Accommodating keyboard users

Many users (including me) prefer to navigate through a dialog box by using the keyboard: Pressing Tab and Shift+Tab cycles through the controls, while pressing a hot key instantly activates a particular control.

To make sure that your dialog box works properly for keyboard users, you must be mindful of two issues:

^ Tab order ^ Accelerator keys

Changing the tab order

The tab order determines the order in which the controls are activated when the user presses Tab or Shift+Tab. It also determines which control has the initial focus — that is, which control is the active control when the dialog box first appears. For example, if a user is entering text into a TextBox, the TextBox has the focus. If the user clicks an OptionButton, the OptionButton has the focus. The first control in the tab order has the focus when Excel first displays a dialog box.

To set the control tab order, choose ViewOTab Order. You can also right-click the dialog box and choose Tab Order from the shortcut menu. In either case, Excel displays the Tab Order dialog box shown in Figure 17-19.

Figure 17-19:

The Tab Order dialog box.

Figure 17-19:

The Tab Order dialog box.

The Tab Order dialog box lists all the controls in the UserForm. The tab order in the UserForm corresponds to the order of the items in the list. To move a control, select it and then click the arrow buttons up or down. You can choose more than one control (click while pressing Shift or Ctrl) and move them all at one time.

Rather than use the Tab Order dialog box, you can set a control's position in the tab order by using the Properties window. The first control in the tab order has a TabIndex property of 0. If you want to remove a control from the tab order, set its TabStop property to False.

^jtSMSome controls (such as Frame or MultiPage controls) act as containers for other controls. The controls inside a container control have their own tab order. To set the tab order for a group of OptionButtons inside a Frame control, select the Frame control before you choose the ViewOTab Order command.

Setting hot keys

Normally, you want to assign an accelerator key, or hot key, to dialog box controls. You do so by entering a letter for the Accelerator property in the Properties window. If a control doesn't have an Accelerator property (a TextBox, for example), you can still allow direct keyboard access to it by using a Label control. That is, assign an accelerator key to the Label and put the Label directly before the TextBox in the tab order.

Figure 17-20 shows several TextBoxes. The Labels that describe the TextBoxes have accelerator keys, and each Label precedes its corresponding TextBox in the tab order. Pressing Alt+D, for example, activates the TextBox next to the Department Label.

Figure 17-20:

Use Labels to provide direct access to controls that don't have accelerator keys.

UserForml g]


Department Hire Date


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