There are often discussions about how many links on the page is too many or how much information is too much in general. I am curious to know if there is any studies related to how often and when users go to "auto search this page" (i.e. Ctrl+F) feature.

Is it a something that only tech-savvy users use or is it well known tool?

I find myself going to auto search just after a few seconds of scanning if I cannot find what I need; of course, that's anecdotal so I am looking to see if there is any research.

  • The results probably depend on the length of the page and relevance of the page. If you are reading an article for the sake of reading it, you probably won't use Ctrl+F. If you are searching for something and the result contains an article that has a few points relevant to your search, you'll want to skip through the article to those points as fast as you can. Jan 23, 2013 at 13:40

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Looking at some of the research studies I found on the net, apparently not too many users know about the Cntrl+F functionality. To quote the research study done by Mozilla

One relevant 7-day TestPilot study of about 69,000 Windows users focused on Firefox’s user interface. Along with seeing how users interacted with the navigation bar, their bookmarks, etc., the study looked at how often people used keyboard shortcuts.

What we found is that about 81% of TestPilot users didn’t use CTRL+F during the course of the study. While 81% is lower than the 90% in the article, TestPilot users are usually more technologically experienced than the general population, since they are largely Firefox Beta users. When we look at TestPilot users who consider themselves beginners, the percentage goes up to 85%. Therefore, our 81% figure does not belie the Atlantic piece.

In addition, those who use CTRL+F on average use keyboard shortcuts twice as much as those who don’t, even when we ignore those people who don’t use any keyboard shortcuts at all. This implies that people who use CTRL+F are more comfortable with keyboard shortcuts in general. The only keyboard shortcut the users who use CTRL+F lag behind in is Full Screen, or F11.

The referenced article in this above extract is an article in The Atlantic which states that 90% of users dont know how to use CNTRL+F

This week, I talked with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, about the time he spends with random people studying how they search for stuff. One statistic blew my mind. 90 percent of people in their studies don't know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page!

So it seems like a vast majority dont really use that as an search option though I'll be curious to see how many other keyboard shortcuts were known to users as opposed to this.

Edit: I recommend reading this research article which talks about the how the use of keyboard shortcut usage is perhaps influenced by social factors and the amount of time spent on the computer. To summarize the article

The current research also found no relationship between years of experience with a computer and the use of KBS, however, we did find a relationship between use of keyboard shortcuts and hours spent using a computer per week. These findings suggest that the amount of time someone currently spends on the computer may be a more predictive a factor for the efficient use of a computer program than the number of years or level of expertise a person has with a particular program.


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