CKEditor 3.x Accessibility Guide

This website contains links to software which is either no longer maintained or will be supported only until the end of 2019 (CKFinder 2). For the latest documentation about current CKSource projects, including software like CKEditor 4/CKEditor 5, CKFinder 3, Cloud Services, Letters, Accessibility Checker, please visit the new documentation website.

If you look for an information about very old versions of CKEditor, FCKeditor and CKFinder check also the CKEditor forum, which was closed in 2015. If not, please head to StackOverflow for support.

CKEditor is compliant with several accessibility standards, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the US Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the IBM Web Accessibility Checklist.

CKEditor 3.X is designed to support users with disabilities. You can use it with your mouse, but also with the keyboard as well as a screen reader. The currently supported screen reader solution is JAWS with Firefox 3.6 or Internet Explorer 8.

Basic Navigation

  • Tab and Shift+Tab
    Allow you to move into and out of the editor window from other form elements. For supported browser and screenreader solutions the editor should behave just like any other form element with respect to Tab and Shift+Tab key presses.
    One exception to this rule is when config.tabSpaces is set to a non-zero value. In this case, if you press the Tab key while inside the editor window, spaces will be inserted into the text in the editing area, and the focus will not be moved out of the editing area. The Shift+Tab keyboard shortcut would still work as expected though, even when config.tabSpaces is set to a non-zero value.
  • Alt+F10
    Moves the focus to the editor toolbar when the the cursor is in the editing area.
  • Shift+F10
    Opens the context menu of an element inside the editing area.
  • Alt+F11
    Moves focus to the elements path usually located at the bottom of the editor. While the elements path is in focus, pressing the Tab and Shift+Tab keyboard shortcuts will select HTML elements that are parents of the current element. Pressing Esc moves the focus back to the editing area without changing selection. Pressing Enter, on the other hand, selects the element chosen in the elements path in the editing area.

Navigating Toolbar

  • Tab, Shift+Tab, Left Arrow, and Right Arrow
    Once the toolbar is in focus after you press Alt+F10, Tab and Shift+Tab will move focus forward and backward among the toolbar buttons. Toolbar elements focus is cyclic, so going backwards from the first item will put focus to the last item, and vice versa.
    The Left Arrow and Right Arrow keys are equivalent to Tab and Shift+Tab, respectively.
  • Enter, Space, and Esc
    Pressing Esc puts the focus back to the editing area without executing any commands. Pressing Enter or Space activates a selected toolbar feature.

Navigating Dialog Windows

  • Tab and Shift+Tab
    When dialog window tabs are not in focus, these keyboard shortcuts move focus among input element of the dialog window. When a dialog wndow tab is in focus, Tab and Shift+Tab cycle through dialog window tabs.
    Focus order in dialog windows is cyclic, so when the first tab or first input element is in focus, and the Shift+Tab shortcut is pressed, the last tab or last input element will be selected. Dialog window buttons count as input elements as well.
  • Left Arrow and Right Arrow
    When a dialog window tab is in focus, the Left Arrow and Rigth Arrow keys can be used to cycle between tabs just like Tab and Shift+Tab.
  • Alt+F10
    Selects the currently active tab and lets you move to the next or previos one with the Tab/Right Arrow or Shoft+Tab/Left Arrow keys when inside the dialog window.
  • Enter and Esc
    Pressing Esc while inside the dialog window is equivalent to clicking the Cancel or Close buttons.
    Pressing Enter while inside the dialog window when a single-line text input is in focus is equivalent to pressing the OK button.
    Pressing Enter while inside the dialog window, when a dialog window tab is in focus, puts the focus back to the first input element inside that tab.

Navigating Context Menus

  • Tab, Shift+Tab, Down Arrow and Up Arrow
    When a context menu is opened, press Tab to cycle through menu items forward, Shift+Tab to cycle backwards.
    Down Arrow and Up Arrow work in the same manner as Tab and Shift+Tab respectively.
  • Enter and Esc
    Press Enter to activate a menu item or open a sub-menu.
    Press close a context menu without executing any command.

Navigating Style Combo Boxes

  • Tab, Shift+Tab, Down Arrow and Up Arrow
    Press Tab and Shift+Tab to cycle through items in a combo box forward and backwards, respectively.
    Down Arrow and Up Arrow work in the same manner as Tab and Shift+Tab.
  • Enter and Esc
    Press Enter to activate the selected item in a combo box and put the focus back to the editing area.
    Press Esc to close the combo box without executing any command, and put the focus back to the toolbar.

Navigating Color Selection Boxes

  • Tab, Shift+Tab, Left Arrow and Right Arrow
    Press Tab and Shift+Tab to cycle through colors forward and backwards, respectively.
    Down Arrow and Up Arrow work in the same manner as Tab and Shift+Tab.
  • Enter and Esc
    Press Enter to apply the selected color to the current selection in the editing area. Enter puts the focus back to the editing area as well.
    Press Esc to close the color selection box and put focus back to the toolbar.

Editor Hotkeys

Here is a list of hotkeys that you can use inside the editing area in addition to the more common text editing keyboard commands (i.e. arrow keys to move the caret, end to move to the end of line, etc.).

  • Ctrl+Z
    Undo command.
  • Ctrl+Y and Ctrl+Shift+Z
    Redo command.
  • Ctrl+L
    Open link dialog.
  • Ctrl+B
    Bold command.
  • Ctrl+I
    Italics command.
  • Ctrl+U
    Underline command.
  • Ctrl+C or Ctrl+Insert
  • Ctrl+V or Shift+Insert
  • Ctrl+X or Shift+Delete
  • Ctrl+Left or Ctrl+Right
    Move to the previous or next word.
  • Ctrl+Backspace
    Remove the previous word.
  • Ctrl+Delete
    Remove the current word.
  • Shift+Enter
    Create a new line in the same paragraph or list item.
  • Alt+-
    Toggle collapse toolbar.


  • Editing Mode vs. Non-editing Mode
    JAWS has the distinction between editing mode and non-editing mode for text boxes and rich text areas. When JAWS is entering editing mode, a high pitched 'pop' sound is played to notify the user of the mode switch. Similarly, when JAWS is entering non-editing mode, a lower pitched 'pop' sound is played.
    It is up to JAWS to decide whether to put a text box or a rich text area to editing mode on the initial focus. When it happens that JAWS has put the initial focus to CKEditor in non-editing mode, the user will find that he/she cannot type into the editor, and no 'pop' sound is played when focus was put into the editing area. To fix that, simply press Enter to switch JAWS to editing mode, and a high pitched 'pop' sound should be played.
    Pressing Esc inside CKEditor will switch JAWS to non-editing mode, along with a lower pitched 'pop' sound to indicate the mode switch.
  • Refreshing the Virtual Cursor
    JAWS keeps an internal model of the browser's view, and along with it, a virtual cursor, to facilitate reading of the contents in a web browser. The internal model kept by JAWS, however, is not always in sync with the displayed contents in the browser window. This is especially true for dynamically generated web contents written in JavaScript, which CKEditor depends on.
    When JAWS's virtual cursor is out-of-sync with the browser's displayed contents, the user will be unable to move correctly among the web page's contents. The user will also find that JAWS's voice reading out unpredictable garbage from the web browser - e.g. it may be reading out the raw HTML code in the web page, or it may be reading out the same element over and over despite the user's actions to move the virtual cursor away from that element.
    To refresh JAWS's internal model and to keep the virtual cursor back in sync with the browser, the user will need to press Insert+Esc. In cases where even Insert+Esc fails to refresh JAWS's virtual cursor correctly, the user can press Insert+Z twice, slowly, to disable and re-enable the virtual cursor.
    There are a few points in CKEditor usage in which JAWS will get out-of-sync with the browser window contents:
  1. When an editor is newly created in the middle of a browsing session.
  2. When a dialog is opened.
  3. When a dialog is closed.
  4. When a context menu is opened.
  5. When a combo box menu is opened.

In all of the above events, it is recommended that the user press Insert+Esc to keep JAWS's virtual cursor in sync with the browser display.

  • Arrow Keys
    Arrow keys have special meaning in JAWS when virtual cursor is mode is on. Arrow hotkeys (like left arrow and right arrow for cycling through toolbar items) will stop working when JAWS is opened and in virtual cursor mode. Equivalent hotkeys like Tab and Shift+Tab should be used instead.