Home > Switching to Mac > Tab Skips Select Form Fields in Mac Browsers

Tab Skips Select Form Fields in Mac Browsers

This has been one of those super annoying things about switching to the Mac OS X. When filling in a form on a web page I like to use the tab key to advance to the next form field. This allows me to avoid picking up the mouse and making my carpal tunnel any worse than it currently is. Unfortunately when tabbing in a form, it always skips over select lists such as a drop down list of states therefore I have to pickup the mouse. Ugg. This is the case in both the Safari and Firefox (Deer Park) browser.

keyboard tab form fields

Here is the solution: Open up System Preferences, click ‘Keyboard and Mouse’, and select the option “All Controls” at the bottom of the window next to “In Windows and Dialogs press Tab to move the keyboard focus between”.

It even works for dialog boxes such as javascript popup confirmations.

Oh happy day! I’m starting to truly feel like this Mac really can do everything that I could do on my PC. Its just a matter of learning all the tricks.

Pssst– Hey Apple. Make this one default.

Categories: Switching to Mac Tags:
  1. tc
    May 16th, 2006 at 20:36 | #1

    wow, i always thought macs couldn’t do this, props for pointing this out

  2. bk
    August 29th, 2006 at 05:48 | #2

    wow. you just made my day.

  3. Manuel
    December 5th, 2006 at 10:58 | #3

    First, thanks for posting this.

    I cannot believe how difficult it was to find this page! To hopefully help other searchers:

    I searched google for select, tab, focus, firefox, mac, html, listbox, options but found nothing. It wasn’t until I searched for macintosh select focus tab page 3 that I found your page title ‘tab skips select form fields in mac browsers’ like firefox and safari.


  4. Simon
    January 4th, 2007 at 17:23 | #4

    Yeah – many thanks. I hadn’t realised this option existed and no tab on dialogue buttons has always been a pet hate of mine.

  5. Nate
    January 21st, 2007 at 11:30 | #5

    This is a good tip; thanks for posting.

    I just realized the other day that I couldn’t hit the tab key on my keyboard to easily navigate around a page in firefox. Like you say, being able to hit the tab key to submit forms, highlight different text areas and drop down menus, etc., is a very useful feature.

    Maybe if we get enough comments in here, google will start listing this page in a more prominent position.

  6. Leandro Barreto
    February 12th, 2007 at 09:44 | #6

    Great tip, thanks!

    I am also an old PC user who finally had enough and decided to convert to Mac. This tabbing thing was nearly making me regret it. We should all write to Apple and ask them to make that the default as you said.

  7. John Wardell
    February 16th, 2007 at 03:36 | #7

    Yessssss! You just doubled my productivity.

  8. adam
    February 26th, 2007 at 14:26 | #8

    thanks for posting this trick. for heavy keyboard users, this is a god-send!

  9. Tim
    March 3rd, 2007 at 13:26 | #9


  10. Sarah
    March 10th, 2007 at 01:51 | #10

    “It even works for dialog boxes such as javascript popup confirmations.”

    Thanks for the tip but whilst this works on form fields, I haven’t been able to get it to work on dialog boxes.

  11. March 10th, 2007 at 11:57 | #11

    Thanks so much! I just switched to a new Macbook Pro yesterday, and it took some digging to find how to make this work! Here’s to advanced productivity in OSX. :-)

  12. Dale
    March 12th, 2007 at 10:54 | #12

    ZOMG! Thanks so much.

  13. Therman
    March 13th, 2007 at 11:16 | #13

    Gotta say, I found this article in trying to find a way to turn it off! It forces extra tabs when going from the subject line to the body text in Mail (quite a nuisance) and the same problem in many other applications, so it’s likely that they don’t have it on as the default for a reason.

  14. Kristen
    March 31st, 2007 at 19:53 | #14

    Wow, thanks for this! I’ve always missed that feature.

    To Sarah, and anyone else having trouble with the dialogue boxes: after you tab to the button you want, hit “space.” That did it for me; I thought “enter” would, but it doesn’t.

  15. Tyler
    April 1st, 2007 at 02:03 | #15

    God that was annoying! Thanks for posting this and getting a good rank on Google!

  16. Stacy
    April 15th, 2007 at 16:43 | #16

    This is one of those things I just forgot to google for months, but once I did… One search, 2 seconds, found my answer. Props to google for placement!

  17. Derek
    April 16th, 2007 at 15:37 | #17

    Oh my god!! Believe it or not this was the MAIN REASON I didn’t use my Mac more often. (I have Linux, Mac, Windows equally.)

    You just made my Mac much more valuable to me. Thank you SO much for posting this.

  18. April 19th, 2007 at 14:02 | #18

    I was looking for how to turn this off. In Firefox hitting tab would go to every link on the page when I just wanted to get to the form (especially on the Google results page when you want to do a new search). Personally, I’ll take the trade off of not being to tab to drop down menus if I can avoid all the links, but to each his own. Thanks, if for a different reason.

  19. Lauren
    April 29th, 2007 at 11:36 | #19

    Wow, thanks- that’s always annoyed me but for some reason I never thought about the fact that there might be a way to fix it. Yay for stumbleupon!

  20. jacco
    May 4th, 2007 at 08:13 | #20

    It doesn’t work when i’m logged on to an external server. Does anyone now how to make it work?

  21. mamba
    June 10th, 2007 at 13:48 | #21

    I’ve been using my brother’s mac, and this has been the single biggest complaint I have with the mac (also the lack of a forward delete button). Knowing how to tab like in windows means I can get a mac now. THANKS!

  22. mamba
    June 10th, 2007 at 13:53 | #22

    FYI, shift-tab will allow you to go backwards in the sequence (it takes you to the previous field, instead of the next one like tab will do), and my absolute favorite shortcut is cmd-tab (ctrl-tab on windows), which puts www. and .com on either side of what you typed in the address bar of firefox or IE. For example, if you type google in the address bar, then press cmd-tab, the browser will fill in http://www.google.com and go to that site. Thanks again.

  23. Karen
    June 13th, 2007 at 15:29 | #23

    thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

  24. June 25th, 2007 at 22:12 | #24

    I wonder if there is a similar option in Gnome. From what I last saw it was not available thus preventing Tabbing to drop downs.

  25. Chris
    June 27th, 2007 at 07:50 | #25

    Thanks for pointing that out! While in there i realized that the OS has shortcuts for screenshots too! I thought you had to buy 2nd party add-ons to accomplish this. Thanks for saving me some money!

  26. Matthew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 12:09 | #26

    This is the first time that a blog post has ever been useful to me. Thanks a lot. They certainly didn’t do a good job of explaining exactly what that option did.

  27. Julian
    July 5th, 2007 at 23:09 | #27

    forward backspace = fn + delete button. This is a good one.

  28. July 6th, 2007 at 15:56 | #28

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I had not even associated this to switching to a Mac, which I’m slightly embarrassed about. I switched about six months ago. And all this time I thought I was just crazy – that I had somehow imagined being able to tab to drop-down lists in the past.

  29. July 23rd, 2007 at 16:16 | #29

    THANK YOU. This had worked in Safari for me for some reason, but the inability to tab through forms was the last thing stopping me from switching to Firefox. Now, I’ve seen the light….turns out it was my system prefs all along.

  30. Janne
    July 25th, 2007 at 16:10 | #30

    Truly amazing! Thank you for this tip; it really saved my day. :)

  31. Kevin
    July 26th, 2007 at 00:39 | #31

    This has been driving me crazy for months! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

  32. August 14th, 2007 at 01:35 | #32

    Thank you. You’re right, Apple should make this one a default setting.

  33. Alan Brown
    August 15th, 2007 at 13:40 | #33

    Thanks! And also to Julian for forward backspace.

    No if I could just figure out how to page down with one hand, I’d be all set

  34. August 16th, 2007 at 00:54 | #34

    this is one of the first google hits for “tabbing web fields mac” (tho I didn’t put the terms in quotes). Maybe people need better google-fu?

    Thanks for the tip, btw. Totally going to save me a lot of hassle :-)

  35. JLater
    August 17th, 2007 at 15:36 | #35

    Awesome, you just made my day. Thanks so much!

  36. August 27th, 2007 at 13:32 | #36

    I LOVE YOU!!!

  37. August 30th, 2007 at 20:25 | #37

    Wow, I’m surprised this is something that needed pointing out!

  38. Emmett
    September 3rd, 2007 at 12:11 | #38

    I’m so happy I just shed a tear.

  39. September 10th, 2007 at 16:19 | #39


  40. Maggie
    September 11th, 2007 at 13:37 | #40

    It took me months to find this solution. Google’s search engine wasn’t very helpful and Firefox help was useless. Thanks so very much!!!

  41. Andre
    September 14th, 2007 at 21:10 | #41

    +1 happy mac user thanks to your post

  42. Kim
    September 20th, 2007 at 13:22 | #42

    Thanks a million!!!! I had given up using FireFox for a while due to this frustration.

    Now I’m happy!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Steve
    September 24th, 2007 at 00:17 | #43

    THanks a bunch for this tip!!

  44. BHart
    September 27th, 2007 at 15:59 | #44

    Thanks, this was driving me nuts. You are wise.

  45. September 27th, 2007 at 22:52 | #45

    THANK YOU! I have been trying to make this work for months and I finally found you and this post via a cleverly-worded Google search. THANK YOU! (again)


  46. ryan
    October 24th, 2007 at 11:12 | #46

    YES! the fix to the mac keyboard form fields tab bug issue.

  47. Justin Garland
    November 1st, 2007 at 16:56 | #47

    Yes!!!! Thank you for pointing that out. I’ve been using an Apple long enough to know that there was a way to do it. I just hadn’t figured it out till now.

    And I completely agree about making it default!

  48. Jeff
    November 6th, 2007 at 21:12 | #48

    You can have my first child for showing me this!!!

  49. November 10th, 2007 at 16:59 | #49

    Thanks for posting this! After re-installing OSX, I had forgotten how to change this setting, and your blog entry got it head-on very concisely. Thank you.

  50. Drew
    November 19th, 2007 at 14:55 | #50

    Thank you!! I just recently made the switch to a Mac and it’s the little things like this that can really make things frustrating!

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