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Find As You Type (Mozilla) and ACCESSKEY

From: Jesper Tverskov <jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 10:35:42 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <PMEDKJMNFKKCPMNLCCFIEEHECCAA.jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>

It has been suggested in this mailing list, that "Find As You Type" in the Mozilla browser could be an alternative or a supplement to the use of the HTML ACCESSKEY attribute.

I have now tested this very interesting new feature. All about the feature is documented here:

I have some comments:


"Find As You Type" is very close to being the user agent solution I propose in my article: "Use first letter as ACCESSKEY". 

Great that at least Mozilla is listening to the maidens prayers ;-)

This is what I propose in the article:

"First letter as access key should be implemented already today by the authors of web pages. But in the long run, it is also an issue for browsers and other user agents. One day the browsers should by default generate first letter of the link name as access key to the link for all links encountered on a web page."

In the article I propose ways for the web page authors to overrule the default behavior of the browser using CSS. Mozilla has come up with an even better solution: No conflict between the HTML ACCESSKEY and the browser implementation of "Find As You Type" (very similar to using first letter).


"Find As You Type", as it is, is a little too complicated to use as a substitute for old-fashioned HTML ACCESSKEYS to links by most users. The feature can be used for more than links, it can also be used for text, and as default it is looking for more than the first letter of a link name. But this could be changed in Mozilla's "preferences" by power users:

user_pref("accessibility.typeaheadfind.startlinksonly", false);    // If true, matches only to the start of links when searching only for links.


"Find As You Type" is very close to being the user agent solution I propose. But as I say in my article, it can take many years before let us say 90 percent of user agents support such a feature. In the mean time I see no reasons why not to use "First letter as ACCESSKEY" as proposed in the article. Both IE and Mozilla (at least in Windows) supports the two different ways of pressing the ALT key (Cmd in Mac), that is: more than 90 percent of the user agents supports it.

Remember the important advantages of using first letter as access keys. Systematically using the first letter of a link text as the access key could be a simple, easy to understand and easy to remember scheme.

1) Access keys can be generated by code (important in these CMS days)
2) You do not have to mark the access key letter in the link text, it is always the first letter
3) You can use access keys for more than a handful of links 

Since implementations like "Find As You Type" makes it irrelevant to use CSS (in some future spec) to overrule the default behavior of the browser, I will have to make some changes to the section: "Perspective" in my article.

We have come a long way!

Jesper Tverskov
Received on Wednesday, 26 February 2003 04:29:48 UTC

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