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Most computer users will be familiar with Microsoft Word. It is the first port of call for people needing to type something. It’s a useful tool to create a wide variety of professional documents quickly and easily.

For people who are blind or have low vision, Microsoft Word is very useful. It has a lot of accessibility options built in and is generally used in tandem with a screen reader like JAWS. Others use it as a note taker by dictating into it and Word will convert the sound into text.

This web page will go through the basics and some tips on using Microsoft Word with JAWS.

Listen to Using Microsoft Word with JAWS audio (MP3)

To open a blank Microsoft Word document:

  • Use the windows key to enable the search bar and type WORD.
  • Hit ENTER once JAWS has identified the application.
  • This will open a Word landing page. Select new blank document.

How to start typing:

JAWS will vocalise your typing.

Once you press the space bar after typing a word, it will say that word back to you. It will also vocalise punctuation like ‘?’ as ‘question’.

To get JAWS to read back the sentence you’ve just written press the DOWN arrow.

Hold down the ALT key and press the UP or DOWN ARROW key to move through a document by sentence. 

Similarly, hold down CTRL and use the UP and DOWN ARROW keys to move through a document by paragraph.

To stop reading, press the CTRL key.

How to edit your text:

Use these common shortcuts with JAWS to edit your text.

  • Copy: CTRL+C 
  • Cut: CTRL+X 
  • Paste: CTRL+V
  • Undo: CTRL+Z
  • Delete prior character: BACKSPACE
  • Delete current character: DELETE
  • Select all: CTRL+A

These keystrokes are a bit more advanced but will help while editing your document:

  • Select one word: CTRL+SHIFT+LEFT or RIGHT ARROW
  • Select one character: SHIFT+LEFT or RIGHT ARROW
  • Select to beginning of line: SHIFT+HOME 
  • Select to end of line: SHIFT+END
  • Select to beginning: CTRL+SHIFT+HOME
  • Select to end: CTRL+SHIFT+END

Don’t forget to save! Navigating the Microsoft Word toolbar

Once you’ve started a new document, there are a few things you need to do to keep a copy of it on your computer. Using the Microsoft Word toolbar will give you options like saving a document, printing it or emailing it to someone. 

To navigate to this menu, type ALT+F.

These are a few common commands:

  • New – ALT+F, N: Use this to bring up the "new document" page that lists all of the pre-formatted templates. Opening a new document will prompt you to save your old one.
  • Open – ALT+F, O: Use this to review a list of recently-opened documents. 
  • Save – ALT+F, S: Use this to save your document. If this is your first time saving this particular document, you'll be prompted to enter a name, save location and preferred file format as well. To Save As, type ALT+F, A.
  • Print – ALT+F, P: Use this to bring up your printer settings.
  • Share - ALT+F, E: Use this to view sharing options for this document, including email and cloud options.
  • Export – ALT+F, E: Use this to quickly create a PDF or change the file type.

Use Zoom to magnify or shrink what you see

To zoom in to a document so you get a close-up view:

  • Press ALT+W, Q. You will hear “Zoom dialog” or “Zoom window.”
  • Press the TAB key until you reach the Percent spinner, and then type a percentage or use the UP or DOWN ARROW key to change the percentage.
  • Press the TAB key until you reach the OK button and press ENTER.
  • Search – don’t get stuck
  • Microsoft Word also has a great search bar in case you get stuck anywhere. To access the search bar, type ALT+Q, then enter the search term.

For more information on using screen readers with Microsoft Word, visit Microsoft’s support site

Looking for more advice or training?

The Vision Australia Access Technology (AT) team is here to support you and can organise personal training.

Our AT Helpdesk team are available Monday to Friday between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm EST to troubleshoot your accessible technology issues.

Give them a call on 1300 84 74 66 (and ask for the AT Helpdesk), or send an email at [email protected]