How to move and control the mouse pointer using your Mac keyboard

No matter if you’re designing a newsletter in Pages, putting together a mockup of your blog in Pixelmator, editing a video project in Final Cut Pro X, creating a 3D scene and so forth, at some point you’ll want to move things around with pixel precision.

Thankfully, macOS provides a very useful Accessibility feature that allows you to move the mouse pointer in all directions and replicate clicks using just the keyboard.

In this quick tutorial, we’ll show you how to turn on a life-saving Mouse Keys feature and take advantage of it to move the mouse pointer and press the mouse button with your Mac’s keyboard or numeric keypad.

How to turn on Mouse Keys

1) Bring up the Accessibility Options overlay by pressing the Option + Command + F5 key combo. Older macOS editions may require you to visit Accessibility settings in System Preferences → Accessibility → Pointer Control.

Tip: If you own a Touch Bar-outfitted Mac, triple-press the Touch ID button to pull up Accessibility Options.

2) In the Accessibility Options overlay, tick the box next to Enable Mouse Keys located underneath the Mouse & Keyboard heading to turn Mouse Keys on.

Accessibility Options Mac Shortcut

3) Click Done to close the overlay and save the changes.

4) There are additional options for adjusting how this feature behaves that you can change to your liking in System Preferences → Accessibility → Pointer Control → Alternate Control Method.

5) Click Options next to Enable Mouse Keys.

Alternate Control Methods Mouse Keys Options

You can now customize the following Mouse Keys features:

  • Use the keyboard to toggle Mouse Keys—Tick the box next to “Press the Option key five times to toggle Mouse Keys” if you’d like to turn Mouse Keys on and off by pressing the Option (⌥) key five times.
  • Ignore trackpad—If you’d like to disable the trackpad on your Mac when the Mouse Keys feature is enabled, tick the box next to “Ignore built-in trackpad when Mouse Keys is on”.
  • Initial Delay—Set how quickly the pointer starts moving when you press a key.
  • Maximum Speed—Set the maximum speed at which the pointer moves.

Accessibility Mouse Keys Options

6) Click OK to exit this screen, then close out System Preferences.

When Mouse Keys is on, you cannot use the keyboard or numeric keypad to type letters, numbers or symbols as your keyboard now controls the mouse pointer. To bring back regular typing, turn Mouse Keys off.

RELATED: Stopping your Mac from inserting a period upon double-pressing Space bar

How to use Mouse Keys

With Mouse Keys enabled, you can control the mouse pointer using your Mac’s keyboard.

Most people will use this convenient feature on an ad-hoc basis—for example, in situations when they’re working on a project which requires moving the pointer with pixel accuracy.

Aside from moving the pointer left, right, up, down and in all directions diagonally, the keys on your Mac’s keyboard also simulate actions like clicking, releasing or holding the mouse button.

Here’s the full list of Mouse Keys shortcuts for your convenience:

Move the mouse pointer

  • With a numeric keypad: Use the 7, 8, 9, 4, 6, 1, 2, 3 keys on the keypad.
  • With the keyboard: Use the 7, 8, 9, U, O, J, K, L keys.

Click the mouse button

  • With a numeric keypad: Press 5 on the keypad.
  • With the keyboard: Press I.

Hold the mouse button

  • With a numeric keypad: Press 0 (zero) on the keypad.
  • With the keyboard: Press M.

Release the mouse button

  • With a numeric keypad: Press “.” (period) on the keypad.
  • With the keyboard: Press “.” (period).

And that’s all when it comes to using the Mouse Keys feature.

I find Mouse Keys a convenient way of moving the pointer whenever high precision is required. I normally use this feature in conjunction with image editors like Pixelmator and Adobe Photoshop when standard alignment guides become a nuisance but I’m sure you’ll find your own uses for Mouse Keys.

RELATED: Changing the behavior of Mac’s Control, Option, Command and Caps Lock keys

If you like this handy macOS capability, I recommend enabling the option to turn Mouse Keys on and off by pressing the Option key five times in a rapid succession (you’ll hear an audible confirmation when the feature is toggled).

How do you like Mouse Keys?

What do you think about Mouse Keys?

Were you aware that this feature existed? And will you be using it, do you think?

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