Save time and your mouse click finger with MouseKeys

Richard Corfield has an application that requires a person to click a confirmation over and over. He takes advantage of MouseKeys to save some time.

By Richard Corfield

The Finance Department at work uses an application that is meant to send out hundreds (plus) of confirmation e-mails from Outlook Express. Most of the time, it works fine and does its job without being prompted. A couple of times though it has wanted confirmation for each e-mail, which means it wants a good fifteen minutes of mouse clicking. At this point, there's a standoff between me and the temp in Finance about whose job it is to run this application.

After a minute of clicking, I started wondering about the fastest way I could get through the job.

The normal things a more advanced user might know weren't options because the dialog box didn't follow the usual XP rules (Figure A).

Figure A

The application currently looks like this.

Sometimes there are Yes to All or No to All buttons. If there aren't, then sometimes you can click shift-click on Yes or No, which does Yes to All or No to All respectively.

If the buttons have underlined letters (e.g., Yes or No), you can simply hold down Alt+Y or Alt+N, respectively, to answer lots of times.

If you want to say No a lot but the dialog box doesn't have the Alt+N shortcut as an option, often you can hold down Escape.

If the option you want is already highlighted by default, then you can just hold down the Enter key. If the wrong option is already highlighted, you can Tab until you areon the right option and then press Enter. So if you needed to press Tab twice, you would get into the rhythm of Tab, Tab, Enter. Tab, Tab, Enter. Tab, Tab, Enter, etc.

But it might be that you have a dialog box where none of the above techniques work. Then there is one more trick you can use that will still be faster than repeatedly clicking with the mouse. If MouseKeys is switched on (Figure B), you can position the mouse over the right button and then use your keyboard to click, instead of your mouse. This means you can hammer the keyboard and not worry about the cursor wandering off the button; you don't even need to look at the screen. (I guess you could also hold the mouse in the air and get clicking. Again, you wouldn't need to worry about the cursor moving all over the place.)

Figure B

Turn on MouseKeys from the Accessibility options in the Control Panel.

To enable this technique, go to Accessibility options in the Control Panel. Click on the Mouse tab, and then click the Use Mousekeys and the Settings button.

Figure C shows the settings I use, but you can choose your own.

Figure C

Choose your settings.
Once you OK the two dialog boxes, you'll be able to (Figure D):
  • Click with number 5
  • Double-click with the + key
  • Set whether you want the 5 to be left click, right-click, or both with the \  -  and * keys respectively.

Figure D

The number pad is now set to be MouseKeys.

And just for completeness:

  • Move the mouse cursor up, down, left, right, and the four diagonals, using the eight keys that surround the number 5.
  • Achieve a long click (e.g., for selecting text or dragging an icon) by pressing 0, moving the cursor, and then pressing the Del or . key.

MouseKeys is also useful when I have to move the cursor completely horizontally or vertically (e.g., when positioning something in a Word document) or when I have to move the mouse on a strict 45% diagonal line (e.g., resizing an image while keeping the proportions the same).

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Richard Corfield sent this tip to TechRepublic in response to a bounty request for Windows XP tips that have never been covered on the Web site. Do you think you have a tip that fits the bill? Send the tip, written in a complete form that includes an introduction and a conclusion, and earn your own bounty. Send it to Senior Editor Mark Kaelin.

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