How to use your keyboard to control the mouse in Mac OS X

This page explains step-by-step how to customise your computer setup in Mac OS X so you can use your keyboard's number pad in place of the mouse. In Mac OS X, 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:

Note: The following abbreviations for keys on the Mac are used: Ctrl is used for the Control key, Apple is used for the Command key, and Alt is used for the Option key. For keyboard access, make sure 'Full keyboard access' is turned on - you can turn it on or off by pressing Ctrl + F1 at any time.

Set up your keyboard to control the mouse

Step 1: Open the 'Universal Access' window

Make sure you are in 'Finder'. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to 'Finder'.

Click on the 'Apple' icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on 'System Preferences', as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1'Apple' drop-down menu

In the 'System Preferences' window (shown in Fig 2), click on the 'Universal Access' icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the 'Universal Access' icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2'System Preferences' window

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

In the 'Universal Access' window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the 'Mouse' tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Fig 3'Universal Access' window showing the 'Mouse' tab

Click the 'On' radio button next to 'Mouse Keys', as shown in Fig 3, or press Tab to highlight the 'Off' radio button and then press the left arrow key to switch Mouse Keys on.

You can turn Mouse Keys on or off at any time by pressing Alt five times. To enable this keyboard shortcut, tick the box next to 'Press the Option key five times to turn Mouse Keys on or off' by clicking on it, or press Tab until the box is highlighted and then press the Spacebar to tick it. (In some setups, such as the one shown in Fig 3, this shortcut is automatically enabled if the 'Allow Universal Access Shortcuts' box is ticked).

Click and drag the slider beside 'Initial Delay' to change the length of time between when you first start pressing a direction key and when the cursor starts moving. Alternatively, press Tab until the slider is highlighted and then use the arrow keys to make the delay shorter or longer.

In the same way, you can adjust the slider beside 'Maximum Speed' to set the top speed at which the pointer will move across the screen when one of the direction keys is held down.

When you are finished, click on the window's red close button or press Apple + W.

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 and double-click the mouse

Press 5 to click the mouse. Press 5 twice in a row quickly to make a double-click.

Step 3: 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, and then press 5 to 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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