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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.

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.

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.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.

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