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Leave my keys alone!

I like the guys at spreadfirefox.com. They have build a great website to promote my favorite browser. There is however one little thing that annoys me enormously.

I’m an old IE user. I am entirely used to the keyboard combination used by IE and one of the things I like about FireFox is that the key combinations are the same. For example if I type Alt + D I expect the URL of the current page to be selected in the address bar. Simply press Alt + D and type the URL you want to go to.

It’s a feature I used so often that it is no longer something I think about. I automatically do it, without even realizing. This is one of the reasons I never used the old Mozilla Suite as my main browser. Traditionally Mozilla used Ctrl + L for the same purpose. I simply never got the hang of it.

Luckily the FireFox developers, in their enourmous wisdom, decided to add Alt + D to the keyboard combinations. I’m not saying this is the reason I switched to Firefox, but it did make me feel right at home.

Spreadfirefox.com uses the HTML accesskeys functionality to define keyboard shortcuts to some of their pages. For example:

Alt + S = Spread the word
Alt + D = Make a donation
Alt + V = Volunteer
Alt + F = Forums
Alt + M = My Page

If you look closely at that list you can see, they’ve not only redefined Alt + D. But the keyboard shortcuts for the File menu and the View menus as well. I know they would like you to spend a long time at their website, but annoying visitors that want to leave…. well, that’s not really good insentive to stay a bit longer at their website… I’m blowing this, of course, way out of proportion, but still… it annoyed me. On the other hand… it gave me something to write about…

12 Responses to “Leave my keys alone!”

  1. firefox fab wrote on October 3rd, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    if you don’t like it, just go back to using internet explorer and stop whining.

  2. rakaz wrote on October 4th, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    firefox fab: This isn’t a browser issue. If you visit spreadfirefox.com with IE it has exactly the same problem. It’s not about IE does this better than Firefox.

    It’s about the spreadfirefox.com website which uses one otherwise great little feature that in this case interferes with the correct behavoir of the browser. A fix is simple, one of the developers of the website just has change the key so that it doesn’t interfere with already defined keys.

  3. Robin Monks wrote on October 16th, 2004 at 1:42 am

    May I suggest kindly posting in a website forum about the issue? One of the devs would be happy to assist.

    SFX GMail Project

  4. rakaz wrote on October 18th, 2004 at 1:25 am

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for your suggestion. This issue has already has been reported on the spreadfirefox ‘technical issues’ forum. The administrator of that forum indicated he would look into it.

  5. Ivan Icin wrote on October 24th, 2004 at 2:09 am

    CTRL+L ?

  6. me at work wrote on October 24th, 2004 at 2:59 am

    Go to about:config

    type in ‘access’

    doubleclick accessibility.accesskeycausesactivation to set it to false

    stops this.

    it’s the accesskey feature.

    me at work, strikes, AGAIN!

  7. rakaz wrote on October 25th, 2004 at 2:12 am

    me@work: I am aware this setting, but I do not want to disable this very useful feature altogether. The whole problem is that a website basically can hijack the preset keyboard shortcuts of the browser.

    For example, if you look at the menu of Firefox you should notice that the F for File is underlined. This mean that if I type Alt + F, the menu will be selected. Except on SpreadFirefox it isn’t. It takes me to the Forums page.

    There are two solutions to this: don’t allow already used keyboard shortcts to be redefined… Or don’t underline the F in the menubar if the Alt + F keyboard shortcut is redefined.

  8. Merovech wrote on December 13th, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    I really dont like this feature! I came from using a browser where the makers of a web-page could take control of how my computer behaved. Thats why i switched to FF.
    Now this pattern starts all over again in FF! I use the Sage extension in FF and dont like that i cannot toggle sage when i am at spreadfirefox.com.
    I fear what this "shourcut hijack" feature can bring… :-(
    Users of Firefox – plz say outloud that you dont want this feature. It reminds to much of the old days where there were only one browser that controlled the content of the web.

  9. bullrat wrote on January 26th, 2005 at 12:56 am

    If you want focus on the adress bar…press F6! Accesskeys are really a great feature for us keyboarders – whitin a (x)html-document AND the browser itself:)

  10. Chilling_Silence wrote on May 20th, 2005 at 12:24 am

    So, what this feature needs is something similar to the Popup blocker where it can be disabled on a web-site by web-site basis!

  11. megatron wrote on November 2nd, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    Setting Accessibility.accesskeycausesactivation to false is an acceptable fix for now, but it still focuses the element with the accesskey. I would like some (clean) way to disable accesskeys entirely.

    Adding a new "Allowed Sites" feature just for accesskeys seems like overkill, so maybe this is a job for an extension.

  12. ap wrote on December 1st, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    Accesskeys can be a great userability improvement, especially in case of webapplications like CMS-systems, so disabling or removing the feature is – imho – not an option.

    However, there does seem to be an issue with this set-up. Suppose I have a hidden form on my page which i have submitted when the user enters “ALT-D”. I’m no security-expert, but surely this poses at least a minimal threat, right? I too use ALT-D quite often and without thinking twice. Lots of folks do.

    Rakaz proposes a reasonable and safe solution: “don’t allow already used keyboard shortcts to be redefined…”

    Or don’t allow accesskeys to take over already defined browser-shorcuts.