Missing Or Broken Mouse? Operate Windows Completely From Your Keyboard

operate windows without a mouseYour computer’s mouse may seem like an essential peripheral, but it’s not – it’s just nice to have. If you don’t have a working mouse around – or if you just feel like learning some new keyboard tricks – you can use your Windows computer entirely from the keyboard.

These keyboard tricks can help make you more productive even if you have a mouse – you may find yourself using these shortcuts instead of taking your fingers off your keyboard and reaching for your mouse, saving you time. Give them a try and you may find yourself adding some new tricks to your repertoire.

Launching Programs

Launching programs without touching your mouse is easy, whether you want to launch the programs from your start menu, taskbar, or desktop.

  • Start Menu: Press the Windows key and type part of a program’s name to search for it. Press Enter to launch the selected program or use the arrow keys to select another program before pressing Enter. You can also use this trick to quickly open files and access settings windows from the Windows control panel. (This works on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows Vista.)
  • Taskbar: Press the Windows key and a number key to launch or switch to an application on the taskbar. For example, if the leftmost taskbar icon is Google Chrome, pressing Windows Key+1 will launch or switch to it. Windows Key+2 will switch to the second icon from the left, and so on. (This requires Windows 7 or Windows 8.)
  • Desktop: Press Windows Key+D to minimize your open programs and view your desktop. Use the arrow keys to select a desktop icon and press Enter to launch it. You can also press Windows Key+D again to restore your minimized programs.

operate windows without a mouse

Managing Windows

While most of us normally use the mouse to manage windows, you can easily manage them with a few keyboard shortcuts:

  • Close a program: Alt+F4
  • Minimize a window: Windows Key+Down arrow
  • Maximize a window: Windows key+Up arrow
  • Make a window take up half of your screen: Windows Key+Left arrow or Windows Key+Right arrow
  • Move a window:  Press and release Alt+Space, press M, use the arrow keys to move the window, and then press Enter.
  • Resize a window: Press and release Alt+Space, press S, use the arrow keys to resize the window, and then press Enter.
  • Switch between open windows: Alt+Tab

operate windows with keyboard

Using Applications

Press the Tab key to move the focus between elements in a window – for example, to select different text fields or buttons. When an option or button is highlighted, use the Space key to activate it. To move the focus in reverse, press Shift+Tab. You can also often use the arrow keys to switch between buttons and options in a window, although this won’t work if your cursor is trapped in a text entry field — press Tab if that happens.

To use a program’s menus, hold the Alt key. You’ll see certain letters in the menu bar become underlined. Press that key to activate the menu. For example, press Alt+F to open a program’s File menu or press Alt+E to open the Edit menu. Once in the menu, use the arrow keys and press Enter to select a menu option. You can also press the underlined letter to activate a menu option. (Note that this may not work with some applications, but it should work with most applications that have traditional File/Edit/View menus.)

operate windows with keyboard

To perform a right-click at the current location of the cursor, press Shift+F10. Use the arrow keys and press Enter to select a context menu option.

Scrolling and Working With Text

These text editing shortcuts can help even if you’re a big mouse user. Because your fingers are already on the keyboard when you’re entering text, using keyboard shortcuts instead of reaching for your mouse can speed things way up.

  • To scroll up or down in a document or web page, press the Page Up and Page Down keys. To go to the top or bottom of the document, use the Home or End keys.
  • To move the cursor, use the arrow keys. To move the cursor more quickly through text, hold Ctrl as you press the arrow keys – for example, if you hold Ctrl as you press the left arrow key while editing text, your cursor will move to the beginning of the previous word. Pressing Ctrl+Up Arrow will move your cursor to the beginning of the previous paragraph. This allows you to move between words much more quickly.
  • To select text, hold Shift while you use the arrow keys. (You can also use the Page Up, Page Down, Home, End, or Ctrl+arrow key tricks to quickly select a large amount of text.) With your text selected, press Ctrl+C to copy it or Ctrl+X to cut it. Ctrl+Z will paste your copied or cut text at the current location of the cursor.

For more keyboard shortcuts for working with text, check out our list of universal keyboard shortcuts for text editing.

Moving the Mouse Cursor With the Keyboard

If you don’t have access to a mouse and need one, you can use the Mouse Keys feature in Windows. Mouse Keys allows you to control the on-screen mouse cursor with the number pad at the right side of your keyboard. (Many smaller laptops don’t have number pads, but they should have trackpads that allow you to move the mouse, anyway.)

To enable Mouse Keys, press the left Alt key, the left Shift key, and the NumLock keys at the same time. Press Enter to confirm.

operate windows without a mouse

You can now use the keys on the number pad to move your mouse cursor. The 5 key in the middle of the number pad functions as a left-click, while the keys surrounding the 5 move your cursor. This only works if NumLock is enabled – press the NumLock key if it isn’t working.

To modify how faster the cursor moves and change other settings, use the Mouse Keys options in the Control Panel’s Ease of Access Center.

More Keyboard Tricks

Be sure to read A Handy Keyboard Shortcuts List For Windows 8 if you’re using Windows 8 – it contains other useful keyboard shortcuts like Windows Key+C to open the Charms bar. If you’re using Windows 7, check out 25 Cool Windows 7 Keyboard Tricks That Will Impress Your Friends for some more keyboard shortcuts!

Do you know any other great keyboard tricks to operate Windows without a mouse? Leave a comment and share them!

Image Credit: Female Hands Typing via Shutterstock