How cursor navigation works on Chrome, Firefox, Edge

How to activate cursor navigation on web pages and how it works to highlight and select text

There are several ways to highlight and copy text from web pages open on your computer browser without using the mouse or trackpad. For example, if the PC has a touchscreen, you can use your fingers while on PCs with traditional non-touchscreen monitors, there is the so-called “cursor navigation“, a function, little known to most, which allows you to scroll a page and highlight text, checkboxes, and links using the keyboard.

The scroll with the cursor (also known as cursor navigation or Caret Browsing) allows you to go back and forth in reading web pages using only the arrow keys on your keyboard, the same way you can do when opening a Word document or other text editors (such as Notepad and WordPad). Using the keyboard, it becomes much easier and more accurate to select large chunks of text on web pages than with the mouse or, worse still, using the laptop trackpad.

READ ALSO: How to scroll the pages of a site automatically

How web browsing with text cursor works

Using a mouse, you need to hold down the key to select a piece of text from a website along its entire length, with the risk of making mistakes easily and having to start over. On the other hand, when you activate cursor navigation, a flashing vertical line appears (the typical one of Word or Notepad) randomly positioned in the visible text of the web page and the mouse pointer, only when moved over the text, is replaced by a vertical bar. The mouse or trackpad will continue to function normally, except that when you click on any word in the text on the page, the blinking cursor moves, which, in normal mode, does not appear. This allows you not only to keep a mark while reading but also to be able to scroll the page and select text as if you were on a Word document.

To scroll the page using the keyboard, you can press the left and right arrow keys, to move the flashing line letter by letter and move on the line. Pressing instead up and down arrow keys, the lines are scrolled up or down.

If you press the right and left arrow keys while holding down the CTRL key on PC or Option on Mac, then you move the cursor word by word on the text. If you hold down the CTRL key, you can scroll a page with the up and down keys no longer line by line but paragraph by paragraph.

It can select text using the arrow keys and holding Shift. The selection can also be made by holding down the CTRL and Shift keys to select an entire paragraph. For example, if you move the cursor to the end of a line, press CTRL – SHIFT and the Up Arrow together to select the entire paragraph you are reading.

When you move the cursor over a link, it is highlighted by a border and will do press Enter on your keyboard to open that link, without using the mouse. To open the link in a new tab you can press Enter + CTRL (Command key on Mac). If instead they are pressed together Shift and Enter when a link is selected, it opens in a new browser window.

If you encounter a control or a menu and the arrow keys no longer scroll, you can press ESC + up or down arrow or the key TAB to go to the next section and continue scrolling.

How to enable cursor navigation in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge

There is only one simple way to enable cursor navigation on all major browsers:

Press the F7 key on the keyboard to activate cursor navigation and then confirm by pressing the “Activate“.

Only on Google Chrome is it possible to activate the function also from the settings: in the Advanced> Accessibility section, you can activate the option “Move from page to page with a text cursor“.

You can disable text cursor navigation by pressing F7.

Some browsers, such as Safari and Opera, don’t support cursor navigation while, surprisingly, it is supported in Internet Explorer.

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