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Why Doesn’t Tab Work for Drop-down Controls in Firefox on OS X?

If you are a recent Mac adopter and are frustrated by the weird tab behavior in OS X, you aren’t alone. By default the Tab key only works for text boxes and lists, but excludes select controls (drop-down menus) on a form when using Firefox.

This is very annoying when you are expecting Firefox to behave the same on OS X as it does on Windows. Thankfully Apple made this into a very easy system preference.

Open up the System Preferences tool and then select Keyboard & Mouse, and then Keyboard Shortcuts.

image

You’ll see the section at the bottom that says “Full keyboard access”. Here’s where you can change the setting to “All controls” instead of the default.

Note that this will enable tabbing to more than just drop-down controls, so you can now tab to links on a page if you so choose.

Keyboard Method (bonus points)

  • Just use Ctrl+F7 to toggle this setting whenever you need to tab to a drop-down box. No need to open the preferences at all.

This little setting should make your switching experience much more friendly.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/21/07

Comments (36)

  1. J Marler

    I am a recent mac switcher as well, and this page popped up in google for me by searching for “os x tab dropdown”

    Thanks mucho for the advice. That was bothering me immensely, and I was worried that I was just out of luck. Your advice worked perfectly.

  2. B Young

    Oh thank you! I’ve beeb searching Mozilla forums and gave up – found this with a google search. I’m a much happier maccer now :)

  3. AC

    Yes!! I’ve been a Mac and Firefox user for over 2 years now and this problem has been drive me nuts! its nice to finally have a answer to this bug, thanks!

  4. R Prince

    Thanks for the help. Consider myself an accomplished mac user, for over 10 years now, but switched to Macbook pro almost a year ago and have never known the fix for this issue, I finally decided this morning, I was going to find the fix.. thanks to google and yourself, I’m very less frustrated….. Thanks

  5. Dave

    Thank you IMMENSELY for this tip!!!

  6. Galen

    Fantastic tip – very helpful to this new mac user (and highly ranked when searching for “tab to drop down mac fireforx” from Google).

  7. PLF

    Thank you so much. I have been looking for a solution to this Firefox problem for a long time. Thank you again!

  8. Karlo

    Very helpful!

  9. Damon Schultz

    Thank you – a rediculous default setting!

  10. Dr. Aaron S. Kurland

    Thanks. This has been bugging me ever since I got my Mac. I agree with Damon; why would they make this the default? Dumbth is all I can think of. :)

  11. Rory

    THANK YOU! This was driving me nuts!

  12. John

    I can’t add much more than has already been said…but THANK YOU nonetheless!

  13. Doug

    This has driven me nuts for years. Thank you. One question… Why is this the default setting? It makes no sense. Does anyone know why it is this way? This is similar to the whole right-click mouse issue with Macs (there is the control key workaround). It seems like Mac-o-philes (which I want to be) take pride in annoying settings that drive the rest of us CRAZY.

  14. doug no.2

    Thanks, you are the man! Been driving me crazy and I never bothered to check it out til just now and your site popped right up with the answer. Perfect!

  15. Ruby

    howtogeek++
    So simple, and yet so maddening when you only think to check Firefox’s own preferences. Thanks for the quality-of-internet-browsing-life improvement.

  16. Scott Weaver

    Wow, thank you tons!

    I honestly thought it was just something I had to deal with on my Mac until I read this post.

    Thank you for saving me hours of frustration!

  17. Joseph

    Thank you so much!

    I recently switched to Mac last October and this is the one feature that had been driving me crazy and that I preferred in Windows! This is awesome!!

    Thanks Again!

  18. Michael

    It’s a fix, but it’s not the problem. That default behavior of ‘Text boxes and list only’ allows you to choose ‘list’ aka ‘drop down menus’ in Safari and with every other Mac browser I can think of other than FF. So it leads me to believe it’s the way FF is implementing it.

    The problem if you choose “all controls” is you have to tab through every single link as well.

  19. Jerry

    Great tip! Works like a charm through the GUI, but for some reason Ctrl+F7 does not work for me – any idea why that might be (OS-X 10.5.7)?

  20. anima

    width of a drop down box is working fine in firefox on windows but width is reducing on mac machine.

  21. Bald Man

    OK, now why I never thought to look this up until now, I have no idea. But this is fantastic and much appreciated.

  22. pete

    thanks. this fix is so easy and helpful.

  23. Ben

    AHHH THANK YOUUU

  24. Aditya

    Thanks!

  25. Steve

    This also fixes tabbing between buttons on alert/prompt dialogs such as when you Cmd-q to quit firefox with multiple tabs open. Now you can tab to Quit or Cancel and space to select.

  26. Tabatha

    THANK YOU! I gave up on firefox for a few months just because of this problem. It was extremely annoying.

  27. Eli

    Hmm, I don’t see this in my keyboard preferences. Instead I see at the bottom two buttons that open dialog boxes, “Modifier Keys…” and “Change Keyboard Type…” I’m using OS X 10.5.8.

  28. Matthew

    Finally! Thank you.

  29. Brent

    I realize this post is nearly 3 years old, but THANK YOU!!

  30. Sean

    Thank you! You have saved me a great deal of displeasure!

  31. Marcin Bilski

    THANK YOU!

  32. RYan

    You rock! This was has been pissing me off for a LONG time.

  33. Ben

    Thank you so much! I would have never found this without your post. One of the most annoying things about switching from Windows to MAC.

  34. Mike

    For newer OSXs, Apple has added another step. After you get to “Keyboard Shortcuts”, you now need to click “Universal Access” on the left column.

    Thank you for this. It has corrected a huge frustration.

  35. Jay

    You may need to restart Firefox for the change to take effect.

  36. Vincent Voorduin

    I have an other question about this topic. I hope someone could help.

    I now figured out how to select the dropdown menu for example to make a jpg in Photoshop but is there a keybord command so that I can select and scroll in the dropdown menu?

    Maybe it’s a simple one but I haven’t find it yet.

    Greetings Vincent and thanks

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