#305 – Guidelines for Defining Access Keys

Microsoft defines the following guidelines for defining access keys, in the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines.

  • Use wider characters for the access key  (e.g. avoid ‘i’, ‘I’)
  • Use a distinctive consonant or vowel  (e.g. _Sort rather than So_rt)
  • Avoid using characters that make it hard to see the underline  (e.g. characters with descenders, like ‘y’)
  • Assign an access key to every menu item
  • For dynamically created menu items (e.g. list of recent files), use numeric access keys
  • Assign unique keys within a particular menu
  • First choice is to use first character of first or second word in label
  • Assign an access key to every control in a window that takes input, or to a nearby label
  • Assign unique keys within a particular window or dialog
  • Don’t assign access keys for OK and Cancel buttons
  • Don’t assign an access key to a control that has no associated caption or label