How to Use the Narrator from the Ease of Access Center in Windows 7

The Narrator program, one of several Ease of Access tools, can be used to read aloud text that appears on your screen. This can be useful for people who have vision or language issues and prefer to hear rather than to read. In this article we will go over how to access Narrator, what options it has available, and some basic shortcuts that will make it easier to use.

Accessing Narrator

The fastest way to open Narrator is to simply open the Start Menu and type "narrator" into the search field at the bottom.

Ease of Access Center - Windows 7 - Narrator

Or, if you prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, open the Start Menu and go to All Programs > Accessories > Ease of Access > Narrator.

Ease of Access Center - Windows 7 - Narrator

Either method will bring up the Narrator panel, and if your sound is on you will probably immediately begin to hear it talking to you.

Options and Settings

Before we get into how to use this function, let’s make sure it’s talking exactly when you want it to and at a volume that you can hear it.

When you open Narrator, its panel should look like it does below. There are four options you can turn on and off by checking their boxes. The "Echo User’s Keystrokes" box will cause Narrator speak aloud aloud every key that you type, "Announce System Messages" will read aloud any alerts that pop up, "Announce Scroll Notifications" will tell you whenever the screen scrolls, and "Start Narrator Minimized" will make it so that when you initially open Narrator in the future it is minimized on your taskbar.

As an aside, if you would like a tutorial to be read aloud to you, click on "Quick Help" here and Windows will do this for you.

Ease of Access Center - Windows 7 - Narrator

Below the checkbox items you will see the option to "Control whether Narrator starts when I log on." If you would like for Narrator to open automatically when you begin using your computer click this, and the panel below will open. The top checkbox reads "Turn on Narrator."

Check this and click OK. Now, whenever you start up your computer, Narrator will automatically be opened.

Ease of Access Center - Windows 7 - Narrator

Still further down the initial Narrator window, near the bottom and in the middle, you will see the Voice Settings option. Here, if you have multiple voices to choose from, you can select a different one. As you can see, I’m personally stuck with the English version of Ms. Anna for now, which suits me fine. Below this, you can also manipulate how fast Anna talks, how loud she talks, and how high or low pitched her voice is. Each of these is on a scale of 1 to 9, and you’ll want to tinker with them to get the most comfortable experience for yourself. Don’t forget to click OK once you have your ideal settings.

Ease of Access Center - Windows 7 - Narrator

Using Narrator

By now, you’ve probably recognized that Narrator will babble on as you go from window to window. Whatever your keyboard is focused on, it will begin to read from. There are also a few keyboard commands you can use to control Narrator a little more.

If you want to make it stop talking in the middle of something, hit the Ctrl key on your keyboard. If you want Narrator to give you some information about the currently selected item, hold Ctrl and Shift keys and hit Enter on your keyboard. If you want Narrator to read the entire selected window, hold Ctrl and Shift and hit the Spacebar.

If you are looking for a complete list of commands that can be used with Narrator, I recommend that you read the table found here: Choose which text Narrator reads aloud. You can also access a help file listing several commands by going into the Help menu and clicking Documentation. This can also be achieved by simply hitting F1 while using the Narrator.

Closing

Narrator is a very simple tool, but a knowledgeable Windows user could use it to do some basic navigation through a computer without a monitor. Further, anyone having difficulty reading their screen might be grateful for its assistance. Personally, I can’t imagine not being able to read my screen, but sometimes it is nice to hear someone talking to me when I’m up late at night... even if it is only the computer! Let us know what you think about this tool, and if you have any other ideas for ways it can be used. Until next time, friends.