Like most people who have had RSI, I sympathise with the words of the Cole Porter song:
Comes the measles, you can quarantine the room.
Comes a mouse, you can chase it with a broom.
When my RSI has been at its worst I have unplugged my mouse and put it away, so that I don’t use it unless I really can’t find another solution. But using a browser in this way has always been unsatisfactory. I’ve used a number of tools, but they all felt like a cumbersome workaround. Recently, though, I came across Gleebox, which is almost perfect.
It’s an extension for Chrome and Safari only at present, which has been enough to convince me to switch to Chrome. Even though I still prefer Firefox in general. For one thing Chrome, inexplicably, doesn’t have a ‘send link’ option – don’t the people at Google realise that the main function of a web browser is sending cartoons to friends?
Yet Gleebox wins me over to Chrome because it works so well.
On a webpage you simply press g and type. If what you type matches a link on the page it is highlighted and hitting return activates the link. If there is no matching link text it tries to match against your bookmarks. If this fails then it searches the typed string on your default search engine. This means that I can pretty much navigate the web from the little box that pops up when I press g.
There are minor problems. Gleebox doesn’t work with Google services like Gmail and Reader. Google does have excellent shortcuts of its own but these don’t seem to offer navigation between services. Other websites, such as the OED, are set up in a way that makes it difficult to get into search boxes mouselessly, but there is usually a workaround.
As a digital editor, I find it strange that, while text editors always seem to presuppose that users may want to avoid the mouse (Emacs is a shining example of this philosophy), and even tools like Excel can be used quite pleasantly without a mouse, browsers don’t seem to have made this a priority. But with Gleebox I feel the day when I can throw my mouse in the bin has come a bit closer.
If you have found other alternatives to using the mouse, do let me know in the comments.