Tutorial: Windows Narrator Screenreader for Sighted

In this tutorial you will learn how to use the Windows Screen Reader Narratoras a sighted person.

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Advantages of Narrator for Sighted

The screen reader Narrator integrated in Windows 10 and 11 has made a lot of progress and is at least suitable for simple things. It brings several advantages over NVDA and Jaws:

  • It's built in, so there's no need to install it. Thanks to the integration, it can also perform better than external screen readers.
  • It's rudimentary in terms of settings. This is a disadvantage for blind power users, but it makes things easier for beginners and the sighted.
  • It's relatively visual: Jaws has a complex visual menu, NVDA requires a separate menu to be invoked. The Narrator menu, on the other hand, is a separate Windows window and has a typical Windows structure.
  • There is built-in visual highlighting of the Narrator cursor. This makes it easier for sighted and non-sighted people to operate. With NVDA this has to be activated separately.
  • The voice is relatively pleasant for newbies - I find it annoying, especially the performance at high speaking speeds is not particularly good.
  • For my taste, it's a big plus that Narrator has inherited many keyboard shortcuts from JAWS and NVDA. You don't have to remember as many new combinations as you used to.

The big drawback: In my opinion, it only works properly with Microsoft's own applications. I hope that Microsoft doesn't try to impose its own accessibility standards, but supports the Accessibility API like its big sisters Jaws and NVDA. For example, in Adobe Reader, Narrator doesn't read anything except for the menus.

A disadvantage for the blind: Narrator does not yet have an alternative cursor analogous to object navigation in NVDA or the Jaws cursor. The usage of complex applications is therefore not possible with Narrator.

A downside for the sighted is that there is no voice viewer. I always recommend my longing trainees to turn off the Narrator and use NVDA's Speech Viewer. There isn't one in Narrator, which means you have to rely on the voice output.

Start Narrator

Narrator can be started in at least two ways: either by pressing CTRL + Windows key + Return at the same time or by typing Narrator into the Windows Start menu search. You can end it with the same key combination or by simply closing the window.

As already mentioned, the menu has a typical Windows structure and is spartan, so it doesn't need much explanation.

In the settings under "Choose the Narrator Key" I have enabled "Caps Lock or Insert" so you can use the INSERT key like in NVDA and Jaws. If you want to work with the mouse, activate the checkbox for "Allow reading and screen interaction with the mouse". This can be annoying because Narrator then reads everything under the mouse cursor, including every movement of the mouse. If this bothers you, turn it on only when necessary.


Desktop screen readers use their own mode for virtual documents like web pages or PDF. In Narrator, this is called Scanning. This allows you to jump from element to element. Here are some important key commands in the browser:

Tab = jumps to the next clickable element

H jumps to the next heading

K jumps to the next link

F jumps to the next form element

D jumps to the next section of the website

If you press the shift key at the same time as these so-called navigation keys, the screen reader jumps backwards, i.e. it reaches the previous link or heading.

To write text or fill out forms you have to exit scan mode. This can be switched on or off with INSERT + space bar.

There are many more key combinations.

To fill out a web form we need to exit scan mode by pressing INSERT + SPACE and then we can tab from form element to form element.

As I said, only Microsoft's own products currently seem to work well. So in our case the Edge browser.

A practical feature are the quick overviews.

INSERT + F5 lists the regions of a page

INSERT + F6 lists the HTML headings of a page

INSERT + F7 lists the links of a page

The Narrator can also be recommended to a limited extent for Word documents. He reads out at least headline formatting and image descriptions. However, this does not seem to work in older Office versions.


To be honest, that's about it. Of course you can read Word documents or muddle around a bit in the Windows settings. The Narrator has not been able to do anything else so far. That's why I would only recommend it in connection with the Edge and maybe with current versions of Microsoft Office. Advanced functions such as object navigation or the touch cursor are currently completely missing.

The Narrator is currently still unsuitable for full-fledged tests. It might need two more major updates to be usable. I currently don't think it's likely that Microsoft will expand Narrator into a full-fledged alternative to NVDA or Jaws, precisely because there are already competitive and free alternatives out there. It is not comparable with the situation on the Mac because of Apple's policy, nobody would develop a screen reader for this platform, so Apple had to do it itself.

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