Today, I’m starting an occasional Wednesday feature on browsers called Better Browsing. I’ll be covering all manner of extensions, hacks, and tricks for all the browswers out there, but primarily the major ones (that means Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera). On the inaugural edition of Better Browsing, I’m focusing on a Chrome extension called Vimium that allows you to use your keyboard to surf the web. As you might have noticed from my previous posts, I greatly abhor the mouse. Why use a slow rodent when you can make an application immediately do what you want with a keyboard shortcut? After all, HackCollege is all about finding tips and tricks to make our lives as college students easier and get things done more quickly. Thanks to my goal of not using my mouse whenever possible, I stumbled upon a great browser extension that allows you to navigate the web solely with your keyboard. If you want to speed up your browsing and keep your hands glued to the home row, check out Vimium.

You can download Vimium here and find out more about it here. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Google Chrome (sorry Firefox users).

What is It?

Dubbed as the hacker’s browser, Vimium provides keyboard shortcuts for control and navigation in the spirit of the Vim text editor. For those not in the know, Vim is a very old-school program that you can find out more about here. After you install the extension, navigate to any page and type “?” to open up the Vimium help dialog box and see all the options available to you. If you’re comfortable enough with installing the extension, you should understand what all the functions mean. You can do things like:

  1. Open links in the current tab or a new tab
  2. Open bookmarks in the current tab or a new tab
  3. Scroll through your open tabs
  4. Copy the current URL to your clipboard

Why is it Worth Downloading?

The most useful of Vimium’s many features is definitely opening links with your keyboard. After you hit “f”, Vimium will pop up a whole bunch of yellow text boxes with letters. These boxes correspond to all the links you can click on from Chrome’s current view. Hit the corresponding key combinations to go where you want – it’s that easy. Beyond this powerful feature, Vimium also opens up even quicker shortcuts that Chrome’s defaults. For example, instead of hitting Ctrl W to close a tab, you can just hit “x”.

Finally, like any good program/extension should do, Vimium allows you to change all the default keyboard shortcuts however you want. Don’t like that you have to hold down the shift modifier for “F” to open links in a new tab? Just go to Vimium’s extension preferences to make it “f” instead of “F”.

Problems?

Most of the time, Vimium works great. Watch out for pages with links that are spaced very close to each other – I’ve had trouble deciphering which text boxes correspond to which links sometimes. Also, it doesn’t work with Flash sections of websites – you’ll have to stick with a mouse for that unfortunately. Finally, it sometimes (rarely though) doesn’t recognize buttons as links, another time when you’ll have to resort to using the mouse. Despite these drawbacks, I browse the web a lot more quickly now thanks to Vimium, and I hope you find it as useful as I have.

What do you think of Vimium? Have you found any Vimium-like extensions for other browsers? Let us know in the comments!