Chapter 5. Navigating Content

VoiceOver provides numerous ways to navigate content and text. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to navigate content such as tables and text, and how to use navigation features such as Quick Nav, the Item Chooser, and hot spots, among others.

Navigate menus

The menu bar at the top of the screen contains these areas: the Apple and app menus, status menus, the Spotlight menu, and the Notification Center icon.

Navigate to the menu bar

Press VO-M.

If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, double-tap with two fingers near the top edge of the trackpad.

Navigate in the menu bar
Navigate a menu
Close a menu

To exit a menu without selecting an item, press Escape. If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, scrub back and forth with two fingers.

Shortcut menus give you quick access to commands so you don’t have to navigate to the menu bar. To open a shortcut menu for an item, press VO-Shift-M. If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, you can use the customized gesture Control-Trackpad click (you can change this default assignment and assign the command to a different gesture).

Many menu items have keyboard shortcuts you can use to bypass menus altogether. For example, to open the Print window, you can typically press Command-P, instead of navigating to File > Print.

Navigate tables

You can navigate tables in text areas by row and column, and sort by column.

You can use the same text commands you would use for documents to read text in a table.

When you’re interacting with a table, VoiceOver doesn’t announce blank columns as you navigate using the arrow keys unless you have the verbosity level for tables set to High.

You can choose to have VoiceOver read the header text when it navigates a table row. This setting is useful for identifying the type of content in each cell of a row. To set this option in VoiceOver Utility, choose Verbosity in the category table, click Announcements, and then select the “Speak header when navigating across a table row” checkbox.

Navigate by finding text or letters

You can navigate by searching for specific text or a specific letter.

By text

For example, if you’re working in a TextEdit document and you want to find the next occurrence of “braille,” type braille in the VoiceOver search panel and the VoiceOver cursor will move directly to the next occurrence.

  1. Press VO-F.

    VoiceOver displays a search panel.

  2. In the search panel, type or paste (by pressing Command-V) the text you’re looking for, and then press Return.

    VoiceOver searches from the VoiceOver cursor to the end of the text area.

    • To find the next occurrence of the text in the window, press VO-G.
    • To find the previous occurrence of the text in the window, press VO-Shift-G.
  3. To review past searches, press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key. Before you repeat, delete, or enter a new search, press VO-F.
    • To repeat a previous search, press Command-A.
    • To delete a search, press Command-Delete.
By letter

For example, you can use fast searching to quickly move to the next occurrence of the letter S in an element on the screen.

  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Navigation in the category table, select the “Enable fast searching” checkbox, and choose whether to use the Left Command or the Right Command key when fast searching.
  3. Search for the next or previous element that begins with a specific letter.
    • To search for the next element, press the Left Command or Right Command key and the letter. For example, press Left Command-S.
    • To search for the previous element, press the Left Command or Right Command key, the Shift key, and the letter. For example, press Left Command-Shift-S.

Navigate using text attributes

You can navigate in a document by searching for text attributes, such as a bold font or a change in font color.

Navigate using cursor wrapping

When you use cursor wrapping, VoiceOver treats the items in a window or column as a continuous loop. For example, if you’re at the top of a window and move back, you go to the last item in the window. You hear audible cues when you wrap.

If you turn on cursor wrapping in VoiceOver Utility, VoiceOver wraps automatically. You can also use cursor wrapping only when you choose.

Wrap automatically
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility, click Navigation, and then select the “Allow cursor wrapping” checkbox.
  2. To use wrapping, do any of the following:
    • To wrap from the last item in a window to the top of the window, press VO-Right Arrow.
    • To wrap from the first item in a window to the bottom of the window, press VO-Left Arrow.
    • To wrap from an item at the bottom of a column (such as a list) to the first item in the next column, press VO-Down Arrow.
    • To wrap from an item at the top of a column (such as a list) to the last item in the previous column, press VO-Up Arrow.
Wrap only when you choose

Navigate using the Tab key

OS X includes full keyboard access, which lets you use the Tab and arrow keys to move the keyboard focus to text boxes, lists, radio buttons, checkboxes, and other controls.

When you turn VoiceOver on, the Full Keyboard Access setting in Keyboard System Preferences automatically switches to “All controls.” When you turn VoiceOver off, the setting switches to “Text boxes and lists only.” To change the setting at any time, press Control-F7.

When you use the Tab key to navigate while VoiceOver is on, keep these points in mind:

Navigate using Quick Nav

With Quick Nav, you can navigate webpages and apps using only the arrow keys, and navigate webpages using single keys.

Turn Quick Nav on or off

Press the Left and Right Arrow keys at the same time.

If you deselected the option to toggle Quick Nav using the arrow keys in the Quick Nav Commander in VoiceOver Utility, this command won’t work. Instead, press VO-H-H to open the Commands menu, type “quick” to search for the “Toggle Quick Nav On or Off” command, and then select it.

Navigate apps and webpages using arrows
Navigate webpages using single keys

If you enabled single-key webpage navigation in the Quick Nav Commander in VoiceOver Utility, you can use single keys to navigate webpages. For example, press b or B to navigate to the next or previous button, or 1 or ! to navigate to the next or previous Heading 1.

Use the Quick Nav Commander in VoiceOver Utility to change the default single-key assignments, and add your own key assignments.

Navigate apps and webpages using the rotor

You can use Quick Nav with the Web rotor.

When Quick Nav is on, the Quick Nav arrow and single-key commands are included in the Commands menu. To display the Commands menu, press VO-H-H.

Navigate using the Item Chooser

You can use the Item Chooser to quickly go to any item on the screen or in a window. The Item Chooser menu lists text, controls, links, and graphics.

A screen shot of the Item Chooser. A panel with a black background and white text, titled Item Chooser. The menu includes items such as close button, show bookmarks unchecked check box, and empty scroll area.
  1. To display the Item Chooser, press VO-I.
  2. Navigate the items in the list using the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you find the item you want.
    • If you know the name of an item, such as the Close button, start typing its name to narrow the list to only items that contain those letters. To list all the items again, press the Delete key.
    • If you don’t find the item you want, press the Escape key to exit the Item Chooser without making a selection.
  3. Press Return or the Space bar to select the item and go to it.

    The Item Chooser closes.

Monitor items with hot spots

You can use hot spots to monitor items and jump to those items at any time. After you set a hot spot for an item, you can use the hot spot until you close the window that contains the item. If you turn off VoiceOver and then later turn it on, hot spots you set are still available.

You can set up to ten hot spots; if you use VoiceOver activities, you can set up to ten hot spots for each activity.

Set a hot spot

Navigate to the item and press VO-Shift-[number key].

If you assign a number that’s already being used in a hot spot, the new hot spot replaces the old one.

Remove a hot spot

Press VO-Shift-[number key] on the hot spot.

For example, if you set a hot spot on the first icon in the Dock (by pressing VO-Shift-5), you would press VO-5 to jump to that hot spot, and then press VO-Shift-5 to remove the hot spot from the icon.

Use hot spots
Use the Hot Spot Chooser

The Hot Spot Chooser lists all active and inactive (those in closed apps) hot spots, and offers commands to move to the next or previous hot spot.

To display the Hot Spot Chooser, press any hot spot key twice. For example, you might press VO-7-7.

When you jump to hot spots in tables, lists, or web areas, you can immediately interact with those items; you don’t need to enter a VoiceOver command to interact with them.

You can assign hot spot commands to keys on the numeric keypad or keyboard, or on a braille display. If you’re using a Multi-Touch trackpad, you can assign the commands to VoiceOver gestures. You can also assign commands to move to the next or previous hot spot.

You can use hot spots on some non-English keyboards.