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Most web sites pretty much assume that you have a mouse to click on links and navigate. If you don't, there are a few alternatives.

I suffer from mouse related RSI if not very careful and so have to find keyboard shortcuts for as much as possible. However one drag has always been the need to locate by mouse the "next page" box in internet articles. I can imagine the complexities, but do you know if anyone has created any software to locate this on a page and allow one to move to the next page by key press etc?

There is a way already built into most browsers, but it is most definitely not pretty.

There's also a pretty slick way for some types of links if you use Firefox.

There may be other solutions out there that perhaps my readers are aware of, but in the meantime let me tell you what I do know.

It's unfortunate, but using the web pretty much assumes you have a mouse. That poses a problem for a lot of people. We normally consider more severely impaired folks, but as you point out it's a problem for many people suffering from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries).

So one solution, of course, is to get a different mouse. Trackballs, even foot-mice are often alternatives that work well for many people.

But that's not your question.

"... using the web pretty much assumes you have a mouse."

What if there's no mouse at all?

The keyboard interface for web pages is simple: hit the TAB key. A lot. I mean A LOT. The tab key will move the focus from one link on the page to the next, and when it finally reaches the link you want you can press RETURN to take the jump. SHIFT+TAB takes you backwards through the links, and it may be faster if the link you're going to is near the bottom of the page.

The problem is that most web pages have lots of links. Sometimes hundreds. A Google search result, for example, has something like 8 links per result. With a default of 10 results per page, that's 80 links right there. Add to that Google's own navigation links, ads, and more and you're quickly well over 100 links on a single page.

That's a lot of TABbing. Heck, I suppose all that TAB pressing could result in RSI.

Firefox's built in quick search capability is pretty cool, and extremely simple.

As long as you're not in a form field that needs the keyboard to capture its input, typing "/" followed by text does a search on the page for that text. In real time, as you type, it moves you to the first instance of the text you've typed so far.

So while on that Google results page with 100 links, I typed this:

/next

And this was the result:

Google navigation list with Next highlighted

The first occurrence of the word "next" on the page is Google's navigation bar at the bottom, so Firefox took me there and highlighted it. You can see what I'm searching for in the Quick Find: box near the bottom of the page as well, as shown here.

And once "Next" is highlighted, pressing your RETURN key takes the link.

If there's more than one "Next" you can press F3 to move to the next, or SHIFT+F3 to move to the previous.

Of course "next" could be anything you're looking for, but you were looking for the next page link. This'll get you to it quickly and easily.

Sadly, it's still an incomplete solution.

Firefox's quick search feature searches for text, and unfortunately many web sites code their links to use images. So while "/" might be able to find the word "Next" on a page, it will not find an image of, say, an arrow containing the word "Next".

One last thing I'll point out is the "MouseKeys" functionality that's available in Windows. (Go to Control Panel, Accessibility Options, Mouse). It might be overkill, but it allows you to control the mouse pointer with the numeric pad keys on your keyboard.

Article C3212 - November 14, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Dan Ullman
November 14, 2007 12:20 PM

Firefox also has caret browsing. Press F7 and you can navigate the page using your arrow keys. Also, there are a number of accessibility extension for Firefox.

John Hileman
November 14, 2007 3:49 PM

A few more ideas that don't answer the question. You could try using your other hand. Or try a touch pad.

Simon
November 14, 2007 4:17 PM

http://www.opera.com/support/tutorials/nomouse/ -- "Use Opera without a Mouse: Spatial navigation". Nothing to match it. Beats FF's 'caret browsing' by miles.

Sam Bader
November 14, 2007 4:27 PM

If you're using Firefox:
There's a cool add-on that might help at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1341

The premise is that (if you're not in a form), you can hit the 'h' key and a number will appear beside every link on the page. Just type in the number and hit 'enter'.

It's just 3-5 key hits per link generally, instead of searching or tabbing allover, so it should take like a second to navigate. Pretty easy. You could probably find more complete instructions on Google if you want.

Paul Johnston
November 17, 2007 2:56 AM

An expensive but easy solution is to purchase dragon naturally speaking professional 9. It is used by a lot of people for rsi and in my case dyslexia. Takes a bit of training but all commands are voice activated. Good when you get used to it

Neil
November 17, 2007 7:06 AM

Another firefox addon is Mouseless Browsing (MLB) which allows you to use your numeric keypad to activate any link on a web page.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/879

Seed
November 17, 2007 4:39 PM

OK,

So how do you find the "MouseKeys" functionality on a mac that's similar to Windows. for example, you said, for windows users ,Go to Control Panel, Accessibility Options, Mouse.how do i do this same task on a mac?

Cheers/Seed.

Aaron
November 17, 2007 6:56 PM

To answer Seed about finding the same ability on the Mac:

Under OS X (I'm using Tiger but it should be similar regardless of version):
Open System Preferences
Look for Universal Access under System
Select the Mouse tab
You'll find a setting for Mouse Keys there.

To add to the RSI part of it, I've been using a symmetrical pointing device (a trackball in my case) and I'll switch hands every so often. This has kept me from having to result to therapy or surgery.

peter beck
November 19, 2007 8:30 AM

I also had serious problems with a conventional mouse, and I've ended up with an accommodation that involves a trackball and Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but the most significant help comes from MouseTool. MouseTool is software that clicks the mouse for me. It was given away with a caveat when I got it, years ago -- when you downloaded it, you were on your honor to make a donation to a charity of your choice -- and now it seems to be for sale (but beefed up) under the name Nib. I don't know what the price is, but I'm happy to offer a testimonial: it's been a real career-saver for me, and it's monumentally unpleasant to imagine what work would be like without it.

Rakesh jaybhaya
November 22, 2007 8:26 PM

I also had this problem when i've purchased my computer.Actullay my keboard has broken at that time.I can't live without internet so i decided to work without my keyboard to surf internet.One of mine friend told me that if tab key on your keyboard to move from one option to another one.
I tried this and it worked.
we can use shit+tab to move from one secreen to anotherone.

Michael
November 27, 2007 2:08 PM

THANK-YOU, THANK-YOU INFINITE you're the greatest

Nate
May 27, 2008 3:40 PM

Also, if you hit ' (apostrophe) in FF, it will search through links only.

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