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Timothy Miller
Timothy Miller

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Let's Level Up with BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool is likely the first Mac productivity app I ever downloaded. A good friend of mine started using a Mac long before I did, and he introduced me to the wonders of BTT. Ever since my first Mac purchase, BTT has loyally sat on my computer, hiding in the background, only showing its face when asked and wanted. (If only all software could be so discrete cough Adobe cough)

In a word I would call BTT "polite software". It really does stay out of your way, and even if you use it every day, you can easily forget about it. That is certainly one of its strengths, but also perhaps a weakness. After all, I have used BTT for nearly a decade, and yet I’ve only used it for one thing: switching tabs.

My one use for BTT

I use and switch tabs a lot. In both my web browser and my code editor, I consistently have more than a dozen tabs open, and I switch between them frequently. I use my mouse quite a bit—more than I should—so I needed a way to switch tabs while using a mouse or a trackpad. BTT makes this very easy. I created four shortcuts for this:

  • Trackpad TipTap Left: ⇧⌘[
  • Trackpad TipTap Right: ⇧⌘]
  • Mouse Button 4: ⇧⌘[
  • Mouse Button 3: ⇧⌘]

That’s it. That is all I’ve done with BTT in nearly a decade. It may not seem like much, but those four shortcuts alone have apparently done me a lot of good over the years:

Screenshot of my BTT useage, which shows over 63,000 uses in the last year.

(Note that this is just over the last year. 63,000 tab switches in one year!)

There must be more

I've always been aware that BTT can do far more than these simple shortcuts. But honestly I am terrible at working to improve my working conditions.

I’ve always been this way: I willingly power through difficult work just to prove I can, without any thought towards how I could improve the process. Like a child playing in the mud a few feet from a beach, I tend to try to make the most of my current situation, rather than trying to change it. It doesn't matter how much change we’re talking about: I tend to focus on what I consider the "real" work while ignoring simple ways in which I could make my work/life easier.

But that changes today! I have spent the last couple of months digging into BetterTouchTool. The forums, the documentation, and the app itself, and let me be the first to tell you: this app is tremendously powerful. I had no idea just how much this app can do.

A small roadmap

This is the start of a series, where I will document many of the things I’ve discovered and found useful about BTT. Consider this article the introduction, and we’ll get down and dirty with the tool starting next week. Just to give you a taste of what is to come, here is a rough outline of some of the topics we will be discussing:

  • Creating worry-free keyboard shortcuts with the "hyper" key
  • Killing alt-tab: your path to better application switching.
  • BetterSnapTool: window management you can really sink your keys into.
  • The BTT way of expanding text.
  • Stop working for your Touchbar: it’s time to make it work for you.
  • Your mouse needs help: tweaks to make your mouse hand more useful.
  • ...and more to come: this tool is so. dang. powerful.

(Links to be included as the articles are published)

If you have any interest in BetterTouchTool, follow along! This series will live here on this site, as well as my personal site. Feel free to join in on the conversation, throw your own ideas my way, and let's create a better, more efficient work environment for all of us.

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