A way of controlling the GUI with the mouse that doesn't involve interacting with a particular widget. Black and White seemed to be the first to implement this. Opera browser now supports them as well, adding to its list of impressive features.

Here are some examples of Opera's mouse gestures. They all require you to hold down the right mouse button while performing the action.

  • Back: Move the mouse from right to left.
  • Forward: Move the mouse from left to right.
  • Close window: Move the mouse down then right.
  • Open link in new window: Hold the right mouse button over the link and then move down, up.
  • (See the manual for the full list.)
Mouse gestures simplify life significantly, as they are much easier to perform than clicking a tiny button or switching to the keyboard to press a key combination. While the question of accidental gestures may arise, I've found these to happen very rarely. (Not more often than accidentally clicking a link or any other kind of accidental action.)
The primary advantage of mouse gestures is, that you can keep your hand on the mouse. Thus, you lose no time switching between the mouse and the keyboard, which is annoying and slow.

Especially for viewing websites this comes in handy, because you usually don't need to type text anyway. And with a scrollwheel-equipped mouse, the user experience gets even better. All the usual actions, such as following a link, reloading a page, go back/forward in the history, close a window, open a new window, etc. can be performed while keeping your hand on the mouse, ready to click on links. Also, it helps one handed surfing.

You can get mouse gestures working in Mozilla (as an installable module) thanks to the Optimoz project. Using JavaScript, you can configure Mozilla's handling of your mouse gestures, and you can add new ones. Like this one, that tells you How to search E2 using mouse gestures in Mozilla. Along with tabbed browsing (also pioneered by the Opera browser), I consider this the two best UI features of modern browers.

The cenceptual sister of mouse gestures is called pie menus, which also aid in the act of one-handed browsing but operate in a way more similar to that of a traditional menu in the ubiquitous WIMP system.

The Black & White was definitely not the first program to use mouse gestures, nor did Lionhead invent it. My first experience with mouse gestures was when I was working with an EDA (electronic design automation) application by Mentor Graphics. The program was run on a HP-UX workstation quite a few years before B&W.

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