The ramblings of a dweeb who lives life like it's 2005

Category: Reviews

Seedy Reviews: KeyOp by Day Garwood

Very few times do I consider a piece of software or its developer worthy of a personal review. However, with the software I’ll be talking about today, I simply had to make an exception. The software in question, KeyOp, is quite literally changing the way I interact with the Windows operating system. I’ve been using Windows for 20 years now. Throughout virtually all this time, I’ve been using things like desktop icons, the start menu, and the run dialog for launching installed programs. However, with KeyOp, this near two-decade old habit is quickly being replaced by a much speedier, more efficient way of working with the OS.

What is KeyOp?

KeyOp is a free utility for Windows written by a blind, UK-based software and music producer by the name of Day Garwood.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Day by voice online a few days ago. In doing so, I found out that we have some things in common. We’re both British, we both like screwing around with tech and writing code, we both like text to speech synthesis, and we’re both into listening to and producing music, to name a few. He seems a genuinely funny, kind-hearted person to be around. But this isn’t a review of Day himself, this is a review of his software. Or, maybe this review just became a review within a review?
The basic idea of KeyOp is that it allows you to quickly and easily launch any Windows program you have installed on your system with a keyboard shortcut. Well, actually, 2 keyboard shortcuts. The first is a three-key combination, such as Shift + Control + P. This is known as a category. Basically, what type of thing are you trying to launch? The second shortcut is a single key which you press to actually launch the desired program or website; yes, this thing even lets you launch websites! This is known as a trigger, because it triggers the opening of the program or website tied to that key. Each category can house one or more triggers. For example, instead of manually typing

every time you wanted to visit this blog, or even launching it from your bookmarks, you could set up a web category, assign it to something like Control + Shift + W, then create a trigger that opens your default web browser to

with a single hit of the S key! In addition, these triggers can be activated from anywhere within Windows, such as the desktop or any running program, without the need for desktop icons, start menu shortcuts or what not! Version 1.2 even lets you define subcategories. For example, in your programs category, Shift + Control + P, you could have a subcategory for launching multimedia software, Shift + Control + M, and another subcategory for launching web browsers, Shift + Control + B, with each subcategory having its own triggers.


Very high speed, a very low footprint

Being written purely in the programming language of C, KeyOp is extremely responsive and fast. So fast, in fact, that when I click on my desktop shortcut to run KeyOp, it quite literally takes an instant to launch! Before my heart has even had a chance to beat, KeyOp is up and running, ready for me to open a program or website!
What’s more, the program is very small, with the main executable only being 951KB in size; one of the many beauties of C! It’s also very light on system resources. As of writing, KeyOp is using virtually 0% of my CPU, and only 600KB of my 8GB RAM. Six hundred kilobytes! Just 40 kilobytes shy of the amount of RAM Bill Gates allegedly said ought to be enough for anybody, way back in 1981!


The keyOp zip file clocks in at just over 1.8MB. Also, KeyOp is very self-contained, meaning it doesn’t store anything outside its own folder. Everything from the UI sound files to the KeyOp configuration file, keymap.ini, is stored within a single folder. This makes it great for carrying around on a USB flash drive or SD card, since all your KeyOp settings will be there, regardless of the computer KeyOp is running on. Provided, of course, that computer B has the exact same programs installed in the exact same locations as computer A. Also, since KeyOp does not try to access the registry or any other protected location within Windows, it does not need administrator permissions in order to run. If certain cards are played right, you could run this thing on a school computer if you really wanted to! Another thing that makes KeyOp so small is the fact that its UI sounds are stored in FLAC format. FLAC files can be made very small without losing any quality, so they’ll sound just as good as they would if they were uncompressed wave files.

Out of sight, out of mind

KeyOp keeps an extremely low profile when running on your system. It doesn’t take up valuable space in either your task bar or system tray, and there are no pop-up dialogs, ads, or toast notifications that get in your way. The only indication you’ll get is a couple of short sounds that play when you activate categories and triggers.

The ultimate in customizability and ease of use

The sheer power of this program lies in its keymap.ini file. You can define both categories and triggers for pretty much any program or website you want, and assign virtually any key(s) on your keyboard to these categories and triggers, with a well-written, simple-to-understand manual guiding you every step of the way. What’s more, as of V 1.2, each category or trigger can have a custom UI sound assigned to it. Just be careful you don’t assign a category to a key combination that is already in use by either Windows itself, or another running program, otherwise there’s a high chance that KeyOp will refuse to run. Key conflicts are pretty much unavoidable, and are a problem with any program that deals with keyboard shortcuts, not just KeyOp. What’s also cool is that when defining a trigger for an installed program, you don’t even need to enter the full path to the program’s main executable file. If the program has an execution alias, Firefox is an example of this, or the executable file is in your path variable, you need only enter the name of the file, and you don’t even need the file extension! Speaking of variables, KeyOp is also built to handle Windows environment variables, such as %appdata%, when entering program file paths. This means that


will work just as well as


You can also refresh the configuration if you decide to add a new category or trigger to the file later on while KeyOp is running. This allows KeyOp to reload your keymap.ini file with the new changes without you having to shut down the program and launch it again.

Awesome UI sounds

Those who know me well will know that I love my UI sounds. KeyOp does not disappoint in this department! There’s a UI sound for just about any occasion, from starting KeyOp, to activating a category or trigger, to trying to activate a trigger that doesn’t exist in any categories, to shutting down the program. Each UI sound has a retro vibe to it, especially the startup and shutdown sounds, which personally remind me of the Windows NT 4.0 startup and shutdown sounds with their electronic synth type elements.

A responsive, reliable developer

Yes, I know, I said this review would not be a review within a review. However, I need to talk about the fact that Day is an incredibly responsive, reliable and respectable developer who actually listens to user feedback and tries his best to act on it. After all, it’s not just stable, well-written code that makes a good program, it’s also the developer of said program. The reason for Day’s responsiveness is not only his awesome personality, but the fact that he is a lone developer, not working for some massive billion/trillion dollar tech company with a corporate structure more puzzling and complex than a rubik’s cube. This means that Day is able to quickly respond to feedback and improve KeyOp’s code without messages being passed to 5000 different teams and departments, half of them just not thinking its worth the time or effort and sitting on their backsides all day scratching their privates while enjoying their constant, fast-flowing money showers.


Honestly, I see know major downsides with KeyOp! It is truly a wonderful little program, through and through!

Final rating

Day Garwood has dedicated many hours and days of his busy life to ensure that KeyOp remains as fast, simple, reliable, stable, accessible and responsive as it can possibly be. KeyOp is a prime example of how anyone can create excellent quality products, even when wearing L plates. I’m sure that if you give KeyOp a try, your cyber life will be changed forever, whether you are blind or sighted. After all, you sighted folks really need to start using more keyboard shortcuts instead of expecting everyone to deal with the mouse all the time.
With all this in mind, I award KeyOp by Day Garwood an extremely rare 10 out of 10! May this virtual golden trophy serve as a permanent reminder of both your awesome software and personality! Keep up the good work!

Conclusion and credits

If you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it, and you’d like to try out KeyOp for yourself, you can download the zip file from Day’s website. To extract the zip file, follow the instructions in your archiver of choice.
If you’re on the Mastodon platform, you can follow Day on the TweeseCake Social instance. You do not need an account on the TweeseCake Social instance to follow Day. You can simply follow him from the instance you’re currently on.
I must also thank Rebecca Legowski for contributing many of KeyOp’s UI sounds, as well as a few suggestions on how the project could be improved, bug fixes etc. The strong partnership between Day and Rebecca, and KeyOp’s constant high standards of stability, reliability and general coolness, proves the old adage: ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’.

Seedy Reviews: Nathan Tech



I can’t exactly remember when I first encountered Nathan Tech, but I know it was a while ago; long before this site, and the Fireseed Network in general, was a thing. I found out about a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) called Cosmic Rage. I was actively searching for MUDs to get into at the time, so I thought I’d try it out. Unfortunately, it turned out that me and MUDs don’t exactly mix. However, when I landed on the website where the MUD was, I did some deep diving and found that there was a whole lot more to this content generating entity than just Cosmic Rage. An RSS feed reader? A media player? A website builder? What the hell was going on here?
I eventually found out that the creator of these projects was a blind UK-based software developer by the handle of Nathan Tech. Having tried some of his products over the years, and having had the honour of actually meeting the man himself at the beginning of this year, I thought to myself: why not write a review about this guy? However, this thought would soon recede into the back of my mind and fade to dust. The event that really inspired me to write this article was a March Pat Price Tek Talk podcast in which Nathan discusses the history of Nathan Tech and the software and other projects he’s developed over the years.

Who, or what, is Nathan Tech?

First, let me start by saying that Nathan Tech is not this guy’s real name. It is simply the handle that all his projects fall under. His real name is actually Nathan Smith, which he shares publically.
As I mentioned above, Nathan Tech is a blind software developer from the United Kingdom. I say software developer, but he’s done a lot more than just develop software since he started in early 2013. Some of his most notable works include audio tutorials covering writing websites in HTML5, programming in Python and using Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader on iOS. He has also made some audio games over the years. The following is a list of some of his software projects.

  • Calliope, a powerful media player that has support for many different file types. It’ll basically play any audio or video file you throw at it.
  • Luna RSS, a fully featured RSS feed reader, podcatcher and feed builder
  • .

  • Sunrise Waterfall, a feature-packed utility that allows you to make awesome websites and documentation files without any coding skills whatsoever
  • .

All Nathan Tech’s software is 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. It is also written for Windows, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. Nathan Tech, NT, Windows NT!

How this review works

This review is divided into 3 sections: upsides, downsides, and over all rating out of 10. The magnitude of the upsides and downsides will decide the over all rating, so future review subjects… beware! Each upside and downside will be titled with a level 3 heading, then a brief explanation will follow. Don’t fly in expecting a perfect 10, however, as there’s a downside to all things in this world, and not everyone is perfect.


1. Nathan Tech gives all and expects nothing back

Every single project of Nathan Tech’s is usable by everyone free of charge, and nothing is expected of anyone in return. Basically, Nathan’s view on donations is that if you’re going to ask for donations, you might as well charge. While I kind of agree with him, I have to ask: is he sort of saying that projects like NVDA should be paid? Never the less, this is definitely worth a million altruism points.

2. No annoying nags

Before I continue with the video, let me remind you to please subscribe to my channel and purchase my merch.


Today’s Top Deal! (insert product here) is now 75% off for one week only!

We’ve all been there before. Don’t you just find yourself pressing the skip button? I do. However, Nathan Tech doesn’t do any of that stuff. What you get with Nathan Tech is free of charge and free of hassle! Like a radio station that lets you enjoy your favourite music hits constantly without cutting to a 10+ minute ad break every 5 god damn minutes, or ending a song after the first verse so the DJ can chat a load of useless hot garbage about “the latest trend that’s sweeping the internet!”.

3. Always willing to improve

No project is free of errors, and Nathan Tech’s projects are no exception. However, he’s always reaching out to people for ways he can make his work better for everyone, be it fixing software bugs, correcting errors in a tutorial or improving the accessibility and user experience of his products. Most companies will just give you a canned reply, telling you that they value your feedback and they’ll pass it on to their teams so they can look into it. The next thing you know, it’s 5 months later and the company hasn’t done a god damn thing to resolve the issue you reported. Either that, or they started working on your issue 3 months prior, but have been too busy sitting on their backsides all day drinking tea to finish the job. Give Nathan a problem to solve, and it’ll most likely be solved in a matter of days or weeks!

4. He knows how to deal with tech illiterates

If there’s one thing Nathan is a lot better at than me, it’s dumbing stuff down so that the computer illiterate crowd can understand the points he’s putting across. Not only that, but he breaks things down into little pieces, assisting those who struggle to process very large amounts of information so they can take each bit of information in and process it in their own time. This is especially good for people like me who have a hell of a hard time dealing with huge user manuals with thousands of pages and subpages that are divided into a hundred different sections and subsections.

5. Accessible to all

I mentioned at the start of this article that Nathan Tech’s products are 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. However, they are really built with everyone in mind, no matter what kind of disability you have, or if you’re not disabled at all. Nathan’s tag line is

It’s not disability, it’s ability

. I don’t agree with this all the way from a realistic, scientific prospective, but the work he produces for the community at large really lives up to it.


Honestly, the upsides mostly outweigh the downsides. However, as I stated at the start of this article, everything in this world has a downside.

1. OS Limiting

OK, I’ll be reasonable with this one, as not everyone has the same mind set as me. If you know me well, you’ll know that I absolutely hate OS limiting software. That is, software that has very strict operating system requirements, such as only running on 64-bit versions of an operating system or requiring the latest and greatest operating system in order to run; I’m looking right at you, AltStore! Being a part of the vintage/retro tech community, I believe software developers should strive to make their software available on as wide a range of operating systems as possible, both new and old. Why can’t we have more RetroArch’s in this world?
A large amount of Nathan Tech’s software, including Calliope and Sunrise, suffers from OS limiting, requiring at least Windows 7 with a bunch of updates in order to run. However, they do support Windows 7, and they do run under 32-bit versions of Windows. Also, Luna RSS has Windows XP support. Hell, I even managed to get the thing to run under Windows 2000!

2. He was here, now he’s not

Again, I won’t be too harsh with this one, as I believe Nathan is doing a university degree at time of writing. I know how stressful education can be, I’ve been there many a time. However, it can be quite frustrating at times. Nathan can be very active online, chatting, developing, releasing… and then he’ll just fly off the face of the earth, taking days or even weeks to return.

Over all rating

Over all, Nathan Tech gets an excellent 8.75 out of 10. His altruistic nature, fiery passion for his work and willingness to help and support others no matter what earns him my highest honour. Let’s all take our hats off to this guy and what he brings to our world! Keep up the awesome work!


If you’d like to experience Nathan Tech’s work and show him some love yourself, you can check out his website and follow him on Twitter. The more people who know about this guy, the better. So go on, spread the awesomeness!

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