Manual for Apple VoiceOver in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

Apple’s screen reader, VoiceOver, comes bundled with Mac OS X (yes, it’s free) and has received a number of updates in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. The updates include a new voice, Braille support, and improved navigation and searching.

It’s great that a screen reader comes bundled with the operating system. Understanding how to actually use VoiceOver is not all that easy though, so I was happy to learn via Ricky Buchanan’s post VoiceOver Getting Started for Leopard DIASY/Braille/audio that there is a VoiceOver Getting Started guide available for download in a whole bunch of formats: PDF, MP3, iPod Audio Book, Braille, and DAISY.

Alastair Campbell also mentions this manual in his post Voiceover HTML navigation updates where he talks about some of the new ways of navigating HTML documents in the Leopard version of VoiceOver.

Since I have now installed Leopard on my home Mac, I have been trying the new VoiceOver out a bit. It is definitely an improvement over the previous version, but it still feels a bit shaky to me. Navigation seems inconsistent, VoiceOver stalls occasionally, it reads some text twice, and will randomly (at least as far as I can tell) jump back to the beginning of the document I am reading.

I don’t know if this behaviour is caused by bugs in VoiceOver or simply the result of me not being an expert VoiceOver user. It could very well be the latter :-).

I haven’t been able to figure out how to make VoiceOver speak table headers as I move across a row of data. The commands in the manual don’t seem to work for me. It could be that table navigation is not yet implemented for HTML tables, but I’m not sure. I also cannot find a way to make VoiceOver announce lists.

Any VoiceOver experts reading this? Am I doing something wrong?

Posted on November 23, 2007 in Accessibility, Mac


  1. I”ve been working through how VoiceOver reacts to various HTML elements for a project Steve Faulkner is doing, so I’ll post an update about it soon.

    Apart from headings, I haven’t been able to get many of the skip-type commands to work either, but I’ll make some enquiries before posting about that.

    Still, the headings functions are probably the most important update, I especially like the ‘skip to next heading of same level’ command.

    You can also press VO-h to read the title on any element (apart from iFrames for some reason).

  2. Why do you find it unusual that a screen reader would come with an operating system? KDE has had a screen reader for years, and I’ve seen them in Gnome as well (though I do not know if it is standard in that environment).

  3. November 26, 2007 by Anders Ytterström

    It’s proparly not part of the KDE/Gnome base system, but if there is a screen reader available one can count for sure that at least the more widespread distributions choose to make it a part of their standard installation. It works well with the open source philosophy.

  4. I’ve added an article on this, going into more depth about what VoiceOver actually supports.

  5. December 4, 2007 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    AlastairC: Yep, I saw your article. Good info, and it seems like the problems I noted aren’t caused by this user’s lack of knowledge :-).

  6. VO table navigation works as expected on tables in Cocoa views. For example, the iTunes song data listing. Find next table works on multiple tables within the same level Cocoa view.

    Table navigation is not implemented in the current version of WebKit/Safari.

  7. March 3, 2008 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    James: Thanks for clearing that up!

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