Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Navigate Gmail Using Your Apple Remote

When I first got my Mac, I was really impressed with Front Row and how easy it was to manage all of my media with an interface as sparse and simple as the Apple Remote. Yet, there was one thing that left me wanting -- "If only I could use it to check my email," I thought wistfully. "I'd never leave my couch!"

Finally, my ambition for laziness can now satisfied! Though lacks the shiny polish of Front Row, an application called iRed Lite allows mere mortals to customize the behavior of the Apple Remote. I've written what's called a "layer" in the iRed Lite parlance, which is basically a set of actions tailored for a specific application.

If this is something you're interested in trying out, a couple of caveats about my solution:

  • It assumes you are running Firefox.
  • It assumes you are always logged into Gmail (by checking "Remember me on this computer" at login).
  • So far it seems that iRed Lite cannot save an entire layer at once; each action must be saved as a separate script. I've created an archive called iRedLite_Gmail.zip consisting of actions which I map in the following manner:

Open - browse to Gmaildouble-click play
Open conversation (o)play
Back to conversation list (u)left
Star conversation (s)hold play
Previous conversation (k)up
Next conversation (j)down
Previous message (p)right
Scroll downdouble-click down
Scroll updouble-click up
Increase text size (cmd-=)double-click right
Decrease text size (cmd--)double-click left

Of course you can easily remap them any way you wish. Beware that iRed Lite tends to crash here and there, though -- save early, save often.

To recap, first download and install iRed Lite. Then download and unzip iRedLite_Gmail.zip, create a new layer and import the actions defined in each file in the archive.

3/15/08 update: Thanks everyone for your comments! To summarize:

  • My actions have been grouped into one file here.
  • You need to enable keyboard shortcuts in your Gmail Settings for this to work.
  • This doesn't play well with Firefox Beta 3; I'll do what I can to tinker with this:
    • You'll need to change the "increase font size" shortcut to send "cmd-+" instead of "cmd-=".
    • "Open Gmail" doesn't work.

I will work on a Google Reader version at some point. I will incorporate everyone's suggestions and post updates here.


  1. excellent!
    any tips for google reader, too?? :)

  2. Hi Vic,

    while it is correct that iRed Lite can not import or export layers, you can import groups of actions, already.
    I have compiled your separate actions into one piece. If you import this, it will create a top-level entry "GMail" with a "Navigation" group contained within.

    Cheers, Robert - tin:b Software

  3. There are a couple issues with your actions when using Firefox 3 Beta 3.

    "Open Gmail" doesn't seem to work at all, and I can't figure out why, so I simplified it to simply open the Gmail url and not check for open tabs.

    Also, it seems the increase font size keyboard shortcut has changed, because in my Firefox 3 Beta 3, the shortcut is "Command +". In your script you use "Command ="

  4. This is sweet!

    Couple of things to keep in mind for people who are going to use this:
    -make sure you have keyboard shortcuts enabled in your gmail settings or you're going to be scratching your head for a bit like me when it doesn't work!
    -add a "next message" command


  5. i'm sure this won't work for everybody, but if you have your homepage set to Gmail or don't mind making it gmail (with it set to "Remember me on this computer" of course) then using this code will work and not interfere with the webpages you may already have open:

    tell application "Firefox"
    end tell

    activate application "Firefox"
    tell application "System Events" to keystroke "n" using {command down}