Accessibility in Excel 2016 for Mac

You can turn on accessibility features in Excel 2016 for Mac to hear text read to you and to take advantage of other accessibility options.


  • To learn how to set preferences and to make it easier to use Excel 2016 for Mac products with the keyboard and with

    VoiceOver, the built-in screen reader for the Mac, refer to Accessibility in Office 2016 for Mac.

  • This topic assumes that you have turned on full-screen keyboard access. Some procedures in this topic assume that you have VoiceOver turned on and are familiar with the VO command. (To use the VO command, press Control+Option.)

  • Refer also to Keyboard shortcuts in Excel 2016 for Mac.

In this topic

Discover the Excel for Mac interface

When you open Excel 2016 for Mac, the Excel menu appears at the top of the screen, with its menu items added after the Apple menu. Below this, in the toolbar, the name of your document appears, centered. The Quick Access Toolbar sits in the top left corner of the screen. This toolbar contains commonly used commands, such as Save, Undo, and Redo. The Search box and the sharing options icon are on the same line and on the right side of the screen. Below them is the Help Improve Office menu.

Under the toolbar, you find a set of ribbon tabs, such as Insert and View. The ribbon sits below this row of tabs. When you select a tab, a tab-specific ribbon appears. Each ribbon includes commands organized in groups. For example, the Insert tab switches to a ribbon that lets you pick different items, such as tables or pictures, to insert into your document.

Under the ribbon, you find the Name box and the Formula bar. The Name box shows the name or location of the currently selected cell in the worksheet. The Formula bar contains the contents of the current cell and lets you enter text or formulas that Excel follows to do calculations.

Below this is the workbook, with the current worksheet open. The worksheet takes up most of the screen. A new worksheet consists of a grid of blank cells. Along the top of the worksheet are the column headers, letters or letter combinations designating the column. To the left of the worksheet and running the length of it are row numbers, one for each row, starting from 1. The Name box, mentioned previously, identifies cells by column letter and row number, such as C3.

Finally, at the bottom left of the worksheet is a set of tabs, one for each worksheet in the workbook plus a button to add a new worksheet, and on the right is a status bar with buttons for changing the page layout, magnification, etc.

Navigate in Excel for Mac

When you open a workbook, by default the focus is in the current worksheet. To access other areas, press Fn+F6. Or, with VoiceOver on, press VO+Left Arrow and VO+Right Arrow. Pressing Fn+F6 loops through areas of the interface:

  • Open button/top toolbar

  • Current tab on the ribbon

  • Name box on the toolbar

  • The worksheet

  • “Ready button” on the status bar

Many keyboards assign special functions to function keys, by default. To use a function key for other purposes, you have to press Fn+the function key. If you don't want to press the Fn key every time you use a function key, you can change your Apple system preferences.

For information on using the ribbon and other commands, or to learn how to change your function key preferences, refer to Accessibility in Office 2016 for Mac.

Navigate in a workbook

  • To insert a new worksheet, press Fn+Shift+F11. (This combination only works if you have unassigned the default function for the F11 key. Refer to Accessibility in Office 2016 for Mac for instructions.)

  • To move to the next worksheet in a workbook, press Option+Right Arrow.

  • To move to the previous worksheet in a workbook, press Option+Left Arrow.

Navigate in a worksheet

To move into the worksheet to begin work, press Fn+F6 until you reach the worksheet.

  • To move between cells in a worksheet, press the arrow keys. (Note that VoiceOver does not necessarily name the cells as you move between them.)

  • To enter text or a formula in the current cell, type the text or formula.

  • To edit the current cell, press F2 and then use the arrow keys to move to the place you want to edit. When you are finished editing, to exit the cell, press Return.

  • To select a range of cells, place the focus on the cell where you want to start the range, and then hold down the Shift key while pressing the arrow keys to select the cells.

Use the context menu

The context menu contains a variety of common actions like cut, copy, paste, and clear. To open the context menu, with the focus on a cell, press Fn+Shift+F10.

The context menu closes automatically after you select an action. To exit the context menu without selecting an action, press Esc.

Use VoiceOver to work in Excel for Mac

Here are a number of common tasks in Excel, with instructions on how to complete them using VoiceOver. To turn on VoiceOver, press Command+F5.

Type formulas

  1. To select the cell to which you want to add a formula, use the arrow keys to move the focus to it.

  2. Type an equal sign (=) followed by the formula. If Excel has a suggested function, you hear “Excel has new window.” To move within the list of suggested functions, press the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys. To select a function from the list, press the Tab key. To exit the list, press Esc.

  3. When you have finished typing the formula, press Return.

Create formulas with the Formula Builder

  1. In the cell to which you want to add a formula, to open the Formula Builder, press Shift+F3. The focus moves to the Formula bar and Excel inserts an equal sign (=).

  2. Press VO+Right Arrow until you hear “Formula Builder task pane.”

  3. To interact with the Formula Builder, press VO+Shift+Down Arrow until you hear “Interact with Format Builder,” and then press the Tab key and the arrow keys to move to individual fields, buttons, menus, and function descriptions.

Sort and filter

When you move the focus to a cell that contains a Filter arrow, VoiceOver announces it as a Filter button.

  1. To open the Sort and Filter dialog for the current cell, press VO+Spacebar.

  2. In the Sort and Filter dialog, to access individual fields, buttons, menus, and field values, press the Tab key and the arrow keys.

Read comments

When you move the focus to a cell that has a comment, VoiceOver announces that the cell contains a Comment button. To hear the comment, press VO+Spacebar.

Find and work with art objects in a workbook

Start this procedure in the workbook area of an open workbook. The focus should already be on the "Workbook area, layout area." If not, press Fn+F6 until the focus is on the Workbook area, layout area.

  1. Press VO+Shift+Down Arrow, and then press VO+Right Arrow. If the workbook contains art objects, VoiceOver says, “Contains Office art objects.”

  2. Press VO+Shift+Down Arrow until you hear “Interact with Art Object.” VoiceOver describes the object and you can interact with it.

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.

Give feedback about Excel for Mac accessibility

We’re still working on delivering great accessibility features, and we have more work to do. We’d love to hear about the things you like, and the things that you’d like for us to improve. Here's how to send us feedback. In an Excel file:

  1. To move to the ribbon tabs, press Fn+F6 until you hear “You are currently on a tab…inside a tab group.”

  2. Press the Tab key until you hear “Help improve Office.”

  3. To open the menu, press VO+Spacebar, and then, to select either “Tell Us What You Like” or “Tell Us What Can Be Better,” use the Down Arrow key. To select an item, press Return.

  4. To enter your feedback, use the dialog. To move between controls, press the Tab key. There are three fields: a text field for your feedback, a toggle to either include a screenshot or not (which is set to be included, by default), and a field where you can provide your email address (optional). The focus is in the text area where you can type your comment.

    So that we can easily find accessibility-related suggestions, please include the word Accessibility in your feedback.

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