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November 08, 2007



The Opera browser already has spatial navigation -- for quite some time, actually. It uses the Shift key in combination with the arrow keys. It works just as fine as in their terrific Opera Mini browser for mobile phones.


In Firefox, the cursor navigation you are talking about, can be enabled by pressing F7. It also can be turned to be on by default using Tools-Options-Advanced-General-[x] Always use the cursor keys to navigate...

Michael Zuschlag

Expanding navigation from one dimension to two would certainly be a big help, with mean key-presses going from about n/2 to n^0.5, where n equals number of controls. Ironic that directional nav would first be common on the small screens of phones when the more controls the greater the advantage of directional over linearized navigation.

I wonder if an alternative or complimentary nav method could leverage the hierarchical structure common in web pages now. Maybe we could have Ctrl-Home-End-Page-Up-Down move among blocks, allowing gross navigation, with Ctrl-arrow keys for zeroing in. Probably would need the browser to highlight the active div.

Firefox's F7, which navigates by character not control, might have something like this; I can’t figure out exactly what its doing with Page Up and Down. It seems there has also been some problems with users accidentally hitting F7 and not knowing how to get out of it, which Firefox attempts to handled with a message box. Perhaps the otherwise unused and more aptly labeled Scroll Lock would have been a better choice than F7. Using a quasi-mode like Ctrl-cursor keys won’t have this problem.


have you tried actually using Firefox's cursor navigation that you described (thanks for the tip, btw. I've always wondered what that option was about) on this blog? I just did, and it wasn't pretty. It kept getting stuck in the sidebar, no matter how much i tried to keep it in the main content section. bummer.


I also recommend checking out the Hit-a-Hint add on for FireFox (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1341). When you hold down an accelerator key (space) it renders a unique identifier above every usable element currently onscreen. You can then enter the identifier and it will activate the control. It's the most usable keyboard navigation scheme I've come across thusfar.


Well, that's just not helping at all. What I do is I press / (search) and type think I would like to find then enter. This means I don't really need to read this crap anyway, which helps me to survive on such cluttered page as described in an example :-)

Assume Rhino

You mean you haven't tried Opera's spatial navigation? I can't live without it since they introduced it ages ago.



check out the directional nav in the PS3's browser as well, where you may not have a mouse available, and can use a controller's thumb stick.



Unfortunately Firefox's caret navigation is broken for the very reason given in the original post:

>Significantly, these heuristics respect the rendered visual
>representation of the page, not the structure of the document's
>object model or the original location of elements at design time.

Firefox doesn't do this, making its caret navigation quite painful to use (try it on this page to see an example of this).

Johnny Lee

Hey Jan, it's Johnny from WGA days.

I added spatial navigation to the WinCE port of IE4, back in 1999/2000. The browser showed up on Sega Dreamcast and MSN Companion.

No idea if the changes ever got merged in to other WinCE ports of IE.

On sub-PC devices, spatial navigation is the obvious navigation method since the TAB key is non-existent on cellphones, PDAs and game console controllers.

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