Surfing Without a Mouse

I don’t use a mouse most of the time, because I have tendonitis in my forearms and find that I can use a keyboard for a whole working week without too much pain, whereas any mouse usage starts hurting badly in a day and half. As a web developer, I spend a lot of time with the Internet, developing on it, networking with it, reading on it, and so on – and I do it all without a mouse.

Spatial Navigation in Opera

The only browser I’ve ever managed to work with successfully is Opera, and most of my surfing uses the spatial navigation feature. Basically, you hold down shift, and use the arrows to jump around hyperlinks – much nicer than trying to tab around the place and getting stuck on some long list of links!

Keyboard Shortcuts

Opera has fabulous (and configurable) keyboard shortcuts. I could go on forever but my favourites are:
1 and 2 Next tab/previous tab
0 and 9 Make text bigger/smaller (its actually a zoom, so it works on pictures too)
6 Put the page back to the original size
Ctrl+t New tab
Ctrl+w Close tab
Ctrl+alt+z Open a tab that was closed, with all data still intact (I love this one!!)

With all of these put together, I can do pretty much everything.


The upshot of this is that I consider myself to have “accessibility requirements”. I don’t use a mouse, so I can’t click or mouseover. I use dropdown boxes by focussing and then arrowing down – so if yours triggers stuff at onchange, then I probably can’t use your site. I have javascript turned on most of the time, but plugins turned off (I can’t click on anything anyway) – and I regularly use Opera’s shortcuts for enabling/disabling CSS and images (ctrl+g and ctrl+i respectively) if I can’t see what’s going on. Opera also saves my preferences per site – so I can fiddle with settings for scripting and plugins on a per-site basis which is really helpful.

So there we go, if you have RSI problems, try using the ‘net from your keyboard. And if you thought “accessibility” went with “disabled”, think again.

3 thoughts on “Surfing Without a Mouse

  1. It’s worth bearing in mind that RSI is a quite general term. Although your condition precludes you from using a mouse, others may find they’re better off sticking with it than using the keyboard. But as an individual it’s certainly worth following your example to find an innovative solution to see what works best – for me it’s using the mouse left handed.

  2. Geoff: Ah yes, using a mouse left-handed works for quite a few people. Rather than curing RSI, I was trying to make the point that I access the net in a different way; I often get questions on this topic and I think its useful for others to see how I use the technology.

    • I love your advice. I always wanted to surf the web without having to use a mouse. I use OPERA most of the time. I just didn’t know about that spatial navigation feature. Thanks a lot

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