Or, Scratching my own itch

A while back, I decided to take a good, hard look at myself as a developer. I realized the single biggest hurdle for me wasn’t learning new concepts, it was mastering all those little bits of knowledge a working developer is expected to know.

From keyboard shortcuts that turn writing code in an IDE like Atom or Visual Studio Code into a mouse-free experience, to knowing each and every combination of selectors in CSS, or knowing the right syntax to use in any of the many different coding languages and frameworks I’ll work in a workday, these were the things that were keeping me from realizing my potential as a developer.

Over the years as I’d worked as a developer while my conceptual knowledge has grown, my at-my-fingertips know-how had shrunk. So I went looking for some sort of solution on Google.

I learned that spaced repetition works - but its a pain to manage manually. While I found plenty of flash card like software solutions, none of them were written with working developers in mind - they are all focusing on high school and college students trying to learn vocabulary in a given language, or state capitols or medical terms. The content these systems had for developers was woefully out of date, fragmentary or just plain wrong.

  • I wanted a framework that took care of showing me specific keyboard shortcuts, Linux commands, and syntax from all of the coding libraries I work with.
  • I wanted to be able to see and measure my progress objectively from week to week.
  • And I wanted to not waste a lot of time drilling on what I already had learned and retained, instead of spending that time on either new material or material I still needed to learn.

There was no app or service out there, so I decided to “scratch my own itch” and the unmet need of most developers out there and write software that delivered up-to-date, relevant knowledge that a working developer could make a 10 minute a workday habit learning.

That’s the impetus of LearnShortcuts: focus on the knowledge working developers need, review that information in quick sessions, know when you’ve moved a particular keyboard shortcut or bit of knowledge to your long term memory and no longer need to Google every single damn thing.

Since I didn’t have the luxury of devoting 100% of my time to building this app, and because of it took me a while to figure out just how it should work, it’s taken me more years than I care to think about to get it to the point where it can help other developers. But it is at that point now, and now I can share it with the world and start focusing on the many ways of improving the LearnShortcuts experience.

This app is not the next Uber, Apple or Unicorn. It’s meant to solve a problem this working developer has and I think a problem many developers find painful.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll find LearnShortcuts makes you a better developer.

Bob Walsh
Marin County, California.