Using your feedback to make Narrator work better with touch

Shortly before we released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in February, we blogged about our work to make Windows 8 more accessible to people with disabilities. This included our work on Narrator to enable customers who are blind to use Windows 8 on touch screens. This work has continued to evolve in the Release Preview, and will also improve as we move toward the final release of Windows 8. This post details some of the work we have done to improve Narrator when using a touch-enabled PC. This post was authored by Doug Kirschner on our Accessibility team.  –Steven

First off, we would like to thank all the people who have given us feedback; there has been a lot of positive reaction—people are excited that Windows 8 touch screens will include basic screen reading support by default. We've gotten a tremendous amount of constructive feedback on things we could do to make Narrator work better on touch screens and easier to use on the web. We’ve listened. Your suggestions, combined with suggestions from usability testing on visually impaired users here at Microsoft, have resulted in some important changes that we think you'll really like.

Listening to the accessibility community

When the Developer Preview build was released, we took the opportunity to reach out and gather feedback on Narrator from as many people who require visual assistance tools as we could. To start with, we worked with the community of folks inside Microsoft (we are fortunate to have a significant and organized community that is engaged in the accessibility of all Microsoft products) to install Windows 8 and send us their impressions, and we held internal accessibility events where people could come and try it out in person. We also held usability studies where we invited people to Microsoft’s campus to experience Narrator on a touch screen and walk through common tasks to see where we could improve. Millions of you downloaded the Developer and Consumer Previews, and many of you tried out Narrator and sent us some great feedback. We followed up with a number of people who contacted us via @BuildWindows8. Lastly, we attended the CSUN conference for Technology and Persons with Disabilities, where we were lucky to have the chance to sit down with people one-on-one as they tried out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for the first time on touch screens.

There were a couple of key scenarios we wanted to validate. In particular, we wanted to make sure touch users could get up and running using Narrator on a new PC, right out of the box. That includes finding and installing accessible apps from the Store, and accomplishing basic everyday tasks like sending email, reading webpages, and listening to music. The excitement around the work we'd done so far was overwhelming and gratifying, but it was clear that we still had more work to do to make touch Narrator even better.

Thanks to all of your constructive feedback, we identified key areas that we've improved for the Release Preview:

  • Responsiveness: We heard that Narrator on touch screens didn’t feel responsive enough.
  • Gestures: Some people had difficulty with Narrator gestures, particularly some of the more complicated multi-finger gestures.
  • App exploration: Finding particular elements on the screen (e.g. finding tiles on the Start screen) could be hard for people not already familiar with the particular app or UI.
  • Web navigation: The commands available in the Consumer Preview were not extensive enough for some webpages.

We worked heavily on each of these areas for the Release Preview, and we're still working in some areas for the final release of Windows 8. We wanted to share with you some of the improvements you can already experience in the Release Preview today.

Download this video to view it in your favorite media player:
High quality MP4 | Lower quality MP4

Making Narrator feel more responsive to touch

Some people we heard from felt that Narrator touch was not very responsive. We heard various versions of this feedback–that Narrator was slow, that Narrator sometimes didn’t respond, or that people just felt disconnected or disoriented—but the root cause of the issue was the same. When you touch the screen, you expect a timely response. We found two common scenarios where this problem occurred:

  • Single-finger exploration: When people had to find an item on the screen by dragging a finger around, we observed that they would often skip right over the item they were searching for, as they moved their fingers too quickly, generally before Narrator had a chance to start reading the item.
  • Gesture response: Some people were confused as to whether their gesture had succeeded, and would attempt to repeat the gesture several times, even though the first attempt was already successful. The problem was that there was a delay between the time Narrator recognized the gesture, and when it provided the speech response. Sometimes it was also unclear from the response whether Narrator had done what the user wanted, or was just reading something similar but unrelated.

In each case, the blue, visual highlight rectangle that moves to whatever Narrator is currently reading was quick to jump to the appropriate item, indicating that Narrator had registered the user’s movement and was responding appropriately. However, the problem was in the actual speech process. The text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis is fast, but even at high speeds, it takes a while for the system to read the response back; moreover it took additional cognitive time to process the language and to understand what they were hearing. To complicate matters, the speech response time varied widely, depending on context, which made it hard for the user to discern whether the intended gesture was the one that Narrator had recognized. Each of these minor delays added up; people would skip over items altogether or repeat successful gestures, thinking that their first attempt was not successful.

Audio cues

For users with full vision, even if an action takes a few more milliseconds to complete, visual feedback such as highlighting a button or animating a flyout help indicate immediately that the system is responding. These cues are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also functionally important to understand how your touches are influencing the system in real-time.

As we dug into some of the feedback around responsiveness, we realized that Narrator could make more effective use of audio cues. In the Release Preview, we have started to add audible cues; each gesture now has an associated sound that plays when the gesture is performed. These cues were designed to be quick, short and easily distinguishable, allowing you to instantly recognize whether your gesture is successful and if your action has been taken. Here are some examples:

  • Moving to the next item plays a “tick.”
  • Activating plays a “click.”
  • Scrolling plays a sliding sound.
  • Selecting plays a “thud.”
  • Narrator errors play a “bloop” sound that is easily distinguishable from the system error "ding."
  • Explore the screen with a single finger, and Narrator makes a tick with each new item that you touch, so you know if you passed over an item too quickly to hear what it was.

We had a lot of fun designing and implementing these sounds!

Making interactions easier

The next step was to tune Narrator's touch interaction model. Some people told us they found it difficult to use multi-finger gestures. In particular, we saw people struggle with the two-finger swipe for next and previous item, and even more so with the four-finger swipe to scroll. We also observed people accidentally triggering the commands lists (available item commands, search window, etc.), which consequently caused them to lose their context in an app.

In response, we've made it easier to interact with touch Narrator. The system is now more forgiving, with a simpler gesture model that is easier to remember. Single-finger taps and flicks now carry out a majority of the common tasks in Narrator. The revised interaction model is easier to perform, and it groups gestures more logically, so that command lists and windows don’t pop up when you’re trying to perform an unrelated gesture.

The table below outlines the new interaction model:

Touch gesture


Tap or drag

Read item under finger


Hold with one finger and tap anywhere with a second

Do primary action

Hold with one finger and double-tap with a second

Do secondary action

Flick left or right

Move to previous/next item

Flick up or down

Change move increment

Hold with one finger and 2-finger-tap with additional fingers

Start dragging or extra key options

2-finger tap

Stop speaking

2-finger swipe


3-finger tap

Show/hide Narrator settings window

3-finger swipe up

Read current window

3-finger swipe down

Read from current location in text

3-finger swipe left or right

TAB forward and backward

4-finger tap

Show commands for current item

4-finger double tap

Toggle search mode

4-finger triple tap

Show Narrator commands list

4-finger swipe up or down

Enable/disable semantic zoom
(semantic zoom provides a high-level view of large blocks of content)

Improving Narrator’s exploration model

As we collected feedback from people who were using the Developer Preview, we reviewed the exploration model in Narrator. One of the things we heard clearly was that people wanted an easy way to find all of the controls on the screen like buttons, labels, text fields, list items, etc. without having to manually touch around the whole screen. One user who was blind gave the analogy that when he enters a hotel room, his first task is always to walk around the room and locate the door, dresser, beds, and bathroom in order to understand the layout of the room before doing anything else. Similarly, when exploring a new app, users want to know what's on the screen before deciding what to do next.

One of the ways we made all elements on the screen accessible in Developer Preview was to use horizontal swipe gestures to move between items in a container, and vertical swipe gestures to move into and out of containers. This was a powerful model —you could find all accessible items on the screen—and it was a true representation of how graphical UI is constructed. However, it wasn't intuitive. Having to navigate into and out of containers made it difficult to discover all of the interesting elements on the screen.

Changing our default cursor mode

In response to the feedback, we made some changes to the way navigation works by default in Release Preview. The navigation gestures, which are now all single-finger flicks left and right, move you through all of the items on the screen. You no longer need to know how the UI is constructed in order to navigate it; all you need to do is flick to get to the next and previous items, and Narrator presents you with a linear ordering of the important items on the screen.

This allows you to learn about all of the interesting items in an app in an easy step-by-step manner, and interact with any item as you go. If you just want to hear all of the items in an app without flicking each time, you can swipe up with three fingers and Narrator will read through all of them in order, without stopping.

(Note: This is the new default mode of navigation, which allows you to explore apps by flicking left and right to find all of the interesting items. If you prefer the old way of moving through the multiple layers of UI manually, you can change the Narrator cursor movement mode to “Advanced” in the Narrator settings).

Improving web navigation

In Windows 8, Narrator has made reading the web much easier. It has various features that are optimized for web reading, such as the “start reading” command, which reads out continuous sections of webpages without stopping, and search mode, which provides a list of various types of controls on a page. After we released the Developer and Consumer Preview builds, we heard from users that although these features were helpful, they did not enable them to accomplish some common tasks on the web, such as quickly scanning news headlines, doing a quick search, or checking stock quotes.

So we revisited this feature, and as we dug further and gained a better understanding of these scenarios, we found ways to improve them in the Release Preview. For news reading in particular, we heard people saying they wanted to jump to various points in the page (e.g. headings, links), and then subsequently to be able to read line-by-line and even letter-by-letter. Many users wanted Narrator to provide these commands for them to navigate the web with more precision.

In response, we added the concept of views to Narrator’s navigation commands. The new views are available in default navigation mode whenever you are on a webpage or other accessible text area, such as in the Mail app. The default Item view moves through the items on the page, and works the same way as item navigation throughout the system. But for accessible text areas such as webpages or Mail, Narrator now supports seven additional views:

  • Headings
  • Links
  • Tables
  • Paragraphs
  • Lines
  • Words
  • Characters

You can easily change the view by flicking up or down, and then flick left or right to move through the items in that view. These commands are also available with a keyboard by using Caps Lock + Arrow keys.

With the new views, web reading is more powerful in the Release Preview. The views work with other Narrator reading commands as well. For example, if you find an interesting news headline and want to hear more, you can swipe down with three fingers and Narrator will start reading all of the page content until you tell it to stop.

Finishing the job

These examples represent some of the major work we’ve done in response to feedback from people who tried Narrator touch in the Developer Preview and Consumer Preview. We’ve made many more improvements based on your feedback—including reading out touch hints that teach you how to activate items, improving the Narrator settings UI to be easier to use with touch, and adding a new setting that makes it easier to type on the touch keyboard. While we believe Narrator is feature complete at this point, we’re still fixing bugs and fine-tuning it before Windows 8 is complete.

It’s been fantastic and humbling to hear from so many of you who have had the chance to try out Narrator. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working one-on-one with users through our usability studies, at the CSUN conference, and within the Microsoft community. Thanks to all of the great constructive feedback we’ve received, we’ve made these important changes to Narrator for the Release Preview to make it a much better feature.

While we work towards shipping this product soon, we’d love for you to download and install the Release Preview for yourself, and try out Narrator.

Note: The touch features described in this blog require touch screens supporting at least four contact points. Windows 8 certified touch hardware will universally meet this requirement, but some current Windows 7 hardware may not (see this post for more info). If you do not have a touch screen supporting four contact points, you can still run Narrator using the keyboard.


-Doug Kirschner

Comments (39)

  1. ONE says:

    ..Yeah !!!!

  2. Another good post. I really like the progress Microsoft is making with it's product lines.

    I think the Metro aesthetic is great too. However, Windows 8 will be a productivity failure on the desktop because of the poor desktop / Metro app integration. The fact that Metro apps do not appear in the taskbar is a major failure.

  3. @Starbuck 1504….You are A TROLL…

    I  think, we have the best windows 8 right now

  4. Darren says:

    @Homocarbon : Yeah Windows 8 is gr8 now. Let´s move on to Windows 9.

  5. Guest says:

    I really believe it would sound more comfortable with a woman voice.

  6. kaustubha says:

    will the above finger gestures work with touch pad of laptops or it only works with touchscreen

  7. Adrian says:


    Narrator comes with three voices: David (US male), Hazel (British female) and Zira (US female).  Zira is my favourite.

  8. Sight Impaired by Outlook 2013 says:

    Incredible, you make improvements for people with disabilities (thank you), but then Outlook 2013 is so over-white and washed out that it is hard to read and depressing to look at for long (even for people with normal eyesight).  

    Where are the options in Office 2013 to add back color and contrast?  Where are the options to change the all-white backgrounds and to saturate the few washed-out bleached colors which are there?  

    Within five minutes of using Outlook 2013 I knew that I would not want to upgrade from 2010 — I just had to imagine looking at that "snow haze" for ten hours a day…

  9. Entegy says:

    @Sight Impaired by Outlook 2013

    Apparently, past previews of Office did not have their colour schemes either. Just send those "frowns" in saying that we need at least a dark/light switch for Office!

    As for accesibility, it's always fun testing these things as a non-disabled person either. I feel good knowing these features so I'm able to help whoever setup and use their computer. 🙂

  10. Kevin says:

    I have to say, I tried Windows 8 and I was not impressed.  I think that Mr. Sinofsky is leading MS into the pit of hell with this version of Windows.  I can see where a casual user who has been used to the interface for years will be totally thrown by this version.  Also Power Users hate it and the fact that you can't really do true multi tasking in it.  I thought the performance was sub par as well.  Windows 8 ran like crap on a computer that runs Windows 7 fine.  The thing is I talk to a lot of people, including Administrators and the fact is they all hate Windows 8 thus far.  It's a literal nightmare.  Many many people have talked about finally switching from Windows to Mac OS X.  I think we'll see many people do that.  What is clear is that MS has been losing desktop market share for a while, it begain with Vista.  Let us not mention Windows ME.  Vista was so bad that MS had to launch the now hilarious and unscientific "Mojave Experiment" which has been parodied over and over on youtube.  I think what we'll see is a backlash and migration to another platform.  Many are clearly also looking towards Linux distro's as well.  MS needs to understand that they are no longer the only game in town.  You either give the people what they want or you lose, plain and simple.  Mr. Sinofsky is hell bent on having it his way and thinks he's doing good but he's not.  Mr. Sinofsky, you're no Steve Jobs nor will you ever be.  I've used Windows for many many years and now I'm planning to migrate to the Mac platform due to this ugly monstrosity and utter failure known as Windows 8.  We shall see another "Mojave Experiment" with this one!  LOL I just hope they find another better name for the Experiment!  Ohhhhhh mojave!!!

  11. Really wanted to add a comment regarding touch keyboard… the split keyboard will be the one that  is most used. Please literally split that into 2 pieces with transparent area to see the rest of the content. You can add a control in the left panel to toggle the right panel with numbers, another control button for symbols etc. ?

  12. Cory Klatik says:

    I'm one of the target users of this. Looks great. Awesome progress. It looks like you are ironing out the kinks in UX that will make this a competitive solution to other options on the market.  I'm also a magnification/ZoomText/Magic user, and from what I remember on the previous preview of that utility in Win8 I was fairly disappointed.  Is there an update to that as well?

  13. Tim Sniffen says:

    I was just writing up Narrator features for an Assistive Technology conference the VA is sponsoring next month and had arrived at the section on touch.  Thank you, Doug, for answering so many of my questions in one post!  Great job.  Tim Sniffen

  14. Bug report says:

    While we're on the topic of narrator, I just thought I would tell you about a bug in the release preview.  One problem I run into all the time is that Narrator starts almost every time I extend my display to a secondary monitor.  The reason it does this is because the way I do it is I Press Windows Key + P, twice, and then press enter to choose the display I want.  The issue is that when I press enter, Windows thinks I'm pressing the shortcut key to activate narrator.  I realize you guys have probably RTMed, but this is a really, really annoying problem when you go to present something.   I know that if I just let go of P instead of pressing enter narrator wouldn't be activated, but it's worth changing because other people won't realize this.

  15. Applesauce says:

    Kevin you sound like a Apple or Linux troll. Just trying to give Windows 8 a bad name. You never actually tried Windows 8 out. How someone would know? Just by what you said "Windows 8 ran like crap on a computer that runs Windows 7 fine". That's just straight out trolling. Certainly not true.

  16. "Windows 8 ran like crap on a computer that runs Windows 7 fine"

    ….. let me correct….

    Windows 8 RP runs buggy and non stable on a computer that runs fine with Windows 7


    Microsoft will with RTM make a os simply, fast and fluid, yeah well done!

    Do you think will solve all bugs around the milions desktops and laptops?

    NOPE, just a few……. but the OS will look fashionable and Lego modern, that is important for greed of money!

  17. Hillsurfer says:

    Metro is not Windows 8. Windows 8 is not Metro. Metro is the Windows 8 equivalent of the Start menu. That is all. Metro is much easier to deal with than the Win7 start menu. Y'all need to quit crying about Metro. It's only a tiny part of Windows 8, and most of the time I'm not seeing it at all. I still have everything I normally use pinned to the task bar.

    ~wonders what the complaints were when MS introduced 95 and everyone was still so in love with 3.1~

  18. Mobiletonster says:

    Loved yesterdays post on the touch keyboard as we'll. I blogged about a few more features of the touch keyboard a couple of weeks ago.  The Handwriting recognition keyboard and the new standard layout keyboard are wonderful additions in windows 8. Also, the nag arrows are awesome to have. Keep up the great work!

  19. Jean says:

    For the last 10 months,  Metro UI has become the focus of criticism (proablly funded by Google/Apple/Redhat/Oracle or their fans..but lets ignore this "conspiracy theory"). I downloaedd and install Windows 8 RP myself and saw this huge change in first place.. Lets say, I didn't like the change NOT because it was aesthetically flawful but like many people, I don't like (surprisingly big) "changes". Considering XP to Vista to 7 follow a steady course of transition/improvements, but 7 to 8 looks like a paradigm shift and people are required to learn the concept before they get used to it…

    Then I thought what if its just a "contour" change for the desktop lover like myself! Sorry not the "desktop lover".. its "Start Menu lover"! We miss start menu as opposed to Start Screen (aka the "macabre" metro UI). So I start digging this angle and tried the key combinations which I am accustomed with while using start menu with keyboard.. Interestingly, it all works as expected with very tiny changes. Of course first change is the way it looks.. continues:

    – Press Windows Key + D to bring the desktop.  

       Windows 7: Yes, Windows 8: Yes

    – Press Windows Key to bring the Start X.

       Windows 7: Yes (X=Menu), Windows 8: Yes (X=Screen)

    – Press Windows Key + R to bring Run.

       Windows 7: Yes, Windows 8: Yes

    – Press Windows Key and start typing to find programs/files/folders/history/favorites etcetera..

      Windows 7: Yes, Windows 8: Yes (you can start typing ON the start screen just like in Vista and 7 and it will bring up the search mode. Hitting ENTER will open the program instantly if its the shortcut. Like press Windows Key > type "winver" and hit enter. <– works in Vista,7,8..  Same goes for "cmd", "msconfig", "regedit" etcetera)

    – Press Windows Key + Pause to bring System.

      Windows 7: Yes, Windows 8: Yes

    – Windows Key + L will bring up the lock screen.

     Windows 7: Yes, Windows 8: Yes

    and since so forth…

    Start Screen encapsulates and offsets ALL feature of Start Menu and provides much much more functionality than Start Menu. The difference is, it expands all over the screen (acts like a cover screen) which is the UI change and UI  changes for the product like Windows with tons of consumers, are never easy-to-digest..  This was just the Start Screen.. Windows 8 has number of other changes in core kernel, performance, feature-set, architectural changes etc… If someone is proposing that Windows 8 is a deal breaker because Metro (Start Screen) is very lethal or anti productive from "every" point of view, then he is clearly misguiding, conspiring and spreading disinformation.

    I remember the first lesson in Human Computer Interaction – HCI course was "UI is not the ART? Its the SCIENCE which is defined as: Art of solving problems.. and most of your audience will confuse it with ART". In this case problem being; you have heterogeneous clientele with scattered knowledge level, physically impaired people, business/enterprise people, school teachers, students, and IT pro etcetera.. and then you have different form factors; desktop, laptops, touch screens, TVs, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, phone—-  and you need to provide a "working" and unified interface for them. Make it "working" is the requirement of the domain, make it "unified"/same looking is their decision.

    Naturally the ART/aesthetic aspect of this change is very subjective. An unbiased or naive person would tend to learn the interface before jumping to conclusion, the biased or habituated person like myself, would try to claim the old-gold-known start menu and reluctantly get accustomed to the changes over the course of weeks/months and the "typical, always anti Microsoft or probably paid sociopath/troll", would tend to reject everything in the first place. (I know such a sociopath in real life who turned down this job just because the target company is affiliated with Microsoft.. and after the smartphone brand loyalty with Apple)


    — Jean de La Hyre

  20. AndrewDover says:

    There should be a Tile on the Metro Start screen that directs you to HELP.

    or at least make F1 on the Metro start screen bring up HELPas it does on the desktop.

  21. Leigh says:

    @kevin — all untrue

  22. BlindUser says:

    Very good. Just a suggestion, Apple makes different sounds when you no to the next item and a different sound when going to the previous item. It also makes different sounds when the focus goes to the next line and when it goes to the previous. Extremely well-decsgned sound feedback. I guess yours ys more simplistic. Also, why don't you do it like Apple iPhone accessibility Voiceover which uses two fingers for reading and three for scrolling, whilst you use two fingers for scrolling and three fingers for reading? Is reading a less frequent action than scrolling? What does your stats data show? I think Apple's ordering is correct; reading is more frequent than scrolling, so less fingers for the reading actions than the scrolling ones. What do you think?

  23. LD says:

    I do like the additional work on helping people with disabilities. Especially when Microsoft has done to make the PC useful for the severely mentally handicapped by introducing Metro. The problem is most of us don't freaking want it, or at lease want the ability to turn the bloody thing off.  At least I can exclude the store in the .hosts file.

  24. Kevin says:

    True Start Menu:  Windows 7: YES , Windows 8: NO

    True Mulittasking: Windows 7: YES , Windows 8=NO

    That is all you need to know a far as a professional user is concerned.

  25. Darren says:

    @Hillsurfer: "Metro is the Windows 8 equivalent of the Start menu."

    That is just plainly wrong. Metro stands for the entire minimalistic approach Microsoft and includes the Start screen the app environment, anything that was build around WinRT. Maybe you wana check here:…/Windows_Runtime

    Originally it was a design language and will become Microsofts downfall.

    @Jean: Do me a favor and install classic shell:

    I did it and it made clear what the Start Screen is not: A suitable substitution for the start menu. Mouse travelling is minimalistic within the start menu. Mouse travelling is significantally less than within the Start Screen. Just try to open "All apps". You have to dive left, move over to the right corner and move your mouse to the tile you are looking for. Try it or yourself it is significant.

    And to substitute the efficient start menu by changing the input device is not an efficient solution as well. There are reasons to use the mouse and there are reasons to use the keyboard. Both should be determined by the situation the user is in and not because the os is telling the user to do so. And it is always uncomfortable to change the input devide.

    So while it is great to have all the keyboard short cuts. But it no substitution for an efficient solution for the mouse.

    Also the Start Screen does not behave like an app. You cann not Alt+Tab back to it. And additionally it does not remember last user interaction you have to start all over everytime you open it.

    And just on Monday Microsoft proved that the idea of dynamic live tiles is completely useless. They didn´t even build live tiles for their own office suite. Other than being bigger they do not offer any additional value. By the way: Live tiles on the Start Screen do not offer any value as when you are working on desktop you have to manually switch to the Start Screen to see the live tiles. this concept is bullsh*t and offer excatly ZERO value.

    @Steffo: You can be sure they get their *ss kicked over that. They have been warned on this blog months ago that this approach will call the EU for investigation. The same will happen with Office on RT while no other desktop applications is allowed for RT.

    This shows the incompentence of the management and their idea to bundle the tablet operating system with Windows 8 and now with Window phone. As Metro is now on every Windows Desktop pc, Metro is subject to the same monopoly regulations like the desktop os was. If they had done it otherwise and used the Windows phone as base os for the tablets, the tablets would not be harmed by this. As Windows Phone will use the same kernel now, I wouldn´t be surprised if this will be investigated as well.

    This is a complete management failure and the investigation timing is a disaster as the RTM is almost done.

    Well done Microsoft.

  26. Steve Griffiths says:

    I'm pleased to see an explanation of the Normal and Advanced modes – I was wondering about that! I can see how the container idea may be considered too complex for a metro app, but I think it can be really useful for a desktop application like Windows Explorer, so I'm glad you've kept it and included a keystroke for toggling between modes.

    I hope the alternative method of starting/stopping Narrator, WindowsKey + Control + U, is detailed in the Help information for the final release – it's really handy for starting Narrator at the sign-in screen (for me, at least, WindowsKey + Enter doesn't work there) and a couple of people have pointed out it's great to be able to just stop Narrator if you need to hand your PC to a sighted person to use for a while.

    Speaking as someone who's interested in all mainstream computer/phone accessibility, I wonder if there was any work going on in trying to come up with a standard set of commands and gestures for the main things – turning on a screen reader, starting/stopping reading – so that a blind person doesn't have such a learning curve in moving to a new system? For instance, if you had WindowsKey + F5 as a way of toggling Narrator on and off, a Mac user could very easily start speech on a Windows computer and start exploring its benefits…

  27. BlindUser says:

    Narrator still has a lot of shortcomings, especially when using desktop applications and browsing the Web using desktop IE. Third-party screen readers would still be essential for a blind person to be able to use Windows 8 successfully. Given this, why don't you, in addition to the improvements in Narrator, give a generous donation to the open source screen reader NVDA so that they will make it compatible with Windows 8? Other companies such as Adobe, Mozilla and Yahoo, gave their donations, why not Microsoft? Narrator is still inadequate. At least try to make up for it by supporting NVDA. After all, you gave a donation back in 2009. Why not now? Thanks for the improvements but Narrator still has a long way to go. So, please provide a donation to NVDA. It's your only option. Think about it!

    Also, why don't you support a screen curtin feature similar to iOS, whereby a blind user can, for privacy reasons,  turn off the display of all screen content, essentially using the screen only as an input device. It's a very handy feature which I use all the time. I am blind, I don't need to have anything displayed on the screen. If you can turn it off for energy-saving reasons too, then all the best. Turn off the display part and keep the touch part.

  28. Craig says:

    For all the people who don't like Windows 8, Metro, lack of Start button, etc.: I'm not sure Microsoft is listening, they have a plan and seem to be ignoring how users feel about everything.  The solution it seems is to vote with your wallet, that is don't upgrade to Windows 8 and look at other solutions.  In my case Windows 8 has gotten me to look at Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and I find I really like it, my family can use it easily (they are non techinical), it's free and for home use, it looks like the long term solution.  So look into Linux, Apple or just stay on an older version of Windows, their is no user requirement to upgrade.

  29. Ratros says:


    Same here. I decide to stick with Windows 7 and plan to finally adpot Apple's products.

  30. JS says:

    -> @Side Impaired by Outlook 2013: Yes, that's true, I hope the possibility of changing the theme colour in Office 2013 will be enabled in the final release! (But I think I won't upgrade my Office 2010…). — But what does this have to do with 'Using your feedback to make Narrator work better with touch'?

  31. kenhes says:

    This is offtopic, but if there isn't a way to pin the "Open apps menu" on the left side, then I think there should. Then you could quickly move between apps without needing to open the menu each time.

  32. kenhes says:

    Implementation of above could be: Tap/click the black area of the menu to pin/unpin it. This changes the menu border as a visual clue it's pinned. The charmes menu could use pinning too.

  33. ReMark says:

    A bit off-topic sorry, but only here somebody will read:…/windows-8-alternate-multitasking-design

  34. Senthiel says:


    This is a feedback for "Designing for PCs that boot faster than ever before".

    The problem is that when windows is almost finished from loading, it sends no video signal to the screen for a very small time.

    When that happens my screen turns off and then it needs to wake up again and it takes around 3 or 4 seconds.

    So when I first turn my computer on, the screen stays blank for some time, than I can see the loading Windows 8 screen, then my monitor goes to standby and when it comes back it's at the login screen already.

    If it just could keep sending a video signal it would be great. Unfortunately my monitor works like that and I'm sure several others must have the same problem. I tried searching for "monitors that turn on fast" but I can't find anything on the subject.

    I'm sure that a small detail like this would make a big difference on the windows 8 turning on experience for a lot of people.

    Thanks for your attention and I do hope someone reads this =D

  35. Senthiel says:

    I'm not sure if I explained well as English is not my first language.

    But the concept I talked about works for multiple screens.

    When I'm at the login screen, only the primary receives video signal. And when I log the others need some seconds to wakeup.

    If some video signal was already being sent, it would be much faster.

  36. Mr.Koller says:

    I've got an off-topic question:

    Is it confirmed that the Surface tablet will only have wifi (no 3G)???

  37. Anon Blind says:

    As a blind user I wanted to congradulate you on the improvements to Narrator. Some important suggestions!:

    1. Please add the ability to read paragraph-by-paragraph in webpages and text areas in addition to the existing modes of reading by line, word, etc.

    2. Please add the ability to go through all the visited links on a webpage, in addition to the existing feature of going through all the links (both visited and not visited).

    1. When I read webpages I do it using the Jaws screen reader and using CTRL+Down to read their text paragraph-by-paragraph. Same when I read Word/Txt/PDF documents. It is much much faster to read text paragraph-by-paragraph than line-by-line.

    I know that you might say that reading continuously would be a solution. But reading continuously is not useful as if you miss something it is hard to stop , go back and re-start reading. Paragraph-by-paragraph allows you to assimilate content more easily by pausing between the paragraphs. The alternative, pausing between each line, forces you to pause much more frequently than necessary.

    I don't know who your blind test subjects were but how can they keep pressing cursor down so many times in order to read the whole webpage? For example reading a page such as the current blog would take 200-300 cursor-down key presses or swipes when you are using gestures. For me it feels is extremely inefficient. Whilst reading with CTRL+Down is much faster as you would have to press it perhaps maximum 30 times in a long webpage.

    I guess , most pblind people just were not aware or did not become used to CTRL+Down. That is why you haven't seen it used in your test lab. And that is why in the end you did not include support to read paragraph-by-paragraph in Narrator, while including every other increment, e.g. line, word, letter, etc. But I find that once people learn CTRL+Down they can't stop using it. So, the lesson in software design is "don't always listen to your users". Sometimes you have to force users to learn a new way and then they will love it.

    2. Narrator does not support going through all visited links on a webpage like Jaws. I use this feature a lot when going to a previously visited website and try to discover something that I have read before. I don't want to have to find the same series of links again out of the 10s of links on each subsequent page. I just go through all the visited links which are only 1 or 2 per page and in this way by repeating this procedure over and over I  can rich my destination in a few seconds, instead of in minutes.

    And two questions:

    Are you going to support Braille displays like Apple and Android do?

    Are you going to improve the speech recognition at all? Because Windows 7's speech recognition is not the best and it needs a looong training procedure for it to be useful.

    Why don't you make a cloud-based recognition service like Apple and Google have?

  38. Suggestion:

    Please bring the wallpaper back. Please give us the option where we could hide the metro tiles (i.e. make them fade away), or show wallpaper when the PC/tablet is idle, and bring them back on when we want to use them. Same goes to WP8.

    I know, this is not related to the posted article. Please help.

    Thank you.

  39. @Anon Blind

    Re: ability to read paragraph-by-paragraph in webpages and text areas

    Narrator in Windows 8 does have paragraph-by-paragraph reading in addition to line, word, and character.  There is a “paragraphs” view in the touch navigation modes, which you can get to by flicking up or down with a single finger.  Then you can flick left and right to move by paragraph.  There is also a dedicated keyboard shortcut (Caps Lock + I) for keyboard users.

    (with Doug's help)

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