Christian Heilmann

Q&A: Internet Explorer keyboard navigation doesn\’t work

Monday, April 2nd, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Q: I have a Table of Contents at the beginning of a page that is linked to anchors around the headlines of all the content sections. When I click them with a mouse there is no problem – I get sent to the heading, read the paragraph and click the “back to top� link to go to the TOC. However, as I need to be accessible with this project I realised that when I use the keyboard and tab from link to link and hit enter I get sent to the section, but hitting tab doesn’t get me to the first link in this section but to the next item in the TOC! What am I doing wrong?

A: You are not doing anything wrong – Internet Explorer is (I assume this is what you are using). Internet Explorer has a really bizarre bug – it scrolls the page to a named anchor but fails to move the keyboard focus.

The fix for the problem has to do with IE’s hasLayout property. This property is set to true whenever an element has a defined height or width, is floated or has some other IE-only properties like zoom set. One solution to make IE move the keyboard focus is to contain the link in an element that has a hasLayout property of true, like a DIV with defined measurements.

This bug has been undiscovered for a long time as table cells by default have a hasLayout of true in IE and therefore the problem never occurred in table based layouts.

Another solution to the problem is to give the link a predefined tabindex property. If you don’t know how many links there are or you need tabindex for other reasons, you can use a tabindex of -1, which is not valid in HTML, but does the trick.

You can read more about this problem and the solutions in more detail over at Gez Lemon’s Juicy Studio :

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