In our (desktop) application, we have two different families of selection fields. Some can open a dropdown dialog (combo boxes, date fields which open a calendar in the drop down), and the others can open a selection dialog instead. The latter looks like this:

enter image description here

For the dropdown fields, we use ArrowDown as a keyboard shortcut to open the dropdown popup.
For the fields which open a dialog, we're yet unnsure which keyboard shortcut to use to open the dialog. The button which opens the dialog cannot be reached with tabbing (all our fields have only one component that can be reached by TAB, the next TAB will always leave the field).

What's the appropriate keyboard shortcut in this case? Whould we use ArrowDown as well, or rather some other shortcut such as Enter?

  • Why can't it be reached by tabbing? How do keyboard-only users use this application?
    – JonW
    Oct 2, 2013 at 7:50
  • The field consists of two widgets (text and button), but should behave like it's one widget. Users can navigate through fields with TAB, but we like the idea of consistently jumping to the next widget with each TAB, and not jumping around in a widget's subcomponents. All functionality the widget offers is thus reachable by keyboard shortcuts, in order to be fully usable keyboard-only. Oct 2, 2013 at 7:55
  • Well how about as a compromise that the TAB jumps from widget to widget, but once you're actually within a widget and using it (such as typing in the field) then the TAB will jump between components of that widget. Similar to how some navigation menus work.
    – JonW
    Oct 2, 2013 at 7:58

1 Answer 1


One action – one shortcut. Although the results are different, still the action is the same: Open. So ArrowDown is good choice for this.

Some users probably would be confused a bit by watching dots instead the more habitual triangle. But here reasoning by analogy could work, as the layout of the open dialog […] control is similar to select [▼] control.

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