Meet Enso – and like your keyboard again…

July 12, 2007 at 16:06 Leave a comment

ENSO Launcher LogoFor lots of people removing a hand from the keyboard to use the mouse is annoying, and picking through menus is slow. They prefer to use keyboard shortcuts, but these shortcuts must be memorized and can vary program to program.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there’s a tool which allows you do do all of the above, cross-application ? Drumroll… Enter Enso

Enso Launcher costs $25, and Enso Words costs $40. Both have a 30-day free trial. For now, they work only on Windows XP — not the new Windows Vista or the Macintosh.

Love your computer again...Enso allows you to use keyboard commands to do common tasks. But this back-to-the-future system is different from the old approach. Its commands needn’t be memorized, because they are entered in plain English. And they stay the same no matter what program you’re using.

 

This nifty piece of sofwtare comes from a small company called Humanized Inc. Interestingly, it’s president, Aza Raskin, is the son of the late Jef Raskin, an early Apple employee who worked on the Macintosh. Enso is dedicated to his memory.

Mozilla Marriage ?

Interesting article on Mozilla Labs recently: The Graphical Keyboard User Interface, where Alex Faabor, plays with the idea to include Enso-like technology into Mozilla.

His conclusion:

 

    • Just because the command line predated the graphical user interface doesn’t mean interfaces based on windows, icons, menus and pointers are always superior to interfaces based around using the keyboard for input.
    • Designing interfaces based solely around the mouse and standard GUI widgets, and adding keyboard accelerators as an afterthought, does not always result in creating the most effective and streamlined user interfaces for advanced users.
    • Interaction designers should consider designing keyboard-based graphical user interfaces, to simultaneously take advantage of both high bandwidth input, and high bandwidth output.

Two versions of Enso

 

There are two initial Enso products, which can be downloaded at humanized.com.

 

  • One, called Enso Launcher, allows you to launch programs and switch among windows via typed commands.
  • The other, called Enso Words, allows you to do spell-checking, even when the program you’re using doesn’t include that capability, and to look up the meaning of words.

Both products also include a simple calculator and the ability to launch Google searches.

Enso Launch

 

 

Enso Launch is dead simple to use. You just hold down the Caps Lock key and type an Enso command, which is displayed in a translucent overlay.

 

Once the command is typed, you simply release the Caps Lock key to activate it, and the overlay disappears. If you type fast, it all happens in a flash.

 

For instance, to launch the calculator, just hold down the Caps Lock key and type “open calculator” (Even “open c“) does the trick…

ENSO Launcher Open Command

 

To look up the meaning of the word “proclivity,” you just hold down the Caps Lock key and type “define proclivity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enso commands are faster to enter than they might seem. The program auto-completes the commands as you start typing, and it provides the likely choices in its translucent overlay, which you can navigate with your arrow keys. Suppose you want to open the Windows calculator program. You hold down Caps Lock and type “open calc,” and Enso Launcher completes the suggested command “open calculator.” Even before that, when you typed “open cal,” the drop-down list appeared, with “open calculator” at the top.

 

In addition to “open,” Enso Launcher also has a command called “go,” which can take you to any open window or tab in a Web browser. While I was writing this paragraph in Microsoft Word, I held down the Caps Lock key and typed “go gmail” to get to my GMail page, which I had open in a tab in Firefox.

 

There are also commands for quitting programs and for closing, maximizing and minimizing windows.

Enso Words

 

In Enso Words, you can select any text in *any* program, then hold down Caps Lock and type “spellcheck.” This way, you can get a spell checker in e.g. Notepad !

ENSO Words Spellcheck

An overlay window appears, with your selected text. Any misspelled words are highlighted, and you can correct them by either retyping or choosing from a list of suggestions. When you’re finished, you just press Caps Lock and type “done,” and the corrected word appears where you were entering it. If the selected text contains no errors, Enso tells you it’s correct.

 

This spell-checker is clumsier than the built-in checkers in programs like Microsoft Word, but it might be handy in instant-messaging programs or Web-based email programs, or in other Web pages where spell-checking isn’t built in.

 

The “define” command also brings up a thesaurus, as well as dictionary definitions. In addition to typing the word you want to look up into Enso, you can also select a word already on your screen and just hold down Caps Lock and type “define” or “thesaurus” to get an answer from Enso. And you can select a block of text on your screen and use Enso’s “word count” or “character count” commands to measure it.

 

Conclusion

Enso isn’t for everyone. If you’re fine with the mouse, menus and icons, you may not want it. But for keyboard addicts, it could be a blast from the past.

And 20 USD is as good as “free”.

More info

 

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Entry filed under: Firefox & Thunderbird, Google, Technology.

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