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Re: accesskeys - standards for which keys do what?

From: Alan Cantor <acantor@oise.utoronto.ca>
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 13:01:40 -0500 (EST)
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
cc: w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.SOL.3.91.990127121718.23935A-100000@tortoise>
There really should be standards for accesskeys, even if the standards
state which keys should NOT be used. Most Windows applications reserve
certain keys which make it possible to perform functions sans mouse. 

Here is a first go at a list of keys that I believe should be avoided for

Alt + A through Alt + Z  

Software makers use Alt + printing character to activate menus, and
there's no telling which keys they will choose. For example, Netscape
reserves Alt + F, E, V, G, W and H. Opera reserves Alt + F, E, V, N, L, M,
S, P, W and H. Furthermore, shortcuts are apt to change when a new version
of a program is released. To add spice to the international soup, versions
in different languages are apt to have different access keys. 

In addition, these Alt-key combos work in pretty well all Windows-based

Alt + spacebar    (activates System menu for application)
Alt + hyphen      (activates System menu for the pane)
Alt + left arrow  (go to previous page)
Alt + right arrow (go to next page)

That leaves available Alt + 0 through Alt + 9, Alt + most punctuation
marks, plus Alt + F1 through F12. 

There are also Ctrl key combinations that should be avoided, but I don't
know whether accesskeys work with Ctrl keys. (Well?) But for the record,
Ctrl + A, B, C, F, N, O, P, V, X, Y, Z work in most applications (and
browsers). I have omitted keys that tend NOT to work in browsers, but work
in word processors, such as Ctrl + B, I, and U. 

Keyboard-only access to Windows is a wild and wooly area because of the
lack of standards, built-in accessibility barriers, etc. For example, to
activate the button-in-focus, use the spacebar or Enter key. All browsers
I have seen, save Opera, break this rule. Netscape and Explorer force the
user to use Enter key, only. 

Nothwithstanding the chaos, keyboard-only techniques are extremely fast
and efficient for people who have trouble using a mouse or other pointing
device. Some of my clients to whom I have taught keyboard-only access are
10 to 30 times faster than when using MouseKeys, trackballs, or whatever.
(E.g., 1 second to perform an operation instead of 20 or 25 seconds.)

For an evaluation of keyboard-only access to Windows 95, see:



Alan Cantor
Cantor + Associates
Workplace Accommodation Consultants
New e-mail address: acantor@interlog.com

> >Are there any standard access keys assignments? E.g. Alt-S for search or
> >whatever? And if not is there a danger that every site will have a different 
> >set
> >of keys for people to learn?
> According to the HTML 4.0 recommendation, there are no "standard accesskeys."
> http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/interact/forms.html#adef-accesskey
> >On reflection it was silly to set Alt-H to anything as it will prevent the
> Help
> >menu in the browser being accessed...
> Somewhere it would be helpful to keep an index of ALT-key functions for
> some of the major browsers.
> Good comments- thanks for bringing this to light.
Received on Wednesday, 27 January 1999 13:04:07 UTC

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