Symantec logo

Keyboard navigation within dialog boxes

Dialog boxes contain groups of controls necessary to set options or settings for programs. Here are some general rules about dialog box navigation:

While the controls described here are typically found in dialog boxes, they also can occur in other contexts. The same navigation standards will apply.

Command buttons The OK button carries out the command using the information supplied in the dialog box. Other command buttons enables you to cancel the command or choose from additional options.

Command buttons marked with an ellipsis (...) open another dialog box so you can provide more information or confirm an action.

A dark border initially indicates the default button. Press enter at any time to choose the button with a dark border. Use tab to move the keyboard focus to the next control, and add shift to reverse the direction. When you move the keyboard focus to a command button it temporarily takes the dark border, but when the keyboard focus is not on a command button the dark border returns to the default button. Press spacebar to choose the command button you selected with tab. Use esc to immediately choose the Cancel button if there is one. Typing the access key for a command button will immediately carry out the command.

Check boxes Use tab to move between boxes and space to change the check box to the next state. Typing the access key for a check box also will move the focus to the box and change its state.

Option controls (also known as radio buttons) are used to select only one option from a group of options. (Like check boxes, option buttons may represent two or three states.) In some applications, you can add ctrl to move to the button without selecting it, then use spacebar to choose the currently selected option button. Typing the access key for an option control will also move the focus to the control and select it.

Tabbed pages are used to fit many options into a single dialog box. They appear visually similar to dividers from a notebook. Each page contains separate groups of controls such as check boxes or option controls. Use tab to move the focus to the tab for the currently visible page. Typing the access key for a page tab will also move the focus to the tab and display its page.

Tabbed Pages



ctrl+page down or ctrl+tab 

Switches to the next tab and displays the page. 

ctrl+page up  

Switches to the previous tab and displays the page. 

Right arrow or left arrow 

When the focus is on a tab selector, chooses the next or previous tab in the current row and displays the page. 

down arrow or up arrow 

Chooses the tab in the next or previous row and displays the page. 

List boxes display a column of available choices. If there are more choices than can fit in the open list box, moving the selection through the list will scroll more choices into view. Use tab or type the appropriate access key to move the focus to the list box.

Single selection list boxes allow only one item to be selected from the list at a time. Use the up arrow or down arrow keys to select items. Moving to a second item will automatically deselect all other items.

Drop-down list boxes by default show only the selected item. There is a small button to the right of the control that shows a downward-pointing arrow. You can click the arrow to display more items from the list. You also can show or hide the list using alt+down arrow, alt+up arrow, or f4. In all other respects it behaves like a normal single-selection list box.

Combo-boxes and drop-down combo boxes are list boxes with attached edit boxes. You can make your selection by either typing in the edit box or using the standard commands to select from the list.

    Combo Boxes and Drop-Down Combo Boxes



up arrow or down arrow 

Selects the previous or next item. 

page up or page down 

Selects the item up or down one screen. 

Edit controls are rectangular boxes used for displaying or editing text. Use tab or the appropriate access key to move the focus to the edit control and select the text.