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I'd like to navigate inside windows (move from one control to another) with keyboard only. Because it's faster and doesn't require to move my hand from mouse to keyboard and back when entering data. I know there is Tab/Alt+Tab shortcut, but it's too awkward when dealing with big windows with many controls. Moving with one click of cursor buttons (left/right/up/down) to the nearest control is what I need. Is there any software to solve this task?

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To precise a point which seems to be not fully clear. The author most likely need to be able to navigate through controls in a way which would be as simple as navigating through the cells of an Excel document. This main idea is to extend the navigation provided by "tab", but in a more directional way (and not limited to going through a list of controls with tab). I'm actually very interested by a solution to this problem, but I doubt there would be a universal one. Maybe there are ways to deal with that for some applications. – Gnoupi Aug 25 '09 at 11:00
Nice explanation, Gnoupi. I'm pretty sure universal solution is possible, at least I know ways to implement it. But that would require significant work and I'd prefer to have a ready-made solution. – skevar7 Aug 25 '09 at 11:29

I'm not sure there is a program for that, as the navigation between controls is mostly set on the development side (typically, the order for "tab"). Unless it's set by the program itself, there is no "logic" to travel from a control to another, besides the "tab" behavior.

What you can do though, is eventually to use the "keyboard as mouse" functions from Windows (in accessibility options, I believe), which in some case would be faster than pressing "tab".

But ideally, I guess such need would be satisfied by a Pointing Stick, as it would allow to move between controls without taking hands away from the keyboard, but it's specific to some laptops only (and highly dependent on how you use it). Though it doesn't fully answer, as it requires still to "point" on the controls, in a way.

Edit : There is actually a way to navigate like this in the Opera browser. You can see a tutorial here.

The main function is to press shift+Arrow. They call that Spatial Navigation, and it allows to jump to the links directly from your current position, to the direction where you want.

Unfortunately, it is only for one program, and even, only for the links from it, but that's already a start, I guess.

(Thanks to DisgruntledGoat for making me discover that in his answer to another question.)

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IBM at least used to sell a full-size keyboard that had the Pointing Stick mouse built-in for desktop use .. buddy of mine uses it as his normal keyboard :) – warren Aug 26 '09 at 6:12

Try this one:

I have been using for half a year, and I'm satisfied.

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Awesome. Upvoted and commented using dnc.ahk (a derivative of mouser...) – Greg Aug 26 '09 at 15:51

You don't need to install anything. It is accessibility feature in Windows.


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Read question carefully. I need to speed up my work, not make it even slower - as MouseKeys will do. – skevar7 Aug 25 '09 at 10:21

Most applications support the standard rules for navigating via keyboard.

  • CTRL + TAB will move between tabs in a standard MDI window (such as Firefox, and I believe Microsoft Office applications as well.

  • CTRL + Space will give you access to the Application's Window Context menu (I have no idea that's what it's called, but it gives you access to restore, minimize, maximise, and most importantly, move).

Using the alt key will give you access to menu items. All the big name brands that I am aware of usually have keyboard shortcuts for most of the major functions.

Knowing which application you're working with would be a big help in determining the best solution for your needs.

Edit I appear to have confused Tab with multiple tabs. My bad.

If your application is via a webpage, and it works in Firefox, you might be able to write a GreaseMonkey script to change the tab order of the fields, or get the developer to change them, since that's something that's controlled by HTML.

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Most controls also have an Alt shortcut to them so you can Alt + J to get to a field and start editing, for example.

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Unfortunately, there is no unification between applications, for that. – Gnoupi Aug 25 '09 at 10:54
And even worse - not much apps support that :( – skevar7 Aug 25 '09 at 11:08
really? all the ones use on a daily basis support keyboard-only navigation.. what ones do you use frequently that do not? – warren Aug 26 '09 at 6:11

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