Firefox Keyboard Navigation: How Does It Work?

You can use your keyboard for browsing the web and navigating on a website via web browsers that allow the use of keyboard and accessibility keys. In this tutorial, I will talk about how keyboard navigation in Firefox works.

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If you are accessing the Internet from a desktop computer or a laptop with a keyboard -no touchscreen functionality like tablets or mobile- and if for any reason you don't want to or you can't use the mouse or the touchpad for controlling the cursor and navigating on web pages, you can use the keyboard navigation and accessibility shortcuts in your web browser to easily navigate through the web content you are viewing.

There are multiple methods for browsing websites and navigating through web pages without using a mouse. Depending on your situation and what you need to do, knowing one or all of these methods may become highly helpful in the long term and make your life easier while visiting websites.

I will start with the most common way of navigating in Firefox with the help of some commonly used keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Like any other computer software, web browsers also have keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys) to simplify some common actions. The following is a brief list for some of the frequent actions you may perform in Firefox:

Open new browser window.Ctrl + N
Open new tab.Ctrl + T
Switch between tabs.Ctrl + PgDn and Ctrl + PgUp
Add the current page to bookmarks.Ctrl + D
Save the current page/file to your computer.Ctrl + S
Go to an URL.Press F6, enter the web page address (URL), press Enter.
Open Firefox menu bar.Alt
Find text on a page.Ctrl + F
Open a link on the page.Press /, type the link text, press Enter.
Go back (previous page).Backspace or
Scroll to the bottom of the page.End
Scroll to the top of the pageHome
Scroll up and down.PgUp and PgDn
Close the browser window.Alt + F4

When you open the menu bar at the top with Alt key, you can then go to a specific option with the help of the navigation buttons (right, left, top, bottom). When you are scrolling via the keyboard, the cursor shouldn't be focused in an input field while using these two keys as it will affect the input field instead of the page.

You can learn more about how to navigate Firefox with the help of the hotkeys by checking the full list of Firefox keyboard shortcuts. You can even customize the keyboard shortcuts using a Firefox addon called Menu Wizard.

TIP: You can also check the Chrome keyboard shortcuts if you are also a Google Chrome user.

Tab Navigation

In addition to using hotkeys to quickly navigate on a web page, using the Tab key may speed up your browsing. When a page is first loaded, pressing the Tab key will move the focus to the first link on the page. If you continue pressing the Tab key, the focus will move to the next links on the page respectively. Depending on the style of the website, the focused link may be highlighted with a colored border or dots, which is a visual indication telling which link is in focus.

Once the link you want to open is focused, you can then press Enter to open that link, and the link will open in the same tab. If you want to open the link in a new tab, simply press Ctrl + Enter.

While navigating with the Tab key, you can go back to a previous key using the Shift + Tab combination.

Caret Navigation

Caret navigation is a less known feature available in most web browsers, which allows you to navigate the web page using the cursor keys.

To enable caret browsing in Firefox, press F7 button and click Yes on the confirmation dialog. Once in caret browsing mode, when you click any text element on the page, the cursor will become active as if it was in a text editor. When you see the cursor, you can control it using the arrow keys (right, left, top, bottom) and move on the page. This feature is especially useful for making text selections on web pages with the help of the Shift key (e.g. Shift + Left, Shift + Right).

Firefox Accessibility Options

Firefox also offers a couple of accessibility options from its Options panel. You can open the options panel from the top menu bar in the Tools section or by typing about:preferences into your address bar. In the Advanced tab, you will see the available Accessibility options, some of which we talked about above in previous methods.

Firefox Keyboard Navigation: How Does It Work?

Firefox Addons for Mouseless Keyboard Navigation

Finally, you can use addons to help with your mouseless navigation. Here is a list of addons that you may find useful while navigating with the keyboard:

VimFx - This addon adds keyboard shortcuts on web pages for browsing and navigation.

Mouseless Browsing - This addon adds unique IDs to links and form elements, and when you type that ID the expected action occurs, such as opening a link or submitting a form.

My Keyboard Navigator - This addon allows you to use Firefox with the keyboard without needing the mouse.

NextPlease - This addon helps you quickly navigate through links on search result pages of Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and other sites.

These are the most common methods for Firefox keyboard navigation. If you never considered to use the keyboard for navigating the web, this will be a good time for you to do so and give your mouse hand and click fingers a break.

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