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Question title says it all: why wouldn't scrolling the mousewheel scroll the input left or right when the mouse is on a single line field with content that exceeds its width? Now whenever I want to scroll I usually end up selecting text and trying in vain to keep some control while I drag left or right, invariably overshooting my target. The mousewheel isn't being used for anything here so why not let that scroll left-right in this case?

Mousewheels with left-right buttons obviously resolve the need for this but they haven't really become commonplace from what I've seen and most users (including yours truly) forget they even have them. I just discovered that middle-mouse button click and drag will work on this page but that's not an option in standard input fields.

The only reasons I can think of:

  • up-down might not translate to left-right in all cultures so no standard experience could be decided, or
  • users will be confused because they can't scroll the page/window up and down while hovering over such a field. Multi-line text areas have scroll-bars to tip user off but no such indicator (currently) exists

So, are there arguments against this that I'm not seeing? Was this ever proposed before (and then presumably shot down)?

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This will prevent you from scrolling easily all the way down a page.

As you use the wheel to scroll, eventually one of the text fields will fall underneath the mouse cursor. At that point, the vertical scrolling will stop, and the horizontal scrolling will begin. You'd have to move the mouse away from the text area to resume scrolling down.

I've seen pages like that where there were "traps" that would catch your mouse and stop scrolling. (Take composing an answer on this site, for example. If it gets long, the text field starts vertically scrolling. As I scroll down, eventually the cursor enters the text area and the page stops scrolling and the answer starts scrolling instead. It's annoying, but an acceptable tradeoff since there is only one of these boxes to navigate around, and I need to be able to see all the content.)

Your second point is true as well, in that users will be very confused when a simple, common action like scrolling suddenly stops working.

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