Keyboard Browser Navigation Nirvana – Must Have Tools for Keyboard Ninjas

Keyboard - glenn-carstens-peters on unsplash

Keyboard Shortcuts

Recently I’ve been coding quite a bit (working on a dart command line utility, soon to be released). In the process I’ve forced myself to learn most of the primary keyboard shortcuts for VS Code. Using keyboard shortcuts have vastly improved my efficiency. VS Code has a great cheat sheet built in. Pressing “CTRL-K CTRL-S” opens up the cheat sheet, as well as the ability to change keyboard mapping (which I am loathe to do as I like to keep things as standard as possible but do remap tasks that have not been bound to a shortcut yet).

My standard desktop work station is Windows 10 where I have been spending most of my time recently (I also have a laptop that dual boots Windows and KDE Neon).

On Windows I am now fairly efficient at switching between windows, moving windows, maximizing and minimizing panes, and closing/opening programs. The motor memory hasn’t been wasted on Linux, since KDE Neon’s Plasma desktop can be customized by importing a Windows keyboard scheme and tweaking various keyboard shortcuts.

Increasing my keyboard efficiency has encouraged me to increase keyboard use in other contexts, particularly browsing.


With Firefox being my browser of choice, I discovered the Vimium FF extension. The Vimium extension is an adaption of the Vimium project for Firefox. It essentially brings vim-like keyboard shortcuts to your browser. I’ve been using Vim for years and the arrow navigation using h-j-k-l come naturally to me. Vimium allows those keys to be used for scolling. Even if you don’t like Vim navigation, you can still use the COOLEST feature in Vimium – press your escape key followed by “f” and all of the links are instantly labeled with a random one to two key keyboard shortcut!

Just hit the keys for that shortcut and you are instantly transported to that link. All without your hands leaving the keyboard. Vimium also shortcuts for nearly anything you can do with the mouse, including opening and closing tabs, history navigation, cycling through tabs, etc. Vimium was originally a Chrome extension so it is available for Chrome also.

Vimium also has built in pop-up help. Just press “?” and Vimium pops up a nice help window:

Note that Vimium doesn’t work all thetime on certain pages (e.g., GMail, in which case, just use the Gmail bindings) or you need to press “F6” to switch focus to the browser page (e.g., Google search page). In addition, although Vimium does a lot, sometimes I prefer to use other bindings for certain tasks or just want other visual cues (like seeing the names of all tabs in a list which I use FastTab Switcher for).

Table of Primary Browser Keyboard Shortcuts and Tools

Here is a helpful table listing the tools and shortcuts I think are particularly helpful:

KeyBoard Tip Notes
F6 Use F6 to force focus on the browser window. Sometimes a page or your browser itself will change focus to the address bar and prevent invoking Vimium by the Esc key. Just press F6.
Ctrl-T New Tab
Ctrl-N New Browser Window
Ctrl-F4 Close Tab
Alt-F4 Close Window (Windows Only)
Ctrl-Tab/Ctrl-Shift-Tab Cycle through tab (also CTRL- page up/down, also Vimium: Shift J/K)
Ctrl-l (small L) Jump to address bar
Alt-Left/Right Arrow Cycle Through History for Tab (i.e., back/forward)
^ (in the address bar) Search history.
Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts For Gmail, skip Vimium and use the Gmail shortcut bindings¬† (Gmail will force these bindings anyway).¬† Press “?” while on the Gmail page to get a Gmail cheatsheet.
Vimium Extension for both Chromium and Firefox. Browse entirely by keyboard. Press ? to get instant, detailed help.
Web Search Navigator Excellent and must have keyboard navigator for search engines. Allows easy scrolling through search results. Extensions for both Chrome and Firefox.
FastTab Switcher The BEST and simplest way to show ALL tabs in ALL windows in a drop down bar. Easily switch between them using the keyboard. You can close any tab by simply hitting the Ctrl-Delete key.
Link to Chrome extension: Fast Tab Switcher
Firefox Keyboard Shortcuts Official List of Firefox Shortcuts
Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts Official List of Chrome Shortcuts

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