Chances are you spend a lot of time in a web browser every day—so anything you can do to speed up the way you get around the internet is going to make a significant difference to your productivity levels (and give you extra time to do something more exciting). Yes, even on the best web browsers. Here’s one such hack you might not have tried yet: Mouse gestures.
Mouse gestures—quick flicks and swipes of your input device—can replace the standard buttons or keyboard shortcuts for going forwards and backwards on the web, closing tabs, refreshing pages, opening links in the background, and so on and so on. Even if you only save a fraction of a second each time, it all adds up.
The best way of understanding how useful mouse gestures can be is to give them a try. They come built into some web browsers, while on others you need the help of a third-party extension—but however you get them enabled, see for yourself the difference they can make to your day-to-day web browsing.
Opera is one of the browsers with mouse gestures baked right in—and it’s not the only reason this innovative, alternative browser is worth checking out. If you’ve never used mouse gestures before, then Opera is a good place to start learning: Click the Easy setup button (top right, it looks like three sliders), then Go to full browser settings, then pick Advanced and Features before turning the Enable mouse gestures toggle switch on.
You can click Learn more to see what the shortcuts are, and Configure Shortcuts to customize them for yourself. To start using a gesture, you need to hold down the right mouse button: By default, you can then swipe left to go back one page, swipe right to go forward one page, or swipe down then right to close the current tab. Another gesture that can come in handy is right-clicking on a link and then swiping down with the mouse, which opens it in a new tab.
Another browser that integrates mouse gestures and which deserves to take more market share away from the big names is Vivaldi. You can find the mouse gestures setting by clicking the Settings button (the cog icon, bottom left): Choose Mouse and then check the Allow Gestures box to enable the feature. Some example gestures are listed on screen, and as with Opera, you need to hold down the right mouse button in order to use them.
Right-clicking and swiping down opens up a new tab, for example, while right-clicking and swiping up and then to the right brings back the most recently closed tab. The buttons below the list let you add, remove, and customize the gestures, and you can also use the slider bar further down to change the gesture sensitivity. If you feel like you’ve taken mouse gesture customizations in Vivaldi too far, you can click Restore Default Gestures.
As useful as mouse gestures are, none of the major browsers have adopted the feature, so you’re going to have to rely on third-party extensions instead. When it comes to Google Chrome, one of the best options is CrxMouse Chrome Gestures, which you can use for free: Once you’ve added it to Chrome, you’ll get a cool little browser game you can complete to learn the various gestures that are supported (or you can just watch a tutorial video).
Click the CrxMouse Chrome Gestures button on the toolbar to see the gestures that are currently active. Any of the gestures can be edited as needed, and the extension comes with a host of settings too: You can change everything from the mouse cursor to the gesture sensitivity. As Microsoft Edge is now built on the same Chromium code as Google’s browser, you can use the same CrxMouse Chrome Gestures add-on in Edge as well.
If Mozilla Firefox is your browser of choice, then the add-on you need is the free Gesturefy. Once the extension is installed, you can click on its icon in the toolbar to see the available gestures—as always, you need to hold down the right mouse button before carrying out any of them on a page. Click on a specific gesture to see how it works, and to change the action it triggers. You can also click New Gesture to create one of your own.
Switch to the Settings tab to configure various aspects of how the Gesturefy add-on works inside Firefox. You can, for instance, change the mouse button that activates gestures, and set a deactivation key to temporarily disable gestures while it’s pressed down. Head to Extras to set up more gestures using other combinations, including the mouse scroll wheel, and open the Exclusions tab if you want to disable the extension on certain sites.
Mouse gestures aren’t supported natively by Apple’s Safari browser, and you don’t have too many options when it comes to third-party extensions either. One that we’ve come across is the free (and aptly named) Mouse Gestures for Safari: After installing it, open the Safari menu, then choose Preferences and Extensions to change the gesture configurations, adjust their sensitivity, and to set how gestures are displayed on screen.
There are a handful of similar tools that work across the whole of macOS, including Safari, rather than in the browser specifically: Mouse Gestures, MacGesture and xGestures (which was actually inspired by the mouse gestures support in Opera). You might find they work better than the Mouse Gestures for Safari extension, or you might find mouse gestures prove to be so useful that you switch to a browser that supports the feature natively.