I know this issue seems to be closed since Ms. Berg has come to a decision
however in reading some of the comments I had to add something.

I work on a web application where the users enter a great deal of
information in HTML forms.  The whole issue of tabbing is quite important to
our clients since it does seem to impact the users a great deal.  Our web
application has been on the market since 1995 and in that time we have found
the following rules work best:

1. The tab order should follow the visual order of the form elements.
2. Tabbing should never be automatic.
3. Uneditable fields should not receive focus.  (ideally these field would
be grayed out or be different visually... something not possible in all
browsers/browser versions)

We came up with these rules by a combination of testing and customer
feedback.  I noticed in some of the responses that the idea was put forward
that users who enter a great deal of information might find auto-tabbing
useful.  I can say with some authority here that they would not.
Auto-tabbing as you have described violates the most basic rule of
usability: Consistency.  Since it is not feasible to make all fields
auto-tab, no fields should be.

If you would like more information about the testing we did in this area,
the nature of the clients who assisted us in the testing or our company I
would be happy to provide you with any non-confidential material I can.

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