better vaccines? To punish us for Brexit?

Why don’t we use what we have, and over the coming years we’ll use a medley of all the vaccines. Because COVID is not going away. Heck, maybe we’ll have a super vaccine if we work together. A powerful potion of all these current vaccines that eradicates the disease altogether!


When you see a competitor this week, give them an encouraging comment.

Share their work with your friends or praise a work colleague to your boss. Collaborate on something superb!

The music industry seems to have done just that and it rocks. If you need more convincing that collaboration is far superior than monopolistic competition, here’s a clip of Shakira and J. LO dancing on stage together in the 2020 Superbowl.

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