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Customizing Workbench

Workbench offers a number of option settings that let you customize the environment to suit your working style.

Customizing the Keyboard

Workbench has a system that lets you change the keyboard layout to your liking. If you're accustomed to a particular keyboard layout from another program, such as from another text editor you use frequently, you can take advantage of the keyboard mapping scheme to make Workbench behave more like what you're used to.

Use the Keyboard page of the Options dialog to define custom keys. You can change any of the default key bindings and you can add new bindings of your own.

Refer to Workbench Commands for a complete list of the commands and their descriptions.

Context-sensitive keys

Workbench defines a number of "contexts" for keyboard commands. Each context can have its own separate key mappings - when you press a key, Workbench interprets it according to the key definitions for the active context. The current window you're working in usually determines the context. The point of context-sensitive keys is that it lets you re-use the same key in different contexts; this is often convenient, because it means you can re-use easy-to-press keys for different purposes, rather than having to come up with complex Alt+Ctrl+Shift combinations to avoid key conflicts.

The contexts are:

In the keyboard customization dialog, the context for an existing key binding is always shown in parentheses after the key or command name. When you select a command in the command listbox, the current keys for the command will be shown in the "Current shortcut" drop-down list like so:

   Ctrl+F5 (Global)

This means that Ctrl+F5 (i.e., the F5 key pressed while the Ctrl key is being held down) is bound to the currently selected command in the Global context.

Similarly, when you press a new key sequence in the "New shortcut" box, the "Current command" drop-down list will show each command, key, and context like so:

   Build.CompileAndRun (Ctrl+F5 (Global))

This means that Ctrl+F5 is bound in the Global context to the command Build.CompileAndRun. There might be other bindings for the same key in other contexts, in which case they'll be shown in the drop-down list as well.

When you define a new key, use the drop-down list labeled "Use new shortcut in:" to select the context for the new binding. The new key you define will replace any existing definition of the key, but only in the context you select - if the key is also defined in other contexts, the other context definitions won't be affected.

Multi-key sequences

If you're accustomed to an editor like Emacs that uses multi-key sequences for some commands, you'll be pleased to learn that Workbench's key binding system lets you define sequences of up to two keys. In the Command Keys dialog, you can enter a multi-key sequence simply by going to the "New key" box and pressing the keys in sequence.

Pre-defined layouts

You'll find a couple of pre-defined key layout files in the Workbench directory - look for files with names ending in ".keymap". If you want to use one of these layouts, you can load it using the "Load Key Map" button. You can also save a layout to a file if you think you might want to switch back to it later after trying some changes.

Toolbar arrangement

Workbench provides several toolbars, grouping related commands in each toolbar. You can change the arrangement of the toolbars by using the mouse to drag the toolbar to a new position. To drag a toolbar, click the mouse on the grab-bar control at the left edge of the toolbar. Note that the main menu is itself a toolbar, so you can change its placement as well. You can arrange the toolbars on one line or on multiple lines.

You can also hide toolbars entirely, if you'd prefer to free up more screen space for content windows. Right-click on the toolbar background to bring up a menu that lets you select which toolbars are visible, or use the View - Toolbars submenu.

If you hide the main menu, you can still access the menu by right-clicking on the main Workbench window's title bar. This will bring up the main menu as a pop-up menu any time the menu bar is hidden.

Automatically hiding and showing tool windows

Workbench has two main working modes: "Design" and "Debug." When you're running your project, you're in Debug mode, which allows you to step through code, inspect variables, and so on. When the project isn't running, you're in Design mode.

Most of the tool windows are only useful (or mostly useful) in one mode or the other. The stack, local variables, and expression-watch tool windows are of little use in Design mode, since there's no stack or variables to inspect. Likewise, the project window is more useful in Design mode than in Debug mode.

For your convenience, Workbench can automatically show and hide tool windows whenever you switch between modes (that is, when you start running the program, and when the program exits). This gives you more room to work by eliminating windows that aren't useful at the moment, while saving you the trouble of manually opening the windows that you need.

To customize the tool window hide/show options, go to the Tool Windows page of the Options dialog. This lets you specify what happens on each mode switch to each tool window. For each window, you can elect for each mode change to open it automatically, close it automatically, or leave it as it is.

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Copyright ©1999, 2007 by Michael J. Roberts.