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Text Macros for Choosing Folders

Copyright © Alan Cantor 2007. All rights reserved.
Case-study presented at the SIG-11 (Computer Applications) Show-and-Tell, RESNA 2007.

The client

The client was a lawyer who frequently worked 60 hours per week. She rarely stopped to take breaks. Due to arthritis, computer-induced overuse injuries, and long hours of stationary sitting while operating a computer, she began to experience pain and muscle weakness from her fingers to upper-back. She reported that mousing caused more problems than keyboarding.


After ergonomic and assistive technology assessments, workplace adjustments were put in place:

  • Job modification: The employer reduced her case load by approximately one-third.
  • Work station modifications: A keyboard tray, split keyboard, roller mouse, and vertical mouse were installed. (She alternated between the two pointing devices.)
  • Work area modifications: Her office was reorganized to encourage her to stand up and move. For example, her filing cabinet was moved into an adjacent room, and her printer was placed further from her desk.
  • Computer training: She received training on NaturallySpeaking and keyboard-only techniques.
  • Telephone modifications: The employer replaced the standard telephone headset with a wireless headset that could be used both for speech recognition and telephone calls.
  • Macros: I developed macros to reduce keyboarding and mouse clicks.

A difficult task

After implementation, she used a combination of keyboard, mouse, and speech recognition, and reported less pain and fatigue. However, she found it frustrating and difficult to save documents into different folders. During a typical day, she saved twenty to thirty files, e-mail messages, and attachments into six folders.

The "normal" way to save files into folders — using "Save As..." dialog boxes — is physically and cognitively demanding. "Save As..." dialog boxes are awkward to operate by keyboard and/or voice. In her case, changing to a folder by mouse requires as many as seven clicks and seven double-clicks. Different "Save As..." dialog boxes behave differently: some "remember" the last folder to which a document was saved; others reset the folder to a default after each save. I observed her taking up to 45 seconds to change folders before saving a document.


I used Macro Express to develop six text ("ShortKey") macros. A ShortKey is a character string. When the characters are typed, the macro runs.

I asked the client to invent a two- to four-letter "code" for each target folder. She chose adm for d:\...\...\Administration, cc for d:\...\...\Current Clients, and so on. I made six ShortKey macros using the comma as a prefix.

When a "Save As..." dialog box appears, the "File Name:" field has keyboard input focus. The client types a code. The macro sends backspaces (to delete the code), types the full path name, and sends the Enter key.

For example, the code


is replaced by

c:\Documents and Settings\j_jones\My Documents\Administration<Enter>

These macros run in less than a second.

The client "took" to the new macros immediately, and reported no difficulties memorizing the six codes. A week later, she estimated the macros were saving her 10 to 15 minutes per day, and were allowing her to work longer without painful flare-ups. In addition, she began using the same macros to switch folders when opening files.


The cost of labour to develop the six macros was $65, not including the cost of Macro Express, which the company had already purchased.