Back in the day, before computer mice and trackpads were invented, people had to use a keys on the keyboard to navigate around computer screens. Though this changed when new, more ergonomic pointing devices came to the market, mouse keys remained.
Today, this Accessibility feature is still present in macOS. You can use it to your advantage if your trackpad or mouse isn’t working or if you just don’t want to take your hands off your keyboard. In this guide, we’ll show you how you can do this.
How to Enable and Activate Mouse Keys
Mouse Keys on macOS can be found by going to System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Alternate Pointer Methods. Check the first option to Enable Mouse Keys. You will now see a popup on the screen that says Mouse Keys.
Once the feature is active, the keys dedicated to moving the cursor only won’t type anything. To type, you will have to deactivate Mouse Keys.
One way is to do this manually every time, by going to System Preferences to turn the feature on and off. The other (quicker) way to do this is by clicking the Options button on the right of the Mouse Keys feature and enabling the Press the Option key five times to toggle Mouse Keys checkbox.
This way, instead of manually toggling the feature, you can conveniently press the Option key five times to turn the feature off and on whenever you need to use your keyboard keys normally.
Using Mouse Keys Controls
Once the Mouse Keys is active, macOS converts a set of keys on your keyboard into “mouse keys.” If your keyboard has a number pad, you can use the 7, 8, 9, 4, 6, 1, 2, and 3 keys to move the cursor. But, if it doesn’t have a number pad, then you can use the 7, 8, 9, U, O, J, K, and L keys. If you press and hold a key, the cursor will move continuously in that direction.
When you need to click, just press the key in the middle of this grid. With a numeric keyboard, that’s the 5 key. With a regular keyboard, it’s the I key.
Customize Mouse Keys to Suit Your Needs
Apple includes three sub-features in the Mouse Keys settings, each of which can help you adapt it to suit your needs. You can find these options by going to System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Alternate Control Method > Enable Mouse Keys > Options. Then choose from the options available to you.
- Initial Delay: This slider lets you control how much time the system takes after you press a Mouse Key to move the cursor. Greater delays prevent the cursor from moving if you press a key accidentally.
- Speed: This slider lets you decide how fast you want the cursor to move when you press and hold a key.
- Disabling Trackpad: This feature lets you disable the trackpad when you’re using Mouse Keys. It also prevents unnecessary cursor movement your trackpad tapping may cause. To enable it, check the Ignore built-in trackpad when Mouse Keys is on option.
If you’re using Mouse Keys because your trackpad isn’t working, it may be because you already used these settings to disable it.
Using a Mouse Is Better Than Using Mouse Keys
Although Mouse Keys is an easy solution when your mouse isn’t working, it normally only fits as a temporary solution due to it being slower and more inconvenient than a mouse or trackpad. Luckily, you might be able to get your mouse or trackpad working again without too much trouble.
Have you considered recharging your mouse or trackpad or replacing its batteries? Or, have you tried re-pairing it with your computer? Most often than not, these two solutions are all you need to do to get a mouse the reasons why a mouse or trackpad working with your Mac again.