VoiceOver quick introduction

VoiceOver is a full-featured screen reader built into macOS (and iOS) that speaks the text in documents and windows, and describes aloud what appears on your screen.

The following instructions are for the Desktop version of VoiceOver.

First steps

Be ready to "annoy" your neighbours! Seriously, VoiceOver is chatty, especially when not configured. Be mindful of your surroundings and use headphones and/or lower the volume on your device :)

You can start and stop VoiceOver with Command + F5 (you might need to use Fn key).

Okay, so how do I move now?

VoiceOver uses the "VoiceOver keys" or VO keys extensively. Any upcoming reference to VO + someKey will be referencing those keys.

The VoiceOver keys (VO) are Control + Option (note, NOT Command)

Now that we know the VO keys, let's see the shortcuts for some basic actions:

Action Keys
Hear summary of webpage VO + Shift + I
Read previous item VO + <-
Read next item VO + ->
Activate a link or form control VO + Space

You can still use the Tab key to navigate like if you were not using a Screen Reader

Beyond these really basic actions, there are more specific actions that also were mentioned to me by some of the amazing disabled users of Doodle. You could for instance, go to the next link, or form control, or list. My assumption is that power users of Screen Readers use those once they have the topology of the site in their heads.

The next actions can be combined with Shift to go to the previous occurrence.

Action Keys
Go to next link VO + Command + L
Go to next heading VO + Command + H
Go to next form control VO + Command + J

But I can't remember so many combinations... :(

If you're lost at any point, you can hear the VoiceOver command for a key. In order to do this press VO + K. This will start the keyboard help. You can stop it by pressing Esc

When in this mode, hold the VO keys and press some modifier to know what action corresponds to this key combination.

For instance, try pressing VO + D to hear “Control-Option-D Go to Dock Moves VoiceOver cursor to the Dock.”

Try also exploring the Commands menu VoiceOver command (VO + H + H)

Some other interesting commands available are:

Action Keys
Open VoiceOver utility VO + F8
Open Commands menu VO + H + H
Go to browser bar Command + L
Navigate through browser menus VO + M

Is VoiceOver too chatty?

Since VoiceOver is very verbose by default, you might want to configure the tool itself.

By pressing VO + F8 you will open the "VoiceOver utility" where you can change the voice it uses, the speed, tweak how verbose the tool is per type of element, and many many options more.

Are you stuck somewhere?

This might sound obvious, but try listening to the explanation VoiceOver gives you about the item you're focused on. It might be conveying the combination of keys that you need to press in order to continue navigating the site. Sometimes you may be "trapped" in a content area or group just because you have to get in/out of it (VO + Shift + ArrowUp/Down)

Still hungry for moar?

If you still want to know more, here is the Apple reference for VoiceOver. It contains more commands, and more detailed explanations along with other functionalities the tool provides such as the rotor controls.

Post migrated from https://accessibility.space/voiceover-quick-introduction/