Tabindexing and inserting tabs with tinyMCE

You may have noticed that you can't press tab to jump from field to field in a form that uses tinyMCE. There is a plugin named tabfocusin the core that is here to allow just that.

But it does not seem to work correctly if you already have tabindex values defined on your inputs. So I decided to code my own.

I choose the easiest way, letting the browser do most of the job. I only copied the textarea tabindexvalue to the create iframe and it did the trick.

I created a tinyMCE for that, here the code of the init() method. By the way, I'm using the jQuery version of tinyMCE.

init : function(editor, url) {
  // We set a tabindex value to the iframe instead of the initial textarea
  editor.onInit.add(function() {
    var editorId = editor.editorId;
    var textarea = $('#'+editorId);
    $('#'+editorId+'_ifr').attr('tabindex', textarea.attr('tabindex'));
    textarea.attr('tabindex', null);

What it does is grabbing the initial tabindexvalue of your textarea and setting it to the tinyMCE iframe. You have to wrap this in onInit.add because at the time the plugin initmethod is called, the iframe is not yet created. I also removed the tabindexvalue from the original textarea, two elements aren't supposed to have the same tabindexvalue.

This method does not work in Chrome. Chrome always add a tab character when you press the tab key in a tinyMCE editor, it does not jump to the next tabindexed element. Is that a good behavior ? I don't know, it surely is useful to be able to insert tab characters, but it also is useful to tab through the whole form.

Listening to the tab key

Anyway, I decided to hook on the keyDownevent and listen to the tab key being pressed. This way I could manually jump focus to the next field when tab is pressed, or insert a tab character when Shift+Tab is pressed (for example).

I used the tinyMCE event helper methods and wrote this (just add it right after the previous editor.onInit.add code) :

// We hook on the tab key. One press will jump to the next focusable field. Maj+tab will insert a tab
editor.onKeyDown.add(function(editor, event) {
  // We only listen for the tab key
  if (event.keyCode!=9) return;
  // Shift + tab will insert a tab
  if (event.shiftKey) {
    editor.execCommand('mceInsertContent', false, "\t");
  // Just pressing tab will jump to the next element
  var tabindex = $('#'+editor.editorId+'_ifr').attr('tabindex');
  // We get all the tabindexed elements of the page
  var inputs = [];
  $(':input[tabindex]').each(function() {
    inputs[$(this).attr('tabindex')] = this;
  // We find the next after our element and focus it
  for (var position in inputs) {
    if (position<=tabindex) continue;


First, we discard any key press that is not a tab key.

Then we check if the Shift key is pressed, and if so we add a tab character and stop there.

The biggest part is jumping to the next field. I can't revert to the browser default for that because every browser default behavior is different and I surely don't want to do some browser sniffing.

I first get the list of all the input fields that have a tabindexvalue (your fields should have one), then I sort them in tabindexorder and then loop through the list and stop when I've found one with a bigger tabindex that the actual field. I focus this one and stop the loop.

One final word

I've tested under Firefox 3.6, Chrome, Safari and Opera. Haven't tested IE yet because I still have a lot of other scripts to debug in IE first.

As said earlier, maybe you could skip the whole tabindex listing if you intelligently revert to browser default for the browser that will jump to the next field but I have no idea how to test for that.