Chapter 11. Using VoiceOver Gestures

This chapter explains how you can control your computer using VoiceOver gestures on a Multi-Touch trackpad.

About VoiceOver gestures

If you have a Multi-Touch trackpad and VoiceOver is turned on, you can use gestures to navigate and interact with items on the screen, and enter VoiceOver commands.

To use VoiceOver gestures with a trackpad, you enable the Trackpad Commander by holding down the Control and Option keys (called the “VO keys”) while rotating two fingers clockwise on the trackpad, or by selecting the option in VoiceOver Utility. Once enabled, you can use a set of standard VoiceOver gestures, and you can customize other gestures by assigning VoiceOver commands to them. If you’re using more than one Multi-Touch trackpad, you must enable the Trackpad Commander on each trackpad.

VoiceOver gestures involve using one or more fingers to drag, tap, flick, or rotate on the trackpad. You can use different techniques for a gesture. For example, you can tap using two fingers from one hand, or one finger from each hand. Try different techniques to discover which one works best for you. You can use keyboard help to practice standard and customized gestures and learn what they do.

When you touch the trackpad, it’s as if you’re touching a portion of the screen. The trackpad represents the window or area on the screen where the VoiceOver cursor is located. When you drag a finger on the trackpad, you move the VoiceOver cursor only in that window or area. VoiceOver speaks the items in the VoiceOver cursor as you move the cursor, and plays a sound effect whenever it encounters a blank space on the screen. This information helps you gain a sense of the actual location of items on the screen as you navigate. For example, if the cursor is in the Mail toolbar, the trackpad represents the Mail toolbar. When you drag your finger on the trackpad, you move the VoiceOver cursor in the Mail toolbar. Because the trackpad represents only a specific area and not the entire screen, you can’t stray to other areas or applications by accident.

To enhance collaboration with sighted users, VoiceOver makes the area of the screen you’re working in more visible by dimming the rest of the screen. You can adjust the transparency of this effect using the Touch pane in VoiceOver utility. Other collaboration features, such as the caption or braille panels, can also be used at the same time as VoiceOver gestures.

To disable the Trackpad Commander and stop using VoiceOver gestures with a trackpad, hold down the Control and Option keys while rotating two fingers counterclockwise on the trackpad, or select the option in VoiceOver Utility.

Use VoiceOver gestures

If you’re using a Multi-Touch trackpad, you can use gestures to navigate and interact with items on the screen. To start using VoiceOver gestures, you must enable the Trackpad Commander.

VoiceOver has a standard set of gestures that you can’t customize, and other gestures that you can customize by assigning VoiceOver commands.

Note:When you’re using VoiceOver gestures, you can’t use the mouse button on the trackpad, unless the mouse button is used with a modifier key, as in Control-click.

Enable the Trackpad Commander

Hold down the Control and Option keys (the “VO keys”) and rotate two fingers clockwise on the trackpad.

Use VoiceOver gestures
Disable the Trackpad Commander

Hold down the Control and Option keys (the “VO keys”) and rotate two fingers counterclockwise anywhere on the trackpad.

You can use both VoiceOver gestures and keyboard shortcuts to enter VoiceOver commands.

Assign VoiceOver commands to gestures

If you use VoiceOver gestures, you can customize some gestures by assigning specific VoiceOver commands to them.

Note:VoiceOver includes a set of standard VoiceOver gestures, which you can’t change.

  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click the Commanders category, click Trackpad, and make sure the Enable Trackpad Commander checkbox is selected.
  3. Click Assign Commands.
  4. From the pop-up menu, choose a modifier key (Command, Option, Control, or Shift) to use with your customized gestures.

    By default, No Modifier is selected in the pop-up menu and the standard VoiceOver gestures, which don’t use a modifier key, are listed.

  5. Interact with the Trackpad Gesture Commands table and navigate down the Trackpad Gesture column until you hear the gesture you want to assign a command to.
  6. Move to the Command column, open the pop-up menu of commands, and then use the arrow keys to navigate the available commands.
  7. A screen shot of the Trackpad Commander. The VoiceOver Utility window, divided vertically into two parts. A sidebar on the left lists categories, preceded by an icon, and an area on the right shows options for the currently selected category. Commanders is the current category in the sidebar. On the right is displayed the Trackpad Commander pane for assigning commands to gestures.¶¶At the top right of the pane is the text \“Select a modifier key, then assign a command to a gesture. Unmodified, built-in VoiceOver gestures cannot be changed.\” To the right of the text is the Modifier pop-up menu where Command is selected. Below the text and pop-up menu is a table with two columns, from left to right: Trackpad Gesture, Command. The third row is selected and contains Command Flick Down in the Trackpad Gesture column and on the right is a pop-up menu of command categories for assigning a command to the gesture. The command categories from top to bottom are: General, Information, Navigation, Text, Web, Find, Tables, Size and Position, Audio, Braille, Visuals, Hot spots, Custom Commands. To the right of each category name is an arrow for displaying the commands in each category.
  8. When you hear the command you want to assign to the current gesture, press Return to select it.
  9. When you’re finished assigning commands, click Done.

You can use the Custom Commands menu to assign scripts and Automator workflows to gestures. For example, you could run a script (such as a Perl, Ruby, Python, or AppleScript script) when you use the gesture Command Two-Finger Double Tap.

Use rotor settings with gestures

If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, the rotor is like a virtual dial you turn to change how you navigate, based on the current context. For example, when you’re browsing a webpage, use settings such as tables, web spots, or links. In other contexts, use settings such as navigation, words, or characters.

  1. Rotate two fingers until you hear the setting you want to use.

    As you “turn” the rotor, VoiceOver speaks each setting and plays a clicking sound. If you miss a setting, keep turning the rotor until you hear the setting again.

  2. Flick up or down to navigate to the previous or next instance of an item, based on the current setting.

    For example, if the current setting is Words, then flicking down moves the VoiceOver cursor to the next word. Keep flicking down to move forward word by word. If you repeatedly flick up, the VoiceOver cursor moves backward word by word.

    Here are some of the settings you can use:

  3. Web settings: The settings depend on how you’ve customized the Web rotor in VoiceOver Utiility. By default, the settings include Links, Headings, Form Controls, Web Spots, Tables, and Landmarks.

    Other settings: Characters, Words, Navigation.

The Characters and Words settings are most useful when interacting with a text area, to read the text by character or by word.

The Navigation setting navigates text line by line. When you’re interacting with a text area, VoiceOver begins speaking the first line at the point where the cursor was located when you first flicked up or down; it speaks each subsequent line in its entirety.

When you use the Navigation setting in a window or dialog, VoiceOver might not speak all of the items on a line, depending on how the items are arranged. You may need to flick left or right and then flick up or down again to hear other items.

The current web navigation mode affects how you navigate webpages using the rotor. In DOM mode, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next instance of the item that matches the current rotor setting. For example, if the rotor is set to headings, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next heading. You can assign the “Toggle Web Navigation DOM or Group” command to a gesture using the Trackpad Commander, to easily switch modes to suit your needs.