Get started using a screen reader in Excel Online

Get started using a screen reader in Excel Online

Read out loud symbol with the label Screen reader content. This topic is about using a screen reader with Office

This article is for people who use a screen reader program with the Office products and is part of the Office Accessibility content set. For more general help, see Office Support home.

By using a keyboard and a screen reader such as Narrator, the built-in Windows screen reader, you can easily navigate in Excel Online. Keyboard shortcuts help you quickly move between areas and complete tasks.


  • If you use Narrator with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, you have to turn off scan mode in order to edit documents, spreadsheets, or presentations with Office Online. For more information, refer to Turn off virtual or browse mode in screen readers in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

  • New Office 365 features are released gradually to Office 365 subscribers, so your app might not have these features yet. To learn how you could get new features faster, visit When do I get the newest features in Office 2016 for Office 365?.

  • For keyboard shortcuts, go to Keyboard shortcuts in Excel Online.

  • This topic assumes that you are using the built-in Windows screen reader, Narrator. To learn more about using Narrator, go to Get started with Narrator.

  • This topic makes note of the JAWS functionality as well. To learn more about JAWS for Windows, go to JAWS for Windows Quick Start Guide.

  • This topic assumes you are using this app with a PC. Some navigation and gestures might be different for a Windows phone or tablet.

  • When you use Excel Online, we recommend that you use Microsoft Edge as your web browser. Because Excel Online runs in your web browser, the keyboard shortcuts are different from those in the desktop program. For example, you’ll use Ctrl+F6 instead of F6 for jumping in and out of the commands. Also, common shortcuts like F1 (Help) and Ctrl+O (Open) apply to the web browser – not Excel Online.

In this topic

Differences from the desktop program

  • To edit, you need to switch from Reading view to Editing view. To switch to Editing view:

    1. Press Ctrl+F6 until you hear "Excel Online", then press Ctrl+F6 again to move to the title bar of the workbook. You'll hear the name of the folder that contains the workbook.

    2. Tab until you hear “Edit Workbook button.”

    3. Press Enter. The Edit Workbook menu opens and you hear “Edit in Excel.”

    4. Press the Tab key or the Down Arrow key. When you hear “Edit in Excel Online, Make quick changes right here in your browser,” press Enter.

  • To move between the Excel Online command ribbon (File, Home, Insert, Data, Review, View, Tell Me, and Open in Excel) and the content of your workbook, use Ctrl+F6 instead of F6.

Tips for quick navigation

  • To find a command quickly, use Tell Me. To learn more about the Tell Me feature, watch this video: Using Tell Me to get things done quickly with a screen reader and keyboard

    To use Tell Me, follow these steps:

    1. Select the cell or range of cells where you want to perform an action.

    2. To jump to the Tell Me edit field, press Alt+Q.

    3. Type the command you want (available only in Editing view). For example, type Insert comment.

    4. In the list, use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to select a command and then press Enter. Excel Online performs the action.

  • To jump to a particular cell, use the Go To command: press Ctrl+G, type the cell reference (such as B14), and then press Enter.

  • To jump to the first cell (A1), press Ctrl+Home.

  • To enter an AutoSum for a selected range of cells, press Alt+equal sign (=).

  • To edit a cell, press F2.

Using screen readers

Here are some things to keep in mind when using a screen reader with Excel Online:

  • The ribbon. The ribbon is the strip at the top of Excel Online, organized by tabs. Each tab displays a different ribbon, which is made up of groups, and each group includes one or more commands. You can navigate the ribbon with just the keyboard.

    • To move back and forth between the command tabs on the ribbon, press Tab and Shift+Tab. When you hear the name of the tab you want (File, Home, Insert, Data, Review, Tell Me, View, or Open in Excel), press Enter. The tab’s toolbar opens.

    • To move to a command on the tab’s toolbar, press the Tab key. When you hear the name of the command you want, press Enter.

    • To move the focus between the command tabs and the cell grid, press Ctrl+F6.

  • Cell grid

    • To move from one cell to another, tab or use the arrow keys.

    • To have the screen reader read a cell or range, move the focus to the cell and use the arrow keys to move through a range.

    • To hear a screen reader read text formatting such as background color, font color, size, and style, select the cell and then press Caps Lock+zero.

  • Sheets: adding, deleting, and renaming tabs

    • To move to the sheet tabs, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear “Region, Scroll to the first sheet button,” and then tab to the sheet you want.

    • When the focus is on a sheet tab, to get additional options such as Insert, Delete, Rename, and Hide/Unhide, press Shift+F10. A context menu opens and you hear “Insert.” Use the arrow keys to select the command you want, and press Enter.

  • Charts: chart type, alt text title and description. Screen readers read charts as images, including the name of the chart and its tooltip, but with no other details.

  • Formulas. To insert a function in a cell:

    1. In a cell, press F2 and then Ctrl+A. (In Narrator, press F2 and then press Shift+F3 twice).

    2. The Insert function dialog box opens with the focus on the Commonly used category, with the Sum function selected.

    3. Select the function you want.

      • To insert the Sum function, tab to the OK button and press Enter.

      • To insert a different function, use the arrow keys to select a different category, tab to the Function list to select the function you want, and then press the OK button.

  • Comments. Screen readers read a comment after reading the content of a cell.

  • Hyperlinks. Screen readers read link text and destination after reading the content of a cell.

  • PivotTables. You can’t create a PivotTable in Excel Online, but you can view a PivotTable you created in Excel.

    • To select a cell in a PivotTable, tab or use the arrow keys.

    • To open the PivotTable Fields pane, press Ctrl+F6.

    • To move from one field button to another, use the arrow keys, and then, to select a field, press Enter.

    • To jump to the lower section of the pane, press the Tab key and then, to access the contextual commands, use the arrow keys.

    • To close context menus, press Esc.

Here are some tips for using specific screen readers in Excel Online:

JAWS When entering Excel Online, JAWS automatically turns off Virtual Cursor. If you find that Virtual Cursor is on, you can turn it off by pressing Insert+Z.

Window-Eyes To turn off Browse Mode, press Ctrl+Shift+A.

Narrator Narrator does not read tables, conditional formatting and slicers, and form controls.

More information

For information about the accessibility features of your browser, go to your browser’s website.

See also

Find and replace text or numbers in Excel Online with a screen reader

Basic tasks in Excel Online with a screen reader

Keyboard shortcuts in Excel Online

Learn how to navigate in Excel using accessible features

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.

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