Use a screen reader to explore and navigate the Start menu in Windows

Decorative icon. Screen reader content

This article is for people with visual impairments who use a screen reader program with the Office products and is part of the Office Accessibility content set. For more general help, see Microsoft Support home.

Use your keyboard and a screen reader to explore and navigate the Start menu in Windows 11. We have tested this article with Narrator, JAWS, and NVDA, but the instructions might work with other screen readers as long as they follow common accessibility standards and techniques. 

Notes: 

  • To learn more about screen readers, go to How screen readers work with Microsoft Office.

  • To navigate the options in the Start menu's grid view, use the arrow keys.

  • To control which app icons appear on the Taskbar and which icons appear in the Taskbar corner overflow, in Windows 11, press the Windows logo key +I. You hear "Settings window, search box, find a setting." Press the Down arrow key until you hear "Personalization," and then press Enter. Use the Tab key and Down and Up arrow keys to navigate the subcategories and when you hear "Taskbar," press Enter. Press the Tab key until you hear "Taskbar corner overflow," and then press Enter. To select which apps should show icons in the Taskbar corner overflow instead of on the Taskbar, press Spacebar to toggle the button.

In this topic

Navigate to the Search bar

To find an app or to perform an action quickly, use the Search bar available on the Start menu.

  1. Press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu. You hear: "Search box, edit."

  2. Type the search words for the action you want to perform. The list of search results is updated as you type. The search results are automatically categorized, for example, into apps, documents, and web results.

  3. Use the Down and Up arrow keys to browse through the search results.

  4. When you've found the result you want, press Enter to select it and to perform the action.

Navigate to Pinned and All apps

For quick access, some of the frequently used apps are pinned to the Start menu.

  1. Press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu. You hear: "Search box, edit."

  2. If you want to browse the list of pinned apps, press the Tab key until you hear "Pinned," followed by the name of the first pinned app. Then use the arrow keys to navigate the apps, and press Enter to open the selected app.

    Tip: To go directly to the first app beginning with a specific letter in the pinned apps, press that letter key.

  3. If you want to browse to all apps installed on your computer, press the Tab key until you hear: "All apps." To open the All apps list, press Enter. Then use the Down and Up arrow keys to navigate the apps, and press Enter to open the selected app.

Navigate other Start menu items

The Start menu also provides quick access to the user profile, power options, documents, and many more. In Windows 11, the Start menu is centered on the taskbar and the exact selection of what appears on the Start menu depends on how you rearrange your icons, pin apps, manage your folders, improve app and file recommendations, and more.

  1. Press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu. You hear: "Search box, edit."

  2. If you want to navigate to the user account menu, press the Tab key until you hear "User account," followed by the name of the current user. To open the menu, press Enter. Use the Down and Up arrow keys to browse through the sign out, switch user, and lock options, and press Enter to select. To close the user account menu without making a selection, press Esc. The focus returns to the search box.

  3. If you want to navigate to the Power menu, press the Tab key until you hear "User account," and then press the Right arrow key. You hear "Power." To open the menu, press Enter. Use the Down and Up arrow keys to browse the Power menu options, and press Enter to select. To close the menu without making a selection, press Esc. The focus returns to the Power menu.

See also

Use a screen reader to explore and navigate Settings in Windows

Set up your device to work with accessibility in Microsoft 365

Accessibility support for Windows

Use your keyboard and a screen reader to explore and navigate the Start menu in Windows 10. We have tested this article with Narrator, JAWS, and NVDA, but the instructions might work with other screen readers as long as they follow common accessibility standards and techniques.

Notes: 

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Navigate the app list

The app list is ordered alphabetically and includes every app installed on your computer.

  1. Press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu. You hear: "Search box."

  2. Press the Down arrow key once to move the focus to the start of the app list. You hear: "All apps."

  3. Use the Down and Up arrow keys to navigate the app list, and press Enter to open the selected app.

    Tip: To go directly to the first app beginning with a specific letter, press that letter key.

  4. If your screen reader announces a folder, for example, "Microsoft Office Tools, folder, collapsed," press Spacebar to expand the folder. Then you can browse its contents normally.

Note: Depending on your Windows 10 settings, the app list might have one or more groups before the All apps list starts. These include Recently added, Most used, and Suggested.

Navigate pinned apps and folders

In addition to the list of all apps, your computer might have some apps and folders pinned to the Start menu for quick access. They are laid out in a grid of tiles.

  1. Press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu. You hear: "Search box."

  2. To browse the list of pinned apps and folders, press the Tab key until you hear "Pinned tiles," followed by the name of the first group. Then use the arrow keys to navigate the tiles, and press Enter to open the selected app or folder.

Navigate other Start menu items

The Start menu contains a few items that are there regardless of which apps are installed on your computer. They include your user account menu, Power menu, Settings, File Explorer, and certain Windows 10 folders, such as Documents or Pictures. The exact selection that appears on the left side of the Start menu depends on your Windows 10 settings.

  1. Press the Windows logo key to open the Start menu. You hear: "Search box."

  2. Press the Tab key once, and press the Down arrow key to browse the list of other items. To open a folder or menu, press Enter.

  3. If you open the user account menu or Power menu, use the Down and Up arrow keys to browse the options, and press Enter to make a selection. To close the menu without making a selection, press Esc. With Narrator and NVDA, the focus returns to the search box. With JAWS, the focus returns to the selected item in the Start menu.

See also

Use a screen reader to explore and navigate Settings in Windows

Set up your device to work with accessibility in Microsoft 365

Accessibility support for Windows

Technical support for customers with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or questions related to accessibility, please contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for technical assistance. The Disability Answer Desk support team is trained in using many popular assistive technologies and can offer assistance in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. Please go to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk site to find out the contact details for your region.

If you are a government, commercial, or enterprise user, please contact the enterprise Disability Answer Desk.

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