SO2R Keyboard Setup
Bob, WA1Z, May 2015

I am using the large USB Apple Keyboard that provides 19 F-Keys. Being a touch-typist with years of experience with PC-type keyboards, I initially found the Apple keyboard F-keys incredibility difficult to use. The first twelve F-keys are bunched together with no spacing making it very difficult for me to locate the appropriate key without looking down at the keyboard. Most PC-type keyboards space-out F-keys into blocks of four. In contests over the years, I’ve relied on that spacing to locate F1 and F4 keys (and then by extension, 2, 3, and 5 keys) without having to look. I am slowly re-educating myself to accept the lack of spacing on the Apple keyboard and I’m finding that I am improving in my ability to hit the right F-key from F1 through F5 without having to look.

When I started doing SO2R with SkookumLogger, there were additional default F-Key assignments that fell within the "Massive Block of Twelve" that I found difficult to locate in the “heat of the battle.” Appropriately, Bill is keeping in mind the lowest common denominator with regard to F-key general availability in the Apple keyboard market. However, because of my own limitations, two very important keys, F9 and F12 (see details about these below), are almost impossible for me to find quickly — even when looking. Below is a write-up of what I did to take advantage of the higher-numbered F-keys beyond F12 (that do have some physical spacing) and Mac OS X’s “App Shortcuts” facility to reassign the default shortcuts in a way that improved my ability to manipulate SkookumLogger and the YCCC SO2R box during a contest.

There are three fundamentally important SO2R-related control points that are available either by a menu item or combination of menu item and F-Key:

The Apple keyboard F13…F15 keys comprise their own bank of three above the fn, Home and Page Up keys, followed by F16…F19 which are positioned nicely above the numeric keypad.

I first set out to reassign “Toggle QSO Entry Focus” and add F-key assignments to the three “Listen to …” audio menu options. My left hand (as I imagine for most folks) is the predominant manipulator of F1 through F4 keys. These are the keys most used in sending messages. I wanted to move SO2R control as far to the right as possible so I could use the right hand. The four keys F16 through F19 above the numeric keypad proved to be a perfect choice. I reassigned the F-keys as follows:

F16 - “Listen to Radio 1” This is my “left” radio
F17 - “Listen to Both Radios”
F18 - “Listen to Radio 2” This is my “right” radio
F19 - “Toggle QSO Entry Focus”

I chose F19 for “Toggle QSO Entry Focus” because it is on the far-upper-right-hand edge of the keyboard and is quite literally hit several thousand times in the course of a full-bore contest effort. I rest my pinky finger on the edge of the keyboard for positioning my hand and hit F19 with my ring finger. When I want to control the audio routing (far less often), it’s a minor hand-slide adjustment to line up my pointer, middle and ring fingers over F16, F17 and F18, respectively, to control audio. All subtle, limited and fast movements.

So far, I haven’t mentioned “Toggle Transmit Radio.” For CW contesting, I’ve found the four assignments listed above are all you need. You almost never need to actually select “Toggle Transmit Radio” in a CW contest because Bill has gone out of his way to actually automate when “Toggle Transmit Radio” is required. In short, SkookumLogger is intelligent enough to analyze which Radio has QSO Entry Focus and know which radio should transmit when the operator actuates a Message. Bill can do this because SkookumLogger has full control over CW generation (outside of direct CW transmission from an unconnected keyer that SkookumLogger can’t “see”).

For SSB contesting, there are practical limitations with VOX and PTT footswitch control that SkookumLogger has no ability to monitor making “Toggle Transmit Radio” a function the operator needs to manipulate more often. I have yet to do a SSB contest SO2R with SkookumLogger as of this write-up, but I have decided I am going to try assigning this:

F15 - “Toggle Transmit Radio”

F15 is on the right edge of its own “Bank of Three” with a space between it and F16. I’m theorizing that F15 is separated far enough from F19 that it will require separate two fingers to control them (and not close enough to hit one when I mean to hit the other). We’ll see how this works out this weekend in HADX and NAQP SSB contests.

Another alternative assignment bank could be this:

F13 - “Listen to Radio 1” This is my “left” radio
F14 - “Listen to Both Radios”
F15 - “Listen to Radio 2” This is my “right” radio

F16 - “Toggle Transmit Radio”
F19 - “Toggle QSO Entry Focus”

But this involves more wrist movement in my right hand.