[tabi] a short tutorial on using Windows 7 with a screen reader

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2011 14:58:21 -0400

from a post on the blind technology mailing list:
this informal short tutorial is based on messages I wrote to e-mail lists.

You will see repetition in the discussion of ribbons which occurs in two

separate messages but I've left the repetition in the material because it

may help you understand points to see both discussions.

The goal of this informal tutorial is to present what a new Windows 7

user, who is familiar with Windows Xp needs to know to work with Windows

7. Where possible and where I deemed it desirable, I've presented

techniques that are most similar to those used in XP. Where not possible

or where I deemed it not desirable, I presented or concentrated on other

methods. but I gave no unnecessary information and the other methods are

easy to use and learn. You will likely learn a lot more about Windows 7

over time but this guide will probably allow you to use Windows 7 with

reasonable ease and convenience within a much shorter time than you may

have thought possible or likely.

I hope those who read this material will distribute it widely. I would

like it to become well known and available for download in many places

such as from web sites that present such material for blind computer


The tutorial is based on the text of three messages, which I have modified

as desirable for this tutorial. To move from one message to the next, use

the search command and search for the word message, followed by a space

then a number. For example, if you want to move to the third message,

search for message 3

Message 1

Regarding working with My Computer and Windows Explorer, You will find

lots of items that you can ignore and still work with the list of files

and folders as you are used to doing. . As a new user, you don't have to

worry about any of them. If you are in a list of files and folders, you

will see that tabbing moves you through all sorts of items. but the

actual list itself, which you work with in My Computer or Windows Live

Mail works the same as in the past. You may want to learn about certain

items you can tab to, such as the search feature but for now, in the early

use and learning stage, you can keep things simple and just stay in the

list. Also, when you work with an open or save as dialog, in XP, you just

shift tabbed once to get to the files and folders list. In Windows 7, you

must shift tab twice. Once on the list, it works as always.

Windows 7 allows you to open programs and other items using similar

methods as in XP but a valuable search field is added to the start menu as

another means of finding and opening items.

If you want to use the all programs menu, open the start menu. You are in

a search field. Up arrow once to all programs.

right arrow once to open the all programs submenu.

down arrow twice. You are now in the main part of the all programs menu

and can move through it using first letter navigation or the up and down

arrow keys.

You can still create short cuts, send short cuts to the desktop and assign

shortcut keys as you can in earlier versions of windows.

But before deciding to what extent you want to do those things, you should

understand and try working with the search field in the start menu.

Once you press the Windows key, you are placed in the search field. type

something you are looking for. You can often type just one word of

something or perhaps even just three or four letters. You will have to

experiment. If you want to find Internet Explorer, just typing inter may

well be sufficient. You will be placed on the first result. You don't

have to down arrow to it. Your screen-reader should automatically read

the first result. If it doesn't, use read current line to have it read. 

You can press enter to open whatever result you are on. If you hear

Internet Explorer announced after typing inter just press enter and the

program will open. If you down arrow through the results and find one you

want to open, press enter. If you want to close the search field and list

and start over, press escape twice. You will be placed on the start

button. Then open the start menu again.

when using the search field, experiment to see what gives you the best

results. Don't assume typing the first word is the best method to move to

something quickly. If the computer has

Windows Live Mail for example, you can probably cause Windows Live Mail to

appear as the first

result by just typing the word mail. If you think about it, using the word

Windows in the search field is far too broad a term and the word live may

also apply to many programs that may be on your computer in the Windows

Live category of programs. Mail makes the most sense to use in this

context and you will find that out if you experiment with different words

in the search field even if you haven't gone through the thought process I

just outlined.

You don't have to worry about the run dialog being any more difficult to

use. To open it, you hold the Windows key and type r, then release both

keys. If you just press the Windows key

and release it, you are in the search field I described earlier and typing

r will do nothing except, perhaps show items that begin with the letter r.

Once you open and try using it, you will find that the run dialog works

just as it works in earlier versions of windows.

If you are a new Windows 7 user, you may find the easiest way to open the

shut down dialog is to press the Windows key, then press escape. You will

land on the start button and you can then use alt f4 to bring up the shut

down dialog.

Or, if you use Windows key m to move to the desktop, alt f4 will also

bring up the shut down dialog. On my computer, Windows key m doesn't

always take you to the desktop. Rather often, it places you on the start

button. Issuing the same command again places you on the desktop.

There are other ways to shut down, restart, and do the other things you do

in the shut down dialog but this is most similar to the Windows XP dialog

and, as a new Windows 7 user, you may find this the most convenient method

to use for now. You may or may not want to switch later as you learn

different ways of doing things in Windows 7. the other main way isn't any

more difficult, just a little different.

One thing you will see as you look around are split buttons. A split

button often allows you to see more options than just the default action. 

Let's take an example.

Let's say you come across a split button that says shut down Windows. You

won't find it in the shut down dialog I showed you how to open but you

will find it if you learn the other main way to shut down windows in

Windows 7. If you press the space bar on that button, Windows will shut

down. That is the default action. Enter often works with split buttons

as well but as with buttons in general, if you want to be sure the button

you are on is activated, you should press the space bar.

Split buttons often show more options if you either right arrow while on

the button or down arrow. As an example, if you are on the shut down

split button, you can right arrow and a list of options will open. the

items in the list include sleep, hibernate, restart, and others. You up

or down arrow through the list or use the short cut commands you hear

announced as you move through the list. the letter shortcuts often take

actions without pressing enter so be careful when using them, just as you

are in menus.

So, let's review. You find a split button that says shut down. If you

press the space bar, the computer will shut down. If you right arrow,

other options may be displayed. Or if you down arrow, other options may

be displayed. A split button won't work with both methods. One method,

either right arrowing or down arrowing will do so if it can be done with

the button. Try both methods if you don't know which one might work. If

you are on a tool bar which extends across the screen from left to right,

down arrowing will open additional options. If you think about this, it

makes sense. If you are in a menu, down arrowing will move you to the

next item in the menu. So you right arrow on the split button to cause it

to display more options. In a tool bar that extends across the screen

from left to right, right arrowing will move you to the next item in the

tool bar. So you down arrow when on the split button to cause it to

display more options. But some tool bars run up and down the screen, as

menus do. And at times, you may not be sure which way a structure extends

on screen. So, as I said, if you are not sure or don't know, try both

methods of causing the split button to display more options. Often, one

of them will work. If you open the options a split button offers and don't

want to work with them, arrow in the opposite direction to move out of

them. For example, if you right arrowed to open more options, left arrow.

Later in this tutorial, you will be able to work with split buttons in


Regarding ribbons, much of the complaining about them is not warranted if

you understand how they work and how to use short cut commands effectively

and efficiently. and I would strongly recommend against using the JAWS

virtual menus, no matter what the JAWS training material says about

ribbons being difficult to use. the training material is just plain wrong

and if you use the virtual menus offered as an option in JAWS, you will

also not hear any short cut commands announced.

Try looking at ribbons and doing what is described below in wordpad. 

Everyone with Windows 7 has Wordpad on their machine. Wordpad provides a

good environment to look at and practice working with ribbons.

The essence of working with ribbons is this:

Press alt to move to the upper ribbon.

You will probably be on an item that says home tab. Items on the upper

ribbon are announced as tabs such as home tab, view tab, etc.

To see what choices are available in the ribbon,

right or left arrow repeatedly to move through the items. Move in one

direction to move through all of them, just as you would to move through

all the items in a menu.

I believe that at times, there may be items related to a ribbon item above

that item and below the item. Most of the time, there are only items

below the item. To be sure, as an example, if you are right arrowing and

get to view, down arrow to see if there is something below view. Then, up

arrow to get back to view. Try up arrowing. If you can move up to

something, you know there are items related to view above the ribbon. If

you can't, you know that there are only items related to view below the

ribbon. You have checked and now know that there are only items below the

ribbon for view. Down arrow from the ribbon to land on an item. Now move

using either the left or right arrow through the items. You are now

working in what is called the lower ribbon. You will see different items

related to view. Many items in the lower ribbon are buttons. Use either

the space bar or enter to activate the button. You may find a button that

opens a menu and if you press enter or the space bar, you will then be in

a menu.

In other words, you move through items in the same ways when in either the

upper ribbon or the lower ribbon or if you are above the upper ribbon. As

I said, most of the time, there will not be items above the ribbon. In our

example, we moved to the upper ribbon with alt. We wanted to see all the

categories in the upper ribbon so we moved one way, using just the right

arrow, to move through all the items. We decided we wanted to see what we

can do when we get to view. When we up arrowed, we found nothing. When

we down arrowed, we found items. We moved using the right arrow, through

all the items in the lower ribbon.

Each time you open an item, you will hear all the short cut keys announced

to open that item. For example, in wordpad, press alt.

Start right arrowing until you get to the application menu.

You will hear application menu and then something like button drop down

grid. Never mind drop down grid. It's a description you don't have to

worry about. The important things are that you are on a button and at the

application menu. Press enter or the space bar to activate the button. 

Activating the button opens the menu. Start down arrowing. you will hear

all the short cut commands necessary to open an item or take an action. 

When you got to the menu item, you heard alt f. When you open the menu

and move through it, you will hear all the latters announced. for

example, if you down arrow to save as, you will hear alt f a. that means

that, when you are in the main program window, you press and hold alt,

type f while holding alt, then release both letters. You have now opened

the menu. You then type a to open save as. It's like the childrens song

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly or the childrens' game, my father

owns a grocery story or any other such memory game. Everything is

announced so the deeper you are in the structure, the more letters you

hear. Experiment with some of the split buttons you will find in the menu

we are working with to get a feel for how they work and what they do. You

are in a menu so right arrowing shows the additional options. Left arrow

moves you out of the additional options.

Here are two more things you should know about ribbons. If you move to an

upper ribbon such as view, the next time you open the ribbons, you will be

on the view tab. Whether you move to the lower ribbon or not after moving

to the view tab, even if all you do is move to the view tab and then press

escape to close the ribbons, , you will still be on the view tab when you

open the ribbon again. But if you close the program and open it again,

you will be back on the home tab. The program remembers what ribbon you

worked with last until you close the program.

Here is the second point and it's an important one.

in some cases, moving with the right arrow through the items in a lower

ribbon will cause something to open. You can see this if you do the


Open Wordpad and then open the ribbons. Make sure you are on the home tab.

Then down arrow once. If you right arrow through the items, you will get

to an item that opens a combo box where you can choose a font. the easy

way to get out of this combo box and return to the ribbons is to press

escape repeatedly until you are back in the main program window. Now,

open the ribbons again with alt. Again, make sure you are on the home tab

and down arrow once. Start left arrowing. You will see that you can left

arrow through everything in this lower ribbon and nothing will open. So,

we see that if you are working with a lower ribbon and this problem

occurs, you can prevent it by left arrowing through the items instead of

right arrowing through them.

Keys such as control o, control n, control s, control r, etc. are mostly

retained in programs

that use ribbons, though you won't hear them announced. If you don't

already know them, you'll have to find them in ways such as by looking at

a list of keyboard commands for the program. Such lists are often

available in the help for the program. If you already know the commands

from having used an older version of the program, most or perhaps even all

of the commands you know will work.

I'll add, in closing this discussion of ribbons that I haven't been using

Windows 7 for long and I don't claim to know all possibly useful

information about ribbons. I have also left out certain information to

allow the tutorial to be as I described, a means of teaching what you need

to know at the outset. As time goes on, you may learn more about ribbons.

But I have presented the information you need to find and work with

almost all items available in ribbons.


Message 2.

You should change the setting for file extensions so that they are

displayed. that is done in the same way as it was done in XP. One way to

do this is to open the c drive. You can do so in the following manner:

Open the run dialog. In windows 7, you have to hold down the windows key

when you type r. If you do this, the run dialog will open and it works in

the same way as in Windows xp. In other words, hold the windows key and,

while doing so, type r. Then release both keys. Once the run dialog

opens, type c: and press enter. Note the colon after the c.

Open the menus with alt. Then type t.

You are in the tools menu.

Type o.

You have opened folder options.

shift tab once.

right arrow until you hear view.

Tab until you get to the advanced settings tree.

Down arrow to show extensions for known file types. Uncheck it with the

space bar.

Tab to enter and press the space bar. Close the c drive with altf4.

You will now see extensions when you look at file types.

You can change what appears on the desktop in the following manner:

Go to the desktop.

Down arrow once to make sure only one item is selected.

Issue the command control space bar.

that unselects the item that was selected and now nothing is selected.

For those who are wondering, pressing f5 as an alternative method for

unselecting everything doesn't work, at least not on my computer when on

the desktop.

Open the context menu.

Up arrow, it's much closer that way, to personalize. Press enter.

Tab many times until you get to change desktop icons and press enter.

You are in a list. Up and down arrow to see the items. If you want an

item to be displayed, check it with the space bar. If you don't want it

displayed, uncheck it if it is already checked. Computer, one of the

items in the list, is the same as My Computer used to be. the name has

been changed by Microsoft to just computer instead of what I considered

the childish name, My Computer, it's like a child saying, My candy. I

have computer set to be showed on the desktop and I also have Control

Panel show on the desktop. You may not want these items displayed but I

find it very convenient.

You may get messages or see some blind people advocate changing the view

in Control Panel to small icons so that you can move by first letter

navigation. I'm not telling you not to do so but I am saying that often,

far too often, blind people reject change in computer-related interfaces

without understanding the benefits that may be offered in the new

interface and without giving the new interface a proper try to see if they

like it before rejecting it out of hand. If you leave Control Panel

display set to the default setting, you will find that when you open

Control panel, you are in a search field. Do you want to find device

manager? Just type device in the field and down arrow. You will get to

device manager very quickly. Press enter to open it.

Do you want to get to system? Type system in the search field, down arrow

until you get to it and press enter. Again, you will find system very

quickly in this way. Do you want to change sounds? Type sounds in the

search field and down arrow until you get to change system sounds and

press enter. You are now in the sounds part of the volume dialog and are

in the correct place to work with sound schemes.

If you are looking for something in control panel and aren't sure what it

is called and want to look for it without using the search field, once you

open control panel, start tabbing. You will move from link to link, as

though you were tabbing through a web page. there may be times when using

first letter navigation would be faster. For example, if you know

something you are looking for begins with the letter s but you don't

remember the name well enough to use the search field to find it. but I

would much rather have access to the search field than to first letter

navigation when working with Control panel. You may disagree but don't

just change this setting because blind people say you should do it. I far

too often see blind people recommend the small icons setting so you can

use first letternavigation and I don't ever recall one of them explaining

that you will loose access to the search field if you make this change.

What I'm discussing in this message does not actually fall under the

category of accessibility. Windows is accessible whether you make the

changes and work in the ways I describe or not. but these are changes or

ways of working that may make using Windows more convenient or faster or



Message 3.

First, is Windows Live Mail on your computer? If so, you need to learn

how to work with ribbons.

What I will describe will allow you to work with ribbons in any program

that contains them. I will describe how to work with ribbons and, as part

of the discussion, tell you how to open the accounts dialog in Windows

Live Mail.

I would strongly urge you not to use the JAWS virtual menus if you are

using JAWS 12.x. Virtual menus are off in JAWS by default so if you

haven't turned on the virtual menus, you will be seeing the actual

ribbons. The JAWS training material claims that ribbons are difficult to

use. FS is doing a real disservice to the JAWS using community by

encouraging people not to use ribbons and making claims FS may believe are

true, but are not, about the difficulty in using ribbons.

Here is how to open the accounts dialog to create an e-mail account in

Windows Live Mail. Seeing how this is done may help you understand how to

work with ribbons in general.

open Windows Live Mail.

Open the ribbons with alt.

You are in the upper ribbon on the home tab.

Start right arrowing.

You will get to accounts after two or three right arrows.

Down arrow to see what is available for working with accounts.

You are on a button that says e-mail.

You can use either enter or the space bar on this button.

If you wish, before you open this item, you can right arrow through all

the items in this lower ribbon. You will see a news groups button and, I

believe one or two other items. the news groups button is for creating a

news groups account.

Once you return to the e-mail button, use

either enter or the space bar. then set up an account as usual.

application menu available in at least one of the lower ribbons. It is a

menu from which you work with many aspects of the program you used to use

the file menu fore. and indeed, you can open it from the main program

window by holding down the alt key and typing f. One important thing you

will see in this menu is the options dialog that used to be in the tools

menu. Now, in the new version of Windows Live Mail, it's in the

application submenu because this submenu is not a file menu, it's for

working with certain application items and features, ranging from save as

to the options menu.

Accellerator commands often work in programs with ribbons. Commands such

as control o, control s, in short, many or most or perhaps all of the

accellerator commands you used to use in previous versions of the program

usually work.

My recommendation is that, when using ribbons, if you know you are going

to use a command regularly, that you make a point of remembering the short

cut commands announced for getting to that item, that is, if an

accellerator command such as control o or control s is not available. You

won't hear commands such as control o or control s announced when working

with ribbons. You have to know them or find them in other ways such as

looking them up in a list of program commands, often available in the

help material for the program.



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