Mac OSX, Mozilla Firefox and the tab sequence

If you’ve just gotten a new Mac, taken it out of the shiny box (or started off with Hackintoshes like me!), then installed Mozilla Firefox, you might wonder why the tab button does not move the cursor within forms as it should (or as you are used to anyway).

I’m the type who uses the tab button to switch between text fields, radio buttons, list boxes and submit buttons. But when I got the Mac, I was flabbergasted for a good day or two as the tab button behavior drove me nuts. Normally, when I fill in a form and hit tab, I expect the cursor to jump from text box to text box to check box to radio button to list box and finally to my submit button. BUT, in this instance, it just moved between text boxes and list boxes.

Mac OSX and Mozilla Firefox tab indexes behavior differs

It drove me sooo insane – I kept checking Firefox settings and wondered if I had a different plugin installed before, but all that was to no avail. Finally, the explanation was so simple – all I had to do was to go to System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts tab and from that Full keyboard access section, toggle the “In windows and dialogs, press Tab to move the keyboard focus between:” setting to All controls instead of Text boxes and lists only! What a pain! I believe Apple should have set the defauts in reverse, as that is the common user interface behavior.

Change Mac OSX tab indexes behavior from the system preferences

18 Comments

  1. Marianne - May 28, 2009

    THANK YOU!

    i’ve been using the cursor for almost 3 years for dropdowns/radiobuttons!! was frustrated, but just thought it was a mac thing. haha.

  2. Tom - June 19, 2009

    Huge thanks! I switched from Safari to Firefox and have been driven crazy by this tiny “nit”! Thanks for taking the time to publish this!

    Tom

  3. ben - August 26, 2009

    Oh man, this was a life saver, thanks, I was going nuts :)

  4. eogas - September 10, 2009

    Thank you so much. I just started messing around with my first hackintosh this week and this issue had been driving me insane! What was Apple thinking?

  5. Isaiah - February 24, 2010

    Thanks for posting this. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my form until I began to think it might not be a problem with the form.

  6. Kimi - May 8, 2010

    No, this should NOT be the default behaviour, absolutely not–tab between text fields only is properly the default on the Mac. Don’t like it? Get used to it–or go back to Windows. Problem solved.

  7. graham - July 22, 2010

    Great post, thank you! And this should definitely be the default setting.

  8. Ian - August 18, 2010

    Thank you so much for this! This has been bugging me, very annoying to be forced into using the mouse to select basic form elements.

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  10. tentrillion - December 13, 2010

    Thanks for this…I found this tremendoulsy useful too. I don’t know why skipping over check boxes and radio buttons is the default; why make it so that hands have to move from the keyboard to the mouse and back again?

  11. tentrillion - December 13, 2010

    Thanks for this…I found this tremendoulsy useful too. I don’t know why skipping over check boxes and radio buttons is the default; why make it so that hands have to move from the keyboard to the mouse and back again?

  12. Gary Teichrow - January 31, 2011

    Thanks a lot!! Made the move from Win 7 to Mac after a 15 year hiatus. This was one of the most obnoxious default settings I’ve encountered in my move followed closely by the dreaded Click-Thru behavior (one click to make the window the focus, another to click the control you wanted).

  13. Gary Teichrow - January 31, 2011

    Thanks a lot!! Made the move from Win 7 to Mac after a 15 year hiatus. This was one of the most obnoxious default settings I’ve encountered in my move followed closely by the dreaded Click-Thru behavior (one click to make the window the focus, another to click the control you wanted).

  14. Gary Teichrow - February 1, 2011

    Thanks a lot!! Made the move from Win 7 to Mac after a 15 year hiatus. This was one of the most obnoxious default settings I’ve encountered in my move followed closely by the dreaded Click-Thru behavior (one click to make the window the focus, another to click the control you wanted).

  15. Anonymous - February 2, 2011

    I love that there’s a blog post somewhere for just about everything. Thanks a bunch, dude.

  16. j_brew - February 3, 2011

    I love that there’s a blog post somewhere for just about everything. Thanks a bunch, dude.

  17. Becky - February 23, 2011

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My frustration now has a solution.

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