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If you’ve been reading my articles for quite some time, you’ll know that I am quite keen on keyboard shortcuts.   But the one thing that has eluded me until now was being able to abandon the mouse altogether and use the keyboard to “click” on webpage links.    Well now you can, thanks to a Firefox extension called “Mouseless Browsing”.

I’ll be honest upfront and say that it can be a little irritating at first to use.   It’s also not very visually appealing as you can see below.  But if you persevere with it and work with it, you’ll start to realise that it can be quite a useful tool that can save you time by not having to reach for the mouse everytime you need to click on a link.

As you can see from the screenshot, it works by assigning a number to every link on a page.   You can choose in the options to either have those numbers showing all the time or you can toggle those numbers to appear on and off.    I chose to toggle them on and off with the use of the key combination CTRL + ALT.    Then whenever you want to go to a particular link, just type the link number on your keypad, press “return” and your browser takes you to that page!    Quick, easy and no mouse necessary!

So how does it get a little irritating?   Well for a start, if you specify a bad key combination to toggle the feature on and off, you can also accidently switch the feature on if you use those keys for something else.  For example, I initially chose CTRL + ALT for my toggling so when I then did CTRL + ALT + DEL to bring up the Windows Task Manager, that also turned on “Mouseless Browsing”.   If I pressed the ALT key to then press another key to type the @ symbol, that also started the “Mouseless Browsing” feature.   So I needed to change my key combination to stop all of that.    So choose your key combination carefully otherwise whenever you start other processes, your screen is suddenly filled up with numbers!

I’ve also noticed that certain other webpages are messed up design-wise if this extension is switched on.   Google Reader doesn’t respond too well to “Mouseless Browsing” for example.   But I’ve noticed that if you toggle the extension off, refresh Google Reader then toggle the extension back on again, everything is OK again.    There seems to be a bug somewhere.

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One other piece of advice – in the options, don’t choose “use numpad exclusively for Mouseless Browsing”.  If you choose that, your keyboard numberpad will be frozen out for all other functions you need it for.

If you’re a keyboard shortcut fan, this is the Firefox extension for you!   Once you get used to it, you’ll be whizzing through pages, your hands a blur, and your mouse will be sitting there looking forlorn and neglected.

  1. jim
    September 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Opera has this feature. Its called spatial navigation.

    Just hold shift and the up/down/left/right arrow to nagivate the links on the page.
    Operas also got customizable keyboard shortcuts for other things.

  2. abacus
    September 27, 2008 at 12:27 am

    I used this and like it since i have mild rsi and using a mouse DOES can me pain, BUT mouseless browsing breaks/cripples the one program i used the most in a day...and that is google reader.

  3. David Hostyk
    September 26, 2008 at 9:15 am

    You can get rid of the mouse completely by using Integrated Keyboarding, available at:
    http://www.inkeyboard.com
    which allows you to move the mouse and cursor, highlight, scroll, drag, number and delete without moving your hands from the home key position. This is efficient, rational, and simple approach to keyboarding.

  4. Altzan
    September 26, 2008 at 8:45 am

    I noticed in Opera when you right-click a link, it says the usual 'open in new tab' or 'open in new window' but each has a keyboard shortcut next to them. How would you utilize that? highlight the link and use the shortcut, or something?
    This extension is no go for me because I don't use Firefox so I thought I'd mention this.

  5. housetier
    September 26, 2008 at 7:48 am

    also vimperator http://vimperator.mozdev.org/ enables mouseless browsing.

  6. PeterD
    September 25, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    There is no way at all this will make browsing quicker, its a tip to slow down productivity essentially. It really must be such a hassle taking half a second to click a link, as opposed to read a number, process the number and then type it.
    I am starting to despair at make use of, sick and tired of using a pc monitor, what I like to use is paper, I copy everything down from the screen and write it on something I call paper.

    • Mark O'Neill
      September 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

      You make it sound as if "reading the number, processing the number and typing it" is a huge mental challenge for the human body, when in fact it takes mere milliseconds! if you're typing fast and surfing fast, typing those numbers and being able to keep those fingers on the keyboard instead of moving your fingers to the mouse CAN save time. I'm sure others will agree with me.

      If you are "despairing of Make Use Of", feel free to unsubscribe and stop reading us. No one is forcing you to stick around.

      • PeterD
        September 27, 2008 at 3:58 am

        Oh I didnt realise the articles were beyond criticism.

        • Aibek
          September 27, 2008 at 7:36 am

          "..Oh I didnt realise the articles were beyond criticism."

          No they aren't but so are the comments :-) ... Everyone who has somethig to say can do so

        • PeterD
          September 27, 2008 at 5:16 pm

          But it appears that its only the writers and contributors that have issue, its a lame article, read it, why make life difficult for yourself just to be different?????

  7. Kerk
    September 25, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    There is a great Greasemonkey script called Google Reader Quick Links that does the same thing, but works very well with Google Reader (obviously).

    • Mark O'Neill
      September 26, 2008 at 9:52 am

      That looks really cool! I'm going to try this out! Thanks!

  8. Suggestion
    September 25, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Or you could just use the built-in Firefox shortcut and press the ' key. (it's like the forward slash key [Quick Find], but searches for links only)...so then you start typing the link and it'll highlight it and then you press enter)

    Sure, it's a bit more typing work, but you don't have to have a plugin adding numbers all over the place.

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