Keyboard navigation in Qt Quick

Official Qt documentation:

As Qt Quick is mostly used on touch devices, information about keyboard focus tends to be harder to find. This page summarizes a few points to keep in mind when writing QML code for Symbolibre, with pointers to the relevant Qt documentation pages.


Only one item (and its successive parents that are focus scoppes, see next section) can have the activeFocus property set to true at a time, which represents keyboard focus. This property is read-only, but the forceActiveFocus() methods can be used to move the focus to another item. However, there are simpler ways to manage focus, so forceActiveFocus should only be used as a last resort.

Key events are first sent to the item that has active focus, then propagated to its parents until one accepts the event.


When an item gains active focus, one may want to give focus to one of its children instead. This is the point of focus scopes. When a focus scope gains active focus, it also gives it to its first (possibly indirect) child that has the focus property set to true. If this child is also a focus scope, it will in turn share the active focus with one of its children. Reciprocally, when an item has active focus, all its parent items that are focus scopes get it too, including the window.

If another child subsequently gains active focus, the focus scope will update the focus properties accordingly. This focus property acts as a memory for focus scopes, so that when it gains focus again, it can share it with the right child.

In Qt Quick, FocusScope (obviously), Window, Loader, ListView and other views are focus scopes. In Qt Quick Controls 2, ComboBox, MenuBar, Pane, RangeSlider, SpinBox, StackView, SwipeView, TabBar, and various window content items are also focus scopes. It is often a good idea to use a FocusScope as a root item of non-trivial view delegates and non-trivial children of layouts.


Qt Quick automatically builds a focus chain for the Tab key with all items that have activeFocusOnTab set to true. The defaults for the activeFocusOnTab property are usually what you would expect. There is no focus chain for the arrow keys, with some exceptions such as ListView when its keyNavigationEnabled property is set to true.

Each item has properties KeyNavigation.{backtab,down,left,right,tab,up} that can point to another item to customize the focus behavior. By default, KeyNavigation.* has less priority on key events than Keys.*. This is convenient when dealing with TextField, for instance.

KeyNavigation bindings are two-way: if b is the target of the KeyNavigation.down property of a, then pressing the up key while b has active focus will move foucs to a.

Non-focus scope items

Some items, especially positioners and layouts, are not focus scopes, but it could be useful to have them behave as one at times. Unfortunately, there is no way to set the ItemIsFocusScope flag to an item from QML or C++ (except for custom types), so the only way to make these items behave as a focus scope is to use forceActiveFocus(). As a matter of example, here is code to make a StackLayout behave like a focus scope:

StackLayout {
    onActiveFocusChanged: if (activeFocus) children[currentIndex].forceActiveFocus()

SLStackLayout implements this behavior in the org.symbolibre.controls module.

Visual focus

Controls have a visualFocus property that is supposed to represent keyboard focus more precisely than activeFocus. However we decided against using it in Symbolibre, as it often broke keyboard navigation during our experiments with it.