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How to browse websites using a keyboard only

Browsing a website (which means opening it, reading its content and interacting with the available controls) using a keyboard only is delightfully easy. Browsers offer all this functionality with only a few keys on the keyboard. And maybe you use most of those keys already on a daily basis.

Notice: we are talking specifically about Windows browsers here. For macOS, Linux, and others, there exist similar keyboard shortcuts.

Opening a website

First, make sure your web browser is open. Then:

  • By pressing Ctrl + L (or F6), the focus is placed in the web browser's address bar.
  • Now enter the domain as usual (for example www.google.com) and submit using Enter.

Reading a website

After a while of reading, you usually have to adjust the scrolling of the page:

  • To scroll the viewport down, up, left, or right, use the respective arrow keys.
  • When tabbing through a page (see below), the viewport is scrolled automatically to the currently focused element, so using the arrow keys often is not necessary.

Interacting with a website

Mouse users can interact with any visible element on a page directly by clicking on it.

To interact with an element, keyboard users need to move the so called "focus" sequentially through all interactive elements on a page until they reach the desired element. The currently focused element is highlighted visually.

Chrome's default focus style

  • Use Tab to move from one focusable item to the next focusable item.
    • This sequential navigation sometimes is called "tabbing".
    • Focusable items typically are links, buttons, form controls (text edit, combobox, etc.), and all sorts of other interactive elements such as custom widgets.
    • Add Shift to reverse the direction.
  • Use Enter to:
    • Activate a link or button.
    • Send a form (when a form item has focus).
      • Works for all form elements except textarea.
  • Use Space to:
    • Toggle an element's state (for example checkbox).
    • Open or close an element (for example combobox).
  • Use arrow keys to:
    • Change the value of an item (for example in a combobox, a radio button group, or within a min/max value slider widget).
    • Move the cursor (for example in a text input).
  • Use Esc to:
    • Cancel a prompt.
    • Close elements like dialogs or expanded comboboxes.

Now it's your turn!

Using the keyboard shortcuts above (and maybe more), you should be able to use any website to its fullest.

From now on, why not try to read this complete guide without using a mouse? Learning by doing is always a good way to level up your skills!

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