[whatwg] Improving specification of accesskey?

Darin Adler darin at apple.com
Wed Nov 7 11:38:05 PST 2007

On Nov 7, 2007, at 11:25 AM, Michael(tm) Smith wrote:

> A few months back, Charles McCathieNevile proposed a spec for
> accesskey on the public-html list:
>  http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Jul/thread.html#msg185
> That thread is maybe worth taking some time to read

I've just read the entire thread.

As far as I can tell, what's discussed there isn't existing practice  
but rather quite a few changes:

     a) 'The rapid access mechanism must be able to focus the relevant  
element. User agents may provide a configuration to directly activate  
the element.' This does not reflect existing practice for the top  
browsers. They both focus and activate in most cases.

     b) 'Any focusable element supports the accesskey attribute.  
Adding an accesskey to an element makes it focusable.' An interesting  
new feature, but not present in today's browsers as far as I can tell.

     c) 'The invocation of access keys should not interfere with the  
underlying system. For instance, on machines running MS Windows, using  
the "alt" key in addition to the access key would in many cases  
interfere with default functions, so this should not be the rapid  
access method.' While this is a major problem with accesskey, I think  
that simply stating that user agents should not do this doesn't help  
solve the problem. The websites and web applications that use  
accesskey are often designed with the expectation that users will push  
the Alt key, and a desktop browser that decided to break with existing  
practice would be deemed "incompatible" with those sites an  

     d) 'The rendering of access keys depends on the user agent.' As  
far as I know, the top browsers don't render these at all.

I was hoping HTML 5 would document existing practice in a way that's  
less vague than what HTML 4 says.

We could consider changes and new features as well, but that's even  
more challenging. Maciej suggested that we dump accesskey and replace  
it with something that would solve the real problem, and I think  
that's also worth pursuing separately.

     -- Darin

More information about the whatwg mailing list