In some data entry contexts, I've seen data typists, type really fast and know so well the app they use, and have a mechanic quality in their work so that they can "type ahead", ie continue typing and "tab-bing" and "enter-ing" faster than the display updates, so that in many occasions they are typing in the data for the next form before it draws itself. Then when this next entry form appears, their keystrokes fill the text boxes and they continue typing, selecting etc.

In contexts like this, this speed is desirable, since this persons are really productive.

I think this "type ahead of time" is only possible in desktop apps, but I may be wrong.

My question is whether this way of handling the keyboard buffer (which in desktop apps require no extra programming) is achievable in web apps, or is this impossible because of the way web apps work, handle sessions, etc (network latency and the overhead of generating new web pages ) ?

Edit: By "type ahead" I mean "keyboard type ahead" (typing faster than the next entry form can load), not suggets-as-you-type-like-google type ahead.

Typeahead is a feature of computers and software (and some typewriters) that enables users to continue typing regardless of program or computer operation—the user may type in whatever speed he or she desires, and if the receiving software is busy at the time it will be called to handle this later. Often this means that keystrokes entered will not be displayed on the screen immediately. This programming technique for handling user what is known as a keyboard buffer.

  • Hmm, sounds like these data-entry folks need better computers...
    – user26452
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:17
  • @lunchmeat317 I guess some database fetching or processing is done in order to draw the next entry form. Thus the delay. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:20
  • Have you ever used Google?
    – Jim G.
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 17:29
  • 1
    @JimG. No. I have never used Google. Tell me more about it. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 17:52
  • 1
    @JimG. You didn't read the question. If you read my question you can notice that by "type-ahead" I didn't mean Google "suggest-as-you-type" thing. I was asking about the first definition of "type-ahead" that predates Google and that has nothing to do with the image you showed me. Please read the question. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


Keyboard type-ahead is already incorporated in web apps. The operating system does not distinguish between desktop apps and web apps, in that sense.

The real impediments to making web applications efficient are:

  1. Network latency; i.e. how long it takes to send data over the Internet, and

  2. The time it takes to generate new web pages to get to the next step in the business process.

These can be remedied, for the most part, by building web applications that use HTML5 to give the look, feel and impression of desktop applications, or by putting the whole form on a single web page. Then, all the user has to wait for is the application to save the data that the user has typed in.

  • How giving the look and feel of a desktop app remedies for network latency and page generation overhead ? Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:14
  • it's not emulating the desktop that's important. it's eliminating page loads, so you don't have to force your user to wait.
    – DougM
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:34
  • @DougM: Right. You can do that by just putting the entire form on a single web page. It becomes less like a desktop application, though. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:47

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