What is Caret Browsing in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge and How to Use It

What is Caret Browsing in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge and How to Use It

You can highlight and copy text from browser pages in several ways besides using your mouse or trackpad. If your PC has a touchscreen, you can use your fingers. For computers without a touchscreen, you can use Caret Navigation – a feature that lets you navigate and highlight text on web pages using your PC keyboard. Let’s take a look to learn more about Caret browsing and how you can get the most out of it for browsing the web.

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Caret browsing Chrome Firefox Edge How to use the featured image

We will explain what Caret browsing does and how to use it on some popular web browsers – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

What is cursor navigation

Cursor navigation (also known as cursor navigation) lets you explore web pages using only the navigation keys on your keyboard. This type of navigation is commonly used in word processors (like Microsoft Word, Google Docs) and text editors (like Notepad and WordPad). With cursor navigation, you can select a large number of texts on web pages more precisely than using your computer’s mouse or trackpad.

Caret browsing Chrome Firefox Edge How to use the image

Compared to highlighting text with a slider – where you sometimes have to drag across the full length or width of your trackpad – cursor navigation is much more precise.

Let’s take a look at how caret browsing works on some of the most popular web browsers on the market – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

How to use cursor navigation

When you turn on cursor navigation, the arrow cursor disappears and a caret (the flashing vertical line) is placed randomly between the texts on the web page.

Did you know: The cursor is also colloquially referred to as a “text selection cursor”, “text insertion cursor”, or simply “text cursor”.

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You should note that using cursor navigation does not disable normal mouse / cursor navigation. Your PC’s mouse or trackpad can be used to move the cursor between texts or to specific positions on the page.

However, cursor navigation is mostly optimized to use the arrow keys (i.e., up, down, left, and right) and a few other keys on your keyboard.

Navigation by cursor navigation

Link opening

When you move the cursor to a link, the anchor text is highlighted with a small border. This helps differentiate links from normal text.

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When the cursor is over a link, click Enter (for Windows) or Return (for Mac) to open the link in the same tab. To open the link in a new tab, click Command + Return (for Mac) or Ctrl + Enter (for Windows). If you want to open a link in a new window using cursor navigation, use the shortcut key Shift + Enter.

Text navigation

Using only the Left or Right arrow key moves the cursor by a single letter. To move faster on a line (horizontally), hold down the “Option + Left / Right” keys. For Windows, use the “Alt + Left / Right” keys.

Highlight texts

To highlight texts, hold the Shift key + the arrow key in the direction of the texts you want to copy. This copies the text letter by letter.

You can use “Option + Shift + Left / Right” keys to highlight texts word by word. If you are navigating at the cursor on a Windows device, “Alt + Shift + Left / Right” is the shortcut to use. It’s a much better (and faster) way to copy texts horizontally in a sentence.

To highlight texts across different sentences, lines and paragraphs, use the “Shift + Up / Down” keys.

To instantly highlight all text on a line (horizontal), move the cursor to the start of the line and press “Shift + Option + Down” (or “Shift + Alt + Down” for Windows).

Otherwise, move the cursor to the end of the line and press “Shift + Option + Up” (or “Shift + Alt + Up” for Windows) to highlight the texts on that particular line.

Note: In cursor navigation, you can only highlight (and copy) hyperlink anchor text, not the link URL. To copy a link’s URL, you need to right-click on the link using your mouse or trackpad and select ‘Copy link location’ (for Firefox), ‘Copy link’ link address’ (for Chrome) or Copy link (for Microsft Bord).

Cursor navigation in Chrome

There are two ways to activate Caret navigation in Chrome:

1. Use the keyboard shortcut: Press the F7 key on your keyboard and click the “Activate” button on the confirmation prompt.

Caret Browsing Chrome Firefox Edge How To Use

2. In Chrome settings: Go to Settings> Accessibility (or paste chrome: // settings / accessibility in the address bar and press Enter / Return) and activate the option “Navigate through pages with a text cursor”.

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You can always turn off the feature using the F7 hotkey or from Chrome’s settings menu.

Cursor navigation in Firefox

In Firefox, you can activate Caret navigation only via a keyboard shortcut. Press F7 and click Yes to enable cursor navigation. Do the same to turn off the feature.

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Cursor navigation in Microsoft Edge

Enabling cursor navigation on Mircosoft Edge follows the same process as Firefox.

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You will have to rely on the F7 hotkey to turn cursor navigation on and off in Microsoft Edge.

Caret navigation demystified

That’s all you need to know about using Caret Navigation. Some popular browsers, like Safari and Opera, do not support caret browsing. Surprisingly, Internet Explorer does. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or are having difficulty using the feature.


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Last updated on Nov 20, 2020

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