Incredibly Useful Firefox Mac OS X Hint

Just let me drop this in here: Macworld’s OS X hints column is extremely useful. For example:

Tab to All Fields in Mozilla and Firefox Forms

Although Safari is now the dominant browser for OS X users, there are a number of excellent alternatives. Two of the best are Mozilla and Firefox (both available at www.mozilla.org), which offer greater customization and control over your Web-browsing experience than Safari does. However, the first time you use one of these browsers on a Web form, you’ll probably be surprised to find that using the tab key doesn’t take you to every field and pop-up menu on the form-so you must reach for the mouse to handle the pop-up menus. Especially on long forms, this can be a real waste of time, as you move from mouse to keyboard and back again. Luckily, there’s an easy (albeit somewhat obscure) way to change this tab behavior on forms.

Launch either browser, and type about:config into the URL bar. When you press return, you’ll see a long list of odd-looking names and values (see “Power Tabbing”). These are various user-controllable preferences, the majority of which are not accessible via the programs’ preferences. The accessibility.tabfocus variable is the one you need to modify. Double-click on that row, and a small dialog box will appear, showing the variable’s name and a text-input line. Select the input line and type 7 ; then click on OK. You should see your new value reflected on the about:config page.

So what did you just do? The default value of 1 means “tab to just text controls,” while 7 means “tab to text controls, other form elements, and links.” From now on, the tab key will select everything on a form, along with any hyperlinks on the page. If you’d rather not also select the links with the tab key, change the 7 to a 3, which means “tab to text controls and other form elements only.”

How can you learn more about these variables, their effects, and their various possible values? There aren’t any definitive references on the Web, but a good starting point is the Other Useful Preferences section of the Customizing Mozilla page: www.mozilla.org/unix/customizing.html#prefs.

From there, if you’re still interested in learning more, you might try doing a Web search for the term mozilla prefs.

That is an absolutely priceless piece of advice. It’s ridiculous how useful that makes Firefox.