tabindex in CSS

Update 2017

As pointed out by @Wallop in the comments, the nav-index property was dropped from the spec in 2015 due to “lack of implementation interest”.

Take a look at the nav-index property introduced by W3C in CSS3-UI.

This property has exactly the same behavior as a tabindex and is applicable to any element.

The ‘nav-index’ property is an input-method-neutral way of specifying the sequential navigation order (also known as “tabbing order”).
This property is a replacement for the HTML4/XHTML1 attribute ‘tabindex’

Being probably the best standards-compliant solution for the use case, nav-index is interpreted only by Opera so far (as of June 2012) and is also marked as “Feature at risk” by W3C, therefore may be dropped any time.

Alternative cross-browser solutions are:

  • non-standards-compliant: set the tabindex attribute on a DIV. This will work in all common browsers.

  • standards-compliant: replace DIV by an anchor element (A) without a href attribute set, style it with display: block and add the tabindex attribute.

With respect to BoltClock´s point, I agree that the tabbing order is very logical (both the text selection order and tabbing order are closely related to the sequence in which elements are aranged in the document). On the other hand, CSS has a wider purpose today. It can manipulate not just the content of a document (content property) but also the behavior when and if events are to be fired: i.e. using pointer-events, display or z-index the pointer event’s order will change. If these are very basic CSS properties, why you should not be able to influence KeyBoardEvents, too?

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