I am working on a registration form for a web application which requires you to enter your first name, last name, date of birth, address and so forth. If the user fills out all of the fields we are talking about approximately forty fields.

Of course this is a cumbersome procedure for the end user, but it is necessary. It is also important to aid the user in keeping the data up to date, changing address and such. We are currently working on ways of making this process easier for the user. One way could be to select the entered text when the user focuses the text field using the mouse. In a way mimicking the behavior of using the tab-key when stepping through an ordinary form in the browser.

I realize that this is not the conventional thing to do. And many of our users are not that used to computers, so much so that they probably does not know about Ctrl+A.

Given the situation, is it a good idea to select all contents of the input field for easier editing or will it actually cause more trouble than it solves?

  • I've seen this happening in password inputs, maybe it is the only situation you need to change it all (because the user doesn't see what's changing) Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 16:40
  • You got a point there. Often when I use these kind of forms myself I only change parts of the text. Say for instance that I have made a typo, I wouldn't want to change the whole thing.
    – dotmartin
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can select the contents of an input field on focus but only if you expect your users to edit the form with the intent to change all of the info within each field.

Alternatively, you can add a Select all link/button or instructions, such as "Press CTRL+A to select all" or "Triple-click to select all", that would appear only to the right of the input in focus.

  • This. Select all (on click) might be a useful feature on fields that when changed will likely be changed completely - so addresses, email addresses, phone numbers. Leave things like 'about me' fields of that nature with the default behavior.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 16:36
  • @Anonymous- Wouldn't this cause even more confusion among the users? From their perspective, they are using input fields that look the same and behave radically different? How would one address this?
    – dotmartin
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 20:29
  • 1
    Yeah that did ocurr to me when I was writing it. It's one of those things that makes sense and would be the most efficient way of doing it if you understood it.... but users won't understand it (at least not to begin with), so it's probably just best avoided - after all, what does it take to drag the mouse over some text (or use ctrl+A for the more computer literate users).
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 20:59
  • True, also this is not the kind of form you fill in every day.
    – dotmartin
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 21:41

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