Using Windows without a mouse

Why would you not want to use your mouse? Some tasks are most efficiently done with a mouse, but others can be done more efficiently with the keyboard.The problem isn’t so much using a mouse versus using a keyboard but rather the time it takes to switch between the two modes. Particularly when using a laptop with a touchpad, it’s faster to use the keyboard.

Why does it even matter? So what if you save a few seconds here and there? It’s a matter of keeping up with your thoughts. Suppose some series of tasks takes 20 seconds with a mouse but you can accomplish the same tasks in 12 seconds using the keyboard. The big deal isn’t that you’ve saved 8 seconds; the big deal is that you’re more likely to finish your tasks before you lose the thought that motivated them.

The same could be said for learning to type more quickly. Typing 20% faster doesn’t directly make you 20% more productive unless you’re a professional typist. The benefit is that your fingers can come closer to keeping up with your brain.

If you’d like to get in the habit of using your keyboard more and your mouse less, you may find this helpful. I’ve created a Twitter account for posting one tip per day on using Windows without a mouse. If you’d like to follow using Twitter, it’s @SansMouse. If you don’t use Twitter, you could subscribe via RSS. I’ve written a few dozen tips so far and they’re in a queue to be dribbled one per day. You could practice one simple tip per day until it is natural to use your mouse much less.

I use my mouse fairly often, though I’m trying to get into the habit of using it less. I’ve recently become persuaded that it’s worthwhile to use the keyboard more and that it doesn’t take that much effort.

Related post: Four patterns in Windows keyboard shortcuts

12 thoughts on “Using Windows without a mouse

  1. Great idea!

    Two comments: First, there’s an ergonomic issue as well. The keyboard is usually right in front of you, so it’s easier to access than the outlying mouse. (To counter this, I use a small keyboard that doesn’t have the extra 6 inches of numeric keypad, etc., which makes it a bit less awkard to use a mouse.)

    Second, it really bugs me how certain keyboard shortcuts are not standardized across software. For example, Ctrl-F usually means “Find”, but not when you’re reading a message in Microsoft Outlook, where instead it means “Forward”! Aargh!

  2. Hi John

    Suppose some series of tasks takes 20 seconds with a mouse but you can accomplish the same tasks in 12 seconds using the keyboard. The big deal isn’t that you’ve saved 8 seconds

    On the contrary, I think this is a huge deal, given how many times a day someone might want to do that task. Or how many days a year.

    I have a lot of colleagues who are very mouse-dependent, and watching them slowly mouse-navigate everything makes me quietly crazy! I love your idea to start a Twitter account with hints, and I’ve signed up so I can learn something new too :)

  3. I actively use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse – especially in Word and excel, and also – very specifically – Photoshop, where the strain of using a mouse can be a bit of a literal pain.

    I have always assumed that my love of the keyboard is down to the fact that I started using PCs back in the days of DOS – there was no alternative! Lotus 123 and WordPerfect required the use of shortcuts – that was how they worked.

    Now I get odd looks from colleagues because I access menus without the mouse…

  4. PowerPoint allows lots of keyboard shortcuts while presenting. Just press F1 in presentation mode to see a list. I use B and ctrl-t all the time to get attention and then to page out of the PowerPoint to an Excel demo.

    PS: Ubuntu Linux with dwm as the window manager is pretty efficient.

  5. I don’t use Windows specifically, but Ubuntu Linux. There’s a tool there called “gnome-do” which I use a lot and that may be of some interest of inspiration. It sounds weird and counterproductive when you describe it – a pop-up that lets you write the beginning of commands, filenames and applications, and it starts, finds or activates whatever you wanted to do – but it’s really blindingly fast. A lot of common tasks become just two or three keypresses and it soon becomes second nature to do them that way.

    It’s worth looking up for a different perspecitve on keyboard navigation if nothing else.

  6. I just subscribed to your Twitter feed. What a great idea! I have always preferred keyboard shortcuts over the mouse going back … well as long as there have been mice. I know there are some shortcuts I don’t use and should. I agree with Chris that a few seconds here and there definitely add up. Hopefully your one-a-day method will prompt me to try some new ones out.

  7. I’ve always been a big believer in keyboard shortcuts. Whenever I see users reach for a mouse when they need to hit File, Save… well, I just be patient and remind myself that there’s one more user that we gotta save. :)

  8. Thanks for the article, I like to minimize the use of the mouse as much as possible, for the reasons you mention and also to minimize the risk of RSI.

    May I add a plug for a non-commercial package that enables you to start any application in your start-folder (or indeed any application, folder, file or url you choose)? It is called Humanized Enso Launcher and it uses the caps-lock to start.

    You can add custom actions and use the google feature: select text, hit capslock, type ‘google’ and your browser gives you the search results.

    If nothing else, certainly worth a try!

  9. me too.. right now, i’m trying to use windows without a mouse, but there’s a problem, it’s so much dificult to browsing webpage without a mouse, like facebook…

  10. Susanne Richardson

    This is a mouse that I really like–check it out–hint-it works something like a laptop fingerpad. Keeps your hands on the keyboard..

    One of my favorite shortcuts is to assign a keystroke to template styles–this was particularly useful when I was editing regulated documents in CTD format, like protocols, clinical study reports.

    I also like using the shift key+up/down and sideways arrows, to highlight text.

  11. My favourite shortcut is Shift-Right click when a folder is selected. This gives the option “Open command window here” and allows you to open the command prompt in the directory you want.

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