Further Details on the Coming Improvements to Narrator in Windows 10

The following blog post was written by Kelly Ford. He is Senior Program Manager on the Windows Accessibility team.

We recently blogged about some improvements to Narrator in Windows 10.  Now that some of those changes are available to Windows Insiders, we wanted to provide you with specifics on using some of the updated features in Narrator. These changes are currently best experienced in Windows Insider Preview Build 14328 or newer.  Some of the updated features we will cover include:

  • Scan Mode
  • Verbose modes
  • Punctuation modes
  • Faster text to speech Voices
  • AutoSuggest Announcements

Scan Mode

We’ve introduced a new navigation mode to Narrator called Scan mode.  When this mode is on, you can use the UP and DOWN ARROW keys to move through applications and web content.  Scan Mode is turned on with a press of CAPS LOCK and SPACE.  While you are in Scan mode you can press SPACE to activate an item of interest, such as following a link on a web page or pressing a button in an app. Scan Mode is turned off with another press of CAPS LOCK+SPACE.
Scan Mode is also intended to make navigating tables easier and supports common keys found in other screen readers for table navigation.  Use CTRL+ALT and ARROW KEYS when in a table to navigate by cells in a row or column.

Scan Mode has several additional hotkeys, as seen in the below table, that you can use to move through applications and content as well.

Key Description
CAPS LOCK+SPACE Toggle Scan Mode
SPACE Activate the item with focus in Scan Mode
ENTER Do a secondary action on the item with focus when supported
H Move to the next heading
SHIFT+H Move to the previous heading
ALT+DOWN ARROW Move to the next heading
ALT+UP ARROW Move to the previous heading
P Move to the next paragraph
SHIFT+P Move to the previous paragraph
CTRL+DOWN ARROW Move to the next paragraph
CTRL+UP ARROW Move to the previous paragraph
K Move to the next link
SHIFT+K Move to the previous link
D Next landmark
SHIFT+D Previous landmark
T Move to next table
SHIFT+T Move to previous table
CTRL+ALT+LEFT ARROW Move left a cell in a table
CTRL+ALT+RIGHT ARROW Move right a cell in a table
CTRL+ALT+DOWN ARROW Move down a cell in a table
CTRL+ALT+UP ARROW Move up a cell in a table


Verbose modes

Narrator now supports six levels of verbosity for giving you more details about the characteristics of text.  For example, at what we call Verbose mode 0 (zero), you will hear just the text.  At verbose mode 1, you will hear if the text is a heading.  At other verbose levels, you will get varying indications of other text properties, like text color or formatting as an example.  You can quickly cycle through the different levels for this feature by pressing CAPS LOCK+A.  Or alternatively, you can move forward through the verbosity levels with CAPS LOCK+CTRL+(PLUS), or move through them in reverse with CAPS LOCK+CTRL+(MINUS)-.

Here is a bit more detail on what’s communicated at the different Narrator Verbose levels.

Level Summary Some Examples
Zero Text only Hear text and that is it.
One Header and Errors Help with some basics on the web and daily typing errors in emails. Contains information such as:  Heading levels, and errors in documents such as spelling, grammar, and others.
Two Basic Formatting Designed based on commonly found information in emails and webpages. Contains Bullet styles, Font Weight (bold), Underline, Italics, Subscript, Superscript, and color.
Three Other Annotations Footer, Header, and unknown.
Four Extended Formatting Font Name, Font Size, other list styles.
Five Layout and animation information Paragraph starts with an indent, type of animation, and other such data.

Punctuation modes

Narrator now supports the ability to give you more control over how much punctuation you hear when reading text.  CAPS LOCK+ALT+(PLUS) and CAPS LOCK+ALT+(MINUS) cycle through the settings for punctuation.  The settings for punctuation include none, some, most, all and math along with default.

Faster Text to Speech

We’ve added three new voices to Narrator that offer a much faster top rate of speech.  Our current voices average a maximum of roughly 400 words per minute.  The three new voices average nearly twice that at approximately 800 words per minute.  You can select one of these new voices by pressing ALT+TAB when Narrator is running and then choosing voice settings.  Select either the David Mobile, Zira Mobile or Mark Mobile voices to get these faster speech rates.  As a reminder, CAPS LOCK+(PLUS) increases Narrator’s speaking rate and CAPS LOCK+(MINUS) decreases the rate of speech.

AutoSuggest Announcements

Many applications in Windows 10 offer what we call AutoSuggestions as you enter information.  For example, when you start entering a search term in the Cortana search box you will get suggestions based on what you are entering.  With Narrator you will now get a verbal hint with an audio indication when these suggestions are available.  Use CAPS LOCK+DOWN ARROW on the keyboard, or a flick down if you are using touch, to change to the list of suggestions.  Use CAPS LOCK+RIGHT and LEFT ARROWS on a keyboard, or flicks right and left, to move through the list of suggestions.  Use CAPS LOCK+ENTER or a double tap to pick the suggestion you want.  You can alternatively use the DOWN ARROW to move through suggestions and simply press ENTER to select the one you want to use.

New to Narrator

Narrator is a screen reading program that can be used by people who are blind to access the computer, Windows phone or Xbox.  If you are new to Narrator, the program can be launched by Pressing the Windows key and Enter simultaneously on the keyboard.  You can launch Narrator on a tablet or phone by pressing the Volume up and Start button.

Giving Us Feedback

We’d love to have your feedback on these features and your experiences with Narrator.  You can use Narrator’s own feedback command of pressing CAPS LOCK+E twice to enter comments about your experiences and send us feedback. Pressing CAPS LOCK+E once will let us know you are unhappy about what you are currently doing.  You can also leave us comments on our Microsoft Accessibility User Voice site.  And don’t forget, If you are using Narrator or other assistive technology, you can get technical support from the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk.

Comments (10)
  1. Don Barrett says:

    Well written, very informative, and very exciting as well.
    Also, plan on updating to Windows 10 soon, as soon as I can figure out how to do it with as little sighted assistance as possible. Assistive technology web sites have very sketchy info; if MS has detailed steps, please share.

    1. Simon says:

      I was able to update to Windows 10 through microsoft’s website by downloading a small updater application. The whole process was completely accessible (with NVDA under Windows 7) and took a surprisingly short time to complete. After Windows 10 installed, the machine simply restarted and NVDA came up again. It’s meant to just work, and it does.

  2. Paul Matson-Bepey says:

    Thanks for posting this, and, for your continued work on improving Windows Out Of The Box Accessibility.
    Any plans for Braille support?
    I use a number of various Braille displays, and, am hoping I will soon be able to use these with Windows 10, much in the same way as I can when running IOS.

  3. Shaun O'Connor says:

    At this rate narrator could, if successfully implemented with the new improvements mentioned eclipse some of the alternative screen readers currently available..

    I would contend that narrator is useful not just for people with impaired vision since, if we assume the pronunciation of words is properly implemented, it makes for a useful tool when editing documents since often hearing text read back often enables one to catch errors that are often missed just by reading alone. this particularly applies when , for example double checking for spelling.

  4. Timon van Hasselt says:

    Nice, this blog posts! Keep up this ‘transparancy’ about the development of accessibility features 🙂
    What I was wondering: are you still planning to bring out the desktop voices (HQ)? And it would be great to learn something about the voices for other languages (I saw a Dutch mobile Voice in one of the previously Insider Preview builds of Win10, but in the latest version it was gone somehow).

    Capslock + E (x2) is brilliant (and unique) way of giving on the fly feedback by the way!

  5. David Banes says:

    I’d be really interested to know about language support – especially Arabic

  6. Milke Tutt says:

    Hi, great post and very excited to hear ahbout further ddevelopments of Narrator in Win 10. Keep up the good work and, hopefully, soon there’ll be a fully-featuered screen-readder built into Windows that’ll be easy to use and versatile enough to handle a wide range of mobile and desktop applications. That’s my dream anyway!

  7. David says:

    Interesting to read about so many changes. Built-in accessibility seems to be a reality now. This generation ofblind people will not remember what a separate screen reader is. That’s a good thing.

  8. Kenny says:

    Great to hear how narator has improved. I do have a quetion, will narator work with the microsoft office applications?

  9. Joseph says:

    Hebrew is not among Win10 Narrator’s supported languages.

    Will it be supported? When?

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