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Lesson 4: VoiceOver Function Keys And VoiceOver Help

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Key Result Areas

In this module you will learn what the Function keys are, and what Functions they perform when combined with the VoiceOver keys.

Watch The Video

What are the Function Keys?

The keys in the very top row of your keyboard are the Function keys. The first key in the top left of the keyboard is the Escape key. The Function keys begin to the right of this key. They are numbered F1 through F12 on a laptop keyboard. On other keyboards, they can run up to F19, depending on the size of the keyboard.

By default, every Mac has already assigned commands to the F1 through F12 keys. However, in order to use VoiceOver in conjunction with these keys, the Function keys must be set to be used as standard Function keys rather than using the hardware controls assigned to these keys. This is done under keyboard in System Preferences.

To open System Preferences, do one of the following:

From the Dock

  1. Press VO-d to go to the dock.
  2. Start typing system, and you’ll land on System Preferences.
  3. Press the space bar to open it.

From the Apple menu

  1. Press VO-m to open the menu bar. You will be focused on the Apple menu.
  2. Arrow down to System Preferences and press return.

In System Preferences, to set the Function keys as standard, rather than hardware, Function keys, do the following:

  1. When System Preferences opens, you will be focused on the tool bar. Press tab to the first button, the general button.
  2. Press the letter k for Keyboard. You will focus on the Keyboard button.
  3. Press the space bar on the Keyboard button. The Keyboard Preferences will open and you will be focused on the tool bar.
  4. Press the tab key once. You will be focused on the Keyboard tab, which is one of four tabs. If you are focused on any of the other three tabs, press the left arrow until you reach the Keyboard tab, then press the space bar to select it.
  5. Press the tab key again, until you reach the first checkbox. The wording in the checkbox is:
    “Use all F1, F2, etc. as standard Function keys.”
  6. Press the space bar to place a checkmark in this checkbox if it is not already checked.
  7. Close System Preferences with command-w.

Now you are ready to learn what each of the Function keys does in combination with the VO keys.

Function Keys With The VO Keys

To perform each of these actions, press and hold down the VO keys, then press the Function key listed, and the number of times instructed. The information about what the key combination does is given beside each key combination.

  • VO+F1 pressed once:
    Gives the running application, and how many applications are running in total.
  • VO+F1 pressed twice:
    Opens the Application Chooser.
  • •Use the down arrow to go through the list of running applications.
  • •Each has a menu, press return, or the space bar, on the application you want to open.
  • •Press the down arrow to read through the menu for that application.
  • •Most menus include a go to the application choice, along with a listing of the open windows in that application.
  • •Press return, or the space bar, on your choice in the application’s menu you opened.
  • VO+F2 pressed once:
    Announces the current window, the one on which you are focused.
  • VO+F2 pressed twice:
    Opens the Window Chooser.
  • •This is a list of the currently open windows in the application in which you are working.
  • •Down arrow through the list, and press the space bar to go to that window, to bring it into focus.
  • VO+F3:
    Lists what is in the VoiceOver cursor.
  • VO+F4:
    Lists what has keyboard focus
  • VO+F5 pressed once:
    Lists what is under the mouse.
  • VO+F5 pressed twice:
    Gives the location of the mouse in relation to the top left corner of the screen.
  • VO+F5 pressed three times:
    Gives the position of mouse in relation to the top left corner of the currently open window.
  • VO+F6:
    Lists the text, folders, and/or files that you have selected, so you can be sure that you’ve highlighted exactly what you wanted to select.
  • VO+F8:
    Opens VoiceOver Utility.
  • •VoiceOver Utility is where you set VoiceOver to behave just the way you want it to.

VoiceOver Help

Key Result Areas

You will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • How to access VoiceOver Help
  • How to use VoiceOver Help
  • How to access the Commands Help Menu
  • How to use the Commands Help Menu

Watch The Video For VoiceOver Help Below

Before we get started with the operating system and everything that will undoubtably change you’re understanding of your computer forever; its important to note that you will get stuck not knowing a command or not being able to figure out how to accomplish something. We will start with VoiceOver help so that when these things happen you will be able to easily work through them.

VoiceOver HELP

VoiceOver Help will be denoted below as simply VO Help in some instances. You will access VO HELP to find out things like the different VoiceOver categories of commands and how to use them.

VO HELP can be accessed by holding the control and option keys down and pressing the letter “H”. You will hear VoiceOver say “VoiceOver Help menu 6 items”


The six items are:

  • Online Help – Control, Option + Question Mark
  • Commands Help Menu – Control, Option+ HH
  • Keyboard Help – Control, Option + K
  • Sounds Help Menu
  • Quick Start Tutorial – Control, Option + F 8
  • Getting Started Guide

Once you access VO Help, find the command related to the task you want to perform. When you have found the keystroke you want, you should commit the key command to memory because as you practice using the command it will become second nature. There are VoiceOver Help items that do not have associated key strokes, but still they serve as helpful. There are items in the VO Help that if pressed they will perform a particular task, but they do not have assigned keystrokes or a menu.

Some examples are:

  • •pressing VO-H and arrowing down to Keyboard Help. You will notice that the Keyboard Help shortcut key is VO-K. Instead of pressing VO-H, arrowing down to the Keyboard Help, then pressing return, you can just press VO-K and accomplish the same task easily and quickly.
  • •In the instance of pressing VO-H, arrowing down to “the Sounds Menu, and noticing that it doesn’t have a keystroke assigned to it, you can press return or the right arrow to open its options and arrow up or down through them to hear the descriptions and their relevant sounds.
  • •If you open VO Help, arrow down and press return on the Getting Started Guide, you’ll notice that it opens with just the press of one key.

Now that we understand how to access VoiceOver Help, its time to introduce you to the Commands Help Menu.

Commands Help Menu

To access the Commands Help Menu, press the VO keys and the letter H twice Quickly. You will hear VoiceOver say “Commands Help Menu 13 items”. The Commands Help Menu is a list of menus broken down by categories. You will see examples of navigation, text, and web specific commands.

You can access a category by arrowing down to the desired choice and pressing return or the right arrow to open its menu. This will open a list of commands you can arrow up or down through in order to familiarize yourself with them.

Here’s how it works in practice. Lets say you wanted to read from the beginning of a document, but you didn’t know what the command was. The long way to do this would be to press VO-HH, arrow down to the Text Menu, and press either the Right Arrow key or the Return key to open its menu.

Once opened, you’ll be presented with a list of commands related to text. Find the item that says, “Read from Beginning – Control, Option ‘B,” by arrowing down through the list. The Control, Option B tells you that to read from the beginning you will need to press the VO keys and the letter “B”. Once you commit this command to memory; you can use it on most all groups of text in documents, e-mails and web pages.

Now that you know how to access VoiceOver help whenever you need it. Its time to move on to the Apple Menu and Menu Extras.

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