Many Opera users have used mouse gestures to execute various “frequently performed browse operations with small, quick mouse movements”. Many Firefox users have also installed FireGestures, easyGestures or other similar add-ons to enjoy the same benefit.
But many users may not have used mouse gesture softwares that can add gestures to any applications running on the operating system.
It is said that developers spend more time browsing the code than cutting the code. So, to configure and use mouse gestures in IDE is as important as mastering IDE shortcut keys to speed up development.
A fellow Atlassian has been using StrokeIt on Windows XP for a long time. After he showcased StrokeIt to me, I tried out some other mouse gesture softwares on other operating systems, and configure gestures for Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA.
Here is a summary of what I have tried and done:
On Windows

  • StrokeIt is probably the best, comes with a large set of pre-defined gestures, and it’s free for non-profit use. However, the development has stopped a few years ago and it does not support Windows Vista, which came preinstalled with my home PC.
  • gMote is also free and it runs on both XP and Vista. It has a rich set of features:
    • You can draw your own gestures
    • You can execute a string of keystrokes

On Mac

  • FlyGestures is free but I found it very limited in features and its “guide” window not sensitive to curve movements.
  • xGestures is a shareware and offers a better user experience than FlyGestures, but is still not as good as the aforementioned softwares on Windows.

I installed gMote at home and xGestures at work.
I make sure most, if not all, gestures are consistent across all applications, FireGesture add-on for Firefox and Opera.
Following are my gesture configuration on Mac: (U – Up, D – Down, L – Left, R – Right)

  • Global Gestures (applied to all applications, except those in the exclusion list, like Firefox and Opera)
    • Close Window/Tab (DR)
    • Forward (R)
    • Back (L)
    • Top of the Page (LU)
    • Bottom of the Page (LD)
  • Eclipse-specific Gestures
    • Open Declaration (U)
    • Occurrences in File (RL)
    • Quick Outline (RD)
    • Quick Type Hierarchy (D)
    • References in Workspace (RU)
  • IntelliJ IDEA-specific Gestures (because IDEA does not follow convention key bindings, many global gestures have to be re-defined)
    • Close Tab (DR)
    • Forward (R)
    • Back (L)
    • Top of the Page (LU)
    • Bottom of the Page (LD)
    • Find Usages (RU)
    • Go To Declaration (U)
    • Go To Implementation(s) (D)

Here are some useful tips:

  • Some of the actions in IDE must be applied to a selection, so you’ll need to double-click to highlight the selection before performing gesture.
  • Disable global gestures in Firefox (if you are already using a mouse gesture add-on) and Opera.
  • Set up the gesture to use middle mouse button if some applications, like Google Chrome, does not work properly when using right mouse button for gestures.
  • When using xGestures on Mac OS X, make sure “Window under the start of the gesture determines the application” is checked to avoid confusion over which window receives the gesture action.
  • When using xGestures, occassionally applications become unresponsive to left mouse click. Try click the gesture button to “unfreeze” them.
  • The “Purchase xGestures” button on the “About” tab points to an obsolte URL. The correct URL is http://alum.hampshire.edu/~bjk02/xGestures/purchase.htm instead. (It costs only US$5.)

Have you set up mouse gestures in your favourite IDE? What are your favourite gestures?

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