Mouse Keys without a keypad: MouseGrid for keyboards

Usually (when using my keyboard), I only resort to Mouse Keys when there’s a noncompliant link or button on a webpage, that can’t be accessed by tabbing or typeaheadfind.linksonly in Firefox. Generally, these links and buttons tend to be large targets, and waiting for the cursor to get to the top of the screen to click a header, for example, can feel slow. I was thinking it would be nice if there were a way to jump the cursor to a rough area of the screen, so that reaching the target would be quicker with less holding down keys. So I went looking for one, and found MouseGrid. [Link at end of post]

MouseGrid is freeware that can be operated by both the numeric keypad (NumLock ON) and the regular number and punctuation keys. That makes it particularly useful for those using laptops or other keyboards without number pads, particularly if their Fn keys are not sticky. Those keyboards aren’t conducive to even using Mouse Keys, making MouseGrid a welcome alternative option.

MouseGrid does not install itself into any directory, and doesn’t show up in the Add/Remove Programs menu — it installs itself to wherever you’ve told your browser to download files. In my case, Firefox put it on the desktop. It doesn’t need to stay there; you can pin it to your start menu or copy and paste it into Program Files or whatever you want. Its lack of trace makes it good to copy to a flash drive, too. When you highlight the icon and press Enter, you will receive a warning about running the software. Before you tell it to run anyway, for your convenience, uncheck the box about always showing the message.

MouseGrid then appears on your screen as a 9 square grid, which is numbered according to the numeric keypad. Therefore, the uppermost left corner is 7, 2 is the bottom center, and so forth. Pressing those numbers will jump your cursor to that area of the screen, and the grid will shrink. If you keep pressing numbers, you will gradually zero in on what you want, and pressing 5 will click it. If you press F1 after the grid appears, you will see which clicks correspond to which keys — be aware that some are different from the Mouse Keys assignments. A particularly nice touch is that holding down the number keys will make MouseGrid mimic Mouse Keys; that is, you can press a key to get to the rough area, then hold one to go the rest of the way instead of having to keep narrowing the grid. Mouse Keys with a boost, basically — much faster.

I do find having to have Caps Lock on to keep the program active is annoying, particularly since if you exit when you don’t want to, there’s not really a smooth way to bring it back up. (NOTE: This doesn’t mean you can’t turn off Caps Lock temporarily to type text or something.) Pinning it to the start menu takes the fewest keystrokes, or you could create an AutoHotKey script and avoid the problem altogether by assigning an unused key or keyboard shortcut the job of bringing up the application. For example:

Pause::Run, C:/Program Files/MouseGrid.exe

The AutoHotKey approach is especially recommended if you always want to have the program running in the background just in case. Highlight the script icon and press Control C, then go to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup. Press Control V. Your script will now be pasted into that folder and will start automatically when you boot your computer, so that all you have to do is press the key whenever. MouseGrid can be downloaded here.

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One Response to Mouse Keys without a keypad: MouseGrid for keyboards

  1. Pingback: Friday News Feed 8-7 « The ASSET Blog

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