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In my web app I want to give the possibility of submitting every form with Ctrl + Enter shortcut.

What is better:

  • submit the form with keyboard only when one of the fields of this form is focused

  • remember the last active form (in which an element was focused), then on Ctrl + Enter (if nothing is active at the moment) check that last active form is completed: if yes - submit it, if no - focus on missing field and highlight it.

I like the second option more because it also deals with multiple forms on a page and overall looks more flexible.

I am looking for your advice.

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How did you come to the conclusion that Ctrl+Enter would be a good idea? Why not have this option presented in the user interface in some way instead of invisibly with a keyboard shortcut? –  Rahul Apr 6 '11 at 23:49
    
What about... acceskey attribute? :) –  Ionut Staicu May 4 '11 at 18:23
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3 Answers 3

I would say you're making a couple key mistakes by suggesting form submission be accomplished by CTRL + enter.

  • This will not work for all OS. Enter is universal, while CTRL is not.
  • This breaks the rule of meeting expectations and takes control out of the user's hands. One of the main reasons for clicking specific buttons or graphics to submit forms is that of intention. A user may not intend to use enter to submit and combining keys on different OS's is already problematic.

Forcing a user to click a properly labeled UI component ensures they are telling the system they want to submit the form instead of doing so accidently or, gawd forbid, not being able to do it at all.

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If you have forms that are submitted very often (thus shortcut will make any help), it’s better to have one of such form for a page. Anyway, you can only fill one form at a time, right?

If you want (need) several forms on a single page, it may be not a good idea to submit them by shortcut — submission may come unexpected to user, ESPECIALLY if you use last active instead of current active. Anyway, there’s no reasons from user’s point of view for submitting last active form — if he want to submit smth, he will certainly focus on it first.

So, do not do second option in any circumstances. Split you forms to their own pages or do first option.

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Ctrl-Enter might work when the people filling in the forms are familiar with the site and use it often. Otherwise I would stick to Enter. I don't think there's any harm in that, especially when you take your second approach (validate and focus on missing fields). Of course, you also need a “Save”, ”Submit”, … button — don't rely on the shortcut alone.

If your form doesn't have multi-line fields, I see no reason why you should use something different than Enter. People know and expect it.

When you do have multi-line fields, things get more complex. If your form is for entering articles or longer text (such as this answer form), then Enter should start a new line. If it only happens now and then, Enter could save the form. So I guess it depends on the use — as usual.

When you use Enter to save the form, the way to enter a new line is unfortunately not very standardized. Excel in particular makes it quite hard: Alt-Shift-Return or something like that (it's not only hard to type, it's even harder to remember).

But, I would love to see a site where Enter did enter my data even if I'm not in a text entry field. I gets me every time I need to log in: type in user name, TAB, password, then click the ‘Remember me’ checkbox, then hit the Enter key. Bzzzz!

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