Search your menu items

Coding Horror: Incremental Feature Search in Applications:

"I'm a big fan of incremental search. But incremental search isn't just for navigating large text documents. As applications get larger and more complicated, incremental search is also useful for navigating the sea of features that modern applications offer."

I cannot agree more. These days, it is almost impossible to find where the latest features are. And if you are relying on the myriad of keyboard shortcuts for different applications, it can get a bit overwhelming. Was it ctrl+F11 or ctrl+alt+F11 to compile and run that program again? It gets worse when the program you are using allows for plugins. Each plugin tends to have its own keystrokes. And sometimes the most useful features are buried so deep down the menu that you will never find them! Lastly, some keyboard combinations just do not make that much sense. How in the world am I suppose to press those three keys simultaneously?!

Anyway, not every application out there is going to over incremental search on its menu items but fortunately, two of my favorite apps offer this functionality.

And on the Mac, there is an alternative if the application that you are using does not support incremental search on menu items: Quicksilver. There is a command that allows you to access the menu items. Follow the instructions here. I mapped the command to opt+space so that I can easily access it.

So give incremental search a try and you will wonder how you can ever live without it in the first place!

Update: InfoQ has also picked up on Jeff Atwood's original article and has featured it on their page. An important thing to realize about incremental search is that not all search methods are as good. For instance, the ones in TextMate and Quicksilver are easier to use because they search for fragments of the word in any location. Sometimes this gives spurious results but it easier for the user since you do not need to remember the exact character that the word starts with.

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