How to use your keyboard to control the mouse in Gnome 2.2

This page explains step-by-step how to customise your computer setup in Gnome for Linux so you can use your keyboard's number pad in place of the mouse. In Gnome, this feature is called 'Mouse Keys'. Many people who cannot use a standard mouse find this the easiest option, rather than using an alternative input device such as a head-mouse or joystick.

Areas in this guide:

Set up your keyboard to control the mouse

Step 1: Open the 'Keyboard Preferences' window

Click on 'System' in the menu bar, then 'Preferences' and then 'Keyboard'. Alternatively, press Alt + F1 and then use the arrow keys to move to 'System', then 'Preferences', then 'Keyboard', and then press Enter.

This will open the 'Keyboard Preferences' window shown in Fig 1. Click on the 'Mouse Keys' tab, or press Tab until any of the tabs is highlighted, then press the left or right arrow keys until the 'Mouse Keys' tab is brought to the front.

Fig 1'Keyboard Preferences' window showing the 'Mouse Keys' tab

Step 2: Set up the number pad to control the mouse

Tick the box next to 'Pointer can be controlled using the keypad' by clicking on it, or press Alt + P to tick it.

Once the box is ticked, you can change any of the options affecting the mouse pointer's speed to suit your needs.

Move the slider beside 'Acceleration' to set how quickly the mouse pointer will accelerate to the maximum speed, by clicking and dragging the slider, or by pressing Alt + A and then using the arrow keys to move it.

In the same way, you can click and drag the slider beside 'Speed' to set the maximum speed the pointer will move across the screen when one of the direction keys is held down. Alternatively, press Alt + S and then use the arrow keys to move the slider to the maximum speed you want.

You can also change the length of time between when you first start pressing a direction key and when the cursor starts moving. To do this, click and drag the slider beside 'Delay' to select a time, or press Alt + D and then use the arrow keys to make the delay shorter or longer.

Click 'Close' or press Alt + C to finish and return to the Gnome desktop.

How to use the keyboard to control the mouse

After you have set up your keyboard to control the mouse, you can use the number pad to move the mouse pointer, as well as click, double-click and select and drag, as shown in Fig 1.

Fig 1Number pad layout showing the mouse functions

Step 1: Move the mouse pointer

You can move the mouse pointer in any direction (vertical, horizontal, diagonal) by using the number keys as shown in Fig 1. Press 4 and 6 to move left and right. Press 2 and 8 to move down and up. Press 1, 3, 7 and 9 to move diagonally.

Step 2: Click the mouse

Before you can click the mouse using the number pad, you need to let it know what type of click you want to make. Press '/' (slash) for a primary click, which is the same as a left-click on a standard mouse. Press '-' (minus) for a secondary click, which is the same as a right-click on a standard mouse. Press '*' (asterisk) for the middle button of a mouse.

(Note that if you have your mouse set up for left-handed use, the primary and secondary buttons will also be reversed on the number pad.)

Once you have selected a click type, press 5 to click the mouse. The click type will stay the same until you change it, so if you have chosen a left-click, every time you press 5 it will make a left-click until you choose another option. (If you have set it up so that the mouse icon appears in your status bar, the icon should show which click type is currently active.)

Step 3: Double-click the mouse

While you can press 5 twice in a row quickly to make a double-click, it is much simpler to press '+' (plus) to double-click the mouse automatically.

Step 4: Select and drag

Move the cursor to the starting point of the area you want to highlight, or place it on the item you want to drag. Make sure the primary button (left-click) is chosen by pressing '/' (slash) and then press 5 to make a left-click.

Press 0 to start selecting or dragging - this is the same as holding down the mouse button. Use the number keys (as described in Step 1) to move the pointer to the end of the area you want to highlight, or to where you want to drag the item. Press '.' (full stop) to release the mouse button.

Back to How to guides - I find a keyboard or mouse hard to use

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