Hack and / - Dr hjkl Meets the Vimperator

If you want to be a futuristic Web-browsing machine, terminate that mouse, pick up the keyboard, and find out how Vimperator can transform Firefox into a modal half-vim, half-browser cyborg.
Heads-Up Link Displays

In my mind, the real power of Vimperator besides the standard keybindings is the fact that you can use the keyboard to open links, move to input boxes and even simulate mouse hovering. Vimperator calls this Hint mode, and to activate it, press the f key on any Web page. All of the “hintable” objects on the page, such as hyperlinks, text-entry boxes and drop-down menus will be highlighted with a number assigned to them (Figure 2). To select one of the highlighted items, you either can type in the number next to it and press Enter, or you can start typing part of the highlighted text. For instance, if you are reading a multipage article on the Web and see links to each page of the article along with a Next link, you could press f and then type N e x t. As you type, hints that no longer match drop away, and once there is only one match left, it automatically will load. When you use f, hints will open up in the current tab, but if you want to open the page in a new tab, simply start Hint mode with F instead of f. Like with other modes, you can press the Esc key to exit Hint mode.

Figure 2. LinuxJournal.com in Hint Mode

The f and F keys activate a Quick Hint mode, but you also can activate an Extended Hint mode to enable other actions on a link beyond a left-mouse click. To enable Extended Hint mode, press the ; key, followed by a special key to set the type of action you want to perform, and finally type the number associated with a particular hint. Here is an abridged list of some hint modes you might want to use, but for the full list, check the Vimperator help page. Keep in mind that you will press the ; key before any of these keys:

  • ; — pressing two ; keys in a row will focus a link and hover over it with a mouse; this is useful for activating JavaScript drop-down menus.

  • s — save the destination of a link.

  • f — focus a particular frame.

  • y — yank the destination location for a link.

  • Y — yank the text description of a link.

Believe me, I've barely scratched the surface of Vimperator here. It really reminds me of vim in the sense that I always feel like I'm using only 10% of the available features. As with vim though, Vimperator rewards you while you progress through its learning curve. I use Vimperator on all of my Firefox sessions, and it seems weird (and slow) to me now to browse Web sites with a mouse.

Kyle Rankin is a Systems Architect in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of a number of books, including The Official Ubuntu Server Book, Knoppix Hacks and Ubuntu Hacks. He is currently the president of the North Bay Linux Users' Group.


Kyle Rankin is Chief Security Officer at Purism, a company focused on computers that respect your privacy, security, and freedom. He is the author of many books including Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks, DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu


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Anonymous's picture

Hi there. My name is ---- but my friends call me -----. I like to look at funny pictures of old people. My top three is the dancing man, the muffin lady and Karen. The dancing man is funny because he doesn't have any teeth and has a funny suit. He is also dancing a funny dance. He is very silly. I like the muffin lady because her face reminds me of blueberry muffins. And everyone likes blueberry muffins! Especially me. I love the little bits of blueberry, they are very crunchy

vimperator and "next" links

Anonymous's picture

Great article. I wanted to mention that the specific example you site in your section on hinting ("For instance, if you are reading a multipage article on the Web and see links to each page of the article along with a Next link") is a poor example -- see the help for "[[" and "]]". These keybindings automatically look for next/previous links and activate them (so, when browsing multi-page articles at online magazine sites, you can simply type ']]' to move from one page to the next).