Published: 26 December 2022

I can't use a mouse

This post is the first in a five part series about document accessibility. It is about ways of using your computer without using a mouse (and later, a keyboard). We will first look at keyboard navigation. Many people know how to navigate websites using the keyboard. Most are less confident using the keyboard to navigate and create documents.

Then we will look at ways of using a computer without a mouse or a keyboard. I will try to show you how voice recognition software works.

In this series, I will use documents as an umbrella term to cover:

Why can't I use a mouse?

I want to keep this part brief. There are many reasons why somebody might find it difficult or impossible to use a mouse. I like the concept of permanent, temporary and situational impairments. This is not a full list. It just gives some examples to show why a person might not be able to use a mouse.

Possible reasons why someone cannot use a mouse
Permanent Temporary Situational
No arms/hands Arm/hand injury Holding a baby/other item
Blind (can't see the pointer) Poor hand-eye coordination (due to alcohol, drugs, meds) Wearing gloves
Arthritis Left handed person using someone else's computer Trying to keep the cat off the keyboard
Tremor Mouse is broken/lost Performing a task where keyboard is more efficient

Navigating by keyboard

You might want to try this out, as we go. If you have never ditched the mouse before, now is a good time. I will give as many techniques, examples and instructions as I can think of. It should be enough to get you started.

Before we start, I should clarify one thing... When I talk about ditching the mouse, I mean all kinds of mice. I don't mean use the touchpad on a laptop instead. I mean only use the actual keyboard. Apologies to Apple-users, but I'm a Windows user. I have a work MacBook but I'm still getting to grips with it, so these examples are mostly for Windows.

If you want to use keyboard navigation to browse the Internet, you might also want to look at this page on Keyboard Navigation.

Opening Word

The Start menu

Most keyboards have a Windows button. It might say Win or it might have the Windows icon on it. If you press that button, it brings up the Start menu.

Once the Start menu is open, you can start typing the name of the application you want to use. So you could type W and then check what predictive options are coming up. If Word is the only option, you don't need to type any more. Just press Enter and Word will open. If there are several apps beginning with W, you might need to type the next letter or two first.

If you don't want to type in the name of the app, you can use the Tab key to move around the Start menu. I have apps grouped into folders in my Start menu. I can tab to the group, press Enter to open the group, and then use the left and right arrow keys to move around the items in the group. When I get to Word, I press Enter.

The following video shows how I open Word.


Formatting text

Let's assume you've written something. It doesn't make much difference whether you wrote it in Word, PowerPoint or an email. Now, you want to select certain words or phrases and format them in some way. Maybe you want to cut or copy and paste them. How do you do that without using a mouse?

Selecting text

You can move the cursor around using the arrow keys. You may also have Home, End, PgUp and PgDn buttons on your keyboard. Get used to using them to move around. Put the cursor at the beginning of the word or phrase you want to select. Then hold down the Shift key and start pressing the right arrow key. This will select until you choose to stop. If you want to select a whole paragraph or multiple lines, use the down arrow key instead of right.

Cut, copy and paste

Once you have selected your text, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:

If you are using an Apple device, you can do the same thing using the Cmd key instead of Ctrl.

Bold and italic

The text you want to make bold or italic must be selected. Then you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:

There are many more keyboard shortcuts. If you can use a mouse, hover it over the feature you want and the shortcut will be shown.

Using menus and the ribbon

Although memorising shortcuts is handy and will save you time, there are some features that can't be accessed this way. It is quite easy though, to access all the menus and ribbons using your keyboard.

Press the Alt key and all the menus and different items on the ribbon will receive a letter. You can then press the letter for the menu or item you want. If there are more options within that menu or item, then more letters will appear. Just keep pressing until you have performed the action you want.

The following video shows how to use the menus and ribbons with a keyboard.


Closing Word

To close the document, press Ctrl + F4.

To close Word (or other application) completely, press Alt + F4.

I can't use a mouse or a keyboard

If you can't use a keyboard either, you can still use a computer. One option is to use voice recognition software. This means you can operate your computer using voice commands. You can also dictate, which means you can create documents.


Dragon Naturally Speaking Opens in new window is a software application that allows you to control your computer, browse the Internet, dictate documents and basically do everything using your voice. It's not cheap and it does take some getting used to, but if you find it difficult or impossible to use a keyboard and mouse, it is probably worth considering.

The following video shows you Dragon can be used to create documents in Word.


Windows Speech

Windows Speech is part of the Ease of Access centre, built into Windows 10 and 11 computers. It's free but it has less features than Dragon.

You can toggle Windows Speech on and off using Ctrl + Win + S. The first time you use it, you will need to set it up. This only takes a few minutes. As part of the set-up, you will be given a list of commands. This is really useful! I would suggest bookmarking it and then you can go back to it, if you get stuck.

Windows Speech works in a similar way to Dragon. Both of them become more accurate, the more you use them. They both use a numbering system to let you choose options. I've used Dragon for a few years now, so I prefer it, just because I am familiar with it. If I was starting from scratch though, I would probably just go with Windows Speech. It's free and it does what it says on the tin.