Chapter 7: Customizing Narrator

This chapter outlines how to customize Narrator so it works best for you, including changing how Narrator starts, how much feedback you hear when typing, whether the audio from other apps is decreased when Narrator is running, and changing Narrator commands to keyboard shortcuts of your choice. This chapter also provides details about how to use third-party text-to-speech (TTS) software to add more voices to Narrator.

You can find most of these options in your Narrator settings by pressing Windows logo key  + Ctrl + N

General settings (Use Narrator)

This section contains info on the toggle switch to turn Narrator on or off and links to open Narrator Home and this guide.

Start-up options

  • Allow the shortcut key to start Narrator. Start and stop Narrator using the Windows logo key + Ctrl + Enter on a keyboard, or the Windows button + Volume up button on a touch device.

  • Start Narrator after sign-in for me. Narrator will start automatically when you sign in to your PC.

  • Start Narrator before sign-in for everyone. Narrator will run on your PC before anyone signs in.

  • Show Narrator Home when Narrator starts. You can also turn this on or off in Narrator Home.

  • Minimize Narrator Home to the system tray. When this is enabled, Narrator will minimize to the system tray instead of the taskbar.

Personalize Narrator's voice

  • Choose a voice. Choose from different available Narrator voices in your language. Narrator voices average a maximum of approximately 400 words per minute. However, the English voices Microsoft David, Microsoft Zira, and Microsoft Mark offer a rate of approximately 800 words per minute.

  • Learn how to add more voices. Narrator can be used with SAPI 5-based speech synthesizers. Once installed, voices will appear in the list of voices for you to choose. Third-party providers include Harpo Software, CereProc, NextUp, Eloquence, and Vocalizer Expressive. Learn more about adding voices in Appendix A: Supported languages and voices.

Note: The options above are provided for informational purposes only. Microsoft does not endorse any particular third-party software, nor can it offer any support for their installation and use. For help with any of these products, please contact the original manufacturer.

  • Speed. Control the speed at which Narrator speaks.

  • Pitch. Adjust the pitch of Narrator’s voice.

  • Volume. Adjust the volume at which Narrator speaks.

  • Lower the volume of other apps. The audio volume from other apps is lowered so you can hear Narrator better.

  • Select where you hear Narrator’s voice. Narrator lets you choose your default audio output device.

Change what you hear when reading and interacting

  • Change the level of detail Narrator provides about text. Options include: Text only, Some control details, All control details, Some text details, and All text details.

  • Change how capitalized text is read. Options include: Don’t announce, Increase pitch, and Say “cap.”

  • Have Narrator’s voice emphasize formatted text. Narrator’s voice will put more emphasis on formatted text.

  • Hear phonetics as you read by character. For example, Narrator will read the letter A as “alpha.”

  • Have Narrator use punctuation to determine pauses when reading.

  • Hear advanced detail, like help text, on buttons and other controls.

  • Change the level of context Narrator provides for buttons and other controls. Options include: No context, Sounds only, Immediate context, Immediate context name and type, Full context of new control, and Full context of old and new controls.

  • Adjust when Narrator provides details about buttons and other controls. Options include After controls or Before controls.

    • To hear the current context at any time, press Narrator + Forward slash (/).

    • To change the level of context that’s read, press Narrator + Alt + Forward slash (/).

    • To change whether context is read before or after the current item, press Narrator + Ctrl + Forward slash (/).

  • Hear hints on how to interact with buttons and other controls.

  • Hear Narrator announce why an action can’t be performed.

  • Hear only sounds for common actions. Common actions include actions like turning on and off scan mode and landing on a link.

  • Have Narrator be more efficient in Outlook (experimental). When this is selected, Outlook will allow you to triage your email in a more natural way .

Change what you hear when typing

  • Hear letters, numbers, and punctuation as you type. Characters are announced immediately after you type them. This setting can also be toggled on or off by pressing Narrator + 2.

  • Hear words as you type. Typed words are announced immediately after you type them.

  • Hear function keys as you type

  • Hear arrow, Tab, and other navigation keys as you type

  • Hear when toggle keys, like Caps lock and Num lock, are turned on or off

  • Hear Shift, Alt, and other modifier keys as you type

Choose keyboard settings

  • Select keyboard layout. Narrator’s Standard layout is more like the keyboard layouts you may have experienced in other screen readers. If you want to use Narrator’s original keyboard layout, choose the Legacy keyboard. Learn the commands for each keyboard in Appendix B: Narrator keyboard layouts and touch gestures.

  • Select Narrator key. You can choose if you want to use Caps lock, Insert, or both keys in Narrator commands. Both the Caps lock and Insert keys serve as your Narrator key by default. You can use either of these keys in any command that uses the Narrator key.

Note: If you’re using a Japanese 106 keyboard, Insert and NonConvert are your default Narrator keys.

  • Lock the Narrator key so I don’t have to press it for each command. When you press one of the keys, it will remain in a “pressed ” state until you press it again to turn it off. You can also lock the Narrator key by pressing Narrator + Z. This functionality can be disorientating if you aren’t used to it, so use caution if you choose to use it.

  • On touch keyboards, activate keys when I lift my finger . Characters are entered as soon as you lift your finger off the touch keyboard.

  • Create your own keyboard commands

  1. Choose the command to customize.

  2. Select Change command keyboard shortcut.

  3. In the Type a keyboard shortcut window, type the keyboard shortcut you want to use on your keyboard. Use any combination of modifier keys (Control, Shift, Alt, Caps lock, or the Windows logo key) together with a non-modifier key. Use function and numeric keypad keys without any modifiers.

  4. Select Restore all default to return all commands back to their default settings. To find this setting, press Alt + Tab after Narrator launches, select the Narrator Settings window, and choose Commands.

Use Narrator cursor

  • Show the Narrator cursor. The Narrator cursor is highlighted with a blue focus box.

  • Move my cursor with the Narrator cursor as Narrator reads text . When this is turned on, Narrator will move the text insertion point when navigating by views such as characters and words.

  • Sync the Narrator cursor and system focus . When this is turned on, the Narrator cursor and the system cursor will be synchronized when possible.

  • Read and interact with the screen using the mouse. When this is turned on, Narrator reads what is under the mouse cursor. Use the numeric keypad to move the mouse .

  • Select the Narrator cursor navigation mode. Two modes are available: normal and advanced. Normal mode is recommended and allows Narrator to move between various items such as links, tables, and other elements. Advanced mode lets you use the four arrow keys to move the Narrator cursor through a programmatic representation of an application.​​​​

Use braille

To use a braille display with Narrator, select the Download and install braille button. For more information, go to Chapter 8: Using Narrator with Braille, and for a full list of supported displays, go to Appendix C: Supported braille displays.

Manage your data and services

  • Sync my settings . Select the Use current settings before sign-in button if you want anyone who uses your PC to use your Narrator settings. This is recommended if you use a serial braille display.

  • Get image descriptions, page titles, and popular links. For more information about this service, go to “Let Narrator grab info from the web” in Chapter 2.

Help make Narrator better

Turn on the toggle to send diagnostic and performance data as you use Narrator. To give feedback on Narrator, press Narrator + Alt + F.

Next: Chapter 8: Using Narrator with braille

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