Chapter 4. Working with Text

Text is found in many places, such as in windows and dialogs, in content areas like webpages and help files, and in documents. This chapter explains how to use VoiceOver to read, select, and edit text.

Read text

VoiceOver provides many ways to read text. You can read text a word, line, sentence, or paragraph at a time. You can hear words and characters spelled phonetically.

As you read, you can pause and resume speaking by pressing the Control key. If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, tap two fingers.

Use VoiceOver commands
Use VoiceOver gestures

When you’re using Read All, you can use commands to fast forward and rewind the text. Use the Commanders category in VoiceOver Utility to assign these general commands to keys on the numeric keypad or keyboard, or when using Quick Nav. To open VoiceOver Utility, press VO-F8.

When you use the Down Arrow key to move from one line of text to the next, VoiceOver speaks the line where the insertion point is located. Consequently, if you press the Down Arrow key at the first line of a document, VoiceOver won’t read the line because the insertion point has moved to the next line. To hear the first line of text in a document, press VO-Down Arrow.

When VoiceOver reads text on a webpage, it indicates internal links (links within the current webpage) if the verbosity level for links is set to high in VoiceOver Utility.

Scroll to content

When more content is available than can be displayed at one time in a window, you can scroll to the “hidden” content. You can use a VoiceOver command or VoiceOver gestures to scroll content without first interacting with the content.

Using a VoiceOver command
  1. Interact with a scroll area.
  2. To begin scrolling, press VO-Shift-S.

    You can’t use other VoiceOver commands while you’re scrolling.

  3. Scroll the content.

    To scroll up and down or left and right, press the arrow keys.

    To scroll one page at a time, press the Page Up or Page Down key to scroll vertically, and press Shift-Page Up or Shift-Page Down to scroll horizontally.

    VoiceOver plays a sound effect when you can’t scroll farther in a particular direction.

  4. To stop scrolling, press the Escape key.
Using VoiceOver gestures

When you interact with content, the VoiceOver cursor automatically scrolls as it navigates the content.

Hear misspelled words in text

VoiceOver can alert you when it encounters a misspelled word in text.

  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Verbosity in the category table, and then click Text.
  3. From the “When encountering a misspelled word” pop-up menu, choose an option: Do Nothing, Play Tone, Speak Attributes, or Change Pitch.

Hear punctuation

You can change the amount of punctuation you hear, from none to all.

All: Hear all special symbols and punctuation except for spaces. VoiceOver reads a sentence like this, “She turned and stopped comma then started walking again period”

Most: Hear all special symbols but not common punctuation, such as the comma and period.

Some: Hear keyboard symbols and many math symbols, such as + (plus) sign.

None: Hear text as you would normally read it, with pauses for commas and periods.

Use a VoiceOver command
  1. To open the rotor to verbosity settings, press VO-V.

    Verbosity settings include typing echo, punctuation, and text attributes, among others.

  2. Press the Left Arrow or Right Arrow key until you hear “punctuation.” You also hear the current setting.
  3. Press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you hear the setting you want.
  4. To close the rotor, press Escape.
Use VoiceOver Utility
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Verbosity in the category table, and then click Text.
  3. Move the VoiceOver cursor to the Punctuation pop-up menu and press the Space bar.
  4. Press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you hear the setting you want and then press the Space bar.

If you’re using portable preferences on a guest computer when you change punctuation settings, the settings are saved to the portable preferences drive and not to the guest computer.

Hear text attribute changes

You can change how VoiceOver announces changes in text attributes. VoiceOver can play a tone, speak the attribute, or do nothing.

Use a VoiceOver command
  1. To open the rotor to verbosity settings, press VO-V.

    These settings include typing echo, punctuation, and text attributes, among others.

  2. Press the Left Arrow or Right Arrow key until you hear “text attributes.”

    You also hear the current setting.

  3. Press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you hear the setting you want.
  4. To close the rotor, press Escape.
Use VoiceOver Utility
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Verbosity in the category table, and then click Text.
  3. Move the VoiceOver cursor to the “When text attributes change” pop-up menu and press VO-Space bar.
  4. Press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you hear the setting you want, and then press the Space bar.

To hear details about the text style closest to the VoiceOver cursor, press VO-T.

If you’re using portable preferences on a guest computer when you change text attribute settings, the settings are saved to the portable preferences drive and not to the guest computer.

Hear text in dialogs

You can control how much description you hear in dialogs. By default, you hear all of the text.

  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Verbosity in the category table, and then click Announcements.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • To hear all of the text in dialogs, such as labels, select the “Automatically speak text in dialog boxes” checkbox.
    • To hear only the text to which the VoiceOver cursor moves when the dialog opens, deselect the checkbox.

Hear the current selection

In the Finder and apps, you must first select the item you want to use. For example, if you want to open a folder, you must first select the folder. You can use a VoiceOver command to quickly find out what, if anything, is currently selected.

Press VO-F6. If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, tap three times.

If nothing is selected, you hear “No selection available.” If text is selected, you hear the text.

Repeat or save the last spoken phrase

If you couldn’t clearly hear what VoiceOver said, you can repeat the last spoken phrase. You can also save it as an audio file on your desktop.

Repeat the phrase

Press VO-Z.

Save the phrase

Press VO-Shift-Z.

An archive folder containing the audio file is saved. This folder also contains log files, which contain a record of the actions that occurred on your Mac, and can be used to troubleshoot problems.

You can also copy the last spoken phrase to the Clipboard (also called the “Pasteboard”) by pressing VO-Shift-C.

Select text

You can select text in documents or webpages using standard OS X keyboard shortcuts, VoiceOver gestures, or Quick Nav.

Note:You must have set the keyboard focus and the VoiceOver cursor to track each other in VoiceOver Utility. You can turn cursor tracking on and off whenever you want.

Use standard OS X shortcuts

If you can’t select text using the standard shortcuts, as in an email message that you received, press VO-Return. Then press VO-arrow keys to read the text you want to select, and then press VO-Return again. The text that was read is highlighted and selected.

Use VoiceOver gestures
  1. Rotate two fingers on the trackpad until you hear the Characters or Words list, or the Headings, Lines, or Static Text list.
  2. To select text from the starting location to the next element in the rotor, pinch your fingers apart.

    To deselect text, pinch your fingers together.

Use Quick Nav
  1. Open the Web rotor by pressing Left Arrow-Up Arrow or Right Arrow-Up Arrow.
  2. Jump to the Characters or Words list, or the Headings, Lines, or Static Text list, by pressing the Right and Up Arrow keys together (to jump to the next list) or the Left and Up Arrow keys together (to jump to the previous list).
  3. Navigate the items in a list by pressing the Up or Down Arrow key, and then select an item by pressing Shift-Down Arrow.

    To deselect an item, press Shift-Up Arrow.

To delete selected text, press the Delete key. If you accidentally delete text, you can often use the keyboard shortcut Command-Z to undo the mistake. This shortcut works only if you use it immediately after the mistake.

Hear what you type

VoiceOver can speak what you’re typing. This is known as a “typing echo” and is useful if you want to hear confirmation of what you typed. You can change the level of typing echo you hear using a keyboard command or VoiceOver Utility. Choose from these settings:

Nothing: VoiceOver doesn’t speak what you type.

Characters: VoiceOver speaks each character as you type it.

Words: VoiceOver speaks the word you typed after a brief pause (the default setting).

Characters and Words: VoiceOver speaks each character and completed word.

Use a VoiceOver command
  1. To open the rotor to verbosity settings, press VO-V.

    Verbosity settings include punctuation, misspelled words, and text attributes, among others.

  2. Press the Left Arrow or Right Arrow key until you hear “typing echo.” You also hear the current setting.
  3. Press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you hear the setting you want.
  4. To close the rotor, press Escape.
Use VoiceOver Utility
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Verbosity in the category table, and then click Text.
  3. Move the VoiceOver cursor to the “While typing speak” pop-up menu and press VO-Space bar.
  4. Press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you hear the setting you want, and then press the Space bar.

    For more information about the options, click the Help button in the lower-right corner of the pane.

If you’re using portable preferences on a guest computer when you change typing settings, the settings are saved to the portable preferences drive and not to the guest computer.

Hear when caps lock is on

VoiceOver plays a tone whenever you type an uppercase character, to let you know it’s uppercase. You can also have VoiceOver announce when the Caps Lock key is on and off.

  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Verbosity in the category table, and then click Announcements.
  3. Select the “Announce when the Caps Lock key is pressed” checkbox.

Complete partially entered words

Some apps, such as TextEdit, can display a list of possible words to complete partially entered text. For example, you can type “cow” and then display a list of words that start with “cow,” so you can pick a word from the list. You can use VoiceOver to review the list and select a word from it.

  1. As you type, enter as many characters as you know, and then press F5 (do not use the VO keys with this command). You may need to press Fn-F5.
  2. Press the Down Arrow key until you hear a word that sounds correct.
  3. To hear how the word is spelled, press VO-W-W. To hear the word spelled phonetically, press VO-W-W-W.
  4. When you hear the word you want to use, press the Space bar.

    The word you selected replaces the text you typed.

Correct misspelled words

Many OS X apps, such as TextEdit and Mail, can identify misspelled words as you type and suggest correctly spelled versions of the words. You can let a misspelled word be corrected automatically, or you can review the suggestions and choose a correction.

If you don’t want spelling to be corrected automatically, choose Edit > “Spelling and Grammar,” and then deselect the Correct Spelling Automatically command. This command is not available in all apps.

Use automatic spelling correction

When VoiceOver announces a misspelled word as you’re typing, do one of the following:

Correct spelling manually

If you chose not to use automatic spelling correction, or a document contains misspelled words for which the spell checker can’t suggest a correction, you can review and correct misspellings manually.

  1. To navigate to the first misspelled word, press Command-;.

    If you need to interact with the text area first, press VO-Shift-Down Arrow.

  2. To hear the word spelled, press VO-W-W.

    Sometimes words that the spell checker doesn’t recognize are underlined, but they’re not actually misspelled. Continue pressing Command-; until you hear a word that needs to be corrected.

  3. To open a shortcut menu of suggested spellings, available dictionaries, and more, press VO-Shift-M.
  4. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the spelling you want to use, and then press VO-Space bar to select it.

    If you choose a corrected spelling from the menu, the new spelling replaces the old one. If you don’t hear an acceptable correction, press Escape to close the menu, press VO-Shift-F4 to move the VoiceOver cursor to the misspelled word, and then edit the word manually.

You can use the Spelling and Grammar window, found in the Edit menu in most apps, to check spelling and grammar. To display the window, press Command-Shift-:.