Disturbing lack of keyboard shortcuts in RM8

This is a general comment regarding the design theory behind RM8. I’m old and I’ve been using home computers since I bought my TRS-80 in 1981, long before Windows was invented. Which means I became very used to using keyboard shortcuts to navigate and to accomplish various tasks. I do a lot of writing, and if I’m using Word, I often will go for long stretches without taking my fingers off the keyboard. My grown kids grew up with the mouse and don’t seem to mind using it, but I hate to have to take my hands away from the keyboard and fumble for the mouse, drag the cursor somewhere else on the screen, click on something, and then go back to the keyboard. All that slows me down considerably. (My grandkids are more Star-Trekian and would prefer just to talk to the computer.)

RM7 has quite a lot of keyboard shortcuts for things like ALT-S to open the citation window, and then ALT-M to memorize a source citation and ALT-P to paste it into another fact’s citation window. That takes me about four seconds, and I never have to takes my eyes off the screen or my hands off the keyboard. And all those shortcuts appear as underlined letters on various buttons, just as a reminder.

RM8 has almost no keyboard shortcuts, other than those common to all Windows software. To perform the same action noted above requires clicking the mouse on several fields and buttons, one after the other, and mostly on the far side of the screen. It all takes much longer to accomplish and it’s distracting, I often find myself having to pause to remember exactly what I was doing after I’ve finished the task.

Probably this is a generational thing. (I can’t type at speed with my thumbs on my phone, either.) But genealogists tend to be somewhat older than the general population, so I can’t imagine I’m the only one annoyed by this heavy dependence on mousing around. I want to urge the RM8 development team to reconsider the lack of keyboard shortcuts. There ought always to be several ways available to do almost anything.


There is a different angle to this same problem. In the job I had for the last 19 years before I retired, I was in charge of IT for a large community college. As such, one of the college offices I spent a lot of time with was the Students With Disabilities Office. The same office also handles disabilities issues for faculty and staff. I don’t claim to be an expert on all the disabilities issues like the people who worked on that office. But I did learn a lot from them.

There are a lot of disabilities issues, and not all of them involve user interfaces per se. For example, computer labs at colleges need to have at least one computer station that is large enough to accommodate wheel chairs. But most of the issues that the Students With Disabilities Office brought to me were user interface issues. A lot of software does a very poor job of accommodating disabilities. And there is not just one disability. There are visual disabilities, hearing disabilities, and physical disabilities using a mouse or keyboard or both.

It’s a very complex problem and there is no one simple solution. But I do know that there are visual problems that are not just out and out blindness. For out and out blindness, software needs to present data in text that can be converted to audio by screen readers. But most users with visual problems are not blind. Rather, they have trouble with colors, with small fonts, and with low contrast. So software needs to accommodate those things.

For students with more physical disabilities, software needs to have robust ways to interact with the system and this nearly always involves robust hotkey support. You need to be able to use the software with no mouse at all. Traditional menu systems and hotkey systems are much better able to support disabilities issues than things like the new fangled ribbon stuff in Microsoft Office, for example.

I know that our Students With Disabilities Office would not approve of RM8. They would probably give it a grade of F. They wouldn’t much like RM7 either, but they might give it a C- or something like that. I suspect that my experience working with our Students With Disabilities Office has influenced my thinking about the RM8 user interface.

One of the things that our Students With Disabilities Office always argued was that software that works well for students with disabilities also works to make the software easier to use for everybody. It’s like those sidewalk cuts that accommodate wheelchairs. They actually benefit everybody. So yes, RM8 needs to support a very robust hotkey system. It presently does not.


Now I am by no means an expert on this, so maybe I am totally wrong, but would RM have to program different shortcuts for Windows and Mac versions and is this possibly what might be delaying their introduction?

Well, there are an AWFUL lot of programs that accommodate both Windows shortcuts and Mac shortcuts. The program itself comes in both Windows & Mac versions, of course, so it knows which set of hotkeys to install. The manual ordinarily lists them as (e.g.) “ALT+S, ⌥+S.”


I quite agree with the comments above. I have been used to quick data entry with RM7 using keyboard shortcuts, and everything is much slower in RM8 without these options. Could I add a plea for consistency when designing shortcuts, please? At the moment ALT-O closes a citation window, but a second ALT-O brings up Edit Options when I’d like it to just close the person window (which needs ESC to close).
I’m also often losing data I’ve just entered because I just use the ENTER key to move on and forget that RM8 also needs me to grab the mouse and click on the tick to make sure things are remembered. Please can ENTER at the end of a line mean “yes, I want this information saved”


Clumsy as it may be, one can Shift-Tab to arrive back at the Checkmark icon.
I’ve just discovered that pressing the ESC key after entering info into any field and pressing ENTER… saves the new data (the same as the checkmark button).


The need to use a mouse rather than keys was repeatedly raised during the Community Preview. I too would much rather use keys than a mouse, and found working on my desktop computer to be awfully painful and far less efficient than using RM7. I have been using RM8 on my laptop and using the inbuilt touchpad which is only a slight improvement.

This lack of hotkeys (and the inconsistencies in what is available) is for me one of the major drawbacks of RM8, and is the main reason that I will be looking for alternative software.

  1. Windows and Macs use slightly different shortcuts (control/alt vs Command) but this is no problem in general. After all Windows stole most shortcuts from the mac os in 1997.
  2. RM8 does have a list of shortcuts via one of it’s icons.
  3. Bruce went for the many clicks and sliding window panes approach which is not great compared to RM7 but does let you have multiple windows and files open at once.
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I am struggling with taking my hand off the keyboard to mouse! This is really unacceptable! That sounds harsh, but it’s true.

We do need to have alt *** keystrokes to minimize arm strain and injuries.

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A good test for any desktop software is whether it can be used without a mouse. Unless I’m missing something, RM8 fails that test by a wide margin. I’m not sure if you can use RM7 completely without mouse - probably not. But RM7 comes a lot closer than RM7. Even in the transition from RM3 to RM4 with the last total rewrite, I thought there was a small drop off in the ability to use the software without a mouse. But the drop off then was not as big as in the transition from RM7 to RM8.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mouse and don’t try to take it away from me. But good software design should always provide a non-mouse way to do everything. Provision for non-mouse use is essential for some users with disabilities, and the same provisions for non-mouse use can be very useful also for users who do use a mouse.

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I used to work in a large government organization, and with any new software introduced or major updates to existing software, the mouse was to be disconnected and all functionality to be able to be used by keyboard combinations or shortcuts.
When one major piece of software was upgraded, some bright spark in senior management signed off on the upgrade without even the common Windows keyboard combinations being implemented (Control+V, Control+C etc.).
Needless to say there was a revolt by staff using the software, in some cases for hours at a time.
The software developers just responded by saying the keyboard shortcuts were not a requirement in the specifications provided to them.
I located the official documents that required all software to be able to use the combinations and shortcuts with the mouse disconnected…
Eventually they were included in an upgrade, however productivity was greatly reduced until that upgrade.


Agreed. The mouse is fine for poking around, which is all I’m really doing right now. For serious data entry, keyboard all the way. I had the RM7 Alt & Ctrl sequences down and could speed through most data entry sequences without a problem.

Additionally, I invested in a gamers keyboard which lets me program up to 3 sets of 18 G keys to add data or maneuver around. I was even using it to colorize people, but that cannot be done if multiple colors start with the same first letter…

About 25 years ago–it may be more, retirement seems to dull the memory somewhat–the word processor Word Perfect, which, if memory serves correctly, until that time had been a DOS-based program, came out with a Windows version–v.6 if I remember. up until that time, WP had been keyboard commands only, using a keyboard overlay on the function keys, and combinations of Alt, Shift and CTRL to achieve an impressive command set.

A similar uproar to this one arose among WP users. Partly because of the changes, and partly due to the desire to have uniformity in word processing, my employer at the time decreed that henceforth the word processor, spreadsheet and database management would be those in the Microsoft Office package. My decision then was to convert all my WordPerfect documents to MS Word, and buckle down to learn the new program. Of course, in the interim, several things have happened, such as the ability to save a document in a format that was readable in any word processor; WordPerfect was bought by Corel, and so on.

My point in this diatribe is that technology moves on, and with the greatest respect toward those who have been long-time RM users, may I suggest that gentle reminders to the team at Roots Magic will probably point the way. I believe that one of the desires of RM was to make the program a little less cumbersome, and easier to modify for the coders. One thing that accomplishes this is the partial removal of keyboard commands in favour of mouse clicks. Yes, I know that you’ve become accustomed to the keyboard, and that you prefer to use the mouse for ‘poking around’. Taking your eyes off the screen for a moment allows you to also have a quick check of what has been written, entered, etc. and possibly see and correct possible errors, as I have done during the writing of this response.

Take a breath, folks. You’ve been presented with a new version of your beloved RM. I think it behooves us to give the authors a show of gratitude, and buckle down and learn the ins and outs of the program, so that we can become comfortable with it, and ready to complain anew when RM9 comes on the scene! :slight_smile:


@Philirons well said.

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As long as RM will be easier for the coders, I’m sure that the users will be happy to sacrifice efficiency and ease-of-use.

I’m 100% in the camp of “RM8 is too slow in data entry without ALL those keyboard shortcuts”.
See also the post: Keyboard shortcuts

I had a fruitless discussion with someone in Tech Support who appeared not to know anything useful and eventually that found its way to Renee and she replied to me on Oct.14: "There are some keyboard shortcuts on the Command Palette. To add a child to a highlighted person use Shift+Ctrl+C. The Command Palette is in the upper right corner of the program next to the Find Everywhere search box. We intend to add more in the future. "

The things in the Command Palette are mostly (so far) about navigating windows, screens, views and tools … NOT about facilitating data entry. So I sent her a list of things I was looking for …

Some examples:

  • Selecting the highlighted thing in a list by hitting Enter, not clicking Next or Select
  • Always being able to confirm / save / exit a dialog by hitting Alt-O (or something like that) instead of clicking the OK button (you have a FEW of those already)
  • Opening the Notes associated with a Fact by hitting Alt-N instead of clicking on a little box/icon
  • Opening the Sources associated with a Fact by hitting Alt-S instead of clicking on a little box/icon
  • Completing data entry on a Fact and saving it by hitting Alt-V instead of clicking the check mark
  • Pasting a copied Source on to a new Fact by hitting Alt-P instead of clicking the Sources icon then Paste Citation then Paste Copy (and a different Alt- for Reusing a Citation)

And other things that RM7 did which greatly sped up the data entry task:

  • When a dialog is opened, or a view slides in, preposition the cursor in the most likely data entry field
  • When adding a child to a family don’t ask me to sort them by birth date until I have COMPLETED that child (currently it happens too soon since I haven’t usually added the dates to the child, just the name, because I can’t readily add any notes and sources on the add person dialog)
  • When I have finished adding a child to a family ask me if I want to add another (like RM7 did), allowing me to say yes and keep going just by hitting Enter in most cases
  • When I add a Spouse to a person assume I’ll want to add a marriage Fact (usually true even if you have no date or place for that marriage Fact) – I can always delete it in the rare case

I used to be able to add piles of people with lots of facts for them and with source citations without ever touching the mouse and I got pretty fast at it. Can’t even get close to doing that now. RM8 slows me down a lot.

I hope reintroducing these shortcuts is already on the To Do list and not too far off in the future – or should I wait for version 8.2?


My grandson in college would tell you that RootsMagic shouldn’t have bothered with Version 8 in the first place. Everyone who is “up to date” (according to him) does everything on their phone these days, so all you should need is a phone app. “No one uses a old-fashioned computer any more.”

Great to see so many retirees who used the early versions of word as did I. surely the usual windows shortcuts could be added into RM8 ? i have been trying to delete multiple media items, i cant select more then one at time, I cant turn delete confirmation off, i cant use the space bar instead of Yes, whats going on ?? this is new software, surely it should support common shortcuts like Ctrl C to copy, Ctrl V to paste etc.

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Hmph. I’m 75. I can barely see the caller ID notice on my phone; I sure as heck ain’t gonna try to do my genealogy on one, nor even on my tablet! Sure I use mt phone for texting, etc., but for the important stuff, gimme at least a laptop, and preferably a 21" monitor!


I’m 67. I worked for 36+ years in software / systems / networking design, implementation and support for a major multinational corporation. Been retired now for almost 9 years. I was building computers before you could buy them. I have programmed in at least 30 different languages on micros, desktops, minis and mainframes. I read NT4 architecture for fun. I code web pages using Notepad because I can. Using any one device for all functions just shows a lack of imagination (or understanding) - when your only tool is a hammer then all your problems look like nails.

Earlier today I sent some info to Renee (whom I believe is one of the developers or designers - she’s been helpful in the RM7 days too). The info is about how Microsoft guides you to design an application that is well behaved in the Windows environment. The info I sent was primarily focused on the User Interface.

I have no idea if it will have any impact. Hoping …