In a desktop app, I have dialog boxes that contain one or more small grids, various other simple controls, as well as the usual OK/Cancel buttons. Grids pose a problem to the usual use of Enter as a shortcut to the OK button, as Enter is expected by users to navigate within the grid. Is there another standard alternative? I'm leaning to Ctrl+Enter. While this has use in grids, it is generally only while in in-cell mode, and would not pose a conflict when not in that mode.

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    My experience is that tab, return and enter are used as navigation. And there is no standard for "save". Control+Enter or Control+Return is my choice of saving.
    – sibert
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 6:26
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    Hi David, could you provide some context on your app and user base? What are they trying to achieve? Are these shortcuts "obvious" to the users or are they for experienced users only? Any specifics and background information might help to get you a more profound answer. Wireframes/Mockups might also help clarify a lot of things. Like, for example, what are those grids for, do users have to interact with them or navigate through them a lot etc. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 7:24
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    As a user I would prefer not to have a shortcut for "OK". Far too easy to hit enter before I've finished entering my data. This becomes even more so when you start having form elements where ENTER is a valid key (like your grids). ESC for cancel is fine though, as you don't expect ESC to be used for anything else. Perhaps, as data is being saved, you might consider Ctrl+S
    – musefan
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 13:48

2 Answers 2


My experience is that to move to next "field" should be either tab, return or enter. Not only tab as many users do use both return and enter to move. As a habit or by mistake.

I use Ctrl+Enter to "save or do an action" and "esc + warning" to cancel. I search for this several years ago and found no consensus, but this was the most preferred method.


I am not an accessibility expert but I would have thought that separating the navigation of the dialog box interface elements with the interaction of the control itself would be a good idea. It means that you can use the same keys to navigate to any of the grids, simple controls and the dialog box buttons in exactly the same way. You can then also trigger actions on the grids, simple controls and the dialog box buttons with the same keys.

So if you use the tab key to move between elements in the dialog box, and then use the Enter key to trigger specific actions, I think it would provide a consistent and simple experience, much in the same way that you would with the mouse (using movements to navigate, and clicking to interact).

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