inessential by Brent Simmons

New NetNewsWire feature: Keyboard Shortcuts page

One of the new features in NetNewsWire seems like a little thing, but I’m rather proud of it. Here’s the story...

NetNewsWire is by design a very keyboard-friendly app. There are lots of keyboard shortcuts that aren’t reflected in the menus because they’re not command-key shortcuts. They’re things like using the space bar to go to the next unread message and typing + to expand an item in the Combined View.

The question I had was, how can I make it easier for people to find out about these shortcuts?

I looked around at some other apps and noticed that it was pretty common to have a Keyboard Shortcuts item in the Help menu. So I decided to do that.

But then the question was, how should the keyboard shortcuts be displayed in the window?

I liked OmniOutliner’s approach—it opens an outline. Makes sense, right? The app is an outliner, so it uses an outline to display the list of shortcuts.

An outline wouldn’t be right for NetNewsWire, though. I could do an outline (using the Notepad code), but it didn’t feel right for this. Other options (plain text, a table view, etc.) sounded boring.

Then I thought of Web Kit, and I had an a-ha moment: I could use a very basic window that just displays an HTML page. All it took then was to create the window and write the HTML page itself. Piece of cake.

Here’s a screen shot.

This was an unexpected benefit of using Web Kit. I expect there will be plenty more (and some of them will be quite a bit more interesting).

If you’re a Mac app developer, and you have something like a page of keyboard shortcuts you want to display, I encourage you to use this approach. It’s easy and the end result is I think pretty nice.