The one keyboard key you should be using in your browser—but aren't

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Every so often I like to revisit topics I haven't covered for a few years, the idea being that new readers might have missed them the first time around.

This one skews heavily toward novice users, but it always surprises me how few people take advantage of this great time-saver.

Think about the last time you filled out a form in your Web browser. Usually this happens when you're buying or registering for something; you need to type in your name, address, and all that.

After you completed one field, did you reach for your mouse, find your cursor, drag it to the next field, click in that field, and then start typing again?

That's four steps too many.

You need to get acquainted with my good friend, the Tab key. With it you can jump easily from one Web-form field to the next, no mouse required.

It works like this: When filling out an online form (or even one in, say, a PDF), use Tab to jump from your currently selected field to the one right below it (or, in some cases, alongside it). Type...hit Tab. Type...hit Tab. Repeat as needed until you're done.

Make it habit and you'll soon wonder why you wasted so much time reaching for the mouse.

By the way, pressing Tab moves you to the next field in any given form. If you need to move your cursor to the previous field, press Shift-Tab.

And here's one final form-filling tip: when you're done with a form, you can usually press Enter in lieu of clicking the OK or Submit button. Now you can keep your fingers on the keys where they belong!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld ForumsSign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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