This guide explains how you can navigate a web page, fill in online forms and use drop down boxes designed for a mouse using the keyboard.
Using the keyboard to browse the web can be a useful alternative to using the mouse, and for some people is the only way they navigate a page.
Pressing the ‘Tab’ key while on a web page will select the next link on the page. You can press ‘Tab’ repeatedly to get to the chosen link.
The selected link is indicated by the dotted border around the link, see fig 1.
Once your chosen link is selected, you can trigger it by pressing the ‘Enter’ key on your keyboard.
You can move backwards through links by pressing ‘Shift’ + ‘Tab’ together.
Filling in forms with the keyboard
In forms there are specific keys for selecting radio buttons and checkboxes.
When you ‘Tab’ into a form section with a choice of radio buttons, you can change your choice using the ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ or ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ arrows, see Fig 2.
To move to the next section after making your selection hit the ‘Tab’ key.
Note: if you hit the ‘Enter’ key by mistake, the form is often ‘submitted’ before you want to because the ‘Enter’ key is set to trigger the form ‘submit’ button.
You can navigate between checkboxes using the ‘Tab’ key.
To select a ‘checkbox’ you press the ‘Spacebar’ and then press ‘Tab’ to move onto the next ‘checkbox,’ see Fig 3.
To cancel or deselect a ‘checkbox’ press the ‘Spacebar’ again and the ‘tick’ or ‘cross’ will be removed.
Drop down combo box menus
Many websites use drop down combo box menus as ‘quick links’ to other sections of a site, see Fig 4.
Often, however, they are not designed with a keyboard user in mind and tabbing into them and pressing the ‘Down’ arrow to select a link in the list typically results in the first link in the list being triggered rather than the intended link, which can be very frustrating.
Ideally this type of combo box should have a ‘go’ button next to it so a keyboard user can select the link that interests them and then press the ‘go’ button.
Fortunately, there is a work around to this problem. After tabbing into a combo box press ‘Alt’ + ‘Down’ arrow together, which brings up the list of links. Then use the ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ arrow to make your choice and press ‘Enter’ to trigger the selection.