OS X, Full Keyboard Access, and Web Forms

For a while now I’ve been frustrated to find that when tabbing through a web form in Firefox select inputs don’t gain focus. I sat down today to research what it was that they were doing wrong so that I could avoid making the same mistake, and write a post describing the issue. What I found though was that it wasn’t the sites fault or the browsers. It turns out that what I was experiencing was merely a result of an OS X setting which determines what elements on the screen are able to get focus via tabbing. The default functionality is for OS X to only let you tab onto text inputs and lists. To change this you need to go to System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts and then turn on “Full Keyboard Access”. What’s more is that Safari ignores this setting entirely so while browsing in Safari you can tab onto select inputs whether full keyboard access is turned on or not. Who knew?