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A text-to-speech program intended for use by visually impaired users.

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Start Programs Accessories Accessibility Narrator

Command Prompt narrator


The Narrator is used to assist those with the visual impairments by using a voice synthesizer and your computer's sound hardware to read aloud text and the titles of screen elements (see Figure 4-57). Narrator reads the following types of text:

Events on screen

Check the "Announce events on screen" option to have Narrator speak messages that appear, the titles of Windows when they are activated, and the captions of many types of screen elements.

Typed characters

Narrator can optionally speak each letter and number as its corresponding key is pressed on the keyboard.

Figure 4-57. The Narrator uses speech to read the captions of various screen elements over your speakers

In addition to these functions, the following keyboard shortcuts can be used to read additional items:

  • To read an entire window, click the window and then press Ctrl-Shift-Spacebar.

  • To read the caption of the control with the focus, or to read the contents of a text field, press Ctrl-Shift-Enter.

  • To get a more detailed description of an item, press Ctrl-Shift-Insert.

  • To read the titlebar of a window, press Alt-Home.

  • To read the status bar of a window, press Alt-End.

  • To silence the speech, press the Ctrl key by itself.


  • Narrator is supported only in the English version of Windows XP.

  • A far more impressive, related technology is that used in speech recognition software, in which the computer will take dictation, translating anything spoken into a microphone into text on the screen. Although initially developed for physically challenged users, speech recognition has become very popular among all types of users, partly because of the novelty, partly because of the speed (some can type up to 160 words per minute), and partly to help reduce repetitive stress injuries. In fact, some of this book was dictated with the assistance of Dragon NaturallySpeaking (http://www.dragonsys.com/). Microsoft Office XP also comes with a new voice recognition feature, although it's not nearly as sophisticated as NaturallySpeaking or IBM's ViaVoice (http://www.ibm.com/speech).

See Also

Microsoft Magnifier, On-Screen Keyboard, Utility Manager

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