Look ma, no mouse: Vimium

Repeatedly reaching for your mouse slows you down in the short term, and in the long term brings on health problems (RSI). To stay fast and healthy, keep your hands on your keyboard. To keep your hands there, this series, “Look ma, no mouse!” will guide you through easy to use tools to use your keyboard to control your computer instead of your mouse.

In this piece, we’ll discuss how to use your keyboard for one of the most mouse intensive activities: web browsing.

Why is web browsing so mouse intensive?

Links.

Links form the backbone of the web make it a connected, cohesive entity instead of a large pool of disconnected sites. there’s three ways to follow a link:

1 - Move your mouse over the link and click.

2 - Press tab over and over again until you see a dotted outline around the link and click. This works OK for google.com, but on github, there might be over 50 links for a given repo.

3 -Install the Vimium plugin for your favorite browser

Vimium

Vimium is a plugin available for Chrome and Firefox, Edge, and Safari.

Once installed and enabled, vimium unlocks a whole slew of vim inspired keyboard shortcuts. Like vi, you don’t even need to press Ctrl or Alt to use them, just the letter itself will work.

Press f to Click Links

With Vimium installed, go to a web page and press f.

A bunch of yellow squares with letters will pop up.

Type the (lower case) letters in the square next to the link and your browser will follow the link. It’s that easy!

Vimium has a lot more features and they’re worth knowing, but none of them will reduce our mouse usage any further. For now, just avoid pressing other buttons because they might do something.

Disabling vimium on a page

Some pages like gmail and github have useful keyboard shortcuts that you’d like to use. For these pages, we can disable vimium just on that page To disable vimium on a page like github.com, first visit the page and then click the little blue V in your plugin bar.

You should see a little window that says Vimium will be disabled, the url of the current page, “Save Changes”, etc. Click “Save Changes” and Vimium is now disabled on that page.

Vimium fills out that the “pattern” for you so that Vimium will be disabled on any page on github.com whether its http or https. A quick side note for our more technical readers, vimium’s pattern notation can be confusing because * has its meaning from globs (match 0 or more characters), but ? has its meaning from regular expressions (match the previous character 0 or 1 time). Most of the time, however, the default is good enough and this notation is irrelevent.

Conclusion

Reducing mouse usage is easy. Just install vimium and remembe a single command: f. Once we press f, we type the letters in the hint (technical name for the yellow square) next to the link and our browser will follow the link. We also saw how to disable vimium on a page if we need access to a page’s shortcuts (although we lose the ability to use hints).

Next week, we’ll cover mouseless window management. If you’re tired of using your mouse to resize windows, select windows, and getting windows perfectly side by side, just click “Subscribe Now” below.

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