Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase - Why keyboard shortcuts don't work
Maybe I should apologise for the clickbaity title, or maybe I've just been watching too much YouTube.
Clearly in any software, keyboard shortcuts can save a lot of time. Imagine having to take a trip up to the menu and back each time you wanted to save or print.
But there are limitations to what shortcuts can achieve and I write this as balance to the many blog posts and YouTube videos whose bloggers and vloggers worship keyboard shortcuts as though they are the new Greek and Roman gods.
I have two complaints...
Too many shortcuts
The most obvious failing of shortcuts is that there are too darn many of them.
I was going to count how many shortcuts there are in Pro Tools, but I gave up when I saw that Avid's PDF guide - only to the shortcuts mind, not the full manual - runs to 68 pages!
OK no problem you say - just learn the shortcuts you need.
Yes, I agree. The question might be knowing which shortcuts to learn but that is answered by taking note when you find yourself accessing the same menu item repeatedly, then look in the guide to see if there is a shortcut for that.
But too many shortcuts? Yes, if you need to use multiple softwares. I'm lucky. I only need to use Pro Tools, Logic Pro, and Final Cut Pro X for video. Actually I don't need to use Logic Pro but I do like it for certain tasks.
Can my brain hold all of the keyboard shortcuts for three softwares? Absolutely not. I am perfectly happy to say that the size of my brain is inadequate, inadequate even for two. Your mileage may vary.
The problem is compounded when shortcuts are different in different softwares or, worse still, the same shortcuts have different functions. The number of times I hit the wrong key for zoom in Pro Tools and Final Cut Pro X tends towards infinity.
And I'm lucky. I only use three shortcut-heavy softwares. Some people have to use many more - in particular people who work with others and have to match software with whoever they are receiving stuff from or sending stuff to.
OK, moving on...
It's a sign
Ever seen a sign? You know, a mystical, woo-woo sign that's an omen or portent that your life choices so far have been poor and you need to change direction. Or 'pivot' as modern jargon has it.
I'd say that too much use of keyboard shortcuts can be a sign.
It's a sign that you're doing the same thing over and over again. So instead of B for blade, click to cut, A for select, click to select, delete to delete, you just option-right-square-bracket. The fact that you probably don't know which software uses that and that there even is such a shortcut clearly supports my points. It's in Final Cut Pro X by the way and it is a useful time-saver.
Yes, keyboard shortcuts are great for repetitive tasks but, if you're regularly performing repetitive tasks, shouldn't you wonder whether you're the monkey and not the organ grinder as you should be?
I'm going to say that regularly performing repetitive tasks is a sign you should be paying attention to. Really, shouldn't you be the creative? The one who breathes the project into life, steers its creative direction, and blesses every action by your minions of which you approve. What a way to mix metaphors, but surely you see what I mean?
If you're performing repetitive tasks yourself then, whether or not you use keyboard shortcuts, you should be looking for ways to concentrate on your creativity and have someone else be your monkey.
I could write a summary at this point or come to a conclusion whether keyboard shortcuts are good or bad. But keyboard shortcuts are not the best thing since sliced bread. We have to use them and we do use them. In the future, there will be a better way.
Here are a few of links to show you just how many keyboard shortcuts there are in the known universe...