Bryan Says...

Rants, opinions, and other stuff I find interesting.

Using your mac without the mouse

How awesome are you with your keyboard on the Mac? The Mac is surprisingly easy to use without the mouse. Don’t believe me? Have a look at this video (15 minutes of unadulterated awesome) and then come on back over.

I covered many topics in a pretty rapid motion. So let me summarize them for you here.

You can select the menubar with ctrl-F2, the dock with ctrl-F3, and the menu extras area with ctrl-F8. You might have to include the fn key if you don’t have “Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” selected in the Keyboard preference pane.

Launchbar is awesome. You really owe it to yourself to use this tool or something similar like Quicksilver, or the Google Quick Search Bar. Almost everything I do originates from Launchbar.

Finder is pretty accessible with the keyboard. You can move to different folders, open folders, and change your views easily.

Make sure to enable “Full Keyboard Access”. This will allow you to move around in dialogs and windows with your tab and arrow keys.

A newer tool called gleeBox allows you to take a “keyboard-centric approach to navigating the web”. I love this tool. There are versions for Chrome and Firefox.

I’m an avid user of gnu screen. You should be too. There is nothing worse than tab hell in my terminal. Speaking of terminals, I prefer iTerm over Terminal. iTerm is much more featured and allows for 256 colors. Hey Apple, it is 2010. I need more than 16 colors in my terminal.

For editing text, I suggest vim. THere is a slight learning curve, but once you get comfortable, vim is a keyboard lovers dream. You can navigate, explore and split windows with some not-to-hard-to-learn key combinations.

Normally you would resort to the moving windows around with the keyboard. With SizeUp you can move windows around and between desktops and monitors with few easy to learn keystrokes.

Now, I’ve given you a taste of what you can do without the mouse on the Mac. Anyone care to share any more tips I may have missed or not even known?

  • Ryan Bates

    Thanks for the screencast! It would be great to have a cheat sheet with all of the keyboard shortcuts you used here on it.

  • mhfs

    Nice. Learned a few tricks. Thanks.

  • xmilestegx

    Thanks for the sizeup recommendation. Exactly what I need for developing on my 13″ monitor.

    I use quicksilver, but only because it includes hotkey triggers and to replace what I do in quicksilver I would have to buy Keyboard Maestro and Launchbar. anyway, I've setup global hotkeys for skipping an album, repeating last album, stop playing at end of album, and start screensaver to lock computer as well. just another way to bypass the mouse.

    now if only my browser acted more like screen/emacs/vi I would be a very happy man. Conquerer is the closest in that it uses buffers, but won't allow frame splitting. pretty much a simple emacs like front end on a firefox backend.

  • adkron

    I get invalid file where the video should be.

  • bryanl

    Yes, something happened with the conversion of vimeo. The new
    conversion is almost done. Should only be about 10 more minutes.

  • ptujec

    Hi, I noticed you are using Chormium as your default browser. I would like to do this too. But I use LaunchBar to access my history and I didn't figure out how to add Chromiums History to the LaunchBar index. Any ideas.

  • cldwalker

    NIce screencast! Two tips that you may like:

    * A screenrc that let's you see your screen tabs and move to a specific one with a keystroke:
    * If you like gleebox for its web commands and bookmarklets, you may find interesting. Unlike ubiquity, it lets web commands have flags/options just like unix commands do.

  • bryanl

    Looks like the launchbar folks are going to have to add it. I don't really miss it that much.

  • rahul benegal

    If you want your browser to act like vim, please use Vimperator on Firefox. I simply cannot move to another browser now.

  • bryanl

    Even with vimperator, i can not use firefox consistently. something
    about it bothers me.

  • Sameer

    There's another cool little trick for Macs that I recently learnt: You can create a keyboard shortcut for any menu item in any application:

    Very, very useful.

  • strunk

    Nice presentation. Thank you!
    What's the Vim theme?

  • bryanl

    The vim theme is ir_black. You can get it here:

  • Jonathan

    This is probably an obvious thing to point out. Depending on your keyboard configuration, sometimes you'll have to use the “fn” key in conjunction with some of the keyboard shortcuts.

  • bryanl

    I realized that, and it is actually noted in the video. I'll update
    the post to reflect that later on.

  • ivar

    if you're keen on using chrome/chromium, try the vimium extension..

  • bryanl

    After recording the screencast, I actually found about vimium. I've
    been using it for a few weeks now.

  • Jason Coffin

    Another handy application for keyboard/command line junkies is DTerm ( I just started using it after a friend recommended it. I like it so far.

  • Pingback: dterm is hot – Smarticus

  • Veezus Kreist

    I love this post! I quit using the mouse (except to interact with web pages) some time ago. Lately, I've moved from the full-size keyboard to the laptop-sized one to stop me moving my hand to the cursor keys.

    I use Quicksilver and Spotlight together, but otherwise agree with most everything you said. Definitely going to check out gleeBox and vimium.

  • Jmiguel_84

    Hello, sorry to bother but i was wondering which theme for iterm are you using?
    i tried this,

    but the output of “ls” is still not very colorful…

    Thanks for video, it is cool.

  • bernie

    I’m looking for a way to select multiple non-contiguous files in the Finder. On my Windows machine at the office I can do this with ctrl + space and the arrow keys. How can I do this on my Mac?

  • bryanl

    I don’t think that is possible, but I would love to be proved wrong.

  • Tom Atkinson

    The ultimate hard to find one: how to perform a mouse click without a mouse.


    is there a way to like control the mouse, as in you press up the mouse gose up, anyone?

  • gym

    None of this works unless you are logged in. How do you login using the keyboard?

    Some posts have said:

    “on the Login Window (list of users) press the up/down arrows to highlight the user you want.
    - press enter/return (if you select the wrong user just press the esc key).
    - type your password and press enter/return again.”

    But my login screen on the new mac doesn’t list user accounts in the vertical fashion, they are listed horizontally. (none of the) Arrow keys don’t seem to work; CNTRL+F1, CNTRL+F2, and most other combos I’ve tried don’t work.

    Mac OS version: can’t tell since I can’t login. (think it is mountain lion, ~June2013)

  • Lara

    Thank you so much. RSI a serious problem now.

  • Azriel38

    Nice. You might like Short Cat. Whole screen via one short cut. Also Amethyst is great for windows. I would use it but my monitor is too wide. Keyboard Maestro is the most amazing keyboard app. I set up a whole window palette to divide up my screen multiple ways. It can also click the mouse and pretty much anything else.

  • nickwoodhams

    Shortcat lets you do a mouseclick inside of OS X.

    Unfortunately full keyboard access lets you do most things so there’s not a huge benefit for me. What would be more beneficial would be better keyboard navigation in Web Browsers (which is where we spend more time).