Get started using a screen reader in Word Online

If you have a disability and use a screen reader, this article can help you get started using the screen reader with Word Online in your web browser. Create, view, and edit documents, then store them on OneDrive or Dropbox.

Notes: 

  • When you use Word Online, we recommend that you use Internet Explorer as your browser.

In this topic

Start Word Online

Word Online is a web-based application, so the keyboard shortcuts and navigation may be different from those in Word 2016. Learn more about Keyboard shortcuts in Word Online.

To start Word Online, do one of the following:

  • In your cloud storage, such as OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or Dropbox, move to the Word document you want to open and press Enter. The file opens in Word Online.

  • In your browser’s search bar, type https://office.live.com/start/Word.aspx and press Enter. Word Online opens with a list of your recent documents in the Navigation pane.

Note: To learn what the user interface looks like and how to navigate with the keyboard in Word Online, refer to Accessibility features in Word Online.

Tips for working with screen readers

Word Online works with most screen readers, such as third-party screen readers like JAWS, and with Narrator, the built-in screen reader in Windows.

Narrator has been recently updated with much better capability. To learn more about Narrator. To learn more. go to Get Started with Narrator. For more information about JAWS, refer to the JAWS Screen Reader documentation.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you use a screen reader with Word Online.

  • Navigation.

    • To move the focus between your document, the command tabs, and other elements of Word Online:

      • In Reading view, press the Tab key (forward) or Shift+Tab (backward).

      • In Editing view, press Ctrl+F6 (forward) or Ctrl+Shift+F6 (backward).

      The order of the navigation cycle is: document, Comments pane (if open), app launcher, Word Online title bar (with command buttons in Reading view), ribbon with command tabs (in Editing view), and status bar.

    • To move back and forth between the command tabs on the ribbon, press the Tab key (forward) or Shift+Tab (backward). When you hear the name of the tab you want (File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, Review, or View), press Enter.

  • Browser. Word Online does not have accelerator keys, so when you press the Alt key, the focus moves to the browser menu bar (File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools, and Help).

  • Reading view and Editing view.Word Online opens your documents in Reading view, which is meant just for reading, not editing. For a more accessible reading view, see Accessibility features in Word Online. To make changes to documents, switch to Editing view.

Screen readers may vary in how they work with Word Online and the browser you use.

Use Word Online with JAWS

When starting Word Online, JAWS automatically turns off Virtual Cursor. If you find that Virtual Cursor is on, to turn it off, press Insert+Z.

Use Word Online with Narrator

Narrator does not read the following Word Online elements: hyperlinks in texts in shapes and textboxes, hyperlink screen tips, videos (videos are indistinguishable from an image), and comments in pop-outs (use the Comments pane). To get started with Narrator, see Use Windows 8 Narrator with Office 2013.

Do common tasks with Word Onlineand a screen reader

Follow these links for information.

Switch to Editing view to make changes

In Editing view, you have access to the ribbon, which offers many options for making changes to a document.

  1. To move the focus to the browser window, press F6.

  2. Tab to the Edit document button, press Enter, and then select Edit in Word Online. Your document opens in Editing view.

Note: To use the ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 until you reach the tabs. To move between ribbon tabs, press the Tab key or Shift+Tab. To select a tab, press Enter. The tab-specific ribbon opens, where you can select commands.

For details about using key combinations, see Keyboard shortcuts in Word Online

Find and replace text

Press Ctrl+F (Find) in Reading view or Editing view, to search for every occurrence of a specific word or phrase in your document . Results appear in the Find pane. Use the arrow keys to browse the search results and go to that location in the document.

Note: In JAWS, the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+F is reserved for the JAWS Find command. To find and replace text in Editing view in JAWS, press Ctrl+H.

In Editing view in JAWS, to automatically find text and replace it with new text:

Find and replace text using JAWS
  1. Press Ctrl+H or, on the Home tab, select Replace. The Find and Replace pane opens, and you hear “Search the document for... edit.” The focus is in the Search for box.

  2. Type the text you want to find.

  3. Tab until you hear "Replace with... edit." The focus is in the Replace with box.

  4. Type the text you want to use as a replacement, and press Enter. Word Online finds the first instance of the Search for text.

  5. To replace the text, tab until you hear “Replace button,” and then press Enter. Or, to replace all instances of the found text, press the Tab key again to go to the Replace All button, and then press Enter.

Share documents online

Your document is online, so you can share it by sending a link instead of an email attachment. People can read it in their web browser or mobile device.

  1. To move the focus to the ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear the tab name (usually the Home tab).

  2. Press Shift+Tab until you hear “File button,” and then press Enter.

  3. Press the Down Arrow key until you hear “Share,” and then press Enter.

  4. With the focus on the Share with People option, press Enter.

  5. In the Enter names or email addresses edit box, type the email addresses of the people you want to share with, separated by a semicolon. When you’re finished, press Enter.

  6. To specify view-only permissions (not edit), tab to the Choose a permission level box, press the Down Arrow key, and then select Can view.

  7. Tab to the Email body text field and, if you want, type a message to include.

  8. Tab to the Share button and press Enter.

Add comments in the browser

  1. To move the focus to the ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear the tab name (usually the Home tab).

  2. Tab to the Review tab and press Enter.

  3. Tab to the New Comments button and press Enter. The Comments pane opens, and you hear “Comment content, Edit.”

  4. Do one of the following:

    • To add a new comment, start typing. When you’re done, tab to the Post link and press Enter.

    • To find a comment in the document, use the Up Arrow key or the Down Arrow key. You hear the name of the comment’s author and the text of the comment.

    • To reply to a comment, tab to the Reply link and press Spacebar. You hear “Comment content, Edit.” Type your reply. When you’re done, tab to the Post button and press Enter.

    • To check off a comment and mark it as done, tab to the Mark as Done link and press Spacebar. A checkmark appears in the comment.

  5. To close the Comments pane, press Shift+Tab until the focus moves to the Close button, and then press Enter.

Notes: 

  • Screen readers can’t read the comments in a pop-out or in a document opened in Reading view. To make comments accessible, open the Comments pane in Editing view.

  • In JAWS, when the focus is in the Comments pane, you hear “Comment content, Edit.”

Add a header or footer

  1. To move the focus to the ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear the tab name (usually the Home tab).

  2. Tab to the Insert tab and press Enter.

  3. Tab to the Header & Footer button and press Enter. The header and footer editing area opens.

  4. To create a left-aligned header, start typing. To type a centered header, press the Tab key. To type a right-aligned header, press the Tab key again.

  5. To select header options, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear “Options button.” To browse options, press Spacebar, and then use the arrow keys. To apply an option, press Enter.

  6. To add a footer, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear “footer,” and then start typing.

  7. To return to editing your document, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear “Close header and footer button,” and then press Enter.

Add page numbers

  1. To move the focus to the ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear the tab name (usually the Home tab).

  2. Tab to the Insert tab and press Enter.

  3. Tab to the Page Number button and press Spacebar. A menu of page number styles opens. You hear “Include page count,” the first option.

  4. To browse the page number styles, use the arrow keys. The style of page number is described.

  5. To select a style, press Enter. The header and footer editing area opens so you can preview and modify your choice. Depending on your selection, you hear “Editing default header” or “Editing default footer.”

  6. To return to editing your document, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear “Close header and footer button,” and then press Enter.

More support resources

Technical support for customers with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or have 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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