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January 16, 2011

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Going Mouseless or How to Use a PC With a Keyboard

Mouseless PC Computing

Scoroncocolo, Scoroncocolo Tech Pages, ScarewareYou really don't need a mouse to operate a PC. The most efficient way to work with any Windows Operating System is with your keyboard.

Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

Your Keyboard Can Do Everything Your Mouse Can Do And More.

Just for fun, let's see if we can accomplish everything you normally do with a PC on a daily basis without touching your mouse.

On the first day of this year, 2011, I posted an article on this site about the New Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts. In the short time it's been up, that page has generated more traffic and email than any of the forty-some-odd articles I've written on computer tech related subjects during the past two years. The conclusions I draw from that are 1) Geeky people who read the geeky stuff I write really are interested in geeky things like keyboard shortcuts and 2) learning new ways to use something most of us spend at least 8 hours a day using to get our work done can be fun and it helps to break up the monotony of the daily grind.

While writing that page on Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts, I was tempted to include what I consider to be some of Windows most powerful and useful keyboard shortcuts. Those being the keyboard shortcuts that do jobs that many of us use the mouse for like, clicking a Desktop icon to open a program or opening a program on the Start menu or working in Windows Explorer. But since most of these weren't, strictly speaking, new Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts, I decided to write about them in a separate post and this is that post.

One of the the coolest of all Windows keyboard shortcuts is the ability to to use the Tab key in conjunction with the Arrow keys to interact with the Desktop or any other folder in Windows (the Desktop is just another folder/directory in Windows, after all) without ever having to touch your mouse. In the text box below, I'll explain how you can easily do that.

Another thing that a lot of people don't know is that you can very easily configure your computer so that you can move your mouses' pointer and/or curser with your keyboard. I'm not talking about moving your curser with the arrow keys while working in a Word document or a text document like Wordpad or Notepad. I'm talking about moving your mouse pointer across your Desktop or up, down or diagonally across this page you're reading right now. I'll explain how to do that in the in the third text box on this page.

Going mouseless will increase your productivity at work. Going mouseless will impress your co-workers, family members and friends. Going mouseless can be fun in the way a computer game is fun. And like a computer game, it can be challenging at times. And like any computer game, the more you play it the better at it you'll become. And once you get really good at mouseless computing, you'll never dream of going back to the non-geeky, mousey old ways you used to use to interact with computers.

How to Access a PC's Desktop with the Keyboard

The Powerful Tab Key and Arrow Keys

Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

Here Is the Win-key On Your Keyboard

In my previous post on the New Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts, the primary focus was on the use of the Win-key i.e. the key with the Windows logo on it located just to the left of the Alt key on the left side of your Spacebar. For instance, I explained how holding down this key and typing the 3 key among the numbers keys at the top of the keyboard would open the third program on your taskbar. In this post I want to demonstrate how you can use the Tab Key along with your Arrow Keys to do most of what you use your mouse for and that is, of course, clicking on icons and links to open programs and pages in Windows.

If you're on your Desktop or even if you have other windows open but the focus of your PC is on your Desktop and you hit your Tab key and then your Enter key you'll access Start. In other words Tab plus Enter is a keyboard shortcut for clicking your start Button provided your focus is on the Desktop. Of course the easiest way to access the Start button from the keyboard is to simply hit the Win-key. That will open the Start menu even if you are working in a Windows program or browsing the Web. But Tab plus Enter works just as well as long as you are on your Desktop. And of course once the Start menu is activated you only have to use your down, up, left and right arrow keys to navigate through all your options and use your Enter key to open any program that's highlighted.

But here's where using the Tab key on your Desktop gets cool. If your PCs focus is on the Desktop and you hit the Tab key twice the focus falls on the first program on your taskbar i.e. all those icons to the right of your Start button. Try it for yourself. Hold down your Win-key and type the letter d thus using the Windows keyboard shortcut Win-key + d to go to your Desktop and type your Tab key twice. You can use Win-key + d again to come back to continue reading this page. You must have noticed that hitting your Tab key two times highlights the first program on your taskbar. After that first program is highlighted, you can use your right Arrow key to move to the next program on your taskbar. Once you land on the program you want, just type your Enter key to launch it. Cool, huh?

But typing the Tab key while on your Desktop gets even cooler. If you hit it three times you can access the notification bar on the right side near your clock. Typing the Tab key four times in succession will give you access to the Show Desktop button in Windows 7 which was one of the things I talked about in my previous post on the New Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts. But the coolest thing of all about using the Tab key while on your Desktop is that if you hit it five times it will highlight one of your Desktop icons. Once that happens you can use your up, down, left and right Arrow keys to maneuver among your Desktop icons until you land on the one you want and then press Enter to launch it. Even better, once your have an icon highlighted on your Desktop, you can type the first letter of the program you want to open and Windows will highlight that program. If you have more than one program on your Desktop that begins with the letter g, for instance, just keep typing the letter g until you land on the one you want. Why don't you use the keyboard shortcut Win-key + d to go to your desktop and try this right now. I'll wait right here until you come back.

Often, you can highlight one of your Desktop icons by typing any one of the Arrow keys but typing Tab 5 times always works. And if you want to right-click something with the keyboard you can use the Application key. It's between Alt and Ctrl to the right of your spacebar. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F10 to right-click any item that's highlighted or selected.

How To Move Your Mouse with the Keyboard

Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

Use the Keys on Your Keypad to Move Your Pointer

You might ask, how can I highlight something I want to copy, if I can't use my mouse? Good question. And there are many occasions when moving your mouse's pointer is something we all instinctively reach for our mouse to do. But you don't really have to because you can do all of your mouse work with your numeric keypad. If you'll look at the keypad on the far right side of your keyboard, you'll notice that the numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8 have arrows on them. Once you have Mouse Keys turned on, you can use these keys to move your mouse's pointer in the direction the arrows on these keys indicate. You can also use the 1, 7, 9 and 3 keys to move the mouse's pointer diagonally. If you want to click something just type your 5 key. If you want to right-click something type the Application key or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F10 as I mentioned earlier.

Once your Mouse Keys are activated, you can continue to use your mouse exactly as you always have in the past. The only difference is that now you'll be able to do the same thing using your keyboard. To turn your Mouse Keys on you can use the Windows keyboard shortcut Alt + left/Shift + Num Lock Or you can manually turn them on by going to the Windows Control Panel. Even if you use the shortcut to turn on the Mouse Keys, you may want to go to the Control Panel anyway so that you can go to the Settings option and speed up Mouse Keys as the default setting makes the pointer move very, very slowly. Here are the directions for manually turning on and off your Mouse Keys.

  • Click Start, Settings, Control Panel.
  • In the Control Panel open Accessibility Options or Ease of Access.
  • Click the Mouse tab.
  • Check the "Use Mouse Keys" check box.
  • If you want to increase the speed or change any other settings, click on the Settings button.
  • Click Apply and then close out of the box.

Just remember that in order for your keyboard to be able to control your mouse's pointer not only will you have to have Mouse Keys enabled but you'll also have to have your Num Lock key engaged. Your Num Lock key is the first key above the number 7 on your on your numeric keypad.

So let's try doing something useful with this. Let's say you want to highlight this sentence so that you can copy it and later paste it in an email you're planning to write. You could, of course as we all know, use your mouse to click in front of the first word in the sentence and then move your mouse to the last word in the sentence and hold down your Shift key and click again. We've all down this thousands of times. But can this be done without touching your mouse? Well, now you know that the answer to that question is yes. This can be done with the keyboard.

In fact, there is absolutely nothing that you can do on a PC with a mouse that you can't do using your keyboard. Do what I do and make a game of it. Keyboarding is sometimes challenging but it's fun and getting good at it will help you speed through the work you have to do everyday so that maybe you'll have more time to... well... goof-off.

Scoroncocolo's List of the New Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts

Show the Desktop Shortcut

  • Win-key + Spacebar···Peak at the Desktop without actually going there.
  • Win-key + d···Toggle back and forth from your Desktop to your open windows.

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts Using the Arrow Keys

  • Win-key plus the down Arrow-key···Makes a window less than full-screen.
  • Win-key pluse the up Arrow-key···Makes the window full-size again.
  • Win+Shift+Right/Left arrow···If you have more than one monitor, moves the current window left or right.
  • Win-key pluse the left Arrow-key···Docks a less than full-size window to the left side of the screen.
  • Win-key pluse the right Arrow-key···Docks a less than full-size window to the right side of the screen.
  • Win-key pluse t···Allows you to use your Arrow keys to scroll through the taskbar.
  • Win-key pluse b···Allows you to use your Arrow keys to scroll through your Systems Trey.

More Cool Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Win-key plus (1 through 9)···Opens the corresponding program on your taskbar.
  • Alt plus Win-key plus (1 through 9)···Opens the Jump List of the corresponding program on your taskbar.
  • Win-key plus Tab···Activates Flip 3d.
  • Ctrl plus Win-key plus Tab···Freezes Flip 3d. Use Esc key or click a window to deactivate Flip 3d.

Thanks For Visiting the Tech Pages

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