Keyboarding your way through Google searches

The other day I wrote about how I am trying to use the internal trackpad on my MacBook Pro instead of plugging in an external mouse. Since I switched to Mac from Windows I've become quite a heavy keyboard user, mainly because I feel that I am able to multi-task much better, especially when using the combination of LaunchBar and Spaces.

Where this breaks down is when I need to do a quick search in Google. I can quickly get to the search box by hitting Command-K in Firefox or Command-L, Tab in Safari (Command-Option-F in Safari is hard to pull off for me). I enter in my keywords and BAM, I've got my search results. But it breaks down once I need to navigate through the results - I pretty much have to grab the mouse.

The reason is that the only keyboard way to navigate through a Google search result is to hit the Tab key like you're playing whack a mole in an arcade. This is because the tab key stops on every link on the page and there are far too many that are not search related.

Then Brian mentioned in the comments to the post that Google is running a keyboard experiment for Google search. Anyone can join the experiment, which adds a greater than (>) symbol to the left of the search results and allows you to use the J and K keys to navigate through the results. You can hit O (or Enter) to open the link or / to go back to the search box.

You can see what it looks like by clicking on this link: David Alison

I was really impressed with the way it sped up my Google search navigation; I didn't have to move to the track pad or grab the mouse when on the Mac Pro, it had minimal impact on the presentation of the page and if I wanted to mouse around it still works as normal.

You can join the experiment yourself and it will add the behavior to the web browser you join the experiment with. If you run two browsers like I do (Safari + Firefox) you will need to join it on each. I've been happily joining the experiment on every machine I use.

Thanks for the great tip Brian!


valgonzarp said...

The only problem with it, last time I checked, was that I got different results for same searches on keyboard-enabled experimental search and "plain-old/mouse-only" Google search.

David Alison said...

@Valgonzarp: After reading your comment I tried to run a couple of searches with and without the experiment on and got the same results.

Charlie said...

Great find, as always!
You just made me notice that Google Reader (the RSS web app I use to read your blog) already uses these shortcuts! I like the convenience of the Mail app, but needed a web-based reader to use on my school's PCs. Now I know I'll keep using this one.

Timo said...

Good tip, except that I prefer 'Search for text when I start typing' -setting in Firefox and now the Ff tries to locate 'kkkkk' when I wanted to test the feature. Also none of the cmd/alt/ctrl/fn combinations helped in MBP.

valgonzarp said...

@David: hmm, I just checked it again and indeed couldn't find any differences until I typed non-english search term. I don't know why, but even the first page of results is totally different for the same query then (try "kropka", which means "dot" in Polish)...

David Alison said...

@Valgonzarp: Hmmm - I tried searching for "kropka" and received the same results (first 3 pages anyway) both with and without the experiment running. If you're not in the US perhaps you're bouncing between different servers when running the experimental version? That's the only reason I can think of for the different results.

SimpleLife said...

I used to completely navigate the web using voice recognition with extreme accuracy and speed.

The way I did it was by implementing the keyboarding addon for Firefox called Mouseless Browsing.

It works best with a 10 keypad, but can also be used with standard keyboard after setting options. It can allow you super accuracy in selecting any link on any webpage using a number for a link.

Works great in Google. The link numbers can be toggled on and off quickly. Accurate, fast. Absolutely no mousing. Especially useful if one uses the tips in David Alison's previous blog posting.

Links below. Try it. Easy to use and install, yet powerful and configurable.

Firefox Addon Page:


Mouseless Browsing Home Page


PS I no longer use Firefox 'cause I love WebKit and Safari.

SimpleLife said...

I just tried the Google Experiment above. It's pretty slick. Again, especially if used with the tips in David's previous blog post.

If you are disabled like I was and want to learn how to do implement Mouseless Browsing for voice recognition, go to link below:

The link is for Windows only, but I'm sure this can be implemented for Macs somehow. It's a complete step-by-step walkthrough with screenshots.

The technology is out there. Learning and finding how to use it the hard part.

Thank goodness for forums and blogs.


SimpleLife said...

I love this Google Experiment.

I just wish they had a way to open a link in a new background tab somehow.

I'm still having to mouse/trackpad and Command+Click which defeats the whole purpose of it for me. When I'm Googling, I usually select 5-10 tabs in the background, then I go browsing.

Please post if you know how to do this with this Google Experiment.

I really like how the J and K will also automatically go to the next or previous page of the Google search listings.

brian said...

SimpleLife: I agree about the new tab idea you have. I was thinking about the J and K keys. This is a small issue, but I would prefer the keys be closer to the edge of the keyboard and thus the Enter key. Maybe the bracket keys, I don't know. Again, small issue.

David Alison said...

@SimpleLife: I really like the idea of the ability to open the search result to a background tab. That's exactly how I do most of my searching: enter the keywords and then middle-mouse-button click on them to open them in background tabs. If if they could simply have a key to open the link in a new window (which for me puts it in a different tab) would be helpful.

@Brian: The J & K keys are perfect for me since they are the home keys for a touch typist. O works great too because it's right off that home row.

The nice thing about the Google experiment is that they have a feedback form you can fill out and provide suggestions for improvements. I'm doing that now for SimpleLife's idea.

David Alison said...

@All: It appears that the Google experiment is broken. Bummer!