Monday, July 21, 2008

Effortless Web Browsing Without Moving the Mouse

Well, it's not really effortless, but it does reduce the use of your mouse to quite an extent while browsing the Web. And it doesn't even take 1/10th of the time you'll take to read this. Alas, this works only in Firefox.

Everybody who loves using the keyboard knows the annoyance that they feel when browsing the Web. You just can't do a lot of things without a mouse. Of course, you can always press zillions of tabs to reach the exact link you want, but that is prohibitively boring. It turns out there's an easier way to do a lot of such things in Firefox.

All you have to do is load a page and then press Ctrl+F. This opens the Firefox Find Toolbar at the bottom of the window. Now, if you know which link you want to click, you know at least a word from the link text. Just start typing that word and Firefox will highlight that word in the page for you as you type. If you're not already at the link by the time you finish, just press F3 or Enter (for Find Next) a few times until you are. Now, when you see that word highlighted, just press Escape to make the Find Toolbar go away. Wallah!! The link is surrounded by the familiar dotted line, which shows focus on the link. Just press Enter now & there you go, you've clicked the link.

The same trick can be used to reach input fields of a form. Just type the label of the field (e.g. Username or Search) after Ctrl+F and once you're at the label, press Escape. You're at the label and the input field is just one Tab away. So also for buttons.

Same for links in images and other stuff you can't reach from the Find Toolbar. Just find something that is close enough and in a couple of Tabs, you're at the link you want.

For normal browsing, when you haven't decided where you want to go, the page can be seen by just scrolling using the arrow keys and page-up/page-down. Then, when you know which link to use, just use the trick above.

And you thought the 'find-as-you-type' Find was just a cool feature in Firefox, not of great use? ;-)

Update 21/07/2008

This trick works with text entered in a field, too. So, if you're writing a long post or e-mail, just press Ctrl+F to look up something you just wrote.

Update 04/09/2008

It would've been unfair if I hadn't commented on Google Chrome, Google's own entry into the browser brawl. Unfortunately, although Chrome has used parts of the Firefox codebase, the trick explained here doesn't work. When you quit the find box, the tab focus goes to the top, defeating the whole purpose.


The Yearling said...

If you want to take it to extreme, you could use conkeror. It's the mix of emacs + firefox!

Pratik Mehta said...

Perhaps Older then Ctrl+F are two keypad shortcuts that can do this. While focus is not in a text box, typing slash (/) opens quick find. typing quote (') opens quick find for links only.

Also when you don't know which link is to be traversed, As mentioned in article, Tab can be used.

Viraj said...

Yes, the / and ' hotkeys are rather useful. However, it should be kept in mind that ' only looks for links, and so won't find things like textbox labels, etc.

And, as I have said, titles on push buttons can not be 'found' at all - you'll have to find something close enough and then tab onto the button you want to press.