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I have inherited code maintenance of a legacy app that has been used for 10+ years. We have a small group of users who use it and only 1 or 2 new ones each year, due to employee turnover etc.

One thing I've noted is that we are repurposing keyboard shortcuts for non-traditional purposes. For instance, bringing up the Options menu is CtrlP and exiting the app is CtrlX (keyboard shortcuts that are usually used for "Print" and "Cut" respectively).

I've brought this up and suggested that we change them to standard ones (such as AltF4 for Exit, as is standard for most Windows apps), but there were two concerns that were raised:

  • Legacy users have become accustomed to these non-standard keybindings
  • This isn't a text app and has no print functionality, so the user would not expect Cut and Print to be features that are supported.

Are these valid concerns? Or should our legacy app that uses universal shortcuts for non-standard functions change to more traditional keyboard shortcuts?

  • Do you need the "print" and "cut" commands with the legacy app? and How many users are currently using it? – Andrew Martin Feb 23 '17 at 12:57
  • @AndrewMartin Cut could be used in one spot, print no. Users are pretty small; about 200 within our company. – Thunderforge Feb 24 '17 at 1:28
  • @AndrewMartin one hyper-productive legacy user can force support for legacy bindings. c.f. Bloomberg terminal, were some users move hundreds of millions of dollars regularly. Distracting their / their-team's workflow is no joke. – New Alexandria Mar 16 '17 at 13:25
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When you want to make a change to long-standing workflows, you need to provide this as a Preferences option.

Allow the app to respond to the classic keybindings, or the new ones, based on what they set. Run a beta with a small set of users, who are instructed on how to switch their preferences. Choose the set of users as a 50/50 split of those that want modern keybindings, and those that are known to use/prefer the classic ones.

Do not, under any circumstances, break the workflow of power-users. They are highly productive with the classic keybindings. They will raise a stink about being less-productive and the company losing money.

You will loose that argument – and you should because you're breaking their workflow out of your idea of modernity, and your laziness to not support keybinding preferences.


I'm pretty sure this is a dupe question, but I wanted to answer it - to start - since it is something that is regularly asked.

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@Thunderforge - your concerns are surely valid.

Furthermore, changing the shortcuts for a new release will most likely annoy current users (I've been there with a medical application - hoping for the users in the proximity of the operation room to change their habits is a lost hope), while not changing the shortcuts to following the industry standards will put away new users.

If there is a capacity, why don't you provide two sets of shortcuts, selectable by some (hidden) menu option?

As far as I can remember, early Word versions had the possibility to use WordPerfect shortcuts for copy and paste.

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