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Hear text read aloud in Windows 8 with Narrator

Windows 8 comes with a basic screen reader called Narrator that reads text on the screen aloud and describes events like error messages so you can use your PC without a display.

text
The main screen for Narrator in Windows 8

Starting Narrator
There are different ways to start Narrator. These are the three shortcuts many people prefer:

  • On a keyboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Enter.
  • On a tablet, press the Windows logo button Windows logo key + Volume Up button together.
  • On the sign-in screen, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + U or click the Ease of Access button in the lower-left corner and choose Narrator.

Note:
If you want to quickly exit Narrator, press Caps Lock+Esc.

Another way to get to Narrator is to use search:

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search.)
  2. Enter Narrator in the search box, tap or click Apps, and then tap or click Narrator.
    Notes:
  • If you want to get started right away, after you open Narrator, press the Caps Lock key + F1. This keyboard combination will show you all of the Narrator commands.
  • If you want to use Caps Lock to capitalize letters while you're using Narrator, press the Caps Lock key twice in quick succession.

New touch gestures
Windows 8 and Windows RT have new actions and new locations for common commands. Here are a few essential gestures to get you started.

Use this touch gesture To do this
Swipe in from the right edge with one finger Open the charms (Search, Share, Start, Devices, Settings)
Swipe in from the left edge with one finger Switch apps, snap them to the side, and close them
Swipe in from the top or bottom edge with one finger Show app commands like Save, Edit, and Delete

New keyboard shortcuts
Windows 8 and Windows RT have new keyboard shortcuts too. Here are a few helpful ones.

Use this keyboard shortcut To do this
Windows logo key Windows logo key + C Open the charms (Search, Share, Start, Devices, Settings)
Windows logo key Windows logo key + Z Show app commands like Save, Edit, and Delete
Windows logo key Windows logo key + period Snap apps to the side
Windows logo key Windows logo key +Tab or Alt+Tab Switch apps

Narrator settings
Here are some of the main settings you might want to use:

    General
  • Lock the Narrator key so you don’t have to press it for each command (Caps Lock). When you choose this option, you won’t have to use the Caps Lock key with the Narrator keys. For example, instead of pressing Caps Lock key + F1, you can simply press F1.
  • Start Narrator minimized. This option keeps the Narrator window out of your way.
  • Echo keyboard keystrokes while typing. You can choose whether or not Narrator reads each key you type.
  • Read out voiced Narrator errors. Choose this option if you want Narrator to read the actual error in addition to playing an error tone.
  • Enable visual highlighting of Narrator cursor. This option lets you show or hide the box that highlights where Narrator is on your screen.
  • Play audio cues. This option lets you turn on or off the extra sounds that Narrator plays when you do certain actions.
  • Read hints for common items. This option controls whether Narrator will read hints about how to interact with common items such as buttons, links, list items, and sliders.
  • Lower the volume of other apps when Narrator is running. This option makes other apps quieter so it's easier to hear Narrator.
  • Retain notifications to be read for. This drop-down menu lets you control how long notifications will be retained for being read by Narrator.
  • Control whether Narrator starts automatically. This link takes you to the Ease of Access Center where you can choose to have Narrator on automatically.
    Navigation
  • Read and interact with the screen using the mouse. This option controls whether Narrator mouse mode is on. When mouse mode is on, Narrator will read what’s currently under your mouse cursor.
  • Activate keys on the touch keyboard when you lift your finger. If touch mode is on, you can turn on this setting so you can type faster using the touch keyboard. With this setting, you can drag to find the item you're looking for and lift your finger to press the key.
  • Enable the Narrator cursor to follow the keyboard focus. This adds a blue box to your screen that moves with the keyboard focus, so that if you tab through items the Narrator cursor will follow.
    Voice
  • Select the speed, volume, or pitch of the voice. You can customize the voice with these three sliders.
  • Select a different voice for Narrator. With this drop-down menu you can select different types of voices in Narrator, if they are available in your language.
    Commands
  • Click this option to see a list of existing shortcut keys for Narrator. You can always change these shortcuts if you like. The most important keyboard shortcut to know is Caps Lock + F1. Pressing this keyboard combination will show all Narrator commands. For reference, the following table lists the commands too.
Use this keyboard shortcut To do this
Ctrl Stop reading
Caps Lock + Esc Exit Narrator
Caps Lock + Space Do primary action
Caps Lock + Right arrow Move to next item
Caps Lock + Left Arrow Move to previous item
Caps Lock + Up arrow Change view
Caps Lock + Down arrow Change view
Caps Lock + F1 Show commands list
Caps Lock + F2 Show commands for current item
Caps Lock + F3 Jump to next cell in row
Caps Lock + Shift+F3 Jump to previous cell in row
Caps Lock + F4 Jump to next cell in column
Caps Lock + Shift+F4 Jump to previous cell in column
Caps Lock + F5 Read which row and column Narrator is in
Caps Lock + F6 Jump to table cell
Caps Lock + F7 Read current column
Caps Lock + F8 Read current row
Caps Lock + F9 Read current column header
Caps Lock + F10 Read current row header
Caps Lock + F11 Toggle touch mode on/off
Caps Lock + F12 Toggle keystroke announcements
Caps Lock + Z Lock Narrator Key
Caps Lock + X Pass keys to app
Caps Lock + V Repeat last phrase
Caps Lock + Page Up Increase voice volume
Caps Lock + Page Down Decrease voice volume
Caps Lock + Plus Increase voice speed
Caps Lock + Minus Decrease voice speed
Caps Lock + D Read item
Caps Lock + F Read item advanced
Caps Lock + S Read item spelled out
Caps Lock + W Read Window
Caps Lock + R Read all items in containing area
Caps Lock + Q Move to last item in containing area
Caps Lock + G Move Narrator cursor to system cursor
Caps Lock + T Move Narrator cursor to pointer
Caps Lock + Tilde Set focus to item
Caps Lock + Backspace Go back one item
Caps Lock + Insert Jump to linked item
Caps Lock + M Start reading
Caps Lock + Close bracket Read text from start to cursor
Caps Lock + O Read text attributes
Caps Lock + H Read document
Caps Lock + U Read next page
Caps Lock + Ctrl + U Read current page
Caps Lock + Shift + U Read previous page
Caps Lock + I Read next paragraph
Caps Lock + Ctrl + I Read current paragraph
Caps Lock + Shift + I Read previous paragraph
Caps Lock + O Read next line
Caps Lock + Ctrl + O Read current line
Caps Lock + Shift + O Read previous line
Caps Lock + P Read next word
Caps Lock + Ctrl + P Read current word
Caps Lock + Shift + P Read previous word
Caps Lock + Open bracket Read next character
Caps Lock + Ctrl + Open bracket Read current character
Caps Lock + Shift + Open bracket Read previous character
Caps Lock + J Jump to next heading
Caps Lock + Shift + J Jump to previous heading
Caps Lock + K Jump to next table
Caps Lock + Shift + K Jump to previous table
Caps Lock + L Jump to next link
Caps Lock + Shift + L Jump to previous link
Caps Lock + Y Move to beginning of text
Caps Lock + B Move to end of text
Caps Lock + N Rewind while reading a document
Caps Lock + Comma Fast-forward while reading a document
Caps Lock + C Read current date/time

If you have a new PC that supports four or more contact points, you can use touch commands to control your PC.

Use this touch command To do this
Tap once with two fingers Stop Narrator from reading
Tap three times with four fingers Show all Narrator commands (including ones not in this list)
Double-tap or hold with one finger and tap anywhere with a second Activate primary action
Triple-tap or hold with one finger and double-tap with a second Activate secondary action
Hold with one finger and tap with two others Start dragging or extra key options
Tap with three fingers Show/hide Narrator settings window
Tap with four fingers Show commands for current item
Tap or drag a single finger Read what's under your finger
Double-tap with four fingers Toggle search mode
Triple-tap with four fingers Show Narrator commands list
Flick left/right with one finger Move to next or previous item
Flick up/down with one finger Change move increment
Swipe left/right/up/down with two fingers Scroll
Swipe left/right with three fingers Tab forward and backward
Swipe down with three fingers Start reading explorable text
Swipe up with three fingers Read current window
    Notes:
  • Narrator provides basic screen-reading capabilities so you can use Windows when you don't have a more comprehensive screen reader. Narrator isn't designed to read content in all apps.
  • TTS support in Narrator is available in Cantonese, English (United States and United Kingdom), French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Back up your files in Windows 8 with File History

File History in Windows 8 automatically backs up files in your libraries, contacts, favorites, Microsoft OneDrive, and your desktop. If the originals are lost, damaged, or deleted, you can restore all of them. You can also find different versions of your files from a specific point in time. Over time, you'll have a complete history of your files. File History is the replacement for Backup and Restore from previous versions of Windows.

How to use File History in Windows 8

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'Control Panel' tile and left-click on it.
  5. Under 'System and Security', left-click on 'Save backup copies of your files with File History'.

Or

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'Control Panel' tile and left-click on it.
  5. On the upper right side of the Control Panel, there is a 'View by:' pull-down menu (the default is Category). Left-click on the arrow to the right and select either 'Large icons' or 'Small icons'.
  6. Left-click on 'File History'.

Before you start using File History to back up your files, you'll need to set up a drive to save files to. It is recommended that you use an external drive or network location to help protect your files against a crash or other PC problem. File History only saves copies of files in your libraries, contacts, favorites, Microsoft OneDrive, and your desktop. If you have files or folders elsewhere that you want to be backed up, you can add them to one of your existing libraries or create a new library. You also change the frequency of the File History back up by clicking on Advanced settings on the left-hand side of the window.

How to restore a file using File History in Windows 8

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'Control Panel' tile and left-click on it.
  5. On the upper right side of the Control Panel, there is a 'View by:' pull-down menu (the default is Category). Left-click on the arrow to the right and select either 'Large icons' or 'Small icons'.
  6. Left-click on 'File History'.
  7. On the left-hand side of the File History window, left-click on 'Restore personal files'. Scroll side to side and select the date/time and the files you wish to restore.
  8. Click on the circular arrow at the bottom of the screen to restore the selected folder(s) and file(s) to their original location(s).

Defragment and Optimize your hard drive in Windows 8

Have you ever opened a filing cabinet and couldn't find the file or folder you were looking for? The same thing can happen to your computer when your hard drive becomes fragmented. To keep all of your files in the right place, optimizing your hard drive regularly is highly recommended. You can do this with Windows 8 built-in hard drive optimizing utility, Defragment and Optimize Drives.

Standard hard drive optimization in Windows 8

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'File Explorer' tile and left-click on it.
  5. Left-click on 'Computer'.
  6. Right-click the hard drive that you want to optimize, and then click 'Properties'.
  7. Click the 'Tools' tab, and then, under 'Optimize and defragment drive', click 'Optimize'.
  8. Select the drive you want to defrag and click on 'Optimize'.

Or

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'Control Panel' tile and left-click on it.
  5. On the upper right side of the Control Panel, there is a 'View by:' pull-down menu (the default is Category). Left-click on the arrow to the right and select either 'Large icons' or 'Small icons'.
  6. Left-click on 'Administrative Tools'.
  7. Double left-click 'Defragment and Optimize Drives'.
  8. Select the drive you want to optimize and click on 'Optimize'.

Advanced hard drive optimization in Windows 8

  1. Open a Command Prompt with Administrative privileges (click here for instructions)
  2. Use the following command-line syntax(s) and parameter(s) to run DEFRAG:

DEFRAG <volumes> | /C | /E <volumes> [<task(s)>] [/H] [/M | [/U] [/V]]

Where <task(s)> is omitted (traditional defrag), or as follows: /A | [/D] [/K] [/L] | /O | /X

Or, to track an operation already in progress on a volume:
DEFRAG <volume> /T

Value Description
/A Perform analysis on the specified volumes.
/C Perform the operation on all volumes.
/D Perform traditional defrag (this is the default).
/E Perform the operation on all volumes except those specified.
/H Run the operation at normal priority (default is low).
/K Perform slab consolidation on the specified volumes.
/L Perform retrim on the specified volumes.
/M Run the operation on each volume in parallel in the background.
/O Perform the proper optimization for each media type.
/T Track an operation already in progress on the specified volume.
/U Print the progress of the operation on the screen.
/V Print verbose output containing the fragmentation statistics.
/X Perform free space consolidation on the specified volumes.

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Keeping your hard drive free from errors is essential to the performance of your Windows 8 computer. When it comes to computer repair, this is one of the first things I do. So, if your experiencing problems opening an application or file, it may be time to check your hard drive for errors with Windows 8 built-in disk checking utility, CHKDSK (Check Disk).

There are two ways to run CHKDSK, standard, and advanced. Here are the procedures for both.

Standard hard drive error checking in Windows 8

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'File Explorer' tile and left-click on it.
  5. Left-click on 'Computer'.
  6. Right-click the hard drive that you want to check, and then click 'Properties'.
  7. Click the 'Tools' tab, and then, under 'Error-checking', click 'Check Now'. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  8. Select 'Scan drive'.

Advanced hard drive error checking in Windows 8

  1. Open a Command Prompt with Administrative privileges (click here for instructions)
  2. Use the following command-line syntax(s) and parameter(s) to run CHKDSK:

CHKDSK [volume[[path]filename]]] [/F] [/V] [/R] [/X] [/I] [/C] [/L[:size]] [/B]
[/scan] [/spotfix]

volume Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon), mount point, or volume name.
filename FAT/FAT32 only: Specifies the files to check for fragmentation.
/F Fixes errors on the disk.
/V On FAT/FAT32: Displays the full path and name of every file on the disk. On NTFS: Displays cleanup messages, if any.
/R Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information (implies /F, when /scan not specified).
/L:size NTFS only: Changes the log file size to the specified number of kilobytes. If a size is not specified, it displays the current size.
/X Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary. All opened handles to the volume would then be invalid (implies /F).
/I NTFS only: Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.
/C NTFS only: Skips checking of cycles within the folder structure.
/B NTFS only: Re-evaluates bad clusters on the volume (implies /R)
/scan NTFS only: Runs an online scan on the volume
/forceofflinefix NTFS only: (Must be used with "/scan") Bypass all online repair; all defects found are queued for offline repair (i.e. "chkdsk /spotfix").
/perf NTFS only: (Must be used with "/scan") Uses more system resources to complete a scan as fast as possible. This may have a negative performance impact on other tasks running on the system.
/spotfix NTFS only: Runs spot-fixing on the volume
/sdcleanup NTFS only: Garbage collects unneeded security descriptor data (implies /F).
/offlinescanandfix Runs an offline scan and fix on the volume.

The /I or /C switch reduces the amount of time required to run CHKDSK by skipping certain volume checks.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

During the course of using your Windows 8 computer, you may need to run some commands from the Command Prompt. But most of them require you do it with Administrative privileges. Here's how to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8.

A Command Prompt in Windows 8 with Administrator privileges
A Command Prompt in Windows 8 with Administrator privileges

    Using a mouse
  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Right-click the Start menu background to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Right-click the 'Command Prompt' tile to bring up the app commands.
  5. Select 'Run as administrator'. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Using a keyboard
  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Z to open the app commands.
  3. Press Enter to select 'All apps'.
  4. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the 'Command Prompt' tile.
  5. Press the Application key Application key to bring up the app commands.
  6. Use the arrow keys to navigate to 'Run as administrator' and press Enter. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Using touch
  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the Start menu to bring up the app commands.
  3. Select 'All apps'.
  4. Scroll to the 'Command Prompt' tile and press and hold it to bring up the app commands.
  5. Select 'Run as administrator'. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

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