Chrome

How to Use Caret Browsing

Most of us use a mouse or trackpad to navigate around web pages. Nowadays, we can even use our fingers or stylus pens on modern devices to browse websites. Do you know that you can do just about the same thing using the perennial keyboard? Caret browsing is the method of navigating or moving around a web page by using a keyboard instead of the usual mouse or trackpad. The feature is named after the caret, which is the vertical blinking cursor we commonly see in text editors, word processors, and spreadsheets for text selection or insertion. Caret browsing has also been adopted in web browsers for webpage navigation, but not all browsers support this feature. Currently, popular browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Brave, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer support this mode, while Safari, Opera, and other browsers don’t have such a feature.

Caret browsing is primarily used to select and highlight a block of text in a web page, usually for copying and highlighting links and subsequently opening them up. Users who are more accustomed to using keyboards find caret browsing more convenient, faster, and more precise than using a mouse. Even if you’re fond of using the mouse or trackpad, knowing how to use caret browsing will come in handy if these devices get jammed or are not available.

How to Enable Caret Browsing

Caret browsing is normally not enabled by default in web browsers. Press the F7 key to turn this mode on. You will first be prompted whether you want to turn this feature on, in case you just accidentally pressed the F7 key. Click Turn on to enable caret browsing. If you want the browser to automatically enable this feature when you press F7 in the future, you can check “Do not show this again” on the prompt:

All browsers supporting caret browsing follow the same method of enabling the feature. However, Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer offer an alternative way to turn this feature on. In Chrome, go to Settings → Advanced → Accessibility → Navigate pages with a cursor and turn the slider on:

In Internet Explorer, click the gear icon on the top right of the browser, click File, and select Caret browsing:

In Edge, click on the three dots at the top right corner of the browser, then navigate to Settings → Accessibility → Keyboard → Navigate pages with a text cursor, and turn the slider on:

Do note that this will turn on caret browsing on all websites. If you just want to turn on caret browsing on certain websites, you can use the F7 method instead.

Once you’ve successfully turned the caret browsing on, you will see the caret on the webpage, and you can start navigating. To disable the feature, simply press the F7 key again. Turning on caret browsing does not disable the mouse or trackpad. You can still move around the webpage using your normal mouse cursor.

How to Navigate a Webpage Using Caret Browsing

Once you’ve enabled caret browsing, you will see the blinking cursor where you last pointed your mouse on. If you don’t see it on the webpage, you can also move the cursor to your desired position using the mouse, trackpad, or keyboard keys. Caret browsing allows you to do the following functions using just a keyboard.

Navigating the Webpage

Use the Up and Down arrow keys to scroll the page or move to the next or previous line. To move left or right, use the Left and Right arrow keys. Use the Home key to move the cursor to the beginning of the line and the End key to move the cursor to the end of the line. Use the Tab key to highlight or move to different tabs, images, and links on the webpage and press Enter to open up the contents.

Selecting and Deselecting Text

To select text letter by letter, press and hold the Shift key and use the left or right arrow keys to highlight the text or the block of text you want to select. To deselect the text, hold down the Shift key and press the opposite arrow.

To select the text word by word, press and hold Ctrl + Shift and use the arrow keys to highlight the words. To deselect, use the opposite arrow while still pressing Ctrl + Shift.

You can also easily select a whole paragraph using key combinations. Bring the caret to the beginning of the paragraph, press and hold Ctrl + Shift, and press the Down arrow. To deselect the whole paragraph, release Ctrl + Shift and press any arrow keys.

Activating Links

To open up links in the caret browsing mode, move the cursor to the anchor text or the link. The anchor text or link will be highlighted with a border. Alternatively, you can use the Tab key to highlight the anchor text. Pressing the Tab key is faster to jump from one anchor text to another. There are various ways to activate the links in caret browsing mode. Once the anchor text or the link is highlighted, press Enter to open the link in the same tab, press Control + Enter to open the link in a new tab, or press Shift + Enter to open the link in a new window.

Conclusion

Caret browsing is a great alternative to the usual control methods of web browsing. You can do just as many things on a webpage using a keyboard as you would using a mouse or trackpad. You can highlight text, open up links, or just travel around the webpage with ease. It is a more precise and accurate way to select a chunk of text on a webpage. It is also more convenient to focus your control on just one device rather than keep on shifting your hands from keyboard to mouse. If a mouse or trackpad is still the better option for you, learning caret browsing will be a huge help if you’re trapped in situations where these devices are not usable. We hope you found this article helpful. Check out other Linux Hint articles for more tips and tutorials.

About the author

Glynis Navarrete

A freelance blogger who loves to write about anything related to technology. Born and raised in the Philippines and worked in Singapore for eight years as Technical Support for a wide range of IT equipment. Took a dive into the world of freelancing and now enjoying doing what I’m passionate about while not losing touch with technology.