Problems started to arise when the baby got old enough to be interested in the computer, and instead of talking to my sister and watching the baby, the baby was hitting every keyboard key in sight and doing things to my sister’s computer I didn’t even know you could do with a keyboard.
My cats are also in on this secret, and many times I had very weird things happen when they decided to take a stroll on my keyboard. This got me interested in programs that can lock the keyboard and mouse while still allowing you to use the computer and its display. The selection is not huge by any means, but I managed to find several solutions to this problem.
While generally aimed at keeping your computer safe from kids (as the name suggests), Kid-Key-Lock can be useful in any number of scenarios.
Using Kid-Key-Lock, you can lock just your left mouse button, just the right button, just the wheel and the left and so on. You can choose any combination you wish. There are also several options for locking the keyboard, such as locking only system combinations (ctrl, alt, win combinations), locking all keys but character keys and so on. This is really handy because it means you can, for example, let someone type something using your keyboard, but do nothing else.
The options are not very fancy, but useful. You can set up passwords you can type at any time (even when the keyboard is locked), which will load the setup or quit the program. These are important, as they are your only way out if you decide to lock all keys and all mouse buttons. Fortunately, Kid-Key-Lock can detect when you start typing your password and remind you what the full password is.
This is a very flexible program and you can tweak it to lock exactly what you want, and only that. Quite useful, even if you don’t have babies or cats!
Toddler Keys is aimed at those who actually have babies or kids (cats and dogs might enjoy it too), by providing entertainment while the computer is locked. It’s not as flexible as Kid-Key-Lock — you can only lock the entire keyboard or both keyboard and mouse — but you can also lock drive doors (worked even on my laptop’s CD drive) and the power button. The power button option only works on Windows XP, unfortunately, so I was unable to test it.
But here comes the fun part: If you lock both keyboard and mouse, the screen turns black, and it reacts to mouse movements and keystrokes by drawing lines and displaying pictures of your choosing. It can even play sounds (WAV files only). This is a great way to keep a kid busy in front of the computer without worrying about him getting into something he shouldn’t. You can stop this mode by typing “quit”, or any other password you set up.
Here you can choose pictures and sounds to be displayed and played while the computer it locked. You can preview the images and play the sounds directly from this window.
Note that if you lock only the keyboard, the program does not enter this mode, so you can still use your mouse to do things, like load and watch a movie, without worrying about your cat stepping all over the keyboard in the middle of it.
If the previous two seem to be overly configurable to you, you might like KeyFreeze. KeyFreeze does one thing and one thing only — It locks your keyboard and mouse. When you run KeyFreeze, you get a small window with one button. When you click this button, you get a countdown and everything will lock in 5 seconds.
That’s it. To unlock, you need to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del and then Esc. I tried watching a movie with KeyFreeze on, and it worked great. The movie was playing smoothly, and nothing I did with the keyboard or mouse had any effect. Magic!
Be it kids, cats, clueless family and colleagues or just a stray mouse that gets accidentally clicked, locking your keyboard or mouse can prove to be extremely useful. If your kids (or cats) are already older and can actually use the computer, you can check out:
- Free Software Apps to Limit Your Kids’ Online Time
- Restrict Windows and Web Access for Kids with KidsMenu
- 10 Websites For Reading Children’s Stories Online
What do you use when you chat with babies on Skype? Any other useful ideas? Share in the comments.
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