I'm creating a small web app and I want to be able to toggle it on and off via a keyboard shortcut.

I would like to use one of the function keys (F1F12). I'm planning on overriding F4, F8 or F9, however I don't want to override one that is commonly used for something else in the browser, in the chance that I share what I'm making with other devs*.

Key | Usage
F1  | Help
F2  | ?
F3  | ?
F4  | ?
F5  | Refresh
F6  | ?
F7  | ?
F8  | ?
F9  | ?
F10 | highlights menu in firefox - similar to Alt
F11 | FullScreen
F12 | Dev Tools

Are there any other common behaviors in the function keys that I've missed?

Localized details: The nature of the app makes it inaccessible to visually impaired users. No support for IE is being provided (it doesn't have some required features).

* The target audience is me, and possibly other developers.

2 Answers 2


F3 - search (Chrome, FireFox, IE, ...?)

F4 - focus to URL bar then delay after which History dropdown with favourites (IE)

F6 - switch focus to URL bar, tabs, favourites etc (depending on FireFox, Chrome, IE, ...?)

F7 - caret browsing on/off (FireFox, IE)

F8 sometimes used for run/continue in developer tools

so F9 is looking good...especially based on the fact that your target audience is yourself and a few other developers.

  • F2 is occasionally "edit," and F9 is blank as far as windows defaults are concerned, I would consider either of them acceptable if you can verify it causes no ill behaviors in your browser. It doesn't sound like you need to worry about the "changing buttons" issue you definitely have with a widely produced product.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 31, 2011 at 19:39
  • F9 controls various parts of Expose in various versions of OSX
    – DA01
    Aug 31, 2011 at 22:17

This is always a debatable topic. From an accessibility POV, many people recommend that you never use any keyboard shortcuts, as people are already using their keyboard shortcuts for their OS, browser, other apps, etc.

So, it tends to fall into the category of 'disabling right-clicks'. Yes, you can do it, but your messing with your end-user's system's defaults that they are already accustomed to.

I tend to agree with those arguments and also suggest that you not add keyboard shortcuts to your web site by default.

THAT SAID...there's no reason you couldn't make this a user-settable preference. Make it a preferences that a user can turn on. If they want to use keyboard shortcuts on your web site, they can then opt-in to it.

  • Without going into details about this particular app, there isn't a good way to allow for user-settable preferences, otherwise I would have just done that to begin with and not asked the question.
    – zzzzBov
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:25
  • 1
    In that case, I wouldn't set a keyboard short cut. If I can't disable it as a user, I'd say that's a potentially bad user experience.
    – DA01
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:26
  • I'm adding it because I want it. I'm the primary user, and I've allowed a couple dev friends to use it as well. Generally speaking, I avoid function keys for shortcuts, but this is a case where it enhances the user experience, the question is which key will have the least negative impact.
    – zzzzBov
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:29
  • 3
    Well, if you're the user, then it's really up to you, isn't it? It's hard to answer your question in general as you'd have to account for all the software and OSes and preferences and devices all your users would be using to figure out which keys are already mapped. At this point, I'd say pick the key that is least obtrusive for you and consider it good--I assume your dev friends would likely be close to having your same set of software preferences so your own opinion is probably a safe bet in this situation.
    – DA01
    Aug 31, 2011 at 16:04

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