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Navigate a form

A form on a web page asks you to type in information or make choices. Forms are used for things like tests, surveys, shopping orders, and collecting information for technical support. The form below shows each of the kinds of input controls you might see.



First radio button

Second radio button

First checkbox

Second checkbox


Tips for Navigating Forms: Navigating through a form can be frustrating if you don't understand how it works. You might even think your machine is screwed up!

There are two different ways of moving around a form. People have definite personal preferences about which way they like best.

  1. Mouse - easiest to understand. Move the mouse pointer to the input spot and click. A radio button or checkbox will be selected. In a text box or textarea the cursor appears and you are ready to type. The disadvantage is having to move from keyboard to mouse and back a lot.
  2. The TAB key - the favorite of those who like the keyboard best. Each time you press the TAB key the focus moves to a different form element. Round and round and round you go through all the parts. This has the advantage of keeping your hands on the keyboard all the time.

WarningOften when a page opens that contains a form, the first input on the form has the focus as soon as the page loads. This means that any keystrokes will apply to that box. That is handy since the viewer won't have to mouse or tab into the box. But the arrow keys, Page Up, and Page Down may not move you around on the page. Instead, these keys will move the cursor within a textbox or textarea. So if you just want to skip the form, you will have to click out of the form before you can use keys to move around. Annoying if you like to use the keys.

Tips about Tabbing:

  • TAB will move the focus to a different input. The ENTER key will no do this, on a standard HTML form.
  • In a Textarea box, the ENTER key will give a line break, just like in a word processor. But the TAB key will move you out to the next input instead of indenting your typing.
  • In a set of radio buttons or checkboxes, tabbing will take you to each in turn. But you may not be able to tell where the focus is currently since the inputs are so small. Once the focus is on a radio button or checkbox, select it by pressing the space bar.
  • In a drop list (pull-down list), the down and up arrows will move the focus through the list. To see more of the list at once, use the ALT key while pressing the down arrow.
  • A button on the page is pressed when you press the Spacebar, not the ENTER key.

Scroll back up the form above. Use both the mouse and keys  to do the following tasks, until you are comfortable with all the types of input controls:

  • Move from part to part through the form.
  • Select and enter text.
  • Make choices with radio buttons and checkboxes. Remember that only one radio button at a time can be selected within a group but any number of checkboxes can be selected.

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