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Proof of Concept: Improve Block Toolbar Semantics/Accessibility #53779

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@jeryj jeryj commented Aug 17, 2023

Large refactor/spike to test out how combining block tools in the DOM might be possible, as discussed in #53013. All mouse + visual placements should be the same.

This is a big commit with a large potential for bugs. Think of this as a spike or POC for now. There'll be a lot to address. Some general TODOs:

  • Refactor shared code between empty-block-inserter and selected-block-tools
  • Shortcut/keystrokes for returning from the toolbar to where the cursor was before moving into the toolbar.
  • Inline Tools either move to the top toolbar or get inserted into the main block toolbar (think image caption formatting tools)
  • Communicate that Tab/Shift+Tab can navigate between different toolbars, potentially via a dismissible notice the first time focus is moved into it via the shortcut: "Tip: Press Tab/Shift+Tab to navigate to other toolbars, and press Escape to return focus to the editor"
  • Visual styles for the top toolbar:
    • Site Editor: When top toolbar is expanded, hide the central command + k button
    • Post Editor: When top toolbar is expanded at smaller screens, hide the right side save/preview button area

This PR is intended as an exploration if we can refactor how the block toolbar structure works to be more like a classic word editor where alt + f10 moves you to all of the block tools. An escape keypress would bring you back to where you were in the editor. If we move forward with this idea, this PR can be split into smaller, more production ready PRs. Think of this as a playground for how it could work.


Moving all Document and Block Tools together into the DOM.


  • Find a more accessible implementation of the toolbars that can be better communicated to AT
  • Allow tab and shift + tab to work natively in the editor (i.e. a tab keypress should indent the text)


Moves Block Tools into the editor header using slot/fill.


  • If the entire header is a menubar, if focus is in the menubar, can an escape keypress return focus to the editor canvas?

Testing Instructions

Visual and mouse interactions should all be identical to trunk for both Top Toolbar and the default floating block toolbar. Ideally, you don't notice any changes.

Testing Instructions for Keyboard

Combined Toolbar Controls

  • The block toolbar is now always positioned within the header toolbar, even if it is visually floating next to a block.
  • Edit a block
  • Press alt + f10 (fn + option + f10 on mac) to reach the block toolbar
  • Shift + tab should focus the document tools

Focusing the block toolbar

  • Press alt + f10 (fn + option + f10 on mac) to reach the block toolbar
  • This should work from anywhere in or outside of the editor, no change from trunk

Returning focus to the block

  • Edit a block
  • Press alt + f10 (fn + option + f10 on mac) to reach the block toolbar
  • Press escape to return the caret to the same place in the editor
  • This currently does not have a "reset" so if you tab off and back into the block toolbar, an escape keypress will still return you to the editor canvas.

Returning focus to the block from anywhere outside the block toolbar (Could be removed if superfluous, but I feel like it's quite nice for navigating)

  • Make edits
  • Leave the editor canvas (interact with the sidebar, etc)
  • Press alt + f9 (fn + option + f9 on mac) Shortcut could be any reasonable combo. I just chose one similar to the toolbar focus one.
  • Focus should return to the editor canvas at the same location you previously were

Stretch goal, shouldn't be merged in this PR. Used as an example of what's possible now: Tab keypresses on rich text blocks enter tab space.

  • Insert paragraph block
  • Press Tab
  • Type
  • You should have a tab space and then text
  • shift + tab does not work to

Screenshots or screencast

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github-actions bot commented Aug 17, 2023

Size Change: +283 B (0%)

Total Size: 1.52 MB

Filename Size Change
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build/viewport/index.min.js 958 B
build/warning/index.min.js 249 B
build/widgets/index.min.js 7.16 kB
build/widgets/style-rtl.css 1.15 kB
build/widgets/style.css 1.16 kB
build/wordcount/index.min.js 1.02 kB


…erve all visual interactions

This is a big commit with a large potential for bugs. Think of this as a spike or POC for now. There'll be a lot to address. Some general TODOs:
- [ ] Refactor shared code between empty-block-inserter and selected-block-tools
- [ ] More explicitly pass the popover slot and content ref into the SelectedBlockTools
- [ ] Shortcut/keystrokes for returning from the toolbar to where the cursor was before moving into the toolbar
- [ ] Inline Tools either move to the top toolbar or get inserted into the main block toolbar (think image caption formatting tools)
- [ ] Visual styles for the top toolbar

Still more todo. This shouldn't go to the last focused block but the last _selection_ which will be a bit more work. Probably best to refactor how it works within use-tab-nav. Maybe turn it into a hook or something that can have centralized logic.
It's not working for buttons that contain dropdowns, such as the align or options buttons. The dropdown toggle is intercepting the escape keypress and not letting it bubble.
…n via onChildrenKeyDown passed to NavigableToolbar

Note: Due to the use of portals in the toolbar slots, consistently handling event listeners cleanly is difficult.

This method adds event listeners to all children of a toolbar if a `onChildrenKeyDown` prop is passed to the <NavigableToolbar /> via a querySelectorAll( '[data-toolbar-item="true"]' ) on the NavigableToolbar ref, then applying an addEventListener to all the returned buttons.

Pros: Event listener is applied and handled in one location.
Cons: Feels yucky. Feels like crossing our fingers and hoping it works consistently, which it might.
…edblock toolbar, attached to the NavigableToolbar

This method requires forwarding a ref from the editor level down to the navigable toolbar so that the escape unselect shortcut can be blocked and the navigable toolbar event listener will still fire.

Blocking the global escape event shouldn't be necessary, but we have a combination of a few things all combining to create a situation where:
- Because the block toolbar uses createPortal to populate the block toolbar fills, we can't rely on the React event bubbling to hit the onKeyDown listener for the block toolbar
- Since we can't use the React tree, we use the DOM tree which _should_ handle the event bubbling correctly from a `createPortal` element.
- This bubbles via the React tree, which hits this `unselect` escape keypress before the block toolbar DOM event listener has access to it.
…-controls slot

If remove the bubblesVirtually from the block-controls slot, then the event will bubble in the DOM as normal (instead of the React Tree only since bubblesVirtually uses createPortal for the fills). This means we could handle the event without any forwardRefs as we don't need to block the escape shortcut keypress event from the React Tree.

However, we assume bubblesVirtually was made for a reason. So, we're unsure if something would break.
@jeryj jeryj force-pushed the refactor/block-toolbar-portal branch from e9438ba to 401cf4c Compare September 6, 2023 15:11
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Flaky tests detected in 401cf4c.
Some tests passed with failed attempts. The failures may not be related to this commit but are still reported for visibility. See the documentation for more information.

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@jeryj jeryj changed the title Refactor/block toolbar portal Improve Block Toolbar Semantics/Accessibility Sep 11, 2023
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jeryj commented Sep 12, 2023

@alexstine @joedolson - Could I get feedback on this implementation? I'm curious how you feel about the interaction and resulting (hopefully improved) accessibility of the menu bar. The toolbars are now all combined in one spot in the header, so I've wrapped the entire header in a role="menubar" as MDN said, "The toolbar is commonly a subset of functions found in a menubar as a way to reduce user effort." Since this is a grouping of toolbars, it made sense to me, but I'm very open to trying to implement whatever y'all think is best. Also happy to try several options and see what feels right.

Note: There are probably bugs here. Potentially some large ones. No need to do a code review or flag the bugs for now. I'm focused on this as a proof of concept first, and then if we decide it's worth moving forward with, I'll fix it up more.

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alexstine commented Sep 12, 2023

@jeryj This is pretty awesome. Here are some thoughts.

I did find one bug that might not be related to your PR but worth mentioning anyway just in case. Steps to reproduce:

  1. Insert an image block.
  2. Press Alt+F10 to focus the block toolbar.
  3. Select the Add caption button.
  4. Focus is now placed in the caption field.
  5. Enter a caption.
  6. Press Alt+F10 to focus the formatting toolbar.
  7. Press Escape to return to the image caption field.
  8. All focus is lost.

Still need to figure out how to communicate that Tab/Shift+Tab can navigate between different toolbars. Might be worth researching the ARIA spec to find out the best way to describe this. The toolbars are all together so in theory, communicating it should be easier. Maybe a one-time nag/notice to let keyboard users know? Slack started doing this and it is quite helpful. When focus enters the toolbar for the first time, trigger a notice.

Tip: Press Tab/Shift+Tab to navigate to other toolbars.

Then could have a dismiss button. Maybe aria-describedby? Just need some research I think.

I really like how this frees up Tab/Shift+Tab for in-block actions. This has been needed for such a long time. In non-rich text blocks for example, this would be a perfect way to navigate through tabbables. While in rich text blocks, it could be used for indenting as your example shows above.

Great work on this! Thanks.

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jeryj commented Sep 12, 2023

Thanks for the review, @alexstine! So glad to hear it has potential to move forwards! I'll get some wider eyes on it too. I think I know what the issue is with the bug on the captions toolbar. I'll try to get that fixed today.

… by default on escape keypress

Not committed to this, but it does work since we've removed bubblesVirtually from the toolbar slots and the inline rich editor doesn't use slots for its tools. I like that this brings this behavior by default to the toolbars, but unsure about if it's a good idea overall.
@jeryj jeryj changed the title Improve Block Toolbar Semantics/Accessibility Proof of Concept: Improve Block Toolbar Semantics/Accessibility Sep 13, 2023
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jeryj commented Sep 28, 2023

Closing in favor of #54513

@jeryj jeryj closed this Sep 28, 2023
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