How To Use Mouse Keys To Control the Cursor With Your Keyboard On Your Mac

Mouse Keys are an accessibility feature of your Mac that allows you to control the position of the cursor and click the mouse button using only your keyboard. It can work with the numeric keypad, or with some of the keys on a keyboard without a keypad. This can come in handy if you have trouble with your mouse or trackpad and need a way to access things on your Mac.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: How To Use Mouse Keys To Control the Cursor With Your Keyboard On Your Mac.

So today let's take a look at something called Mouse Keys. You'll find it in System Preferences in Accessibility under Mouse and Trackpad. You'll see Enable Mouse Keys and then Options. Let's take a look at the Options.

Options here are whether to press the Option key, also known as the Alt key on your keyboard, five times. That toggles it One or Off. This is going to be important because you don't always want it on. You can also set it to ignore the trackpad when Mouse Keys is turned on. There's initial delay and maximum speed for it. But let's take a look at what Mouse Keys does.

So if I enable it let's go and turn on the Option key option there. So I'll press the Option key five times and actually you see I get an indictor on my screen there that says it's on. The checkbox here in System Preferences, if I happen to have that visible, shows that it's turned on. Now I can use Mouse Keys.

So if you have a numeric keypad now those numbers act kind of as a joy stick for controlling the mouse. For instance you can use the one to move the cursor to the lower left. You can use a three to move to the lower right. All that. I don't have a numeric keypad on my keyboard but that's okay. I can still use keys. The 7, 8, 9, u, i, o, j, k, l keys will work in that way. So the u key moves the cursor to the left. The o to the right. 8 up and k down. The keys next to that will move it diagonally like here's the 7 key. So I can move the cursor around.

If I click and hold it will move it continuously. That's where the delay comes in. Now what does the i key do in the middle or the 5 key on the numeric keypad. That actually will click. For instance I can move over to this Options button here and I can hit the i key to click. I can still use my trackpad. That's what I'm doing here. So I have the best of both worlds. I'll just hit i there to actually click and get rid of it.

So what happens if I want to type? Well, that's why you want to toggle it On or Off. This is for controlling the cursor. Now I use the Option key five times and now I switch it off and now I can type. When I want to use the cursor again I press the Option key five times and now I can use those keys on my keyboard or numeric keypad to move around.

Now it turns out this is not a unique Mac feature. As a matter of fact mouse keys, you can look it up in Wikipedia, has been around since 1984 and was originally part of X Windows which was a kind of a windowing system for Unix. It's available in Microsoft Windows and other systems as well. So Apple didn't invent this. They're just enabling this as a standard.

You can see here that there are more than just those eight keys for directions and the click key. You also have the zero and period for kind of click down and click up. That's useful because you can actually grab and drag things. So you can hit the zero to grab something and then continue to move the cursor to move that thing around and then the period key, on the numeric keypad, to lift up the mouse.

Now if you don't have a numeric keypad I find that the m , and period keys work as well. You can kind of get some of these other ones working with the keys around there. You kind of have to figure it out and play with it. But it does indeed work with the standard keyboard not just the ones with a numeric keypad.

So you can read here a little bit about the history of it and see that it is kind of an interesting standard. What's it good for? Well, obviously if you're having trouble with the mouse or trackpad and you need to be able to just navigate with the cursor using the keyboard it's useful. That's why it's in Accessibility functions.

But also it can be useful in situations, for instance, when your mouse of keyboard isn't working and you need to go to some functions or do something in order to get it to work again or to do so temporarily until you get a replacement mouse or trackpad. So it's very handy to know that it's there.

So you might ask, well if my mouse or trackpad isn't working how do I even get to enable Mouse Keys. Well, there are a lot of different ways to do it. Here's one. I'm going to use fn Control F2 to bring the focus to the menu up there. I can use the arrow keys to go back and forth. I'm going to go down here on the Apple key. Go to System Preferences. Hit return. Then I'm going to search for Mouse Keys and I'm going to go to it which is called Make Mouse and Trackpad Easier to Use. Go into that. There it is there.

Now how do I get to the checkbox? If I tab it's going to tab between those two things there. So I don't want it to do that. I can do fn Control, and you may not need the fn key depending upon how you have your settings. So it could just be Control F7 or fn Control F7. I toggle that and now notice it goes between all items including these checkboxes here. So I can go back and forth and one the enable Mouse Keys checkbox is there. I press the spacebar to enable it and now I can actually move the cursor around the screen using the keys there. So there are ways to do this.

Comments: 5 Responses to “How To Use Mouse Keys To Control the Cursor With Your Keyboard On Your Mac”

    Devin The Great
    8 months ago

    This is an excellent tip. I’m sure I’m not alone in having run into situations where my wireless mouse is not working or syncing and I need the ability to move the cursor to access a menu item, open/close a window, etc. This is a perfect ’emergency’ solution to have in the back pocket – a mouse built into the keyboard. I’m leaving ‘click Option 5 times’ checked so I can have access to it if needed. Thanks Gary!

    8 months ago

    Hi Gary,

    I found your tip on mouse keys to be intriguing, but have not been able to get it to work on my iMac. I configured the Option key to turn Mouse Keys on and off and that works. But with Mouse Keys “on,” I can’t get the cursor to move at all (I’m using 789, UIO, JKL). Nothing happens. I’m running MacOS 10.13.6, and my keyboard is a third-party (Kinesis) ergonomic keyboard for Mac (wired directly to USB). Can you think of why Mouse Keys isn’t working for me?

    Many thanks,

    8 months ago

    Philip: Could be the third-party keyboard. No way for me to test since I don’t have that model.

    8 months ago

    this is a nice tip. One thing where you stated about using Fn+F2 to go to sys prefs. Just wanted to highlight that if using a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, then in keyboard prefs would have to select the option “Show F1, F2, etc keys” in the “Press Fn key to” field. I had it set to expand control strip and pressing Fn was not bringing up the F2 key for me :)

    8 months ago

    And if I encounter this problem and forget the tip, I suppose I can get my iPhone and ask Siri. But it is nice to know there is a solution.

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