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90 Percent of People Don't Know How to Use CTRL+F (or CMD + F) (theatlantic.com)
162 points by dm8 on Aug 19, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments

Welcome to my inbox. Things that got taught the same day at Ctrl-F: the file system metaphor, right clicking, refreshing web pages, copy/pasting, taking screenshots, attaching files, and reading (or copy/pasting) error messages. The difference between web pages, programs, and email. The notion that computers behave in a predictable manner and that experiences on them are connected to each other across individual tasks.

Before embarking on LiberWriter I would have thought you were exaggerating for comedic effect.

OTOH, the flip side is that you can accomplish things that for these people are essentially 'magic', and when employed to save them countless hours, earn you vast amounts of gratitude, as I'm sure you're aware.

It is interesting how many comments on this page are focused on the short-cut rather than the underlying functionality. Ctrl-F itself has nothing to do with it and is purely incidental. The real rub here is that people don't understand that they can search for a sequence. This is equivalent to losing your keys and then locating them only by sense of smell.

Beyond that, people also generally don't know that you can actually learn the commands to do things with the keyboard by reading the menus.

Unfortunately, many applications and operating systems have decided to hide keyboard shortcuts and underlined accelerator keys, in the interest of "user friendliness."

Wait, like what?

Windows, for example, won't show the underlines for keyboard accelerators until you hold down the Alt or Ctrl key (I can't recall which, because I always disable the option). Unfortunately I can't recall which application(s) I was using that didn't show keyboard shortcuts next to menu items.

It kills me when I watch my non-technical colleague editing a document by repeatedly selecting words, right-clicking, slowly scrolling down to either Copy or Cut, then click somewhere else, right-click, slowly scroll down to Paste...

He also regularly "checks" spreadsheets with a handheld calculator... Sometimes going as far as not using formulas at all.

To be fair, I do both of those as well: the former when I have only one hand free, and the latter to sanity-check my formulas.

I wrote an app for a large customer (a bank) that automates some mainframe jobs from the unix side, then publishes its logs in a very simple webpage with only PRE html tags.

I was amazed and confused when some users, all of them mainframe developers, came to me to ask if I could put a search box into that page. I replied "come'on, use Ctrl+F". You should see the look in their faces when they saw me doing it, with the keyboard first, then from the "Edit" menu. They replied "yeah, but most users don't know they can do that". I ended up incorporating a (slow) javascript search box from the web into that page. Now they're happy.

So it's not just grandpa who doesn't know about Ctrl-F.

It makes me think that we need a new type of class in schools across the land immediately. Electronic literacy.

Negatory. We need to improve our UI metaphors. In the case of finding something, holding down one key while pressing another has no parallel to real life searching.

Let me tell you a story about my mum trying to view a slideshow on a mac. She double clicked on one of the photos (double clicking didn't come natural for her, but that's another story). Then she tried using the left and right arrows. Nothing. I noticed that Preview was only loading up the photo she clicked on, so there was only one photo in the slideshow. I helped her by selecting all the photos and dragging them onto the preview application.

But select-all and drag onto an icon had no real life metaphor for my mum and I didn't even bother trying to explain why it worked. (Maybe if there was some image of a slide projector and she could drag each image into a slot...but then again, I've got a terrible UI brain...)

tl;dr: if the UI is broken, fix the UI, not the end user.

There's a lot to be said in terms of better UI design. But at some point you really can't eliminate any more: there has to be a baseline of new interactions that someone must learn.

Pushing peddles, turning a wheel, and shifting a stick into different positions didn't have many parallels to real-life actions before the automobile was invented, but people learned that UI regardless.

You have to be trained before you can drive, however.

Who was it who said that the only intuitive interface was the nipple and, after that, it's all learned?

Because the law requires it, and it requires it because people who can't drive can kill or harm themselves and people around them. If there was absolutely no risk of harming or killing, the law would probably not require training before you can drive. If not being able to use a computer meant killing or harming people, the law would probably require training but because there is no such danger, no one cares and everyone can buy a computer and start using it with no training.

I taught myself to ride a motorcycle after somebody explained the throttle, clutch, brakes, and shifter.

Giving some basics is not an unreasonable way to get people into the 21st century. People can take it from there.

Sure, same for me learning to shift a manual trans four wheeler. But for a huge portion of the population, that's not how their brains work. I described in detail to my wife how manual transmissions work, she couldn't care less to remember it because she had no direct immediate use for that info so she still doesn't know how to drive one. She's a very smart person but the UI of it doesn't fit her existing knowledge. Without direct application of provided knowledge, the best way to get someone to remember is to make doing the thing intuitive.

You only have to be trained to learn the execution. Anyone sitting in a car and watching someone drive can figure out what the controls do, it's just that driving a car requires timing.

...of course, perhaps the problem with the above is the assumption that they've had a chance to watch someone drive!

> holding down one key while pressing another has no parallel to real life searching.

Yeah, but having a device instantly find something for you among a stack of 100 pages also has no parallel to real-life searching. The parallel to real life searching is paging through pages one by one, or browsing an index - precisely the things we're trying to get away from.

If you stretch your search for metaphors too far you end up with outdated ones nobody knows about - like for searching it'd be the old library card catalog. Heck even today, I bet a majority of computer uses have never used a filing cabinet with documents in folders.

At some point we have to create new metaphors, when the digital realm create opportunities that never existed in the real world

I disagree. If we want our society to take full advantage of the technology, we need to remove the training wheels and ditch the tired old half-assed and extremely limited metaphors.

It's time we started using technology like adults, instead of children. The UI may be far from perfect, but the end user is the bottleneck here.

The ctrl-F issue is a perfect example: the problem is not that people don't know the key combination or that the UI is bad, the problem is the they can not imagine such blatantly obvious functionality would be there in the first place. If they did, they would have found the damn keys/icons/gestures, no matter how obscure.

I agree completely with what you said, but think about why it is blatantly obvious to you. It's obvious because you know the web page is a document with images overlaid with text.

Imagine instead that you are viewing an image in a photo viewer that has some text. Would you think to ctrl+f that? I wouldn't. The end-user you're referring to doesn't know the difference between the two scenarios.

The thing is I think end users are evolving. I find that the generations that grew up before pervasive computers were pervasive are the ones having the most issue with these things. When I watch my 7 year old nephew use a computer 10 times better than his parents, it makes me thing that maybe designing UI to match "real life" concepts might not work so well for future users. Desktops, folders, ... those concepts that are supposed to match real things are now becoming a hindrance and limitation on the older computer users today. Just the idea of having the same file be part of multiple folders is complicated for some users.

I think Google's label/tag metaphor for email classification is rather natural. Of course, it could get confusing when your labels are implemented using folders, such as via links.

There's some truth to that.

But there's also a lot of shallow knowledge among the digital natives -- kids who've grown up in a world where there have always been computers, GUIs, Google, YouTube, or now, even Facebook and other social networks.

They know the basics, they're not afraid of them, but unless they've either been taught or are self-motivated to explore, discover, and learn, they are rote users, not informed users.

So what's your UI metaphor for Ctrl+f?

My point is that software offers possibilities that go way beyond our real-life experience; there might not always exist a good real-world metaphor for all useful operations, at which point education becomes crucial.

We don't need a metaphor. We simply need a "menu" that shows up when you're holding Ctrl that lists the possible continuations of the shortcut along with brief descriptions.

I think being "intuitive" and being easily discoverable are not the same thing for UI, and designers pay too much attention to the former while ignoring the latter. For example, command line options for Unix programs are not intuitive at all, but they are very easy to discover via a standard mechanism that most system users are familiar with (man).

Good interfaces communicate thing to the user. "Natural" interfaces only use things that have already been communicated or otherwise learned, which makes them much less flexible.

We have the menu bar up top. The problem is people not knowing they can search, not that they don't know the shortcut for it. If people can't get it from the menu bar, I don't see how this would help.

>In the case of finding something, holding down one key while pressing another has no parallel to real life searching.

Ok, so you would recommend what? A single key? But remember, it needs to work in a text editor where you're actually typing stuff.

Of course, searching is such a fundamental verb that there probably should be a dedicated key on keyboards for it. In fact, on android phones, one of the four standard hardware buttons is for search. But the designers of most software have to work in the absence of such sensible input devices.

Ok, so you would recommend what? A single key? But remember, it needs to work in a text editor where you're actually typing stuff.

I hate to be the guy, but the "/" key definitely works to find something on firefox (and lots of programs), and definitely works in at least one text editor I know of...

Slightly off-topic, but you can also use an apostrophe (') to search text only inside links. Really handy for navigating pages without the mouse.

Sure, and I always use "/" in Firefox. But we're talking about for the benefit of people using Word and other like editors.

"/" is also not a single key on all keyboard configurations. On a swedish keyboard it's shift+7, hardly any easier than ctrl+f.

There are fewer people in all of Sweeden than the city in which I currently live. I don't think theirs is the keyboard the world should be optimising for.

There are fewer people in all of the US than the rest of the world. I don't think theirs is the keyboard the world should be optimising for.

Check my profile. I'm in Beijing.

Like it or not, the vast majority of the world uses a keyboard layout closer to that of the US than of Sweden.

> Negatory. We need to improve our UI metaphors. In the case of finding something, holding down one key while pressing another has no parallel to real life searching.

I rather strongly disagree. You're essentially saying: we should limiting the capabilities of tools (regardless of whether they are electronic or not) to things that already have a direct and obvious parallel to previously existing things that are wholly obvious.

That essentially means: we should stop all progress. Absolutely not. Human beings are tool users, and tool _makers_. We make new tools to serve new problems. We learn how to use them. Via this mechanism, we advance.

So something like Microsoft Bob?

More like something like iPad.

How do you do Ctrl+F on the iPad?


Not very obvious. I just can't remember this one.

You... tap on a spanner, then a magnifying glass... http://www.tabletpcreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=6024

What does a wrench have to do with searching? It's no better than Ctrl+F and filing cabinets. I usually associate wrenches with configuration screens, so that would confuse me. I would assume the find menu under the wrench is to look for configuration options, like the configuration search in Chrome.

Chrome is actually an interesting example, because the UI for find-on-page is identical to the one in iPad Pages - click on a spanner/wrench then on "Find...". It makes even less sense in other applications - "Find" is normally in the "Edit" menu, but finding is quite specifically about reading, not writing. So why in the Edit menu? It makes sense that 90% of people wouldn't be able to find it...

I can definitely vouch for this. I have a lot of exposure to medical back office staff, and I do a lot of trainings with them for my company's medical software. I'll no longer be shocked when I recommend that they just search the page for a name, and their first attempt is to start reading the whole page.

This highlights a few important facts. First, you can't write good software without being out in the "field" and really observing how your users use your product. It's very easy to get in the pattern of writing software for other techies. Second, something very simple as learning how to use Cntrl-F can drastically improve someone's quality of life. You don't need to build a fancy new algorithm, but you definitely do need to design a great intuitive user experience.

It's really eye opening in a good way. Teaching my Mom how to use her first computer (which had Windows 98 on it) was all I needed to fully understand why Mac mice only have one button.

Or at least, they used to only have one button.

I've just acquired a new mac with Lion and a Mighty Mouse, and the number of functions built into that apparently-buttonless mouse is slightly overwhelming. I don't think I've discovered them all yet.

It's okay for me, but I can easily imagine your mother accidentally doing a two-finger horizontal swipe, winding up on another workspace, and being entirely confused about how to get back.

A couple of my friends have had their installs of Vista Basic replaced with Ubuntu* and the first thing I’ve always done is disable the multiple workspace switcher. It’s useful to some but exceedingly confusing to the other 90%.

* This was at the point that they were going to give up and buy a new computer anyway due to OEM bloatware, so no harm in trying a new OS.

Multiple desktops is definately one thing few have gotten used to, though Lion may make them much more mainstream. I think Mission Control, especially on a touchpad with a 3-finger push shortcut, seems as natural as it could be.

I actually strongly disagree with the idea of an Electronic Literacy class, at least I disagree with it as a class which basically teaches people tricks like control-f that can save them time. Let me relay a story:

In college I worked as a T.A. for in intro programming class for non majors. For some the course started out teaching the students to use Nano as a text editor and assumed that they would choose a more full featured editor whenever they saw fit. Now Nano is a really bare bones editor, it doesn't even have line numbers. And not having line numbers is a serious problem when you're trying to debug c++ compiler errors that reference lines by number. I kid you not I saw kids counting down 100s of lines from the top of the file to get to the listing of the errors.

Now the thing about this situation is: these were perfectly electronically literate people. They all knew about Ctrl-F. And could easily be taught more tricks. The problem is they'd never grasped the philosophy of computers. Specifically that when a task that's so simply stated is taking too long there's normally a better way to do it. Or if there isn't it's an opportunity for you to make a better way to do it.

All of the students simply assumed that if there was a trick they'd have been told about it already so no one inquired further.

Hey, don't diss nano like that. Try alt+c, or ctrl+g. Looks like you didn't try looking for a solution either (=

First thing you should teach in a class like that is to teach them to fish for tricks in the manpages/docs rather handing them individual tricks throughout.

i.e. teach them how to teach themselves: scan menus, google, ask. http://xkcd.com/627/

Unfortunately you can't just point random people to that chart, because there's a reasonable chance they won't know how to read it.

Alright, I guess I'm not fully aware of all of Nano's features. And yes, my entire point is that it's much better to teach them to fish for tricks in various places rather than teaching them individual tricks. Also I was only a T.A. in this class (and actually only did grading) so I never got a chance to teach.

You're there in the lab to see them make these mistakes, but you can't tell them to man nano?

No, read the comment you just responded to. I only did grading. It wasn't until I asked a friend of mine who was in the class what he thought of it and he responded: "Line numbers are a bitch" that I discovered what was going on. At which point I mentioned to the professor that she might want to bring up man pages.

And your point? Sounds like they got poor instruction.

Yes, that they got poor instruction is my point. Furthermore more my point elaborates on why it was poor. Because they were taught many individual tricks and never how and when to search for new tricks.

nano 4 lyfe!!!!!!!11

My favorite thing about nano is that the commands are always at the bottom of the window for you-- no remembering needed. ^C and ^W are right there ;)

Yeah, too many developers don't seem to have a good understanding of the average user (and don't do any usability testing), and end up spending a lot of time on arcane features that most people don't use or don't want to use (but are forced to). Like so many keyboard shortcuts and hidden menu options. In general, if it is out of site (like in a menu), it is out of mind. Or software is designed for text input since it is easier to code than visual interfaces.

Other examples are all the keyboard shortcuts in Google's web apps: http://www.google.com/support/reader/bin/answer.py?answer=69... or having to type the name of an application to use it in Ubuntu Unity or Gnome 3, or Wikipedia's syntax, which excludes most users from contributing: http://calacanis.com/2007/02/20/technological-obscurificatio...

My rule of thumb generally is to pretend I am designing for an 8th grader. That may still be overshooting a bit though.

Most people don't care.

That was my impression anyway after doing about four years of IT and lab support for student government and activity groups at a large UC in the '90s.

The ones who did were bound for engineering or science, or were simply practically curious.

We tech-savvy people think ctrl-f is so basic we can barely conceive how could anyone not know it. How could they not?

Somewhere there is a discussion group where people can't believe people don't know you can wear something other than geeky looking clothes. They can't believe someone would wear baggy jeans, a baggy t-shirt they got free at a conference, and white sneakers.

To say other people don't care is accurate, but doesn't do justice to the diversity of interests out there.

They have other priorities.

Yes, some are lazy or daft, but while you figured out how to use ctrl-f other people were learning to ski, climbing a mountain, jumping out of a plane, learning to dress fashionably, picking up girls, picking up guys, teaching their kids piano, etc. Even the lazy ones probably enjoyed being lazy and don't care about streamlining their searches. And the daft ones, well, if they have a learning disability or something like that, that's their story.

Viewing people having other interests as something to learn from and celebrate makes the world a different place. The humility that comes with it leads to much more learning about the world.

>To say other people don't care is accurate, but doesn't do justice to the diversity of interests out there. >They have other priorities.

Yah, I don't mean "they don't care" as a judgement statement. You're absolutely right about this.

The problem is that increasingly, learning to ski, picking up guys, etc are going to be dependent on being able to use a computer efficiently.

You're comparing basic computer use to hobbies. That may have been somewhat accurate 20 years ago; it isn't anymore.

They don't care, but the lack of caring is getting to the point where it's more like they don't care how to use a shower (wow I can't believe I've been taking ice-cold showers all this time!) or drive a car, etc.

or drive a car,

Half my friends don't know or care how to drive a car. I'm 32, don't have a licenses, and can probably count on my fingers the number of times I've genuinely wished I had one. Just because something is vital to you and your social circle doesn't make it universally true.

It isn't vital to me either and I don't own one, living as I do in an area with great mass transit and where parking the thing would cost more than housing in a lot of places. But to be an adult and not know how to drive, regardless of whether you actually have a car, is a pretty shitty situation. I went on vacation recently and it was great to be able to drive, because the area we were in demanded it.

None of this addresses my point, which is that computing is an essential skill. Are you disputing that as well?

"None of this addresses my point, which is that computing is an essential skill."

My first example of something people do that some make a priority and learn to do well was wearing clothing and being stylish. Members of this community have ready access to dress stylishly but I'd wager few do. Somewhere some stylish people can't believe they do that in the same way many people here are suprised people don't know ctrl-f.

Different priorities.

The really interesting point is that people don't seem to put any thought into what should be possible with a computer.

Intuitively, people with a decent mental model of how text is processed by computers would expect that the computer could search through that text, and look for a command in the program to do that. But many people's mental model is that they are looking through a sheet of paper displayed on the screen.

How to change this is going to be difficult.

Maybe that's because sometimes it's F3, or /, or Ctrl-F, or Edit -> Find.

I think most people know Edit->Find

Do 90% of people not know what a keyboard shortcut is? Yeah, I believe that.

> I think most people know Edit->Find

That doesn't really mesh with the quote, which was, "I do these field studies and I can't tell you how many hours I've sat in somebody's house as they've read through a long document trying to find the result they're looking for."

It does mesh if the context he examined was in a browser where there is no Edit > Find.

hum, there is a menu option for find in all browsers I know of. Sure, under chrome it's in the wrench menu but if it's a menu it might as well be lost for a large group of users.

Chrome's Find menu has "Search the Web", "Find", "Find Next", "Find Previous", "Use Selection for Find" and "Jump to Selection". I'm willing to bet non-techies would be utterly confused by all those possibilities.

Yes, it is confusing.

On the other hand, the Wrench menu (not the standard Mac menu on top) has a single 'Find...' option with the Command-F shortcut label next to it.

Which is also F3.

This is a valid point. I'm in Germany and half of my software is localized, so search is Strg-S, the other half is not, so search is Ctrl-F or F3, or /, or whatever.

Of those of us making up the 10% who do use Ctrl/Cmd + F (or '/', or some keyboard shortcut for find); how many find themselves saying "Ctrl F" out loud when looking for something on a piece of paper (or somewhere in local space)?

I constantly catch myself chanting, "Ctrl F, Ctrl F, Ctrl F" in frustration as I search for a lost item or try to find a keyboard shortcut on a quick reference sheet that's printed.

Try, "grep grep grep". That's easier to say.

OK, now I'm curious.

> cd /usr/bin/

> grep grep grep

Binary file grep matches

It's nice to know that there is indeed a grep in grep when you grep grep for grep.

There's a lot of grep in grep:

[10:37 PM] 97Mb$ strings `which grep`|grep grep `egrep' means `grep -E'. `fgrep' means `grep -F'. Direct invocation as either `egrep' or `fgrep' is deprecated. egrep fgrep bug-grep@gnu.org GNU grep http://www.gnu.org/software/grep/ others, see <http://git.sv.gnu.org/cgit/grep.git/tree/AUTHORS>;

I don't think (and hope) that I don't vocalize it, but I've definitely caught myself making the finger motion in thin air.

And Cmd-Z.

"Aw crap, that's not how I spell my last name." * finger twitch *

All the damn time.

Not an emacs user, I take it? Otherwise you'd have a nonstop twitch in your left hand for all possible situations.

It'd help if there was a way to trigger a search dialog via javascript.


and have that open up the browser's search box - be it a dialog or a bar at the top or bottom. That would allow us to associate clicking an icon with action that brings up a search input.

Or hey... have the search dialog always open. Many users (most?) at least understand the notion of internet search, and it's helped a lot that there's an internet search box at the top of all major browsers for the past several years.

Adding a default 'page search' box that's open all the time would be a big signal to users that this functionality even exists in the first place.

I'd say the same thing for privacy - screw 3 levels of SSL certificate hell and warning - give everyone a little cookie icon that shows, in nice easy language, the sites tracking you and the data they have stored in your cookies, and give an easy way - from the main browser screen - to poof them away. Shrill warnings about "web privacy" would go way down if the average user had one-click access to see what's being tracked.

Maybe a simple button, but where would you put a whole box?

Perhaps if there was an api to tell browsers to keep it open, it would be okay.

There really isn't a way to learn hotkeys other than searching for them and practicing, and people expect computers to be intuitive so much that they never do that. I wonder how many people aren't consciously aware of how much faster they could get at using their computer if they spent an hour learning.

Middle-aged to elderly women LOVE hotkeys. Show them how to cut/copy and paste text with Ctrl-C|X|V and they are hooked. Ctrl-A to select everything is another such gem.

Or holding Shift or Ctrl to select multiple items (eg files to delete).

They always(!) lighten up and smile when I show them (no hyperbole!).

One of the reasons that elderly people like keyboard shortcuts is because learning how to use a mouse can be quite difficult, as it requires precise hand-eye coordination (which is also why it's slow, causing techies to rely on the keyboard as much as possible). At that age, not only is it difficult to learn how to operate new devices, but their afferent & efferent neurons may not be up to the task to begin with.

Yup. When my mom tries to double click a mouse button, I hear anything from two to five clicks, and the mouse shudders under her hand as she attempts this. The result is predictably unpredictable. She seems to do OK with single clicks.

I wonder if it would be better if we would make software actually less intuitive to use, and by doing so, forcing people to spend that hour to learn at least some basics.

So many complain that sometimes it is this or that shortcut. That shortcut seems to only change in IDEs and common dev tools. Usually changing because the C-f is used for some other more common coding task.

In programs used by the general public I have a hard time finding when C-f(cmd-f for mac users) is not the standard for search.

Schools should have a class on finding data. When I was in school we had to have at least one electronic source in our papers. This was supposed to help kids learn how to look up data electronically. They should take one day every year to teach kids how to mine that data with google, and things like c-f. This would allow the kids to find the data they need much faster, and may actually make them enjoy finding and learning more.

Is it 90% of people who don't know the keyboard shortcut, or the find functionality?

Apparently both, which is really shocking!

This is one of those things I'm constantly explaining to friends, clients, and others. It seems so trivial to me, the ctrl+f brings up the search dialog, but at least if someone doesn't know the shortcut surely they would know of the search dialog itself? I've found over the years this is definitely not the case, anything that's not blatantly obviously with buttons on the browser is never known by the majority of the people that I interact with.

In terms of this particular feature, I love CTRL+F and I use it on a daily basis.

This is a case where the MS Visual Studio forced on me at work poisons my mind. Ctrl+F brings up some big ugly search modal, while Ctrl+D pops straight to the quick search text box. Whenever I switch from VisStudio to a web browser (or pretty much anything sane), I always catch myself trying to bookmark a page instead of search. (Of course my prefered search key is / but that's not really an option here....)

That 90% of people don't know about 'Find' functions (^F/⌘F)? Boggles.

It might be worth trying incremental search in Visual Studio (it's like "find as you type"). I use it with Emacs keybindings (CTRL-S for forward search, CTRL-R for backward search), but I'd imagine you can bind it to whatever keystroke you want. There is no dialog, you simply hit CTRL-S (or whatever it is bound to), then start typing and it immediately goes to the next occurrence of what you have typed; you hit CTRL-S again to go to the next occurrence.

Incremental search changes the way you navigate text beyond using it for searches. Want to move to particular place in the text file quickly without using the mouse? Pick the most unique string near it and incremental search to move near it, then use regular keyboard movement commands to get to it (if the unique string itself wasn't where you wanted to be).

In Emacs, incremental search is under C-s, so this habit is actually helpful when using non-emacs software -- it makes you save your work often.

Yeah, it must be awesome to have the "Save Page As..." dialog box pop up in your web browser 100 times a day.

It makes you freeze your consoles :-)

Wait, incremental search is under '/'... Oh, sorry.

The problem isn't that Ctrl-D is better than Ctrl-F, but that you aren't using Metal Scroll and/or Ctrl-Shift-F.

I put a keyboard shortcut into an operating system once - Action-delete to clear the keyboard buffer. You know, you were compiling on a command line and tried to type in the next command and messed it up and wanted to go home but now you have to either kill the build and start again, or wait half an hour for the build to complete and retype the line?

I never found anybody else, ever, who knew about this one. I used it a dozen times a day.

I wonder if this is going to become even more of a problem as OS's become more gesture-based like iOS and Lion. All of the three- and four-finger swiping actions in Lion are amazing and useful, but only if you know about them and can remember them. Apple stores do a pretty good job of educating people when you go in to buy a new Mac, but "pinch with 5 fingers to open launchpad" might be harder to learn than "cmd + f"

I love the swipe gestures in Lion, but find I often have to undo and redo them because I chose the wrong one.

Particularly if I end up using the trackpad at an angle so a vertical (to me) swipe is more of a diagonal on the trackpad.

Funny, I blanked out when I read CTRL+F. Guess it's just muscle memory now.

Same here. Thought I must be in the 90%. It depends on how the test was conducted.

Same article, without all the distractions and better formatting: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2011/08/crazy-90...

I wonder what survey group would they have put me in if I had told them that ctrl + f was page-down?

I learned this when I was mentioning to people how happy I was that they had finally added webpage search to MobileSafari in iOS. Nobody had any clue what I was talking about. I tried relating it to Command/Control-F in their browser and nobody had ever seen the feature before.

I find this amazing, as the Find feature in a browser is my most common fallback. Too lazy to keep looking for something on a long page? Just use Find. Hell, they should teach it to you at school. It makes internet research much easier.

I think the whole reason is that it isn't always showing on the page; it's hidden behind a shortcut. If the find bar was always visible like the address bar, I'm sure more users would use the find feature.

We develop a training software teaching you the keyboard shortcuts for the functions you click most (www.veodin.com). It's analyzing daily routines (counts GUI interactions) and sorts and filters the list of available shortcuts accordingly.

We will also generate automatically small macros from patterns in the users behavior.

While this only helps you improve the workflow of a task, I hope that our software will one day be able to recommend CTRL+F to people by comparing "fast" users with average users.

How many developers you work with know how to search/navigate the code base effectively? How many of them know and use regular expressions when ever they can? How many of them feel really comfortable with find/xarg/(e)grep? How many of them know advanced editor like vim/emacs? How many of them know that there is something like pentadactyl for firefox?

I thought so. So, I can't really say I'm surprised that 90% of people don't know how to search either.

I swear someone called me genius last week after I did CTRL+U to try and find if a site was using a CMS like WP, Joomla etc...

I was at a golf store that had an outside tent with a computer to register for their mailing list. I noticed it was in php and started looking at the source to see what it was using. The employee who saw me wasn't happy, but it was pretty harmless.

I guess this is how my mechanic felt when I take my car in and he fixes it in a snap.

The fact that the author refers to the search / find in text functionality by 'CTRL+F' instead of its name, and refers to it as a 'trick' doesn't cast his proficiency in the best of lights.

The fact that many developers are surprised by this, or think this is a bad thing, shows why so much software is so poorly designed for use by nontechnical people.

And 98 percent don't know how to use search-forward-regexp.

WAY more than 98%. 98% or more don't even know what a regexp is, let alone how to construct one to match what they want to find, and then use the search-forward-regexp tools to actually find the matches.

Another issue I find is lack of education given to users after installing software/application. Commands like Ctrl/Cmd + F are not easy to discover. Especially for the people with lesser computer literacy. I believe a simple tour of how stuff in your application will work; right after installing it will give some idea to majority of users. Of course not everyone will sit through whole tour but there needs to be some sort of education of end-users in interactive format rather than typical "read me" files.

I watch people use software all day long, and this comes up all the time. 90% sounds about right.

If you think Ctrl-F is bad, wait till you see how you find text within the page on Mobile Safari.

How? I assumed one could not until seeing it alluded to on this page.

You can type in the text to search for in the main search box on the top. When it pops up the list of suggestions, after it, shows a section with matches on the current page.

The only way I knew it was there was because I read somewhere that Mobile Safari supports searching within the page, and I then had to Google for it to find out how to actually use it.

In my world, Cmd-F means Fullscreen.

You mean Cmd-shift-F? I haven't experienced Cmd-F as full screen in any mac apps I've run across.

In Xcode cmd-shift-f means "find in project", never used it to fullscreen an app but I might be missing something ;)


Oops, you said ctrl-shift-f, not cmd-shift-f. My bad!

Quicktime and VLC Media Player.


In my world, / means Search (Find).

more people should use vim or emacs. after using these text editors for a while you always try to find similar shortcuts in every apps you use daily.

i guess the programmer (Braam?) who said vim changes your efficiency habits was right...

You're totally welcome to try to teach my mother how to use vim.

That would be fun to watch, though very frustrating for both of them.

More people should try living on the street. Pretty soon you're rummaging in every bin you see, to find the goodies contained.

Doesn't F3 in Firefox do the same thing? Then F3 for next instance, etc.

First this, next someone's going find that 95% or more don't even know how to modify GET requests in their address bar and read the HTML source to websites to figure out how to better navigate websites.

I sent that link to a coworker I was IMing with when I read it. A minute later he wrote back, "mmm, I didn't know that either."

He's not a programmer, but still. Wow.

Another sad thing (credit for noting this goes to Rob Pike years ago) is that after years of development and hundreds of thousands of lines of code web browsers still don't support searching with regexps! (Hell, Chrome doesn't even support case sensitive search.) I'm sure there are extensions for this, but the browser is in an infinitely better position to implement this consistently and reliably.

This is a feature ed had 40 years ago.

I had a Firefox extension on my PC that did this pretty well. You can always do a "curl | grep" in an emergency.

Imagine a world where most people understood regular expressions. Definitely going to teach my son about them when he's mastered times tables.

Can't imagine a world without CMD + F

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