Useful Windows 8 Narrator commands

Windows 8 introduces several improvements to Narrator, its built in speech capability. Like VoiceOver in the early days, there is much that Narrator doesn’t do, but it already has many of the characteristics you’d expect to find in a screen reader.

The challenge with using any new screen reader is learning the keyboard commands to operate it. Narrator introduces a whole new set of keyboard commands, quite unlike those used by other screen readers.

Like other screen readers, Narrator uses a modifier key. This tells the computer that the keyboard command is meant for the screen reader, and not any other application you might be using. Under Windows 8, the modifier key for Narrator is the Caps lock key.

Basic commands

A few important commands you’ll need to know, no matter what you’re doing:

  • Toggle Narrator on/off: Windows key Alt u.
  • Stop reading: Caps lock Control.
  • Do primary action: Caps lock Space.
  • Toggle search mode: Caps lock Enter.
  • Read time/date: Caps lock c.

Getting help

Knowing where to get help is always a good plan. You can pull up lists of Narrator commands wherever you are:

  • Show all commands: Caps lock f1.
  • Show context specific commands: Caps lock f2.

Narrator settings

Most Narrator options are set in the Ease of Access Centre. You can also change a few settings on the fly:

  • Increase volume: Caps lock Page up.
  • Decrease volume: Caps lock Page down.
  • Increase speed: Caps lock + (Plus).
  • decrease speed: Caps lock – (Minus).
  • Toggle key announcement: Caps lock f12.
  • Lock Narrator key: Caps lock z.
  • Toggle mouse mode: Caps lock Numlock.
  • Toggle navigation mode: Caps lock a.

Discovering content

There are different ways you can use Narrator to move around the screen and discover what’s there:

  • Read current item: Caps lock d.
  • Read current item advanced: Caps lock f.
  • Spell current item: Caps lock s.>
  • Move to next item: Caps lock Right arrow.
  • Go back one item: Caps lock Backspace.
  • Move to previous item: Caps lock Left arrow.
  • Change to next view: Caps lock Down arrow.
  • Change to previous view: Caps lock Up arrow.
  • Read window: Caps lock w.
  • Read items in container: Caps lock r.
  • Move to last item in container: Caps lock q.

Reading text

Narrator has several commands for reading and exploring text:

  • Read from cursor to end: Caps lock m.
  • Read from start to cursor: Caps lock ] (Right square bracket).
  • Read document: Caps lock h.
  • Read current page: Control Caps lock u.
  • Read next page: Caps lock u.
  • Read previous page: Shift Caps lock u.
  • Read current paragraph: Control Caps lock i.
  • Read next paragraph: Caps lock i>
  • Read previous paragraph: Shift Caps lock i.
  • Read current line: Control Caps lock o.
  • Read next line: Caps lock o.
  • Read previous line: Shift Caps lock o.
    Read current word: Control Caps lock p.
  • Read next word: Caps lock p.
  • Read previous word: Shift Caps lock p.
  • Read current character: Control Caps lock ] (Right bracket).
  • Read next character: Caps lock ] (Right square bracket).
  • Read previous character: Shift Caps lock ] (Right square bracket).
  • Repeat phrase: Caps lock v.
  • Move to beginning of text: Caps lock y.
  • Move to end of text: Caps lock b.
  • Rewind whilst reading: Caps lock n.
  • Forward whilst reading: Caps lock , (Comma).
  • Read text attributes: Caps lock 0.

Reading tables

Narrator also includes a set of commands for exploring and reading content displayed in tables:

  • Read current col header: Caps lock f9.
  • Read current row header: Caps lock f10.
  • Read current column: Caps lock f7.
  • Read current row: Caps lock f8.
  • Read current cell: Caps lock f5.
  • Move to next cell in row: Caps lock f3.
  • Move to previous cell in row: Shift Caps lock f3.
  • Move to next cell in column: Caps lock f4.
  • Move to previous cell in column: Shift Caps lock f4.
  • Jump to cell: Caps lock f6.
  • Jump to cell content: Shift Caps lock f6.

Web navigation

Narrator has a few commands for quickly moving around web pages:

  • Jump to next heading: Caps lock j.
  • Jump to previous heading: Shift Caps lock j.
  • Jump to next table: Caps lock k.
  • Jump to previous table: Shift Caps lock k.
  • Jump to next link: Caps lock l.
  • Jump to previous link: Shift Caps lock l.

Cursor handling

You can manipulate the Narrator cursor in relation to the mouse or keyboard cursor:

  • Move Narrator cursor to system cursor: Caps lock g.
  • Move Narrator cursor to pointer: Caps lock t.
  • Set focus to item: Caps lock ~ (tilda).

As well as the Narrator specific commands, there are many different Windows 8 shortcut keys that make it possible to move around Windows 8 much more easily.

5 comments on “Useful Windows 8 Narrator commands”

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  1. Comment by David Taylor

    I’m glad I won’t be having to learn or teach these. None of the commands seem to relate to anything in order to be able to memorise them. As an experienced computer user who has used most screen readers, I find these quite the most bewildering commands I have ever seen, but then I felt similarly about the Windows 8 shortcut keys as well

  2. Comment by Matt

    I’m really hoping Microsoft keeps improving naroraeor, it would be awesome to have a built-in accessibility solution, I’m also looking into getting a windows 8 tablet and maybe even a windows phone

  3. Comment by Christopher Sullivan

    There is the power of UIA, user interface automation, which is used by assistive technology vendors. As an Apple developer program member and long time user of Freedom Scientific Jaws these commands are sane enough. OS X voiceover commands begin with two modifier keys, option and ctrl, NVDA and Narrator and jaws can be set to use the caps lock key in place of the number pad and without assigning shortcuts to alt and control. These alt + ctrl + * shortcuts may conflict with hotkeys built into web applications. Where the Narrator shortcuts seem counter intuitive enterprising developers may look at altering shortcuts and extending Narrator with UIA modules. Feedback is welcome.

  4. Comment by Mario

    Will Windows 8 Narrrator work with Visual Studio?

  5. Comment by cHRIS bEEZELY

    hEY I REALLY APPRECIATE THIS INFORMATION. I JUST SWITCHED TO WINDOWS 8 AND HAVE BEEN TRYING TO CONVERT FROM WINDOW EYES TO nARRATOR GIVEN ITS NEW FUNCTIONALITY. oNE THING I WANT TO ASK THOUGH IS WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS A KEY THAT JUMPS STRAIGHT TO TEXT IN A WEB PAGE? iN WINDOW EYES IT USED TO BE X OR N, BUT WITH NARRATOR I JUST CANNOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO TEXT ON THE PAGE. tO THE POSTER WHO ASKED ABOUT vISUAL bASIC, I THINK THAT NARRATOR WILL WORK POSSIBLY BETTER THAN jAWS OR OTHER SCREEN READERS. tHANKS AGAIN FOR THE ARTICLE.

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