Scott Hanselman recently wrote an article titled "The Web is the new Terminal: Are you using the Web's Keyboard Shortcuts and Hotkeys" in which he notes emerging conventions on major sites (Gmail, Twitter, RTM, Trello, etc) for keyboard shortcuts.

He lists:

  • J, K to move up and down
  • Enter to select or expand
  • G + some letter to Navigate
  • / for Search
  • ? for keyboard help

Keyboard shortcuts seem like an easily implemented (see John Resig's jQuery HotKeys) efficiency win for power users of most any application. However, implementations still seem quite varied.

Are there additional (or alternative) emerging conventions for keyboard shortcuts within web applications?

  • 1
    j, k and / are vim commands.
    – darryn.ten
    Jun 19, 2012 at 8:05
  • 1
    The key shortcuts for me would be copy, paste and cut. Have any web apps solved this problem? Jun 19, 2012 at 9:01
  • 2
    Shortcuts of frequently used web apps should be consistence with desktop apps. E.g. Google Docs used largely some of the common desktop shortcuts. Example: Ctrl+C -> Copy, Ctrl+P -> Paste, Strl+S -> Save, Ctrl+F -> Find, Ctrl+P -> Print ..... See also: support.google.com/docs/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=179738
    – sysscore
    Jun 19, 2012 at 11:29

2 Answers 2


Personally, I have neither heard of nor used those keys. Navigating with arrow keys through a form and using space bar to select/deselect radio buttons are the only keys I used. In contrast to the G+? suggestion, navigating in browsers is done with accesskeys AFAIK. Scrolling up or down is also done with arrow keys or page up/page down.

But regarding your actual question, I don't think that hotkeys are necessary in applications you use only 10 minutes a day. In contrast, if a designer works 8 hours a day with photoshop, he will know every hot key of his major application for sure. The same applies for other professionals and their major app. If your web app is about to be used very often by someone, introducing specific hotkeys for that app is probably a good idea.

Besides, "hot keys" are getting more specific lately. Look at the chrome books for instance. It's keyboard has no longer generic F1-Fx keys, but more specific ones for a browser-only os, like search, forward, back, reload and so on.

Maybe a "search" button will be common on every keyboard in the future. In my opinion, putting more functionality on already existing buttons is not the right way for really common functions that almost every app has (like help, search, and so on).

  • 2
    I was amazed to see that pressing ? on Gmail opened up a large panel with a guide to hotkeys. I have been using Gmail daily for years and had never seen this. Aug 16, 2012 at 11:42
  • "/" dates back to Lotus 1-2-3, AFAICS, so it's definitely old and well entrenched. "?" is used by Gmail, Twitter, Jira, Trello, and many others. JK have been common in UNIX/Linux text mode applications for decades.
    – FGM
    Mar 19, 2018 at 16:37

Here is a recent article about choosing shortcuts for Web applications, it might be useful for someone: https://medium.com/design-ux/a7c3b7b408ee

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