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Accessibility: Keyboard Access

An important design goal is for Chrome to be fully accessible via the keyboard. Many users with disabilities may be unable to use a mouse or other pointing device, and there are many scenarios where power users prefer keyboard shortcuts.

The majority of users use a combination of the keyboard and mouse, and we don't think that full keyboard access should make things more cumbersome for users who don't need or want every control to be focusable. So, for example, we don't think that most toolbar controls should be part of the Tab traversal.

On the other hand, we don't believe that there should be a separate "accessibility mode" that enables more keyboard access. We don't believe that users should be segregated; rather, we should strive to find a balance where most users will only use the keyboard shortcuts they choose to learn, while users who rely completely on their keyboard will find the interface easy to navigate without memorizing a separate shortcut for every single command.

Keyboard Navigation and Shortcuts

Here are the keyboard shortcuts that help make Chrome accessible to users who need full keyboard access.

First, there are keys to focus each of the toolbars:
  • Shift+Alt+T: Main Toolbar (contains Back, Forward, Reload, etc)
  • Shift+Alt+B: Bookmarks Toolbar
In addition, pressing F6 or Shift+F6 now switches to the next pane, with the available panes in Chrome being:
  • The web content area (which displays the web page itself)
  • Main Toolbar
  • Bookmarks Toolbar
Also, pressing Alt or F10 focuses the Chromium menu button in the toolbar, since these keys are normally used to focus the menu bar in a typical Windows application.

Toolbar Navigation

While in a toolbar, you can press Tab, Shift+Tab, Home (move to first enabled control) and End (move to last enabled control) to navigate to different controls in the toolbar. You can also use the Left Arrow and Right Arrow keys, except notably when the Location Bar / Omnibox has focus, because then those keys are used for text editing. (This is the same behavior as in other Windows applications, like Microsoft Excel.)

Controls can be activated using either Space or Enter (menu buttons also support Down Arrow to open menu, Esc to close menu). Many controls also have a context menu (a right-click menu), which can be activated using the Context Menu key on your keyboard, or by pressing Shift+F10.

There is one aspect of toolbar keyboard navigation that is potentially confusing: the Location Bar is normally part of the Tab order, but having focus in the Location Bar doesn't necessarily mean that the entire toolbar is the active pane. In a sense, the Location Bar is a special control that is part of the tab order of several panes. To clarify:

These keystrokes focus the Location Bar (but do not set focus to the Toolbar pane):
  • Tabbing to the Location Bar from the web content.
  • Ctrl+L
  • Alt+D
These keystrokes set focus to the Toolbar pane:
  • F6 (focuses the Location Bar)
  • Alt+Shift+T (focuses the leftmost enabled control of the Main Toolbar)
  • Alt (focuses the page menu)
  • F10 (focuses the page menu)
The reason for this is to create minimal confusion for users who do not need keyboard access. Users who primarily use the mouse are very unlikely to use F6, so it's unlikely they will ever end up focusing various controls in the toolbar by accident. On the other hand, users who rely on full keyboard access are used to using F6 to switch between window panes (e.g. in Windows Explorer), so this should be a very easy shortcut to remember.

Chrome extensions can install Page Actions and Browser Actions in the main toolbar. These are all fully accessible using these keystrokes. Don't forget to try the Context Menu key for Page Actions and Browser Actions.

The following keys can be used to access the menus:
  • Alt or F10 or Alt+F puts focus on the Chromium menu button - this corresponds to the key most commonly used to focus the first menu in the menu bar in Windows applications.
In addition, the following keys can be used to switch tabs, in addition to the shortcuts in the menus:
  • Ctrl+1 through Ctrl+8 switches to the tab at the specified position number on the tab strip.
  • Ctrl+9 switches to the last tab.
  • Ctrl+Shift+Tab or Ctrl+PgUp switches to the previous tab.
  • Ctrl+Tab or Ctrl+PgDown switches to the next tab.
  • Ctrl+W or Ctrl+F4 closes the current tab.
  • ALT-F4 quits the application.
Want more information? See the full list of keyboard shortcuts.

Other pages on accessibility