The Source View - part 3: keyboard focus and hotkeys

Friday, October 16, 2020 by Fouke Boss

In Centurial, the main view for entering information and claims is the Source View. This blog describes the various ways that Centurial allows you to control the keyboard focus in the Source View using hotkeys, making data entry easier and faster.

Keyboard focus

In computing, keyboard focus is the term used for the user interface element, like a textbox or button, that is currently selected. Keyboard focus is usually indicated by a blinking cursor (in a textbox), a dashed rectangle (in a button) or (in Centurial) by a green border around the focused element. When you type something using the keyboard, the characters are added in the textbox that has keyboard focus. Only one element can have keyboard focus at any given time.

The common way to change the keyboard focus in a window is by selecting a user interface element using the mouse pointer. For example. if you want to enter the given names of a person, you first select the corresponding person in the Information Panel by clicking the person with the left mouse key. The person will receive keyboard focus, as indicated by the green border around the person. Then you transfer the keyboard focus to the given names textbox, again by clicking it. The textbox will receive a green border as well, and the cursor is blinking in the textbox, happily waiting for you to start typing.

With the redesign of the Source View in Centurial v1.17, the keyboard focus in the Information Panel has an additional effect: the Claims Panel is only visible if a person or relationship is selected in the Information Panel. This also means that when you click inside the empty space in the Information Panel, keyboard focus will be removed and the Claims Panel will be go into hiding.

The Tab key

Changing focus by using the mouse has one obvious disadvantage: as a user, your hand is switching between mouse and keyboard all the time. Use the mouse to focus a textbox, back to the keyboard to enter a value, back to the mouse to select the next textbox, to the keyboard once more to enter a value, etcetera.

Luckily, there is another way: most software applications also allow keyboard focus to be managed using the keyboard, and Centurial is no exception. The first and most important way of changing focus using the keyboard is by using the Tab key on the left side of your keyboard.

Key Description
Tab

Pressing the Tab key will usually move keyboard focus to the next input element in the active Window. In a well-designed application, this means you can easily Tab your way through the various input elements, without ever having to use the mouse.

Shift + Tab

Holding the Shift button while pressing the Tab key will move the keyboard focus to the previous input element.

Using the Tab key to change the keyboard focus is not specific to Centurial and will work well in most applications.

Hotkeys

A second way to use the keyboard to manage keyboard focus is the use of hotkeys. In computing, a hotkey (or a keyboard shortcut) is a specific key or combination of keys that invoke a pre-defined action. Well known hotkeys that work in most Windows applications are Ctrl+C for copying the value of the element that has keyboard focus to the clipboard, Ctrl+V for pasting the contents of the clipboard into the focused element, Alt+F4 for closing the application, and many more. These hotkeys work just fine in Centurial too.

Hotkeys can greatly decrease the time it takes to manage keyboard focus. Centurial v1.17 introduces a considerable number of hotkeys that help the user navigate the Source View, and in the rest of this blog post, we'll take a closer look at each and every one of them.

The Information Panel

First of all, several hotkeys have been added for managing keyboard focus in the Information Panel. Notice how they all involve the use of the Ctrl key. These hotkeys allow you to select persons and relationships, and even create a new person, all without ever having to resort to using the mouse:

Key Description
Ctrl + 1

Ctrl + 2

...

Ctrl + 9

Ctrl + 0

When you press down the Ctrl key, you will notice that Centurial displays small numbers in the person elements of the Information Panel:

You can use these numbers to directly select a person. For example, to select the person marked with the number 3, press Ctrl+3.

Notice how these hotkeys not only select a person in the Information Panel, but also move the keyboard focus to the last selected claim in the Claim Panel. This allows you to start entering data immediately.

Ctrl + Page Down

Ctrl + Page Up

The Ctrl+Page Down and Ctrl+Page Up hotkeys allow you to cycle through all persons and relationships in the Information Panel. Ctrl+Page Down will cycle from top to bottom, Ctrl+Page Up will cycle the other way around.

Again, using these hotkeys also moves the keyboard focus to the Claims Panel.

Ctrl + Insert

The Ctrl+Insert hotkey allows you to create a new person in the Information Panel. This will also focus the Family Name field in the Claims Panel, so you can start entering the claims for this person without any additional keyboard or mouse action.

This hotkey of course does not allow you to select the location for the new person within the Information Panel. Instead, it will add the new persons one by one, from left to right and from top to bottom, starting in the upper left corner.

Therefore this key is particularly useful when you decide to first extract all person details from your source without looking at the relationships between them yet. Once you're done entering all person claims, you switch to using the mouse to start moving the persons around to a more well-arranged layout and adding relationships between the them.

Notice how the keyboard focus is moved to the Claims Panel every time a person or relationship is created using the mouse pointer too.

The Claims Panel

The main key for navigating around the Claims Panel is the Tab key, as this moves the keyboard focus to the next input element, allowing you to cycle through all the claims from top to bottom (or from bottom to top if you also press the Shift key).

In addition to the Tab key, several new hotkeys further improve navigating around the Claims Panel, by allowing you to navigate to specific claims directly. All hotkeys use the Alt key, and use the first letter of the claim. There's a set of hotkeys for person claims:

English Key
Family name Alt + F
Given names Alt + G
Nickname Alt + N
Gender Alt + X
Age Alt + A
Vital Status Alt + S
Birth Alt + B
Death Alt + D
Residence Alt + R
Education Alt + E
Occupation Alt + O
 
Deutsch Key
Nachname Alt + N
Vornamen Alt + V
Rufname Alt + R
Geschlecht Alt + X
Alter Alt + A
Vitalstatus Alt + S
Geburt Alt + G
Tod Alt + T
Wohnort Alt + W
Beruf Alt + B
Konfession Alt + K

Using the first letter of the claim of course implies that these hotkeys depend on the Centurial language settings, meaning that the hotkeys are different for English, Nederlands and Deutsch. This also explains why not all claims have a dedicated hotkey, as there might be multiple claims with identical first letters, like Nickname and Nationality, or Alter and Ausbildung.

As the letter G turned out to have multiple uses in every language, Centurial introduces Alt+X for selecting Gender/Geschlecht/Geslacht, preserving the Alt+G for Given names/Geburt/Geboorte.

A similar set of hotkeys is available for the claims of a relationship:

English Key
Marriage Alt + M
Marriage Banns Alt + B
Marriage Notice Alt + N
Church Marriage Alt + C
Divorce Alt + D
 
Deutsch Key
Heirat Alt + H
Hochzeitsaufgebot Alt + A
Kirchliche Hochzeit Alt + K
Scheidung Alt + S

Once the desired claim field is selected, several additional hotkeys are available, again using the Alt key (except for the well-known clipboard hotkeys, which use the Ctrl key):

Key Description
Alt + Insert

Alt + Delete

These hotkeys allow you to add (Alt+Insert) or remove (Alt+Delete) a second or third claim of the same type:

These hotkeys trigger the exact same actions as the and buttons to the right of the claim, without you having to switch to the mouse.

Ctrl + C

Ctrl + X

Ctrl + V

These hotkeys copy (Ctrl+C), cut (Ctrl+X) and paste (Ctrl+V) the contents of the selected claim to/from the Windows clipboard, allowing you to quickly copy or move data around in the Claims panel.

If the selected claim contains multiple values, these hotkeys will copy/cut/paste all values for that claim.

There's always an Escape

Another key that has gotten a useful role of it's own in the Source View is the Esc or Escape key. With the introduction of clips, your Source View might end up in the following layout, with a person selected in the Information Panel, a claim focused in the Claims Panel, a clip that is highlighted in the File Viewer and the Clip Panel readily at hand:

The Esc key allows you to easily close the various panels:

Key Description
Esc Pressing the Esc key one time will deselect the clip and close the Clip Panel.
Esc Pressing the Esc key a second time will deselect any selected person or relationship in the Information Panel, thereby closing the Claims Panel and reverting to the Source and Notes panels.

Combining hotkeys

Only when you start combining hotkeys will their real power shine through. For example, after opening the Source View, you could...

  • use Ctrl+5 to select a person from the Information Panel,
  • use Alt+B to move keyboard focus to the birth date claim,
  • use Tab twice to move focus to the birth place,
  • enter the birth place,
  • use Ctrl+Insert to add an altogether new person to the Information Panel,
  • start entering the name of the new person (focus is already on the Family Name claim), using the Tab key to move to the various name parts,
  • use Alt+D to enter the death date
  • and use the Esc key to close the Claims Panel

... all without ever using your mouse!

Miscellaneous hotkeys

We end this blog post with some additional hotkeys available in the Source View:

Key Description
Page Up

Page Down

Home

End

These hotkeys will show the next, previous, first or last pages in the File Explorer, matching the , , and buttons.

These hotkeys are not available when the Claims Panel is visible.

Alt + F1

Alt + F2

The Source View comes with 2 layouts, and these hotkeys allow you to toggle between layout 1 (the default) and layout 2 (which hides the File Explorer, allowing more space for the Information and Claims Panels):

Summary

Being evidence-based, doing genealogy in Centurial involves entering data for every source. Hotkeys are yet another feature to simplify this, allowing the user to focus on (pun intended) and enjoy the genealogical process.