Voiceover basics

Someone on my web accessibility list has been asked to test with an Apple. He’s a Jaws user and doesn’t have an Apple in front of him, but apparently his job is asking him to learn stuff before he even lays hands on an Apple, yikes! I was asked about this from another from another list too, but she was going to wait and see what was gonna happen in her situation. I’ve got several sighted readers with Apples who have expressed interest in playing with Voiceover, and who knows who else it might help, so I decided to post what I wrote this morning on the very basics of Voiceover.

This should get any of you interested started, and then you can play from there. I have no idea if my instructions make any sense since I’m pretty foggy, so good luck. 😉

Oh, I wrote them to make sense to the blind.


Keys you’ll need that are slightly different from Windows are the Voiceover keys, or the VO keys. These are control and option. Control is the third key to the left of the spacebar. Option is the second key to the left of the space bar. Get familiar with those two keys because they are how you access Voiceover.

The command key, or the Apple key, is just to the left of the spacebar. This key has the same function as the control key in Windows. Command plus tab will let you toggle between windows in a program, or when used with “c” and “v”, copies and pastes.

To turn on Voiceover:

On a desktop: Command plus F5
On laptop: Command plus function plus F5 The function key is the last key to the left of the spacebar.

You will hear, “Voiceover on”.

To quickly change verbosity settings, press the VO keys plus command and arrow right or left. To change a setting, arrow up or down.

To change more VO settings, press VO plus F8 to bring up the Voiceover utility.

You will need to know how to interact, first and foremost. If you hear html, or scroll area, or table, or anything like that:

Press VO plus shift, plus down arrow.

You will hear, “interact with” and then whatever you are interacting with.

To stop interacting, press VO plus shift plus up arrow. You will hear “stop interacting with”.

There is a Voiceover getting started tutorial on every Apple. Press VO plus command plus f8. This will walk you through the very basics, without going live on the computer.

To hear what each key does, press the VO keys plus “k”. You will hear, “starting keyboard help, press escape to leave this mode”. In this mode, you can press any key and VO will tell you what it is. When pressed with the VO keys, it will explain the command. Do this a lot to familiarize yourself with what each key does. For more advanced commands, press VO plus shift and the key. Not every key has a job. Press escape when done.

When you are ready to browse, find Safari. I am going to assume most of this stuff will be the same, regardless of if your computer will be running Snow Leopard. I run Leopard, so things might be a little different.

To quickly find Safari, go to the dock. Press VO plus D. You will hear whatever application is in focus on the dock. To navigate the dock, release the VO keys and arrow left or right until you hear “Safari”. Up arrow until you hear “open” and press enter.
To get to the location bar to type in your address, press command plus “L”. Type your address and press enter. Depending on the current settings, the VO cursor might focus on the html of the website. If not, you’ll have to arrow over with your VO keys pressed until you hear “html content”. The focus might be in the toolbar, so if you hear “back” or “forward”, stop interacting. (VO plus shift plus up arrow).

You might hear things like “top sites” or “news” or “popular menu button”. Find where it says “html content” and interact. (VO plus shift plus down arrow). Now you can use VO plus arrow keys to navigate the site.

If you run across a drop down menu anywhere, press enter on it and then up or down without holding your VO keys. Press enter to select anything in the drop down.

The main things you’re really gonna have to master is the interacting. You’ll use that a lot when navigating websites.

Anything more advanced might be different depending on the operating system the computer has. But you have enough now to get started. Use your keyboard help as much as you need to figure out what each command will do.


Filed under apple Inc, assistive technologies, proud geek, Voiceover

2 Responses to Voiceover basics

  1. Eek, I got a call today that I have to test VO tomorrow and haven’t ever even seen the laptop I’ll be using yet or ever used VO in my life! Crap. Thanks for posting this. I’m going to Braille it out and take it tomorrow so I can hopefully know what I’m doing.

  2. Ro

    Yikes! Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

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