While working on the CSS directional navigation properties, the question of how to activate spacial navigation has come up a few times, so I thought I’d just put it out there to have something to point to.
While this is a common feature in TV browsers or feature phone browsers, it is less well known that several desktop browsers (and desktop emulators of non-desktop browsers) support spatial navigation. This allows the user to move the focus between elements of the web page in 2D, which is often more convenient that the linear keyboard navigation enabled by the Tab key.
The aforementioned directional navigation properties give the author extra control over how this works. You can read more about it in this article by Daniel Davis. But even if the author does nothing, spatial navigation is still a big usability boost for keyboard users.
Here is a list of browsers that support spatial navigation, and how to turn it on in each of them:
- Opera (Blink based)
- Yandex Browser
- The Blink based browsers come with spatial navigation built-in, but turned off by default.
Launch from the command-line with the
--enable-spatial-navigationargument to activate it (on OS X, use
open path/to/browser.app --args --enable-spatial-navigation), then use the arrow keys. This does not include support for the directional navigation properties.
- Classic Opera (Presto based, version ≤ 12.x)
- This is probably the most mature implementation of spatial navigation, and includes support for the directional navigation properties. Hold down the Shift key and press the arrow keys.
- Vivaldi is a new feature rich browser, that aims to become the spiritual heir to what Opera used to be before the switch to Blink and the UI rewrite. It is the only actively developed desktop browser I know of to offer spatial navigation out of the box. As in Opera, hold down the Shift key and press the arrow keys. At the time of writing, this is still very fragile, and does not include support for the directional navigation properties.
- Opera TV emulator
- Being based on Presto,
this works well and includes support for the directional navigation properties.
Use the arrow keys.
Alternatively, you can connect to a simulated remote control on
http://localhost:5555(See the Opera TV Emulator User Guide for details).
If you know of other browsers running on desktop and supporting spatnav, let me know, and I’ll update this post.