Get started using a screen reader with a PowerPoint presentation

Need help using PowerPoint 2016 with a screen reader? With keyboard shortcuts, you can move around in different PowerPoint views to create, edit, and deliver your presentation.

Screen readers vary in how they refer to slide contents, how much they read, and what they call parts of the PowerPoint window. This topic offers tips to make navigation easier.


  • 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 Use keyboard shortcuts to create your presentation.

  • 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.

  • Several procedures in this topic refer to the Backstage view. In Office programs such as PowerPoint, Backstage view refers to the page that opens after you select the File tab. The Backstage view contains the set of commands you use to do things to a presentation file, like open it and save it, while the ribbon contains the set of commands for working in a presentation, like inserting a slide or adding a comment.

In this topic

Get started

Read slide contents in Normal view

Read slide contents in other views

Use specific screen readers

Get started

When you open a presentation in PowerPoint, the focus is on the first slide of your presentation. Slides open in Normal view, where you can edit. In JAWS, you hear “Slide area.” In Narrator, you hear “Edit view.”

Each time you press F6, the focus moves to the next region in the PowerPoint window in the following order:

  1. Status bar and zoom buttons. To move among the status bar buttons, press the Tab key or Shift+Tab.

  2. Ribbon. When the focus is on the ribbon, you can use the arrow keys to move among the tabs, and press the Tab key to move to the commands on the ribbon.

    When the focus is on a slide, you can open a tab on the ribbon: press Alt and the tab’s access key:

    • H (Home)

    • I (Insert)

    • G (Design)

    • K (Transitions)

    • A (Animations)

    • S (Slide Show)

    • R (Review)

    • W (View).

    Depending on the type of object with the focus, the ribbon can include Picture Tools, Table Tools, Chart Tools, Audio Tools, and Video Tools.

  3. Notes pane. To add speaker notes to a slide, type in the Notes pane.

    • To close or reopen the Notes pane, press Alt+W, P, and then N

    . The status bar also includes a Notes shortcut that opens and closes the Notes pane.

  4. Thumbnail pane. To move among all the slides in your presentation while in the thumbnail pane, press the Up Arrow key or Down Arrow key. Most screen readers identify slides by their title and number.

    • To move from a thumbnail image to the slide so you can edit its contents, press F6.

To move the focus through these areas in the opposite direction, press Shift+F6.

Note: As you work on slides, other task panes may open. This can make using the features challenging. Press F6 to move through these panes, as well. Screen readers may identify them by the button or item with the focus rather than with the name of the pane.

Read slide contents in Normal view

When the focus is on a slide in Normal view, you can edit and get more information about a slide’s contents. Normal view opens the thumbnail pane, the slide editing area, and the Notes pane.

  • To display Normal view, press Alt+W, L.

Read slide titles

When the focus is in the thumbnail pane, screen readers read the slide titles as you move through the slides. To go to the next or previous slide, press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key.

Tip: Sometimes, your screen reader loses focus and does not read a slide title. If this happens, press Alt+Tab twice to try to move focus out of the PowerPoint window and back to the thumbnails.

Read placeholder contents

When the focus is on a slide in Normal view, use the following keyboard shortcuts for placeholders:

  • To move from one placeholder to another, press the Tab key or Shift+Tab.

    Screen readers identify the type of placeholder. For example, if the placeholder contains text or alt text, the reader speaks the text is read. If it contains media, the reader identifies the media type. In JAWS, a video with no alt text is identified as media. (In Narrator, text is read only when selected.)

  • To place the insertion point in a placeholder and read or edit the text, press F2. To return the focus to the placeholder, press F2.

  • To hear a screen reader describe text formatting, such as background color, font color, size, and style, tab to a placeholder and use your screen reader’s shortcut. In JAWS, press Insert+F.

Read tables

When the focus is on a slide in Normal view, use the following keyboard shortcuts with tables:

  • To move to a table, press the Tab key or Shift+Tab. Screen readers read the column headings, followed by the cell contents. (In Narrator, table headings and cells are read only when selected.

  • To place the insertion point in a cell, press F2. Then, press the Tab key or use the arrow keys to navigate individual cells.

  • To return the focus to the table placeholder, press F2.

Read charts

Screen readers read charts as images, including the name of the chart and its tooltip, but they don't provide any other details.

Read objects in a list

The Selection pane lists all objects on a slide in the order they were created. Use the following keyboard shortcuts when working in the Selection pane:

  • To open the Selection pane, press Alt+H, G, and then P. Screen readers identify the object with focus—either an object selected on the current slide or a button in the Selection pane, such as Show All.

  • To navigate and select objects, use the arrow keys. An object is selected on a slide and also in the Selection pane.

  • To move focus from the slide area to the Selection pane, press F6.

  • To close the Selection pane, press Alt+H, G and then P.

Note: In a slide show, screen readers read objects from bottom to top. To change this order, in the Selection pane, use the Bring Forward and Send Backwards buttons.

Read slide contents in other views

In addition to Normal view, PowerPoint provides several other views for working with slides. Each view offers unique capabilities. The following views are especially helpful:

  • Outline. Provides a text-only view of slide contents. To open Outline View, press Alt+W, P, and then O. To switch between thumbnails and the outline in Normal view, press Ctrl+Shift+Tab. You hear “Outline tab” and “Thumbnails tab.”

    Note: Narrator sometimes does not announce Outline view after pressing Alt+W, P, O.

  • Slide Sorter. Displays all your slides in order horizontally in rows so you can cut, copy, paste, and rearrange slides easily. Screen readers identify slides by the number and title. To open Slide Sorter view, press Alt+W, I. To return to Normal view, press Alt+W, L.

  • Reading. Offers a way to review a presentation similar to Slide Show view but not full screen. To open Reading View, press Alt+W, D. To return to the previous view, press Esc.

  • Slide Master. Enables you to make design changes that apply to all of your slides. To open Slide Master view, press Alt+W, M. The Slide Master tab (Alt+M) is added to the ribbon between the File and Home tabs. To close Slide Master view, press Alt+M, C.

  • Slide Show. Provides a full-screen display of your slides for an audience to see while you are presenting to them. To start a slide show, press F5. To advance, press the Page Down key. To go back, press the Page Up key. To end, press Esc.

  • Presenter View. Work with your presentation and your speaker notes on one monitor (your laptop, for example), while the audience views the notes-free presentation on a different monitor. If your computer is connected to a second display screen, when you start your presentation in Slide Show view, the Presenter View opens automatically on your computer screen. If you're working on a single monitor, to open the Presenter View, press Shift+F10, R. To read objects on a slide, use the following shortcuts:

    • To go to the slide preview, press Caps Lock+Left or Right arrow key, and then press Caps lock+Enter to move focus to the Slide Show window.

    • In the Slide Show window, press Caps lock+Right or Left arrow key to navigate through all of the objects. To read the objects, press Caps lock+M.

    • To switch back to the Presenter View window, press Caps lock+Right arrow key repeatedly until you hear "Return to Presenter View," and then press Caps lock+Enter.

      Note: If you're presenting without the Presenter View, you won't hear "Return to Presenter View."

For more information, go to Use keyboard shortcuts to deliver your presentation and Use a screen reader to show your presentation with PowerPoint.

Use specific screen readers

PowerPoint works with the popular screen reader JAWS. It also works with Window-Eyes and with Narrator, the screen reader that comes with Windows.

The following sections include tips about using these screen readers with PowerPoint.


JAWS offers help specifically about working in PowerPoint. In the JAWS window, press F1. In the search box, type PowerPoint.

JAWS reads comments when you place the insertion point in the comment text. JAWS can’t read the contents of charts or SmartArt graphics or distinguish between video and audio on a slide.

JAWS doesn't identify all slide editing views by name. For example, when you move focus to Slide Sorter view or Notes page, JAWS says, “Leaving menus.” When you go to Outline View, if JAWS says “Blank” instead of the slide number and title, try shifting the focus to another window and back to PowerPoint: press Alt+Tab twice.

If you need to turn Virtual Cursor off, press Insert+Z.


To read slides in Slide Show view, press Ctrl+Shift+A to turn on Browse mode. To read all of the contents on a slide, press Ctrl+Shift+R.

To turn off Browse mode, press Ctrl+Shift+A.


For many types of objects, Narrator describes the object type and alt text, if any.

Narrator doesn’t describe text formatting, animations, or transitions. It doesn’t read comments, charts, headers, or footers.

Narrator reads only slide titles in Reading View. Narrator doesn’t read slide content in Slide Show view.

When the focus is in the thumbnails pane, you hear the slide number and “Image.” When the focus is on a slide, you hear the slide number and “Slide.”

See also

Use a screen reader to print presentations in PowerPoint

Use a screen reader to read or add speaker notes and comments in a presentation

Use keyboard shortcuts to create your presentation

Use keyboard shortcuts to deliver your presentation

Basic tasks to create a presentation in PowerPoint with a screen reader

Set up your device to work with accessibility in Office 365

Learn how to navigate PowerPoint 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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