Complete guide to Narrator

Narrator is a screen-reading app that's built into Windows 10, so there's nothing you need to download or install. This guide describes how to use Narrator with Windows so that you can start using apps, browsing the web, and more. 

Below the table of contents, there’s a section about what's new in Narrator.

Note: This guide is available as a Word doc and a PDF (in English only). You can download a version of this guide in braille (US English non-UEB grade 2 braille). To obtain additional languages or formats, contact the Disability Answer Desk.

Want to learn how to use Narrator to do things in Office apps, like Outlook and Word? Check out the articles on this page: Use a screen reader and keyboard shortcuts with Office apps.

Table of contents

Chapter

What's in it

Chapter 1: Introducing Narrator

An overview of Narrator including how to start and stop it.

Chapter 2: Narrator basics

How to get around the screen, find and open apps, change what Narrator reads, and adjust speech rate and volume.

Chapter 3: Using scan mode

How to use scan mode to navigate apps, email, and the web.

Chapter 4: Reading text

How to read and get info about text, such as font, text color, and punctuation.

Chapter 5: Navigation

How to get more info on the app or page you're exploring using Narrator views.

Chapter 6: Using Narrator with touch

How to use Narrator with touch, including basic gestures.

Chapter 7: Customizing Narrator

How to change how Narrator starts, determine how much feedback you hear when typing, change Narrator commands, and use third-party text-to-speech (TTS) software.

Chapter 8: Using Narrator with braille

How to use Narrator with a refreshable braille display.

Appendix A: Supported languages and voices

A list of supported languages and available TTS voices in Narrator.

Appendix B: Narrator keyboard commands and touch gestures

A list of Narrator keyboard commands and touch gestures.

Appendix C: Supported braille displays

A list of braille displays supported by Narrator.

Appendix D: User guides for previous versions of Narrator

User guides for previous versions of Narrator

Appendix E: Narrator sounds

A list of the sounds Narrator uses and what those sounds mean.

What's new

Version released in 2020

This release is all about helping you get things done faster. To give Microsoft feedback, press Narrator (Caps lock) + Alt + F while Narrator is running.

Email improvements in Outlook and Windows Mail

Use Scan Mode to read emails

Scan Mode turns on automatically when you open an email. Use the arrow keys and other Scan Mode commands—just like you would on the web—to navigate around.

Emails are read automatically

When you open an email, Narrator will start reading—no commands required.

Get the important info, skip the noise

In Outlook, Narrator will read an email’s status (unread, forwarded, etc.), who sent it, the subject line, and any other characteristics of the email that are important or unique (for example, Narrator will read if an email is flagged, but it won’t read if an email is unflagged).

Narrator won’t read any unnecessary table info, like if there are 5 empty columns, and column headers won’t be read by default. Turn column header reading in Outlook on or off by pressing Narrator + H.

Web improvements

No more unhelpful hyperlinks

Narrator will give you the title of the webpage for a link. Press Narrator + Ctrl + D, and Narrator will take the URL of the hyperlink you are on and send it to an online service that will provide the page title to Narrator . And when focus is on an image, the Narrator + Ctrl + D command provides a description of the image. If you would like to disable all online services used by Narrator, you can turn this feature off in  Narrator settings.

Get a quick summary of a webpage

Hear a webpage summary that includes the number of links, landmarks, and headings by pressing Narrator + S.

Popular links and full webpage summary

Press Narrator + S twice quickly to pull up a dialog box on the screen with the following info: the number of links, landmarks, and headings on a page, and a list of popular links for a page (popular links are the links on the page that get the most engagement).

Webpages are read automatically

Narrator automatically reads webpages starting at the top of the page.

Sound improvements

New sounds for common actions

Narrator sounds are now more functional and responsive. For example, sounds now play for common actions, such as when you land on a link or when you turn on or off Scan Mode. To manage sounds for common actions, go to Narrator settings. To hear the Narrator sounds, refer to Appendix E: Narrator Sounds.

Hear capital letters and words

By default, Narrator reads capital letters the same as lowercase ones. This means “Word,” “WORD,” and “word” all sound the same (even though different letters are capitalized in each).

If you’d like to hear when a letter is capitalized, Narrator can say “cap” before it, or read the word or letter in a higher pitch. To change how Narrator handles capitalization, go to the section “Change what you hear when reading and interacting” in Narrator settings.

Read with Magnifier

Magnifier, the screen-magnifying feature that comes with Windows 10, will now read text aloud. This might be useful if you are a low vision user who would like text read aloud on-demand.  For more information, refer to reading with Magnifier .

New or notable commands

Narrator + Ctrl + D: Get the webpage source of a link

Narrator + S: Get a webpage summary

Narrator + S twice quickly: Get the webpage summary and popular links dialog box

Narrator + H: Turn on or off Outlook column header reading

Narrator + Alt + F: Give feedback on Narrator

Windows  logo key+ Plus sign (+): Open Magnifier

Other capabilities that are new to Narrator over the last few releases

Narrator Home

Every time you turn on Narrator, you’ll go to Narrator Home, which gives you one place where you can find everything you need, from changing your Narrator settings to learning the basics of Narrator with QuickStart. Also, when minimized Narrator Home goes into your system tray, so you won’t need to navigate around it when using Alt + Tab to switch between things.

Read by sentence

Narrator can now read next, current, and previous sentences. Read by sentence is available whenever you use a keyboard, touch, or braille.

“Sentence” is also its own Narrator view. Press Narrator + Page up or Narrator + Page down to get to the sentence view, then press Narrator + Left arrow to move to the previous sentence and Narrator + Right arrow to move to the next sentence.

You can use these new commands on Braille displays by pressing dots 2-3-4 or 2-3-4-7 in command input mode. 

New verbosity levels

Narrator provides five verbosity levels that impact the amount of information you hear when Narrator reads text, such as web sites, and when you interact with controls. Each level is documented in Chapter 4 with a brief description of how you might want to use it.

Use scan mode in your favorite browser

Scan mode turns on automatically in Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

Standard keyboard layout

We wanted to make it easier for you to learn and use Narrator, so we’ve introduced a new Standard keyboard layout. The updated layout is more like the keyboard layout you may have experienced in other screen readers.

When keyboard commands are mentioned in this guide, they’re for the new standard keyboard layout. Some of the new commands include updates to Narrator’s page, paragraph, line, word, and character commands. You’ll also notice new commands like Narrator Find, list of links, list of headings, and list of landmarks. For some commands, you can now use the numeric keypad.

You can explore all the new and updated commands in Appendix B: Narrator keyboard commands and touch gestures. Find scan mode commands in Chapter 3: Using scan mode.

Note: Your keyboard will default to the Standard layout. If you want to change this, go to Settings  > Ease of Access  > Narrator, and choose the Legacy layout. You can also get to your Narrator settings by pressing Windows logo key  + Ctrl + N. New Narrator commands will not be available in the Legacy keyboard layout if keystrokes for legacy commands conflict with those used in new Narrator features.
Open Narrator settings
 

Narrator key

You can now choose what modifier key you want to use 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. The Narrator key is referred to as simply “Narrator” in commands. You can change your Narrator key in Narrator settings.

Updated Change View commands

Change View commands are now mapped to the Narrator + Page up and Page down keys. You can also use Change View by pressing Narrator + Ctrl + Up arrow and Down arrow.

Improvements to scan mode

Scan mode’s Primary and Secondary Action commands have changed. A Primary Action can be executed by pressing Enter or Spacebar. You can complete a Secondary Action by adding a Shift key to each of those keys (Shift + Enter or Shift + Spacebar). You’ll notice this change regardless of the keyboard layout you select.

Additionally, several new scan mode keyboard commands have been added that allow you to select text. You can learn more about them in Chapter 3: Using scan mode.

Give feedback

Your feedback helps make Narrator better. When Narrator is turned on, press Narrator + Alt + F to open the Feedback Hub to provide feedback about Narrator. You can also leave comments on the Microsoft Accessibility User Voice website. Additionally, for technical support for Narrator or other Microsoft assistive technology, contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk.

If you want to provide Microsoft with additional diagnostic and performance data, press Windows logo key  + Ctrl + N to open Narrator settings, turn on the toggle under Help make Narrator better, and then restart Narrator.
Open Narrator settings
 

 

Need more help?

Join the discussion
Ask the community
Get support
Contact Us

Was this information helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

Thank you for your feedback! It sounds like it might be helpful to connect you to one of our Office support agents.

×