Logging in with the Keyboard

The standard login form is everywhere. It's unavoidable. And it's a giant pain in the butt.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/12/logging-in-with-the-keyboard.html

A few more useful capabilities would

  • Remember the username and have the password field selected if you typed in the wrong password and hit ENTER
  • A checkbox for “Remember your username”
  • A checkbox for “Remember your password”
  • And perhaps a “Reset”?

The fine folks who wrote the University of Waterloo’s “Angel Course Environment” (or NAMBLA) decided to make the page’s onload event give focus to the username box (similar to the Google page with the search box). This is awesome, because sometimes I’m already typing my password when the event fires. I can only imagine these developers used the login form in the manner described here.

They’ve also pioneered the use of SJAX, an amazing new Web 0.1 technology that freezes my whole browser, including my YouTube videos of things being set on fire.

Speaking of which, I got some bi’ness to take care of.

My wife calls me a backseat typer. It drives me insane when I see people doing that.

User/pass forms are bad enough. Try watching your parents filling out an order form on Amazon… I clawed my eyes out.

Hah! Backseat typer. I like that.

Oh man, don’t get me started. I am constantly looking for ways to squeeze precious seconds out of frequent tasks. alt-tab, alt-f4, F9 to refresh email, F5 to refresh browsers and feed reader. The precious field moving tab as you’ve pointed out (don’t forget the shift-tab to go in reverse. You hit tab for the next field, look up and realize you made a typo, shift tab baby. Home, End. Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V. Need to spawn a new tab in IE or firefox? ctrl-n.

Man, I hear yah. One of the big things that was a curve for me on the Mac OS was never being able to keyboard ANYWHERE. Mac OS X has, thankfully, corrected much of that problem (although stupid developers abound who think all I want to do is mouse around).

I’m a power user. To me, power == keyboard. And power != mouse. To me, mouse == how I aim my gun in Day of Defeat (yes, I still play that).

Whenever I program, rare as it is, I will always make sure I can do with a keyboard what I can do with my mouse. A lot of people wonder why I’m so bloody fast at closing out of forms at work? Simple: keyboard shortcuts up the ASS. EVERYTHING has a keyboard shortcut. I work as fast as I do because the only mousing I do is required because some insensitive ass of a programmer hasn’t given me the option to keyboard through (although I admit I don’t CTRL + TAB as much as I could).


RoboForm. 'Nuff said.

this is another reason why I still love command line programs. I can do everything without having to touch my mouse.

What web sites are you using? I don’t think there are any that ignore the TAB key to move from the Username to the PW textbox.

On my site I then just press the Enter key (after filling in the PW) and the ‘Log In’ button eventhandler does it’s thing. However, I do notice that with IE, when I have 1 textbox and 1 button, filling in the textbox and pressing Enter does not trigger the button’s eventhandler. Don’t know why.

Lots of sites do that stupid trick with Javascript to set focus into the username field. All they’d need to do to fix that particular problem is only set the focus into that field if the field is still blank. If the user has started typing in it, and possibly even moved on to the password field, then don’t set the focus to the username field.

There are some annoying websites which get to my head. Apart from setting focus onload, following are the annoyances in login registration process…

  1. Enter key does not submit the form.
  2. User is not given choice to select the username. Some randomly generated number which is hard to remember is given as user name.
  3. leading and trailing spaces in user name are NOT ignored.
  4. Passwords are rejected while creating/changing them and reasons for rejecting them are given one after another. No upfront password rules are given to user.
  5. Retype email field like retype password. Passwords need to be retyped since they are masked on screen and user may make mistake during typing them. But why would you ask to retype something thats clearly visible on screen. Most of users do drag-n-drop or ctrl+C , ctrl+v anyways

There are so many more…


I spend a huge portion of my day on the command line in Windows. Why oh why oh why can you still not paste with a simple key combination?? (I don’t consider Alt-spacebar-E-P to be simple, though I have gotten pretty darn fast at it.) That feature was one of the few things I wanted as a command-line improvement in Vista, but no. Not even PowerShell supports anything better…sigh.

I couldnt imagine doing that.

Ussually what I do is this:

Wait until I see a blinking cursor in the field. If none then press the tab key.
Enter username tab
enter password tab
space bar or enter (If it hits the other one remember that and hit the tab key twice, to avoid the problem)

Even though I am a total idiot people think I am a genuise taking seconds to login into my email. I’m not very smart at all.

Any time I’ve backseat keyboarded and suggested using tab/enter it’s fallen on deaf ears. The right kind of person would be grateful for the tip, but I’ve not encountered any.

The mouse is evil; long live SlickRun…

P.S. I just hit tab in an attempt to focus the “post” button for comments - takes me to the top of the page. ~Sigh~

The problem has nothing to do with keyboard/mouse use and shortcuts. The problem is that you are typing your password to begin with

I totally agree, but that’s a subject for a different blog post. In the meantime, we have to deal with what we have, and that’s a zillion login screens.

Hi, my name is Brad and I am a backseat, keyboard nazi.

As a senior developer in my shop I am always helping some other developer at thier desk. I drives me crazy when someone types areallylongwordworng, and then has to backspace through the entire word rather then CTRL+SHIFT+[BACKARROW]. Or just CTRL+[BACKARROW] to go back a word.
I always try to reate an application that can be operated without the mouse. labels with shortcuts, and proper tab order, are key and often something overlooked on applications.

IMO, the real problem here is lack of consistency. Users don’t know just by looking at any given site how they can navigate through it – even through the login page.

That’s one of the things that sucks about the WWW for such systems. Any developer can implement any feature any way they want. Many users will just fall back to what they know will work on every site – the complicated way to log in – just because on some site they were once at, the focus didn’t auto-set to the user name box. So now, every time, they head for the mouse.

I think there’s a larger point to be made here about the lameness of the mouse in general for data-entry tasks. It impedes any fast motion whatsoever. When go to the bank to make an inquiry, the teller reaches for the mouse (probably to navigate through a 3270 emulation program!) and I know my trip to the bank is going to be twice as long as it could have been. Ever tried checking into a hotel in Vegas? They go right for the mouse. Wonder why the lines are so damned long to check in, even when most people have online reservations? I blame the mouse.

Thankfully you can use your keyboard on their convoluted login page, but HSBC Direct actually makes you enter your security phrase by using your mouse to press keys on a “virtual keyboard”. Very annoying.