Access keys are a nifty but underused browser feature similar to Windows hot keys (which, similarly, are also underused). Access keys allow you to go to links without using the mouse but, rather, using a combinaton of keys.
Access keys are useful those those who have limited mobility and use only a keyboard, users of handheld devices like PDAs, and other users who do not have a mouse by preference or situation (if a battery operated mouse dies or a laptop has been switched to external mouse and is unable to be switched back.)
Access keys are specified in the mark up (HTML) of a page, by its creator. The code for access keys is short and easy to remember.
It’s simply applied to existing links.
<a href=”http://google.com” accesskey=”1″>
Each browser handles access keys in a similar fashion although there are slight variations. Below is a table describing how to use access keys in different browsers.
|IE||Alt+ access key|
|Firefox/Mozilla||Shift, Alt+ access key|
|Opera||Shift, Esp+ access key|
|Mac||Ctrl+ access key|
While access keys allow more users to easily nagivate a website, there are some drawbacks. Many common browser shortcuts use Alt+key or Ctrl+key such as Ctrl+B, Alkt+D, Alt+F, alt+B et cetera. Other common shortcuts such as Ctrl
+C, Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+A, Ctrl+P are use frequently as well. If you specify an access key that shares the same shortcut key (B, D, F or C, Z, A and P in the respective examples), it will overwrite the browser default which many visitors may already be using. To avoid these issues, I would suggest using numbers as access keys rather than letter.