From Warcraft to Outlook: The Razer Naga as a Productivity Tool

I received the Razer Naga gaming mouse over the holidays, and it’s a sweet mouse. With 12 buttons on the thumb rest and 5 on the top, there’s a lot of ways that you can use your Naga in WoW to help improve your play.

But I’m not going to talk about Warcraft very much today. Mostly because I’m still wildly experimenting with how to best use it in game, but also because the Naga has a lot of applications outside of Warcraft which make it a really interesting input tool. The efficiencies you get while gaming translate directly to other computing tasks… like answering email.

Yes. Email. Outlook, Mail.app, even Lotus Notes – whatever you use, the Naga is here to help you out.

I spend a lot of my professional life dealing with email. I get a lot of it (200-300 emails a day) and have to triage it quickly. I follow a lot of Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero principles, where you don’t try to manage your work life through your Inbox. Emails either prompt an action from you, or they do not, but whatever you do, don’t keep them hanging around as reminders.

(I really recommend his original video and some of his follow-up posts on 43 Folders. It can really change your relationship with your email. Yes, you have a relationship with it.)

So here’s how my email life is set up.

  1. The Inbox is for deleting. Once the email has been read and the task captured (and, hopefully, the response written on the spot), the email should be deleted. An empty inbox is the goal.
  2. I delete instead of filing for several reasons. Deleting is faster than filing in nearly every interface I’ve worked in – one button and done. I don’t even try to categorize emails, because I use global searches instead. It’s easier to search a single folder in Outlook 2007 than many folders. I don’t want to have to remember where I put something. Where is it? It’s in the Sent folder. Always.
  3. All of my email – inbound and outbound – is saved in my Sent folder. I do this through an Outlook rule that puts a copy of all inbound email into my Sent folder. My outbound mail gets saved there anyways, so everything is in one place.
  4. I do keep a few folders around for saving copies of emails that shouldn’t get archived. Two, actually – Reference and Good Job – but things go in there rarely so I don’t feel the need to automate them.

So the tasks that I need to automate with my Naga are relatively straightforward.

  1. Delete email with one click.
  2. Reply to email with one click.  Reply to All and Forward are special cases of this one.
  3. Copy, Paste.
  4. Close windows when I’m done with them.

But I don’t want to assign these features everywhere, just my email applications! I especially don’t want to bind keys that are used in Warcraft to Outlook!

The Naga handles this with ease. The key is in Razer’s application-specific profiles.  Each application can have a unique configuration on the Naga, which lets you assign specific keys for just that application.

Here’s the Mac version of the Profiles preference pane; the Windows version is functionally similar, but much more… green. I’ve set up two separate applications here, in addition to the default.

  • Remote Desktop is for when I am working on my Windows machine. I work from my Mac remotely into my WinXP machine, so the “application” that is running is RDC. If you’re running natively, select your mail program of choice here. (Entourage, Outlook, etc.).
  • Warcraft is for WoW, of course.  I made a separate profile so I could change keybinds without fear of modifying the default behavior.

You’ll notice that I have Auto-Switch on for these two profiles. This means that if I am working in one application and switch to an app with a different profile, the Naga will switch automatically. So when I’ve got RDC going with Outlook and I switch back to the OS X Finder or Safari, my keybinds revert.

Let’s look at those keybinds.

I had to experiment a bit with this, but the best way to pass keys through Remote Desktop is using macros. A macro is a series of keystrokes you record with the Razer software, like so:

See that Record button at the bottom? Press that, execute the keystrokes, and then press stop. You can modify the delay as desired.

I made the following simple macros:

  • Delete – Ctrl-D
  • Reply – Ctrl-R
  • Reply to All – Ctrl-Shift-R
  • Copy – Ctrl-C
  • Paste – Ctrl-V
  • Close Window – Ctrl-W

and assigned them to the thumb buttons on the Naga.

And let me tell you, the experience of using the Naga to control Outlook is great. Absolutely fantastic! I read an email and delete it without thinking about it. It sounds silly, but saving yourself from having to reach over and hit Function-Delete (which is how you do it in RDC), or even the delete key, is quite nice. I drive with one hand instead of two. Zip zip zip zip zip email’s done.

I’m experimenting with other ways to automate tasks in different applications using the Naga; post-processing photo workflow comes to mind, especially with a combination of Automator actions and keybinds. I’m really happy with it so far and am completely hooked.

Can’t wait to see what else I can automate with this strange, wonderful, black-and-blue mouse!

With 12 Keys of Automating Goodness to Choose From!

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12 Comments

Filed under Cyn's Guides To Almost Anything, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

12 responses to “From Warcraft to Outlook: The Razer Naga as a Productivity Tool

  1. skinnemuva

    I have a naga as well and I love it, though I just use it mostly for gaming. I like the way you deal with emails, etc. and I can only begin to imagine the things I could automate at work if I had a naga here… talking my employer into buying one for me though probably isn’t going to happen, EBITDA crunch and all…

  2. I, also, just recieved this baby!

    I’m still getting used to trying to feel the many buttons on the sides and have occasionally reverted back to my old Mouse ways.

    Any tricks on forcing yourself to use the buttons?

    • Well, within WoW I took some actions off of the keyboard and moved them over to the mouse – things like… shapechange on a druid, disenchanting on my banker, archeology and fishing on my main – and I’m getting pretty used to it. There are some disadvantages, though, mostly when trying to move and do something, where keyboard + mouse works better than doing everything on the mouse.

      I’ll have another post up about the Naga in a week or two, no worries!

  3. Very interesting when RL and gaming collide. I work as an email administrator for one the largest employers in the state. My team supports close to 80k mailboxes on several clustered servers. With many more coming our way, consolidation is king.

    1. An ‘empty’ inbox is great, but do realize that Outlook/Exchange will complain wildly about large numbers of messages in a single folder. Over 2000 messages in a single folder will show drops in performance. I’ve seen a single user with 30,000 messages in that folder and it took 1-2 minutes just to open it. The advanced find function is my tool of choice (CTRL+F from mailbox, then select all sub folders). Outlook 2007 in cached mode is swift, no matter where it’s stored).

    2. Glad to see that you don’t use your “Deleted Items” folder as a repository for your correspondence. Too often I find a mailbox, where people are keeping their messages there for later reference.

    3. Lastly, check into your retention policies. By default Exchange maintains a 30 day retention policy. This means you could delete the email today and recover it up to 30 days in the future. Depending on your need, this may be sufficient for most correspondence.

    Off soap box…

    I had though that this level of macro creation was taboo or even against those terms of service. I have the sidewinder keyboard which has similar macro building functionality, and thought I read that it was ban-able.

    @fuubar, you could try using the mouse-turn trick… un-map your keyboard keys for awhile?!

    • Heh, okay, I didn’t go into my archiving strategy, but I should have know it would come up. :-)

      1) Server-side I keep no more than a week in the Sent folder. I auto-archive every day to a local PST, which in turn archives once a month to a quarterly PST. These are backed up on the NAS. I’ve run into those performance problems you’ve mentioned back when I used to have yearly archives, but the quarterly ones are snappy enough under 2007. (Will be moving to Outlook 2010 soon, looking forward to that.)

      2) People really use their Deleted Items folder for storage? But… it’s deleted! It gets purged regularly! /shakes head.

      3) We’re actually in a big discussion about our retention policy now, since we don’t have one. I think we’re going to go with 60 days, at which point I will be happy to delete out all my email archives and go to a much, MUCH simpler system. :-) But there are a lot of intricacies with respect to document retention that are still getting worked out. I’m actually looking forward to it, but it will definitely take some getting used to!

      So the nice thing about the Naga is that the profiles allow me to use the macros in Remote Desktop, but just do simple key inputs in Warcraft (which is what I’m doing). I hadn’t even considered using the Naga’s macros in WoW because the Warcraft macro language is so robust! Sure, I trigger in-game macros with it, but the mouse is just hitting the “1” key (or the Num Pad 1 key) to trigger it. I assume that’s okay. It’s certainly more elegant than putting it all on the mouse! :-)

  4. Productivity, WoW and Mac OS X in one post. This is my favorite blog post of the day How does the Naga play with X?

    • Very well – better than Windows, which is really odd. I’m having some problems with single-key inputs in WinXP that OS X handles without issue.

  5. So I’m not the only one! On the occasions I get to work from home, I of course have my wonderful Naga right there.. and I end up spending most of my day dreaming up new macros to use for work.
    I work with HTML editing, and everything from search/replace to common HTML tags are bound to my mouse with various modifiers. I’m glad my macro capabilities from WoW have come in handy! I always end up wishing I had a Naga at work the next day though.. if there was any way to convince my boss I would.

  6. Vigilante

    I don’t know what to think of that mouse.. I’m all for having as much buttons on a mouse as possible (and still can’t wrap my head around who you can call a mouse with less than 4 buttons a “gaming mouse”), but I don’t know if a.. numpad is the best way to do it.

    It just makes it very hard to remember on which button what spell is. They are all the same. If they grouped the buttons somewhat, or made different kinds of buttons (like I don’t know, an additional wheel, or some forward/backward buttons, or a thumb button like on the logitech performance mouse) it would make it infinitely easier to memorize which group is responsible for which thing (like using the sidewheel to control your pet, or the thumb-keys for CC)

    But with that mouse, I wouldn’t know if the additional buttons would make it easier for me or actually harder.

    • The Naga actually comes with two different pads of rubber.. well stickers, for lack of a better term, that are two different shapes and can be applied to whichever buttons on the grid you choose, letting you feel which buttons are where.

  7. Ben

    Instead of using macros to do simple things, I’ve been binding mine to a “single key” (one of the options for keybinding), since adding ctrl, shift, or alt (and of course any two or three in combination) to a button still counts as a single button.

    Also, when making macros, you can choose from a drop-down menu on the right side some common tasks including copy and paste, though I haven’t used this macro functionality yet.

    One thing I do use macros for is creating borders for tables in Excel, having a profile where each button on the numpad is set to one of the border commands. I have 3 profiles for Excel through which I have top buttons 4 and 5 set to toggle through: ExcelCmd, which has basic commands (ctrl+c, ctrl+v, Esc, Del, alt, shift, ctrl, tab, ctrl+y, ctrl+z, Enter); ExcelNum, which is a numpad with 11 and 12 as “.” and enter; and the aforementioned ExcelBdr for table borders. I have a similar setup I use for SolidWorks, a 3d design program, except without the borders profile.

    For training myself to use the buttons, I spent 20 minutes or so typing digits of pi. I find I can press 1-6 with the tip of my thumb and 7-12 with the pad at the first joint of my thumb, and so I can hit all the buttons from six possible thumb positions.

    I’m still trying to figure out what works best for WoW; one thing I’ve tried is configuring some of the buttons as modifiers (ctrl+alt, ctrl+shift, alt+shift) and assigning all the buttons on one of the six hotkey bars to that modifier plus its number on the bar, and then grouping similarly functioning spells on the same bar, but pressing a modifier with my right hand to change the function of the key for my left hand doesn’t feel natural yet.

    Playing a druid who switches between specs a lot, it would be nice to press the same button for the same ability regardless of spec, but I’m still experimenting on how best to do this, and so I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have or what’s worked well for you.

  8. Somnar

    Cyn,

    That idea about the rule for the inbox is pure genius.

    Thank you!