Chapter 1. Introducing VoiceOver

This chapter introduces VoiceOver, the advanced screen-reading technology integrated into OS X. VoiceOver enables users with visual disabilities to control their Mac using a rich set of keyboard commands and gestures.

About VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a full-featured screen reader built into OS X that speaks the text in documents and windows, and describes aloud what appears on your screen. Using VoiceOver, you control your Mac primarily with a keyboard, refreshable braille display, or trackpad. To turn on VoiceOver, press Command-F5.

You use the VoiceOver cursor to move around the screen, select buttons and other controls, and to read and edit text. The keyboard focus and mouse pointer work with the VoiceOver cursor in a variety of ways.

You use VoiceOver commands to navigate and interact with items on the screen. You enter the commands by holding down the Control and Option keys (called the “VoiceOver keys,” or “VO keys” for short) at the same time, along with one or more other keys. For example, to use the VoiceOver command VO-F1, you press the Control, Option, and F1 keys together.

You can assign VoiceOver commands to numeric keypad keys, keyboard keys, braille display input keys, and trackpad gestures, so you can use the commands with fewer keystrokes.

Turn VoiceOver on or off

Turn VoiceOver on or off at any time.

Pause or mute speech

Temporarily pause VoiceOver when it’s speaking, or mute it altogether.

If you move the VoiceOver cursor after you pause the speech, VoiceOver begins speaking the item that’s in the VoiceOver cursor.

You can adjust the volume of VoiceOver speech to the point of muting it by pressing VO-Command-Right Arrow repeatedly.

Use the welcome dialog

When you first turn on VoiceOver, a welcome dialog is shown.

You can set an option in the General category in VoiceOver Utility to control whether the dialog is shown.

Use the VoiceOver Help menu

Learn more about using VoiceOver and access commands for the item in the VoiceOver cursor.

A screen shot of the VoiceOver Help menu. A panel with a black background and white text, titled VoiceOver Help. The Help menu includes these items, from top to bottom: Online Help, Commands Help, Keyboard Help, Sounds Help, Quick Start Tutorial, Getting Started Guide. To the right of each item is the command you use to display the item, or an arrow to access an item submenu.
  1. When VoiceOver is on, press VO-H to display the VoiceOver Help menu.

    To increase or decrease the menu’s font size, press the } or { key.

  2. Navigate the menu and submenus using the arrow keys.
    • If you know the name of a menu item, type some letters of its name to narrow the menu to only items that contain those letters. To list all the items again, press the Delete key.
    • When you enter a submenu, you hear the number of items it contains.
    • If a menu item has a keyboard command, you hear it announced with the name of the item. For example, the command to open the Commands menu is VO-H-H.
  3. To select a menu item, press the Space bar or the Return key.

    To close the VoiceOver Help menu without making a selection, press the Escape key.

Learn keys, shortcuts, and gestures with keyboard help

Using keyboard help, you can quickly hear the VoiceOver command for a key. For example, press Control-Option-D to hear “Control-Option-D Go to Dock Moves VoiceOver cursor to the Dock.”

You can use keyboard help with the commanders, refreshable braille displays, and VoiceOver gestures. While using keyboard help, you can’t use your keyboard, braille display, or trackpad for other tasks.

If you have trouble using a standard QWERTY keyboard, use the Dvorak layout, which optimizes key layout for ease of use.