Narrator lets you use your PC without a display or mouse to complete common tasks if you’re blind or have low vision. It reads and interacts with things on the screen, like text and buttons. Use Narrator to read and write email, browse the Internet, and work with documents.
Specific commands let you navigate Windows, the web, and apps, as well as get info about the area of the PC you’re in. Navigation is available using headings, links, landmarks, and more. You can read text (including punctuation) by page, paragraph, line, word, and character as well as determine characteristics like font and text color. Efficiently review tables with row and column navigation.
Narrator also has a navigation and reading mode called Scan Mode. Use it to get around Windows 10 using just the up and down arrows on your keyboard. You can also use a braille display to navigate your PC and read text.
Finally, you can adjust the speaking rate, pitch, and volume of the voice that Narrator uses as well as install some third-party text-to-speech voices.
Three ways to start and stop Narrator
- On the lower-right corner of the sign-in screen, select the Ease of Access button and then choose Narrator.
- In the Windows 10 Creators Update, press the Windows logo key + Ctrl + Enter together to start Narrator. Press these keys again to stop Narrator. In previous versions of Windows, press the Windows Logo Key + Enter together to start and stop Narrator. On many keyboards, the Windows logo key is located on the bottom row of keys, to the left or right of the Alt key.
- Select the Start button, then select Settings , choose Ease of Access, select Narrator, and then move the slider under Narrator to turn it on.
Customize Narrator to start automatically before or after you sign in to your PC
Press the Windows logo key
your keyboard, type Ease of Access Center in the search box, and then select Ease of Access Center.
Select Change sign-in settings.
Under Hear text on screen read aloud (Narrator), select the check box under At sign-in or After sign-in and then press OK.
Basic keyboard navigation in Windows
Tab, cursor, and function keys
In Windows, use the Tab key or the cursor keys (also known as arrow keys) to move around apps and web pages. Some keyboards also have function keys located above the number keys at the top of the keyboard. Function keys can be used for navigation in some apps. On certain keyboards, some function keys are programmed to do hardware-related actions such as adjusting volume. If your keyboard has an Fn (function) key, you must press the Fn key and the function key together to use the function key for other actions.
Caps lock key
When Narrator is turned on, press the Caps lock key (also known as the Narrator key) together with other keys to navigate and interact with things on the screen.
You can lock the Narrator key in Narrator settings so you don’t have to press the Caps lock key for each command. With Narrator turned on, open Narrator settings on the taskbar, select General, and then select Lock the Narrator key so you don’t have to press them for each command (Caps Lock).
Windows keyboard shortcuts
Windows and Windows apps have keyboard shortcuts that you can use alongside Narrator commands. For example, press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu, or, to open Action center, press the Windows logo key + A.
For a list of the keyboard shortcuts you can use in Windows, see Keyboard shortcuts in Windows.
For a list of Keyboard shortcuts in Windows apps, see Keyboard shortcuts in apps.
To go beyond basic keyboard commands using the Tab, cursor, and function keys, use Narrator views.
Narrator views let you to change how Narrator navigates apps and webpages, and includes the following: items, characters, words, lines, paragraphs, links, headings, tables, landmarks, suggestions, and form fields.
Items is the default view when you start Narrator. An item can be anything from a button in an app, a link, or text in a webpage. To move by item, press Caps lock + Left arrow or Caps lock + Right arrow. When you find an item that you want to activate, press Caps lock + Enter. To have Narrator read the current item press Caps lock + D. To have Narrator repeat the last phrase spoken, press Caps lock + V.
To change Narrator views, press Caps lock + Up arrow or Caps lock + Down arrow.Note
Not all views are always available. For example, views such as lines, paragraphs, tables, and headings are typically available only when text is available to read, such as in webpages or emails.
Suggestions are available when you enter information in a text box in some apps and parts of Windows. For example, when you enter text in the search box after pressing the Windows logo key, suggestions are provided as you type. When a suggestion is available, Narrator indicates it by playing a sound and voice message.
When a suggestion is available, press Caps lock + Down arrow to change to Suggestions view, and then Caps lock + Left arrow or Caps lock + Right arrow to move to the suggestion, and then Caps Lock + Enter to select it. Or, press the Up arrow key and Down arrow key to move through suggestions and press Enter to select one.
Landmarks are groups of items that are available in some apps and webpages. In Windows 10, the Windows Store and Weather apps also have landmarks. Some Windows features like the Start menu also have landmarks. To see if a landmark is available, press Caps lock + Up arrow to switch to landmarks view, and then use Caps lock + Left arrow or Caps lock + Right arrow to move through landmarks.
Get around apps and web pages
Find and open apps
To quickly find an app in Windows 10, press the Windows logo key on your keyboard to open the Start menu and place focus in the search box. Type the name of the app that you’re looking for and press the Enter key to open it.
Switch between apps
To switch between open apps on your PC, hold down the Alt key and then press the Tab key. Narrator will speak the name of open apps as you cycle through them. When you find the app that you want to use, release both keys.
If at any time you need to know which app or Windows has focus, press Caps lock + W to read the title and contents of the Window that has focus.
Quickly explore content with Scan Mode
When you open an app or webpage, get a quick overview using Scan Mode, a reading and navigation mode in Narrator. To turn on Scan Mode, press Caps lock + Spacebar. Then use the following commands to move by heading, landmark, or link.
Press this key To do this H or Shift + H, and Alt + Down arrow or Alt + Up arrow Move to the next or previous heading D or Shift + D Move to the next or previous landmark K or Shift + K, and Alt + Right arrow or Alt + Left arrow Move to the next or previous link
To read content in more detail, use Up arrow key and the Down arrow key to move to the next or previous line of text. Or, press Caps lock + M and Narrator will begin reading continuously from your current location.
For more info about how to use Scan Mode, including a list of additional commands, see Chapter 3: Using Scan Mode.
For more info on reading text, see Chapter 4: Reading text.
Change speech rate and volume
You can change the volume or how fast or slow Narrator speaks. To change Narrator volume, press Caps lock + Page up to increase the volume, or Caps lock + Page down to decrease the volume.
To change the rate at which Narrator speaks, press Caps lock + Plus (+) and Caps lock + Minus (-).
Stop Narrator from reading
To stop Narrator from reading at any time, press the Ctrl key or choose another command.
Scan mode basics
To turn scan mode on and off, press Caps lock + Spacebar.
When turned on, use the Up arrow key and Down arrow key to navigate apps and webpages. Press the spacebar to activate an item that you want to use, such as a button in an app, a link in a webpage, or a text box.
When scan mode is turned on, use the following keys to navigate apps and webpages:
Press this key To do this Up arrow and Down arrow Move to the next or previous line of text in an app or webpage Right arrow and Left arrow Move to the next or previous character in an app or webpage Spacebar Activate an item that you want to use, such as a button or text box Enter If supported, do secondary action on an item Home and End Move to the start or end of a line of text in an app or webpage Ctrl + Home and Ctrl + End Move to the beginning or end of text Ctrl+ Left arrow and Ctrl + Right arrow Move to the next or previous word Ctrl+ Up arrow and Ctrl + Down arrow Move to the next or previous paragraph B or Shift + B Move to the next or previous button C or Shift + C Move to the next or previous combo box D or Shift + D Move to the next or previous landmark E or Shift + E Move to the next or previous edit field F or Shift + F Move to the next or previous form field H or Shift + H, and Alt + Down arrow or Alt + Up arrow Move to the next or previous heading I or Shift + I Move to the next or previous item K or Shift + K, and Alt + Right arrow or Alt + Left arrow Move to the next or previous link R or Shift + R Move to the next or previous radio button X or Shift + X Move to the next or previous check box T or Shift + T Move to the next or previous table P or Shift + P Move to the next of previous paragraph Number keys 1 to 9 or Shift + number keys 1 to 9 Move to the next or previous heading level 1 through 9
Scan mode will turn off when you switch to a different app. You will hear a sound from your PC indicating that scan mode is turned off. Press Caps lock + Spacebar to turn it on again.
Working with tables
Scan mode can help make moving through tables easier and supports common keys found in other screen readers for table navigation. Press T or Shift + T to locate a table using scan mode and then use the following keys to interact with the table:
Press this key To do this Ctrl+ Alt + Right arrow or Left arrow Move to the next or previous cell in a row Ctrl+ Alt + Up arrow or Down arrow Move to the next or previous cell in a column Caps Lock + F5 Announce location in table Caps Lock + F9 Announce column header Caps Lock + F10 Announce row header Caps Lock + F7 Read the current table column from start to finish Caps Lock + F8 Read the current table row from start to finish
You can also use these keys to interact with tables when scan mode is turned off.
There are several ways to read text using Narrator. The first and simplest way is to use the arrow keys to navigate text if you’re interacting with a document in a word processor, such as Microsoft Word.
You can also use Scan Mode to read text. To turn on Scan Mode, press Caps lock + Spacebar. Then use the up and down arrow keys to read by line and the left and right arrow keys to read by character. To learn more about Scan Mode, see Chapter 3: Using Scan Mode.
When you want more control over what text you read, Narrator provides a series of text reading commands to help navigate and read text in webpages and applications.
- To read a complete document or webpage from the beginning, press Caps lock + H.
- To read a document from the beginning to the current cursor position, press Caps lock + Right bracket (]).
- To read continuously from the current location in a document or webpage, press Caps lock + M.
- To move the cursor to the beginning of a document or webpage, press Caps lock + Y.
- To move the cursor to the end of a document, press Caps lock + B.
Work with paragraphs, lines, words, and characters
Narrator provides ways to read text by page, paragraph, line, word, and character.
To read by page
- To read the current page, press Caps lock + Ctrl + U.
- To read the next page, press Caps lock + U.
- To read the previous page, press Caps lock + Shift + U.
To read by paragraph
- To read the current paragraph, press Caps lock + Ctrl + I.
- To read the next paragraph, press Caps lock + I.
- To read the previous paragraph, press Caps lock + Shift + I.
To read by line of text
- To read the current line, press Caps lock + Ctrl + O.
- To read the next line, Caps lock + O.
- To read the previous line, Caps lock + Shift + O.
To read by word
- To read the current word, press Caps lock + Ctrl + P.
- To read the next word, press Caps lock + P.
- To read the previous word, press Caps lock + Shift + P.
To read by character
- To read the current character, press Caps lock + Ctrl + Left bracket ([).
- To read the next character, press Caps lock + Left bracket ([).
- To read the previous character, press Caps lock + Shift + Left bracket ([).Tips
- As a best practice, use these text reading commands and Scan Mode together. For example, turn on Scan Mode and use the up and down arrow keys to read by line and Caps lock + P or Caps lock + Shift + P to read by paragraph. If you want to reread the current line, press Caps lock + Ctrl + O. To reread the current paragraph, press Caps lock + Ctrl + I.
- If an app doesn’t support text reading commands, Narrator will say “not on explorable text.” In this case, use Scan Mode to navigate and read text.
Get more detail on text
Narrator provides different levels of detail about the characteristics of text, known as verbosity. To change the level of verbosity, press Caps lock + A until you hear the level that you want.
- Verbosity level 0. Hear only text.
- Verbosity level 1. Hear basics such as heading levels, and errors in documents such as spelling and grammar. This is the default level.
- Verbosity level 2. Hear formatting frequently found on webpages and in email, such as bullet styles, text bold, underline, italic, subscript, superscript, and color.
- Verbosity level 3. Hear additional annotations, such as document headers and footers.
- Verbosity level 4. Hear extended formatting, such as font name, size, and other list styles.
- Verbosity level 5. Hear layout and animation information, such as the type of animation, whether a paragraph starts with an indent or not, and more.Notes
- You can also press Caps lock + Ctrl + Plus sign (+) or Caps lock + Ctrl + Minus sign (-) to select different verbosity levels.
- To check advanced information about text at any time, press Caps lock + 0 (Zero).
Get details on formatting
Narrator provides details about formatting, such as font name, font size, and text alignment. To hear formatting attributes, press Caps lock + F. To hear the next group of formatting attributes, press Caps lock + F again. To hear the previous group of formatting attributes, press Shift + Caps lock + F.
Formatting information is separated into the following groups:
- Font information. Font name, weight, size, italic, underline, underline color, strikethrough, background color, foreground color.
- Advanced font information. Hyperlink, style, bullet style, subscript, superscript, capitalization style, outline style, overline color, language.
- Object color and outline information. Fill type (none, color, gradient, picture, or pattern), fill color, outline color, outline thickness.
- Paragraph spacing Information. Line spacing, before paragraph spacing, after paragraph spacing.
- Page margin information. Top margin, bottom margin, leading margin, trailing margin.
- Alignment information Horizontal text alignment, text flow direction, indentation first line, indentation leading, indentation trailing.
- Visual effects information. Animation style, visual effects (reflection, glow, soft edges, and bevel).
- Object layout information. Center point, size, rotation.
- Annotation information. Annotations such as spelling and grammar suggestions and comments.
Narrator gives you control over how much punctuation you hear when reading text. Press Caps lock+ Alt + Plus sign (+) or Caps lock+ Alt + Minus sign(-) until you hear the punctuation mode you want to use: Default, Math, Some, Most, or All.
- Default. Hear little to no punctuation. Natural pauses will indicate items such as commas and periods.
- Math. Hear most mathematical symbols.
- Some. Hear most conversational punctuation, such as commas and periods.
- Most. Hear additional symbols, such as parentheses.
- All. Hear all punctuation, including all special symbols.
Starting and stopping Narrator
To start Narrator on a Windows device that doesn’t have a keyboard, press the Start button and the Volume Up button together on your device. Press these buttons again to stop Narrator.
You can use gestures to interact with Narrator and your device.
To explore and hear items on a screen, drag one finger around the screen. When you hear an item that you want to use, double-tap the screen with one finger to activate it. To move through items on the screen, flick left and right with one finger.
If you want to move by characters, words, lines, or links, flick up or down to change the Narrator view. For example, to hear an item spelled out, flick up until you hear Narrator say “characters”. Then flick left and right to move through that item a letter at a time.
The following are important gestures to help you get started:
- To change Narrator views, flick up and down with one finger.
- To scroll, flick up, down, left or right with two fingers.
- To show context menus, double-tap with two fingers.
- To change verbosity, tap once with three fingers.
- To read continuously from the current position, swipe down with three fingers.
- To tab forward or backward, flick left or right with three fingers.
- To show the Narrator command list, triple tap with four fingers.
For a complete list of touch gestures, see Appendix B: Narrator keyboard commands and touch gestures.
Additional touch gestures for Windows
The following gestures are also available in Windows 10:
- To open Action Center, swipe in from the right side of the screen.
- To open Task View to switch between apps and multiple desktops, swipe in from the left side of the screen.
Typing by touch
When in an editing area, such as a text box, a touch keyboard will appear in the lower part of the screen and Narrator will play a sound to indicate that a keyboard has appeared. To enter text, double-tap the characters you want to enter.
To enter text more quickly, change a Narrator setting to enter characters as soon as you lift your finger off the character. To turn on this option, select the Start button, then select Settings , select Ease of Access, and then select Narrator. Use the toggle under Activate keys on touch keyboard when I lift my finger off the keyboard to turn on the setting.
Most options are in Narrator settings. To find them, open Narrator settings on the taskbar when Narrator is turned on.
Settings are separated into four categories: general settings, navigation settings, voice settings, and command settings.Note
Some settings are also available in Windows 10 Settings. Select the Start button, then select Settings , select Ease of Access, and select Narrator to see them.
- Turn on the shortcut to launch Narrator. Start and stop Narrator using the Windows logo key + Ctrl + Enter on a keyboard, or the Windows button + Volume up button on a touch device.
- Lock the Narrator key (Caps lock). You don’t have to press the Narrator key (Caps lock) to enter a command. For example, to move to the next link, press L instead of Caps lock + L.
- Hear characters as you type. Characters are announced immediately after you type them. This can also be turned on by pressing Caps lock + F12.
- Hear words you type. Typed words are announced immediately after you type them.
- Read out voiced Narrator errors. Narrator announces errors such as “no next landmark” or “no next item.”
- Highlight cursor. The cursor is highlighted with a blue focus box.
- Play audio cues. Narrator plays a sound when you do things like switch windows, open the Start menu, or move forward or backward to different items.
- Read UI hints. Narrator announces how to interact with items.
- Lower the volume of other apps. The audio volume from other apps is lowered so that you can hear Narrator.
- Retain notifications. Notifications can be retained from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
- Read and interact with the screen using the mouse. When this is turned on, Narrator reads what is under the mouse cursor. Use Numeric keypad to move the mouse.
- Activate keys on the touch keyboard when you lift your finger. Characters are entered as soon as you lift your finger off the touch keyboard.
- Narrator cursor follows keyboard focus. When this is turned on, Narrator will follow keyboard focus when you use the Tab, cursor, or other keys for navigation.
- Enable the text insertion point to follow the Narrator cursor. When this is turned on, Narrator will move the text insertion point when navigating by views such as characters and words.
- Select the Narrator cursor movement mode. Two modes are available: normal and advanced. Normal mode allows Narrator to move between various items such as links, tables, and other elements. Advanced mode lets you use the four arrow keys to move the Narrator cursor through a programmatic representation of an application.
- Speed. Control the speed at which Narrator speaks.
- Volume. Adjust the volume at which Narrator speaks.
- Pitch. Adjust the pitch of Narrator voice.
- Select a different voice. Choose from different available Narrator voices in your language.
Narrator voices average a maximum of approximately 400 words per minute. However, the following voices offer a rate of approximately 800 words per minute:
- Microsoft David Mobile
- Microsoft Zira Mobile
- Microsoft Mark Mobile
Narrator can be used with SAPI 5-based speech synthesizers. Once installed, voices will appear in the list of voices for you to choose.
Here are some available options from third-party providers:
These options are provided for informational purposes only. Microsoft does not endorse any particular third-party software, nor can it offer any support for their installation and use. For help with any of these products, please contact the original manufacturer.
Customize Narrator keyboard shortcuts to allow for improved control and usability:
Customize a Narrator keyboard shortcut
- Choose the command to customize.
- Select Change command keyboard shortcut.
- In the Type a keyboard shortcut window, type the keyboard shortcut you want to use on your keyboard. Use any combination of modifier keys (Control, Shift, Alt, Caps lock, or the Windows logo key) together with a non-modifier key. Use function and numeric keypad keys without any modifiers.
Select Restore default to return all commands back to their default settings.
Hear different levels of context
Narrator can provide different levels of context as you navigate your PC. You control how much context is heard, and if context is read before or after the current item.
To change the amount of context you hear, and whether context is heard before or after the current item, select the Start button, then select Settings , select Ease of Access, and select Narrator. Under Amount of contextual reading for controls and buttons, choose from the following options:
- No context reading
- Play sounds only
- Read only immediate context
- Read immediate context name and type
- Read full context of new control
- Read full context of both the old control and the new control
Under Order of contextual reading for controls and buttons, choose whether you want to hear context before or after the current item.
You can also use the following keyboard shortcuts:
- To hear the current context at any time, press Caps lock + forward slash (/).
- To change the level of context that’s read, press Caps lock + Alt + forward slash (/).
- To change whether context is read before or after the current item, press Caps lock + Ctrl + forward slash (/)