DRAFT Quick Reference Guide and Tutorial for Screen Reading with Jaws,
prepared by Maeve May.

Follow the links for specific Topics using Jaws and Windows Shortcuts and Notes for Jaws users.

Home Page    |   Jaws Reading Shortcuts    |   Menus and Dialog Boxes Shortcuts and notes    |   Desktop Shortcut and Notes     |    Word Shortcuts and Notes   |   Internet Shortcuts & Notes    |   Outlook Shortcuts and Notes    |   Outlook Express Notes    |      File Management Shortcuts     |  Jaws special Features    |   Outlook Calendar shortcuts and notes   |   Excel for Jaws     |    Powerpoint for Jaws

   Menus and Dialog Boxes using Jaws Screen Reader.

The first part of this webpage lists shortcuts for Jaws users in menus and dialog boxes, some of which are exclusively Jaws shortcuts.  The second half of this webpage gives more details notes for Jaws using menus and dialog boxes.

Shortcuts for Menus

Alt.    Go to the Menu bar of any program, right or left arrows to move to each menu item.  Press Alt again or Escape to return to file.

Alt + underlined letter.    Each menu item has one letter which is underlined.  Pressing Alt plus relevant underlined letter opens that menu, for example Alt F for File, Alt E for edit, Alt V for View.  If first letter is already being used then the second letter is used, for exempt Alt A for Table, as Alt T is already being used for Tools.

Down and up Arrow key.  Moves through the active menu items

Numpad 5 .    When menu is activated and command is selected, determines the underlined letter of command, ie hot key.

Enter.    Activates active command or menu item.

ESC.    Closes dialog box..

Application key (between the right windows key and right control key on keyboard).   opens a context sensitive menu listing a set of commands, taken from the main menus, but particularly relative to the area you have selected. Arrow up and down to select commands and press Enter to activate. This is equivalent to the right click with a mouse.

Shortcuts for Toolbars

Alt key.     to move to menu first.  Then press Ctrl Tab to move to the other toolbars.

 Access and use task panes

F6.    Move to a task pane from another pane in the program window. (You may need to press F6 more than once.)  

Note   If pressing F6 doesn't display the task pane you want, try pressing ALT to place focus on the menu bar, and then pressing CTRL+TAB to move to the task pane.

Shift+F6.     Move to a pane from another pane in the program window (counterclockwise direction).

Ctrl+Tab. When a menu or toolbar is active, move to a task pane. (You may need to press CTRL+TAB more than once.)

Tab Or Shift+Tab.   When a task pane is active, select the next or previous option in the task pane

Ctrl+Down Arrow.   Display the full set of commands on the task pane menu Down Arrow Or Up Arrow Move among choices in a selected submenu; move among certain options in a group of options.

Spacebar Or Enter.  Open the selected menu, or perform the action assigned to the selected button.

Shift F10 or Application key.    Open a shortcut menu; open a drop-down menu for the selected gallery item.

Shortcuts for Dialog Boxes Windows including Jaws Shortcuts

TAB.    Move to next option in dialog box.

SHIFT TAB.    Move to previous option in dialog box.

Ctrl Tab or Ctrl Page Down.    Switch to next Tabbed page in multi page Dialog box.

Arrow keys.    Move between options in drop down list or between some options in a group of options.

Spacebar.    Select an option or check a check box.

Alt and down arrow.    Open a combo  box.

Alt and up arrow.    Closes a combo box.

Enter.    Activate the default command.

Escape.    Cancel the command and close dialog box.

Insert B.    Read whole window or dialog box top to bottom.

Insert + E.    Say default button of dialog box.

Insert Tab.    Repeat spoken information.

Editing Shortcut Keys in Windows not specific to any program

Ctrl + C.    Copies selected text.

Ctrl + X.    Cuts selected Text.

Ctrl + V.    Pastes selected text.

Ctrl + Z.   Undo last Action.

Del.    Deletes current character.

Backspace.    Deletes previous character.

Shift + Navigation keys.    All navigation keys except for the next (Ctrl + down arrow) and previous (Ctrl + up arrow) paragraph keystrokes select text within a document.

Windows key + C     Add to Clipboard, after Control C has been used to copy initial block of text.

Notes for Jaws users for Menus in Windows

In all programs the menu bar appears at the top of the screen below the title bar and contains all of the commands for that program.  As there are so many commands they are divided into logical categories by menu item which you gradually get to know.   Each Menu bar starts with the File Drop down menu and ends with the Help drop down menu.  Each menu item has a drop down list of further menu options.  Some of these menu options are outright commands and others are submenus which contain more menu options.  Jaws will announce if a menu item is a submenu, so you can open it.

Notes for Jaws users for Menu Commands not using hot keys

As it is difficult to remember all the shortcuts and hotkeys a failsafe way to access menu commands is to press the Alt key on its own to go to the Menu bar of any program.  Press the right arrow to move to each menu item in the menu bar.  Arrow down for Jaws to read the menu items in each drop down menu.  Press Enter to activate command. Press Enter or right arrow to open a submenu which is announced by Jaws.  Press Alt again or Escape to move focus from Menu Bar and return to file.

Application key (right click key)

Many of the more commonly used program commands available in the menu bar are also available in a special context sensitive menu which is accessed by most users using the right click while pointing at a particular object on the page.  The application key which is located between the right Windows key and the right Control key, acts like a right click and opens this context menu, the contents of which change depending on where your cursor is.  This is especially useful for screen readers as it makes it far easier to find the more commonly used commands rather than search the menu bar.  Press the Application key and up or down arrow to select options from the menu. Hot keys are available within these menus.


Each menu item has one letter which is underlined.  Pressing Alt plus relevant underlined letter opens that menu, for example Alt F for File, Alt E for edit, Alt V for View.  This is most often the first letter of the menu item, however if there are several menu items starting with the same letter, it may use the second or third letter, for example the menu Alt A for Table, as Alt T is already being used for Tools.  Jaws reads out the relevant hot key for future reference.

Alternate use of Alt key

To move through the active menu items press up or down arrow or use a relevant hot key.  You only need to add the Alt key for every alternative use of a hot key.  So you use Alt with hotkey to access a menu and then a hotkey letter alone to select and activate an item within that menu. For example to access the Tabs dialog box, press Alt O to open the Format menu, then press T for tabs (not Alt T).

As hotkeys are not always the first letter, pressing Numeric keypad 5 will repeat the reading of the underlined letter of command, ie hot key.when a menu item is selected.


Although toolbars are generally not that useful for screenreaders there are occasions when they are faster than the menu commands, for example in mail merge.  To access the toolbars, press Alt key to move to menu first, then press Ctrl Tab to move to the other toolbars.

Moving between Windows and Task Pane

Most recent Microsoft programs contain separate areas on the screen for further lists of options such as a task pane whose contents change depending on the commands you have given.  To move to a task pane from another pane in the program window (clockwise direction),  press F6 key.  You may need to press F6 more than once. Note  If pressing F6 doesn't display the task pane you want, try pressing ALT to place focus on the menu bar, and then pressing CTRL+TAB to move to the task pane.  SHIFT+F6 Moves to a pane from another pane in the program window (counterclockwise direction)

Notes for Jaws users for Dialog Boxes Windows and Jaws shortcuts

Dialog boxes.

Dialog boxes are special windows which are used by computer programs to display information to the user, or to get a response if needed.  These are often broken up into separate pages called tabbed pages.  It is important to understand the various types of controls which may be encountered within Dialog boxes. The following is a brief description of the most common dialogue box controls. 

Generally pressing Tab or Shift Tab moves forwards or backwards through a dialog box to each Control group.  Arrow keys move between options within the group. Control Tab or Control Page down switches to next tabbed page in a multiple page dialog box. 

Each Dialog box has at least two command buttons, often OK or Cancel.  Pressing Enter will activate the default command.  Press Insert E to determine the default command.  Escape key will activate the Cancel command and close down the dialog box.

Occasionally Jaws has difficulty reading all options in a dialog box.  Press Insert B to read the whole dialog box from top to bottom. 

Controls in a Dialog Box

Text Box

Used to enter text, such as file names.  Type the relevant text and press tab to move to next option in dialog box.

Radio Button

Radio buttons are sometimes called option buttons and are always in groups. They are mutually exclusive: this means that selecting one automatically deselects the rest in the group. Radio buttons are small circles with a black dot when selected, and empty when not selected.

UP and DOWN ARROWS move between selections. Note that when Jaws reads that option, a black dot is placed in the radio button. ie, the currently read option is selected.  Pressing Tab will retain that selection and move you to the next option in the dialog box.

List Box

A list box displays a list of choices in a rectangular box where you pick your choice from the list. There are two types, open and drop-down. An open list box automatically displays all choices that will fit the box, while a drop-down list box displays one choice, and displays the rest by a mouse-user clicking the list box or its arrow button.

Arrow down to activate the list box. Then use up or down arrow to scroll through options.  The Home key will move the cursor focus to the first item in the list.  The End key will move the focus to the last item.  Type the first letter of an option to move focus directly to it in the drop down list.

Spacebar selects an item in a list. When you have selected an item you can press INSERT + UP ARROW to read the selected item. 

Tab selects the option in the List box which is read by Jaws and moves to next option in dialog box.

Ctrl Spacebar Selects another item in the list box in non-continuous mode.  The same as pressing Ctrl + left click.  Ctrl down or up arrow permits non-continuous selection of items in a list box.  When used for the first time, the item that you move away from stays selected.   Shift down or up arrow continuous selection of items in a list box.

Combo Box

This is a combination of a text box and a list box. You can type in the text, or select from a concealed list. (The list is hidden only so that it takes up less display space in the dialogue box).

Type directly into box (Eg. a filename) or use Down Arrow or Alt + Down Arrow to activate list, then use Up And Down Arrows to make selection. You can then press TAB to move to next option in box when selection or typing is completed, or you can use Alt + Up Arrow to confirm selection and close the drop down list.

Slider Bar

Slider bars let you set a value from a given range by sliding a control bar (eg. loudness of sound, fastness or pitch of speech). [Can use either UP and DOWN ARROWS or LEFT and RIGHT ARROWS.]

Check Box

Check boxes turn an option on or off If there is a Check (tick or cross) in the box, it is enabled. If the box is clear, the option is turned off. [SPACEBAR toggles selection on or off.

Access and use Smart Tags

ALT+SHIFT+F10     Display the menu or message for a smart tag. If more than one smart tag is present, switch to the next smart tag and display its menu or message.

DOWN ARROW     Select the next item in a smart tag menu.

UP ARROW     Select the previous item in a smart tag menu.

ENTER     Perform the action for the selected item in a smart tag menu.

ESC     Close the smart tag menu or message.

Open a file

Press Control O to open. 

Press Shift Tab to move focal point into folder list view, ie the files or folders in the centre of the open dialog box.  The default option is My Documents.

As the first file is not automatically selected, press spacebar for Jaws to read the first file.

Arrow down through the files or type the first letter of the filename and this will take you to the start of the files starting with that letter.

Pressing Backspace will take you back one level but still keep your focus in the folder list view.  However Jaws does not read the folder name and if you use this method you will have to be familiar with the hierarchy of your folders.

A failsafe option is to press Alt + i, which opens the Look in List Box.  Press down arrow to choose drive.  Press Enter to open.  Press TAB 3 times to move into the folder list view.  Arrow down or type first letter of file.  Press Enter to open.

Save a File

If saving for the first time, press F12 or Control S to Save.  The Save As dialog box will be displayed and the cursor will be placed in the file name text box.  Usually the first line of text will be inserted as a possible file name and Jaws will read this suggestion.  Type the name of the file as required.  The suggested name which was highlighted will be replaced with your file name.  The default location for saving a file will be My Documents.  If you are happy with this location Press Enter to activate the Default Command button Save.

If you want to save in a different folder, press Alt and i which will open the Save in drop down list.  Arrow down through the drive options.  Select a drive then press tab three times to move into the folder list view.  Arrow through the folders.  Press Enter to open the folder as required.  Press Enter again to save into this folder.

Press Control S again on a regular basis to update the file with changes made since the file was originally saved,  As the file already has a name, a dialog box will not be presented. 

If you want to save a file with a new name or in a different location to the one when you saved the file for the first time, press F12 to bring up the Save As dialog box.  Enter the file name and location as instructed above.

Print a file

Press Control P to display the Print dialog box.  The default options for printing are one copy of all pages using the default printer.  Tab through these options to change.  Note however, that the most common change of printing options is the pages options and is a long way down the tabbing order.  It is easier  to press Shift Tab which will take your cursor into the page number text box.  Type the page numbers or press Shift Tab again to move to the Page Range option radio buttons.  Arrow through the options.   Press Enter to print. 

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