Mouse-oholics Anonymous – Please Step Forward

by Maurie Hill on June 25, 2014

  • Picture of a bunch of computer miceBesides normal typing, are you afraid of your keyboard?
  • Did someone have to point out the home key bumps for you?
  • Do you lean over to search for numbers and other uncommonly used keys?
  • Do you pretend that the Windows key doesn’t exist?
  • Do you think you can bypass all productivity issues with a touch screen?
  • Are you totally helpless without your mouse?

If you answered yes to 4 out of 6 questions, than you may be mouse dependent. The reason why I recognize you so clearly is because I’m in the midst of mouse-dependence recovery myself. Probably similar to quitting anything comforting, I have had several failed attempts at relinquishing my mouse, and just gave up when I found myself staring at the screen with no idea how to perform a simple task. But this time, it’s going to stick because a circuit has changed in my thinking process, allowing me to move forward instead of reasoning my way out of the dilemma I face.

First let’s take a step back; you have to have a compelling reason for giving up a tool that has served you well for so many years. There are no studies to show that your mouse habit will shorten your life. Mouse navigation is intuitive, with no training required. Give a kid a computer and a mouse and they’re off and running. But according to an article written by KeyRocket, we can save eight working days per year by using keyboard shortcuts in place of the mouse. Even if you don’t buy into this number, you can be sure their testing method was based solely on normally sighted individuals. I think it’s safe to say that the time to be saved in using keyboard shortcuts where you normally would use the mouse is substantially higher for you, the computer user with a visual impairment. As a small example, see how long it takes to send a document to your printer using the keyboard (Control + P, then Enter). Now do it all using the old familiar mouse. Catch my drift?

Let’s face it – while working in a magnified view, it always takes longer to find or move to an item. While navigating with the mouse instead of the keyboard, it’s pretty likely that you are relying on your limited visual acuity to discern characters and words on the screen in order to navigate where you want to go. On the other hand, using the keyboard conserves visual energy since you rely more on experience, button position, a visual focus enhancement and/or audio feedback cue.   As a bonus, I’m sure there are health benefits to not leaning in so close to the screen – your eyes, neck and back will thank you.

If saving enough time to take a week’s vacation is not enough motivation to flip your switch and set you in gear, then wait a few months; your own trigger may come. When that day comes, your next question will be, but how? No one likes memorizing keyboard shortcuts, but really, starting to use just a few of them religiously will set you on your way. You could start with your normal workflow: turn on the computer, log in, open the application you usually start with, and then when you’re done, shut down the computer, all without using the mouse. Don’t move on until you have those steps ingrained. Now that I think about it, it’s really just a matter of changing and creating habits.

Most people log into their computer and check their mail first. Believe it or not, there was one key that kept holding me back from giving up the mouse. I could never remember how to get from the sidebar in a mail application to my list of emails and back again. Maurie, it’s the Tab key dummy!!! It moves your focus to the right, and Shift + Tab moves you back to the left. These shortcuts serve this same function whether using Microsoft Outlook on a PC or in the Mail App on a Mac.

Transitioning from a PC to a Mac or vice versa involves a big learning process. However, learning the shortcut keys for one operating system will surprisingly help you on another since there are similarities. Plus, learning to navigate without the mouse in one operating system or a certain application will inevitably help you with others.

If you’re like me, you might also need a little human intervention. See if your state’s blind agency has someone that can help you learn to use the computer without the mouse. I am in the process of taking lessons over the phone from John Panarese, of Mac For The Blind. Though I’m primarily doing it to learn VoiceOver, he’s teaching me that half the battle is not just in acclimating to the Mac environment from Windows, but learning the Mac OS shortcut keys. If I had given up the mouse years ago on a Windows PC, this would have definitely shortened the transition process. Since John is blind, I know I can use the Mac without the mouse; sometimes just knowing that it can be done effectively and proficiently is another motivator. If you want to learn ZoomText using both ZoomText and Windows shortcuts, Kimberly and Cathy can help you right along during a ZoomText University training course.

Because I have some vision, I will ultimately use a computer differently. I still use magnification to view images, whether it’s a photo of my daughter, a graphical web page, or Google Maps. While creating a document or email, I hang onto using full screen magnification so I can visually check my typing as well. When it comes to navigating around the screen, however, there is no reason for me to strain. I’ll rely more on my hearing and prominent visual cues, such as ZoomText’s focus enhancement to visually verify my position on the screen. I’m far from being able to stand up and say “it’s been 30 days since I touched my mouse” and perhaps I never will, but leaning more on the keyboard is the way to go for me right now.

When using my Mac, once I navigate to an email or webpage that I actually want to read, I’m loving ZoomText Mac’s new WebReader tool. I can totally customize the environment and bring in text from a webpage, email, or any text that I place in the clipboard. I use a large, basic white font with a black background, yellow sentence highlighting, and red word highlighting. I can sit back and listen to it read while watching the text at the same time, with no side-to-side movement because in the full screen view, the text is constrained so that it fits in the bounds of the window and will just vertically scroll. Playing and pausing is simply done by pressing the spacebar.

When reading an email, I can use Control + Left Arrow to get back to the email to reply to it. When I’m reading web content, I can click on a link right within WebReader and it will automatically bring that new article text into my existing environment, so I don’t have to go in and out of the tool. Plus it all fits into my new philosophy of avoiding the mouse, augmenting speech with visual cues where needed.

When you are ready to chip away at your mouse dependency, here are some tools to get you started:

Large print keyboard and keyboard skin options that will help you see those keys even better!

  • Guest

    I hate using the mouse as much as I do messing with icons on the desktop, but at the same time I have trouble putting it away entirely just because so much is still point and click based if you have some sight at all. My desktop has absolutely no icons on it whatsoever, and I never use my browser or office or anything else in full screen mode, because I’m always doing a dozen things at a time, reading email, posting on facebook, chatting, even job hunting all at once. Plus I’m always chatting with 4-5 people at a time. Doing all that, I found to be much more productive using the keyboard, esp since I can type like 120 wpm when ya really get me going, which was why I decided on a career in call center work. I’m like gifted in that I guess. To be that productive though, I’ve found I’ve had to use both Window-Eyes and Zoomtext at the same time, especially when searching website for links and various text items its much easier to use Window Eyes browse mode then zoomtext’s web finder. reading lengthy documents and navigating website. I’ve always thought the perfect accessibility program would be zoomtext magnifier only replacing all of zoomtext’s reader functions with window eyes functions instead. for one reason so I don’t have to purchase 2 different licenses, but for another, I don’t use any of zoomtext reader functions, I don’t really know anyone who does, I use window eyes reader functions instead, mostly because there more productive using the keyboard. Now that the two companies merged, I’m like in total happiness. Rather they add zoom & color enhancements to window eyes or replace the reader functions with window eyes functions, either way that merger will be a dream when a product comes out. It was to the point I started considering MAGIC as an alternative because I didn’t want to purchase 2 different licenses and because magic has most of jaws’s quick key functions making it so I could just use 1 software not 2 different ones, so I’m really happy about the merger for both these reasons

  • Tom Coburn

    Being sight impaired all my life, and using computers since I was 5, I’ve been with Zoomtext since the Win95 days. Back in those days I’ve seen my sight go from 20/200, to 20/100, now down to the CF range & dropping due to late onset of Glaucoma, and in all that time, I’ve never been too fond of the mouse. In a Windows environment, you have no choice but to use the mouse, er so I thought until a few years ago. Since I can type like 120 wpm when you really get me going, it just always seemed natural, but it seemed like with each new version of WIndows, point n click seemed to be the norm. If anything you feel like the keyboard is being phased out, if not by the mouse, by touch screen interfaces, but myself I’ve always been most fond of the keyboard. Even on the iphone ipad I get frustrated typing without using a keyboard. So I’m always up for learning new shortcuts in Windows, especially in Windows 8 since that OS is still very new to me. I never use icons ever I hate them, so I don’t even like this new touch like interface at all. First thing I missed was the start menu. I’m like, how do I find microsoft office now? can’t find it in that mess of touch icons & I’ve yet to figure out how to organize and delete some of those, so we still fuss with that. but yeah I’ve always done CTRL-SHIFT-U for the user interface, CTRL-SHIFT-C to turn color enhancements on/off especially since I’m doing that turning it on off on off between websites depending upon if the site uses a white background or a darker background. I can’t even look at facebook without color enhancements on because it hurts my eyes, and other websites are dark so you have to turn it off on those, so its like a constant battle. Ideally I’d probably use Window eyes the majority of the time because its keyboard based. I don’t use any of the screen reader functions because I like the window eyes method instead, but I can’t use a desktop without some magnification otherwise I can’t see what I’m doing, same with color enhancements, so again its like a constant battle between the two. but regarding this topic, I have always believed both the blind and sight impaired alike should learn to put away the mouse and use the keyboard, but WIndows has always been designed with a point n click feel to it, and as long as we have some sight even just a tiny bit, its difficult to put away the mouse entirely because of the way the OS is designed to start with. Most fully sighted people prefer it that way because they hate using the keyboard, thats why windows 8 is going to this touch screen interface, which to me is worse then clicking on stupid icons. my win7 desktop has NO icons on it whatever I even deleted the recycle bin lol I just hate icons, and in windows 8 its worse, so my point is, I think eventually the keyboard will be phased out entirely, only reason its still around is for accessibility reasons, and for us thats a bad thing. besides, the mouse slows me down. lol I’m always like browsing in 3-4 different tabs, reading email, chatting with 4-5 different people at once in instant messenger, lol the mouse slows me down lol but as long as windows is designed how it is, its only going to get worse.

  • Liza Henes


    I have been using the computer for more than a decade and now I am not using mouse either. For me, using keyboard shortcuts is faster and better.


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  • Zoe Faulkner

    I never been dependent to mouse before as I am now. I’m thinking to get back to use keyboard shortcuts.

  • Tom Coburn

    Nice to have this all in one place. Since Windows 8 came out, we’ve had trouble figuring out how to navigate in it. My wifes new computer came with it. even with all my IT knowledge, I’m still having a hard time figuring out how to remove all the junk new computers come with, just trying to figure out how to navigate around the desktop, how to organize and remove the new touch icons since most of that junk she don’t use. We’ve even had trouble installing Adobe Reader on it, so its just been one headache after another. Nice to have a list of keyboard shortcuts handy to help

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