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Using Mac Applications with Voiceover Leopard edition

By: John W Hess

What is Voiceover?

     For those with vision disabilities, Leopard includes Voiceover, a built-in screen reader that provides keyboard control of the computer, enhanced screen magnification options, and spoken English descriptions of what is on the screen. Voiceover enables many users with special needs to work collaboratively with other Mac users and use a Macintosh without assistance.
     Voiceover is intended to provide those who are blind, have low vision, or learning difficulties the ability to use a Macintosh. It is perfect for those who have never used a computer or screen reader before, for those who are new to Macintosh and for those using screen readers on Mac OS 9 and want to take advantage of all Mac OS X has to offer. With Voiceover, you will be able to create and edit word processing documents, send email and browse the world wide web, and even play chess!
     Voiceover reads aloud the contents of documents and speaks a description of your workspace and the activities taking place on your computer. Leopard includes over 20 unique synthesized voices and you can adjust the rate, pitch and volume of each voice individually. Several voices such as Alex, Vicki, Bruce and Fred are also optimized to speak extremely fast so you listen to documents at your own speed. You can also assign different voices to speak at different times. So for example, one will speak the menus while another speaks the content of a document. There is also a pronunciation dictionary so Voiceover will speak names and phrases the way you prefer. When typing, you can set Voiceover to speak every character or only complete words.

Setting up Voiceover

Note: Voiceover keys = Control-Option and will be denoted by the short form VO Keys.

Global Settings

     Global settings effect Voiceover's performance throughout the entire operating system and are not specific to a particular application.
The following settings will insure that Voiceover performs correctly.
Activate the Voiceover utility by pressing VO Keys f8.
     This is a table of categories that offers a wide variety of customization options. This table can be navigated by either pressing the first letter of the desired category or by using the up and down arrows to move through the table.
     The navigation item is extremely important and will allow a user to configure how the Keyboard focus, Voiceover cursor and mouse pointer follow each other. To select navigation press the letter "N" and the word "Navigation" will be heard.

Note: while navigating with Voiceover the VO Keys (control-option) must be held down. Alternatively they may be locked by pressing VO Keys-Semicolon.

     To move through the various settings be sure to hold the VO Keys down while pressing the right arrow. to check or uncheck an item hold the VO Keys down and press the space bar. The following items should be checked:

Voiceover cursor tracks keyboard focus
Keyboard focus tracks Voiceover cursor
Mouse cursor tracks Voiceover cursor.
Note that Voiceover cursor tracks mouse cursor is not checked. This is a safety precaution. Should a blind user accidentally bump the mouse or the track pad on the notebook computer the Voiceover cursor's position would change making it difficult to stay focused on a particular item.

     The next category whose settings are important is called "Web". To get to this category press VO Keys-home. This will return the voiceover cursor back to the utility categories table. Press the letter "W" and hear the word "Web".

The following items should be checked:

Voiceover cursor moves to newly loaded web-page
Group items in web pages
Navigate images

     Items can be checked or unchecked by using VO Keys along with the left and right arrows to find the item and pressing VO Keys-spacebar to check or uncheck the item. Voiceover will speak the state of the Item.
     There are many other settings that can be customized to suit the user however the settings outlined in this document are essential for optimizing Voiceover. Also note that although some of the settings mentioned dealt with web pages they have been included in the global list.

Application specific settings

Note: Voiceover keys = Control-Option and will be denoted by the short form VO Keys.

     Unlike global settings application specific settings effect a particular application and do not effect the entire operating system.
The settings that will be discussed are for Safari, Text Edit and Calculator.


     Open the preferences dialog by pressing Command-comma
Once again this is a multipage dialog containing 8 pages.
     On the general page under the section remove Download List Items There will be a popup menu. Popup menus can be negotiated by holding the VO Keys and pressing the spacebar one time to enter the menu. VO Keys down arrow and up arrow will move through the menu and VO Keys spacebar will select the highlighted item.
     Select Upon Successful Download. On the same page of the dialog uncheck Open Safe files after downloading.
On the advanced page of the dialog under the section Universal Access check the box that says Press tab to highlight each item on a web page. This will allow the tab key to move through the links on the page and Option-Tab to move through controls such as edit fields, check boxes and push buttons.
     Hiding the Bookmarks bar can make a Voiceover user's experience browsing the internet much easier. The Bookmark bar contains a variety of websites a user can easily go to by the click of a mouse or the press of the Voiceover keys. However, since there are many bookmarks on the bar it takes a while to find the actual HTML content. Hiding this bar enables the Voiceover user to access the content quickly and easily. A Voiceover user can access bookmarks from the menu bar.

The bookmarks bar can be found under the view menu and can be hidden in the following two ways:

1. Press Command-Shift-b. This command is a toggle that allows the bar to be hidden or shown. Alternatively pressing control-F2 will activate the menu bar, press right arrow to move to the view menu and then press the down arrow until the choice hide bookmarks bar is heard and press enter to select the item. The menu will close and the bar will be hidden.

Text Edit
     Open the preferences dialog by pressing Command-comma
This is a multipage dialog containing two pages. The first page will be highlighted and is called New Document. Under the options section Show Ruler should be unchecked. The reason for this is that it allows Voiceover to track better when reading the text of a document. If the ruler is checked the Voiceover cursor will sometimes get stuck on the ruler and read it's information rather than the document.

For a speech user to use calculator effectively the following settings must be checked.

  1. VO Keys-m=menu bar
  2. Right arrow to speech.
  3. Down arrow to speak button pressed and if it doesn't say checked press enter.
  4. Repeat the above procedure and when arrowing down through the speech menu when speak result is heard press enter to check it if it isn't already checked.

At this point calculations can be typed in on the keyboard and will be spoken

Using Voiceover to Navigate Around Leopard as well as Various Applications

Note: Voiceover keys = Control-Option and will be denoted by the short form VO Keys.

1. Orientation to the screen (where am I keys).
     a. VO Keys-F1 = Application. Pressed twice = application chooser       list.
     b. VO Keys-F2 = Window. Press twice =window chooser list.
     c. VO Keys-F3 = Voiceover cursor focus..
     d. VO Keys F4 = Keyboard focus.
     e. VO Keys F5 = Mouse focus.
     f. VO Keys F6 = selection. This pertains to either text or items.

2. Voiceover menu and utility.
     a. Voiceover menu = VO Keys F7. Here find items pertaining to       Voiceover commands, help and settings.
     b. Voiceover Utility = VO Keys F8. Change Voiceover settings            such as rate, pitch, type of voice and other settings.

3. Navigating the desktop.
     a. Arrow keys.
     b. Tab through icons.
     c. type first few letters of desired item.

4. Opening and closing items in a folder or on the desktop.
     a. Command-o opens an item.
     b. Pressing enter on an item opens an edit box where the item       can be renamed.
     c. Command-w closes a window or folder.
     d. Command-q closes applications.

5. The menu bar.
     a. VO Keys-m activates menu
     b. VO Keys-m twice activates the status menu which shoes clock       battery status and other items.
     c. VO Keys-shift-M activates context menus same as right            clicking on a link or item or using the applications key in            Windows.

6. Where are applications located?
     a. Command-Shift-a opens the applications folder.
     b. Use arrows, tab or type the first few letters of the application.
     c. Command-o opens the application.

7. Navigating Tool Bars

One of the major changes found in Leopard is the use of a tool bar rather then the multipage dialog found in Tiger. This can be illustrated by taking a look at the preferences in Mail.

  1. go to the desk top by pressing VO Keys-Shift-d.
  2. Open the applications folder by pressing Command-Shift-A.
  3. Press the letter "M" to bring focus to the first application that starts

with the letter "M".
4. If the word "Mail" is heard press command-o to open the
applications. If a different name is heard press the tab key until the
word "Mail" is heard and then press command-Open.
5. Once Mail has been open press Command-Comma to open the
preferences window.
6. The word "General" will be heard along with other information.
7. Press VO Keys-home to bring focus to the tool bar. The words "Tool
Bar" will be heard.
8. Interact with the tool bar by pressing VO Keys-Shift-down arrow.

Note: Interacting with an object or content is similar to opening a box and taking a look inside. In the case of a tool bar when focus is brought to the tool bar the words "Tool Bar" are heard however without interacting with the object it is impossible to view and manipulate the various controls.

9. While holding the VO Keys use the left and right arrow to review the
choices available on the tool bar.

Note: While interacting with an object or content the Voiceover cursor is restricted to the area within the object or content. The only way to leave this area is to stop interacting with it by pressing VO Keys-Shift-Up Arrow.
Find the item called "general on the tool bar and select it by pressing VO Keys-SpaceBar. Notice that focus has been moved from the tool bar to the choices under the item called general.
Use VO Keys-left and right arrow to review the choices and then press Command-W to close the preferences window followed by Command-Q to quit Mail..
If focus is brought back to the applications folder press Command-W to close it.

Using Voiceover Help

There are a variety of ways to get help using Voiceover. They are:

1. VO Keys-question-Mark which opens the main list of help topics for
2. VO Keys-h pressed twice opens context sensitive help. Here can be
found a list of commands to manipulate the application or control
that has focus.
3. VO Keys-Command-F8 activates the VoiceOVer getting started

Below are the steps to navigate the main VoiceOver help topics.

Note: Voiceover keys = Control-Option and will be denoted by the short form VO Keys.

Note: Voiceover keys must be held when navigating the screen. They can be locked by pressing Vo Keys=Semicolon and unlocked with the same combination. When they are locked they don't need to be held however, if any typing needs to be done they must be unlocked.

  1. Press Vo Keys-question mark to activate Voiceover Help
  2. Focus will be brought to an object called "HTML Content". This can

be verified by pressing VO Keys-F4 to hear the keyboard focus or
VO Keys-F3 to hear the VoiceOVer cursor focus.
3. Press Vo keys-Shift-Down arrow to interact with the HTML content.
"Interacting with HTML content" will be heard.
4. Leopard now offers a variety of navigation keys when browsing html
content. Headings are one of the most useful ways of navigating this
type of information. Press VO Keys-Command-h to move through
the headings and stop at the one that says "Featured Topics".
5. While holding the VO Keys down use the right arrow to move to the
item that says "Getting Started Learn the basics of controlling
VoiceOver Group".

Note: The word group refers to a portion of links and text that are related to each other. In this case the group contains both written text and one link with "Getting Started" being the link and Learn the basics of controlling VoiceOver being the text. A group is considered an object similar to the tool bar and must be interacted with to review the contents and activate the link.

6. Press VO Keys-Shift-down arrow to interact with the group
remembering that the Voiceover cursor is now restricted to the
boundaries of the object.
7. While holding the VO Keys down use the left and right arrows to find
the LInk "getting started" and activate it by pressing VO Keys-
8. Press VO Keys=down arrow and read through the help and notice a
wide variety of topics available for using Voiceover.
9. Press Command-W to close the help window.


Note: Voiceover keys = Control-Option and will be denoted by the short form VO Keys.

Surfing the Internet with Safari.

  1. Command-l=open URL. Type address and press enter.
  2. Option-tab moves through controls.
  3. Vo Keys-i=item chooser list.
  4. Vo Keys-u=links list.
  5. VO Keys-Command-h moves forward through headings.
  6. VO Keys-Command-Shift-H moves backward through headings.
  7. VO Keys-Spacebar=activate link.
  8. VO Keys-Shift-M activates a context menu similar to a right click or

pressing the applications key in Windows.
9. Vo Keys-Shift-down-arrow=interact with content, the way a page is
10. Vo Keys-Shift-Up Arrow=stop interacting with content, brings focus
back to the rest of the safari screen and out of the page content.

Note: When moving through the Safari screen when the words "HTML content" are heard, VO Keys-shift-down arrow must be pressed to interact with the content and bring focus to the body of the webpage.

Using Wikipedia and searching with Google

Press Command-Shift-a to open the applications folder.
Type "SAF" and "Safari" will be spoken.
Press Command-O to open the Safari web browser.

  1. Press command-l to open the address bar and type: www.wikipedia.com. A sound will be heard once the page is loaded.
  2. Press Option-tab to bring keyboard focus to the edit field. This can

be verified by pressing VO Keys-f4.
3. Type "podcast" and press enter.
4. Press VO Keys-Command-H to move to the first heading and hear
the words "Heading Level 1 Podcast"
5. While holding the VO Keys press down arrow to read about pod
casting. Alternatively lock the VO Keys by pressing VO Keys-
Semicolon and then press the down arrow to read about podcasting.

Searching with Google

  1. Press Command-L and type www.google.com and press enter.
  2. focus will be brought to the edit field which can be verified by

pressing VO Keys-F4. Hear "Blank edit text has keyboard focus".
3. Type "beverages     " and press enter.
4. Activate the Item Chooser by pressing VO Keys-i and hear "Building
Item Chooser menu" followed by the number of items found.

Note: When searching using Google sponsored links are usually first and not cached on the site. The first cached item is usually the first search result.

6. While holding the VO Keys press the right arrow to review the
results. Alternatively Pressing VO Keys-Semicolon will lock the VO
Keys and then pressing right arrow will move through the results.

Note: to click on any link simply press VO Keys-Spacebar on a line where the word link is heard.

Text Edit--used for basic word processing

1. Open document = command-O. Note: default folder is Documents.
     a. Down arrow through list or start typing the document name to      select the document and press enter to open.

2. Reading a document.
     a. Command-up arrow=top of document.
     b. Command-Down arrow=Bottom of document
     c. Command-Left Arrow=beginning of line.
     d. Command-Right Arrow=end of line
     e. Option Left-Right arrows move by word.
     f. VO Keys-L,W,C,S, and P = current line, word, character,      
     sentence and paragraph.
     g. VO Keys-t reads attributes such as font size and style.
     h. VO Keys-a reads the document from the cursor position to the       end.
Note: Sometimes the Voiceover cursor doesn't follow the keyboard focus which will result in the Say All command reading other things. This can be corrected by routing the Voiceover cursor to the keyboard focus by pressing VO Keys-Shift-f4 to be sure The Say All command reads from the cursor position to the end of the document interact with the content by pressing VO Keys-Down Arrow. VO Keys-F4 will read the cursor position as the line number it is on as well as the total number of lines in the document..

3. Formatting a document.
     a. Select text by adding the shift key to any of the cursor      
      movement keys.
     b. Bold=Command-b, Italics=command-i, Underline=command-u
     c. Alignment: Left=Command-Left Brace, right=command-Right       brace, Center=command-vertical line.

Note: Braces are brackets with the shift key held and the vertical line is the backslash with the shift key held.
Note: Text must be selected before the attributes can be applied.

4. Spell checking a document
     To check the document one word at a time do the following.
     a. Command-semicolon Highlights misspelled word.
     b. VO Keys-shift-m activate context menu displaying suggestions       and other items.
     c. Down arrow to desired suggestion and press enter.
     d. Repeat above procedure until a sound is heard along with the       word spell check signifying end of document.
Alternatively Pressing Command-shift-semicolon will activate the spell checker. Pressing VO Keys-up arrow and then VO Keys-Down Arrow will bring focus to the misspelled word. Pressing down arrow by itself will move through the suggestions and pressing enter on a suggestion will replace the misspelled word with the suggestion and then move to the next misspelled word.

5. Saving a document
     a. Command-s=save. Pressing this command opens the save       dialog where the name of the document is typed. Press enter       to save the document.
b. Command-shift-S=save as.

Using the Calculator

Press Command-Shift-a to open the applications folder.
Type "Calc" and "Calculator" will be spoken.
Press Command-O to open the calculator.

There are three types of calculators available.
For this demonstration I will deal with the basic calculator (Command-1).
When the calculator is opened the default is Basic and the cursor is positioned in the window where calculations can be typed. For a speech user to use calculator effectively the following settings must be checked.

  1. VO Keys-m=menu bar
  2. Right arrow to speech.
  3. Down arrow to speak button pressed and if it doesn't say checked press enter.
  4. Repeat the above procedure and when arrowing down through the speech menu when speak result is heard press enter to check it if it isn't already checked.

At this point calculations can be typed in on the keyboard and will be spoken. Pressing enter is the same as pressing equal and escape is the same as pressing clear. There are many buttons on the screen which can be explored and pressed using the Voiceover cursor. This will be necessary when using the scientific calculator.
When using the scientific calculator after pressing one of the buttons for a particular type of calculation (example Pi) the value can then be typed and the Voiceover cursor does not need to be moved back to a particular part of the screen.

Mail--used for sending and receiving mail over the Internet.

1. Writing and sending Mail.
     a. Command-N=New Message. Focus is placed in the 'To' field       where the address can be typed.
     b. Order of fields is: to, CC, Bcc, Subject, Popup menu to      
      customize what fields are displayed in the new message      
      dialog, Popup allowing for the selection of different signatures
      and the area to write the message signified by Voiceover      
      saying "HTML Content".
     c. Type body of message.
     d. Command-Shift-d=send. Focus returns to Inbox.

2. Spell checking a message.
     a. Command-shift-semicolon=spell check.
     b. Press VO Keys-Up Arrow and then VO Keys Down Arrow to      
      bring focus to the spell checker
     c. VO Keys-W reads the word.
     d. Down Arrow moves through suggestions.
     e. Pressing the Enter key changes the misspelled word to the      
      selected suggestion and highlights the next misspelled word.
     f. For each new misspelled word down arrow to pick a suggestion
      and press enter to change the misspelled word to the selected
      suggestion. If you don't want to change a word just press enter       when you hear a misspelled word that you want to skip and the       next word will be highlighted.
     g. When spell check is complete press escape to exit the spell      
      checker and return to the message.

3. Attaching a file
     a. Write message using above procedure.
     b. Command-Shift-A= attach file and places focus in the file      
     c. Type the first letter until the name of the file is heard or use -      the up and Down arrows to select a file and press enter to            attach.
     d. Command-Shift-d=send.

4. Reading Mail and opening attachments.
When the Mail program is opened focus is usually placed in the inbox also called the message table.
     a. Down arrow to the message to be read.
     b. VO Keys-J=Jump. This moves the focus from the message       table to the content of the message. If the message is in plain       text format it will begin reading. If the message is in HTML the       position of the Voiceover cursor will be announced in the form       of the character it is on. and the message will be read            automatically.

To open an attachment press VO Keys-shift-end to go to the bottom of the message. The word attachment is heard along with some other symbols. Press VO Keys-spacebar to click on the attachment and open it. alternatively Press VO Keys-Shift-M to access the context menu and down arrow to open attachment.
     a. Press enter and the attachment will be opened in the      
      application that can access the particular file type.
     b. Press VO Keys-J again to return focus back to the message       table.

Note: Sometimes attachments do not appear at the bottom of the message so it will be necessary to read through the message using VO Keys down arrow to find the attachment.

5. Replying to a message
     a. Command-R=Reply. Type reply message. Original message       will appear below.
     b. Press Command-Shift-d to send.

End of Document.


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