Reading Commands and Cursors

EXERCISE: If you are participating in the live webinar, please open this page outside of the training room and follow along with the instructor. If you are participating via the recorded archive you do not need to do this, since the archived recordings are already running in your browser, not the online training room.

Reading the screen is done by pressing keys on the numeric keypad, or NUM PAD, sometimes in combination with other keys on the keyboard. When JAWS is loaded, the NUM LOCK is turned off, so that the keys represent movement keys, such as left arrow, right arrow, page up, and so on.

If you want to use your number pad for typing numbers, press NUM LOCK to toggle back and forth from screen reading mode to number input mode.

Some other keys which may be used include the following:

Laptop Keystrokes for JAWS

Why is it that people who use laptop computers with JAWS screen reading software need a different keyboard layout? The majority of people who use computers use a full-sized keyboard with a number pad. Most JAWS users read the screen with keystroke combinations using the number pad. When doing so, the INSERT key on the number pad is used as the JAWS Key, or modifier, to create keystrokes that are used in reading the screen. However, very few laptop systems have keyboards with a number pad, or if they do, it is not easily used. Therefore, many of these functions have been shifted to the main section of the laptop keyboard. Almost all laptops have an INSERT key, and it can be used in the same way for many reading commands as the INSERT key on a regular keyboard. However, without a number pad, some keystrokes are difficult or impossible to use.

Even if you use a desktop system or keyboard, you may want to try the laptop keyboard layout. When using the laptop keyboard layout, most of the commands are right at your fingertips so you do not need to continually switch your right hand to the number pad and then back to the main section of the keyboard. This is a really nice feature, and I know some experienced JAWS users who prefer laptop layout as opposed to just desktop layout! You really get the best of BOTH worlds if you learn the laptop layout with JAWS! If you use a regular keyboard with laptop layout, not only can you use the INSERT key as a JAWS Key, but you can also use the CAPS LOCK as a JAWS Key.

For more information on using JAWS with a laptop keyboard layout read the Laptop Keystrokes with JAWS DAISY book. This book can be found on the Training Downloads page. JAWS 10 or later users (or MAGic 11 or later users) can also use Check for Updates in the JAWS or MAGic Help menu to find DAISY books.

Reading with JAWS and MAGic

EXERCISE: Open the Saint Pete practice document and use it with some of the reading commands we will discuss in this section.

  1. If you have MS Word, it will most likely open in it. If you do not have MS Word, chances are it will open in WordPad. Either one is fine. Even if your computer opens it in some other word processing program, that should be fine for the purposes of this demonstration.
  2. Press CTRL+HOME to make sure you are at the top of the document.
  3. Press DOWN ARROW to move to the line that begins "From the sparkling blue waters..." and begin navigating along with the instructor.

Home Row on the Number Pad

To begin reading with JAWS, put your middle three fingers on the numeric keypad, with your middle finger on the number 5, the one with the raised bump. Your pointer finger should be resting on the left arrow (NUM PAD 4) and your ring finger on the right arrow (NUM PAD 6). This is what we call the Home Row for your fingers on the Number Pad.

If you are using laptop layout, the pointer finger of your left hand should be on the letter F and the pointer finger of your right hand should be on the letter J. This way, you can use the little finger of your left hand to press the CAPS LOCK and use your right hand to access most of the other keys for reading when the CAPS LOCK is pressed at the same time.

Read by Character

Pressing the NUM PAD 5 speaks the current character, pressing the RIGHT ARROW moves to and reads the next character, and pressing the LEFT ARROW moves to and reads the prior character.

Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+COMMA to read the current character, CAPS LOCK+M for the prior character, and CAPS LOCK+PERIOD for the next character.

Read by Character Phonetically

To hear a character pronounced phonetically, press NUM PAD 5 twice quickly. As you continue to navigate with LEFT or RIGHT ARROW phonetic mode remains on. To exit phonetic mode, press NUM PAD 5 again one time.

Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+COMMA twice quickly to read the current character phonetically.

Read by Word

To read by words, tuck your thumb under and hold down the INSERT key (NUM PAD 0) while pressing any of the three keys above. Thus INSERT+NUM PAD 5 speaks the current word at the cursor, INSERT+NUM PAD RIGHT ARROW moves to and speaks the next word, and INSERT+NUM PAD LEFT ARROW moves to and speaks the prior word.

Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+K for the current word, CAPS LOCK+J for prior word, and CAPS LOCK+L for next word.

Spell Word

To spell the current word, press INSERT+NUM PAD 5 twice quickly. Once you are in spelling mode JAWS and MAGic remain that way when moving to the prior word or next word. To exit spelling mode, press the SayWord keystroke again one time.

Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+K twice quickly to spell the current word.

Read by Lines

To read by lines, press UP ARROW to move to and read the prior line, DOWN ARROW to move to and speak the next line, and INSERT+UP ARROW to read the current line.

Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+U to read the prior line, CAPS LOCK+O to read the next line, and CAPS LOCK+I to read the current line.

Read the Entire Document

To read an entire document from wherever the cursor is located with one keystroke, press INSERT+DOWN ARROW. This keystroke is called the Say All command, and it is used quite frequently with JAWS. While using the Say All command, you can also do the following:

To halt speech, press the CTRL key.

Laptop users can also use INSERT+DOWN ARROW, but the laptop keystrokes to use without moving your hands from the keyboard are CAPS LOCK+A or CAPS LOCK+DOWN ARROW.

Read by Sentence

To read the prior sentence, press ALT+UP ARROW. To read the next sentence press ALT+DOWN ARROW. To read the current sentence, press ALT+NUM PAD 5.

Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+Y for the prior sentence, CAPS LOCK+H for the current sentence, and CAPS LOCK+N for the next sentence.

Read by Paragraph

To read the prior paragraph, press CTRL+UP ARROW. To read the next paragraph press CTRL+DOWN ARROW. To read the current paragraph press CTRL+NUM PAD 5.

Laptop users use the same keys except for CAPS LOCK+CTRL+I to read the current paragraph.

There are many other keystrokes used for reading with JAWS or MAGic, but these are the basic ones. In addition, once you know the basic keystrokes for reading with JAWS or MAGic, these same keystrokes apply to all of the different cursors in JAWS. So whether you are reading with the PC Cursor, the JAWS Cursor, the Virtual Cursor, or the Invisible Cursor, they all use the same reading keystrokes.

Specialized Reading Keys

Take a minute to try the following keystrokes and see what they do.

Keyboard Help, INSERT+1 on the numbers row, NOTE: This is a toggle keystroke, press it once to turn on keyboard help; press it again to get out of keyboard help.

Time, INSERT+F12, speaks the current time; nothing is posted on the screen.

Date, INSERT+F12 twice quickly, speaks the current date; nothing is posted on the screen.

System Tray Icons, INSERT+F11, explore the dialog box and then press ESC when you are finished.

List of JAWS Managers, INSERT+F2, explore the dialog box and then press ESC when you are finished.

Screen Sensitive Help, INSERT+F1, opens in the virtual viewer, press ESC when you are finished.

List of Running Applications, INSERT+F10, explore the dialog box and then press ESC when you are finished.

Practice Your Reading Commands in a Document

EXERCISE: Open the Saint Pete practice document if you do not already have it open and use it with some of the reading commands we just discussed. The Saint Pete practice document is named SaintPete.rtf and can also be found in the following location on your computer hard drive:

Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP all have the same location for JAWS training materials:

C:\Program Files\Freedom Scientific\Training\JAWS\enu


  1. Press CTRL+HOME to make sure you are at the top of the document.
  2. Press DOWN ARROW to move to the line that begins "From the sparkling blue waters..." and practice along with the instructor.
  3. Practice the keystrokes for character navigation, current, next, and prior character, NUM PAD 4, 5, and 6 or CAPS LOCK M, COMMA, and PERIOD.
  4. Next, practice the keystrokes for word navigation, INSERT+NUM PAD 4, 5, and 6 or CAPS LOCK+J, K, and L.
  5. Now practice the keystrokes for reading by sentence, ALT+UP ARROW, NUM PAD 5, and DOWN ARROW or CAPS LOCK+Y, H, and N.
  6. Finally, practice the keystrokes for reading by paragraph, CTRL+UP ARROW, NUM PAD 5, or DOWN ARROW or CTRL+UP ARROW, CAPS LOCK+CTRL+I, or CTRL+DOWN ARROW.

Cursors Used by JAWS

When reading with JAWS you should be aware of the active cursor. There are several different cursors available to JAWS. Knowing when and how to use them is key to understanding how JAWS behaves in different environments.

PC Cursor

The PC cursor is used for navigation and follows the focus of the system. The PC cursor is active when JAWS is first started, but if you switch to another cursor, you can press NUM PAD PLUS to make the PC cursor active again. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+SEMICOLON.

The PC cursor is usually a vertical line that blinks in a document indicating the insertion point. But it can also be represented by a highlight bar in a menu, or a focus rectangle in a dialog box. Let's look at a few examples of the PC cursor in the Saint Pete practice document.

  1. Use normal reading keys, such as the keystroke for next word, INSERT+RIGHT ARROW or CAPS LOCK+L. I'll press that a few times. Notice that the cursor is at the beginning of the word. How do I know that? Press the keystroke to read the current character, NUM PAD 5 or CAPS LOCK+COMMA by itself.
  2. I'll press INSERT+LEFT ARROW or CAPS LOCK+J to move to the word sparkling.
  3. Press the ALT key to move to the ribbon. Focus moves to the Home tab. If you're using an earlier version of Word or another program you'll land on the menu bar. Press DOWN ARROW to move through the menus, and this is also the PC cursor in that application.
  4. Press TAB to move to the lower ribbon. As you continue to press TAB here, this is also the PC cursor.
  5. After you move around a little bit through the ribbon or menus, press the ESC key a few times to get out of it. Focus returns to the document area.

Focus should still be on the word sparkling, with the cursor specifically on the first letter s of sparkling. I'll press INSERT+5 on the NUM PAD or CAPS LOCK+K to say the current word. And just NUM PAD 5 by itself, or CAPS LOCK+COMMA.

JAWS Cursor

At other times the JAWS cursor takes over to perform actions that would normally be done using the mouse. The JAWS cursor is the mouse pointer. It can go places where the PC cursor cannot, for example, to the title bar at the top of many Windows applications. The JAWS cursor is used to manipulate the system mouse, read static text to which the PC cursor does not have access, and to access other parts of Windows to which the PC cursor cannot be moved. Press NUM PAD DASH to make the JAWS cursor active. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+P to make the JAWS cursor active.

EXERCISE: Open the Saint Pete practice document if you do not already have it open, and follow along as the instructor demonstrates using both cursors to read text within a document. The Saint Pete practice document is named SaintPete.rtf and can be found in the following location on your computer hard drive:
C:\Program Files\Freedom Scientific\Training\JAWS\enu


Why is it important to have the JAWS cursor voice be different from the PC cursor voice?

The JAWS cursor is the mouse pointer. It can go places where the PC cursor cannot. First off, you may not even know where the JAWS cursor is if you cannot see it. However, you DO know where the PC cursor is. It is on the letter s in sparkling.

  1. Use the keystroke to route the JAWS cursor to the PC cursor, INSERT+NUM PAD MINUS. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+LEFT BRACKET. Notice that JAWS speaks a message telling you that, and the voice is a slightly deeper pitch. The JAWS cursor, or mouse pointer, is now the reading cursor.
  2. Press INSERT+RIGHT ARROW to move to the word beaches, which is actually on the next line down. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+L. Verify that the JAWS cursor is on the b in beaches by pressing NUM PAD 5 by itself. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+COMMA.
  3. Now, activate the PC cursor again by pressing NUM PAD PLUS. On most keyboards that's the long vertical key just under the NUM PAD MINUS. It's the second key down from the top in the right column on the NUM PAD. JAWS says PC cursor and the voice changes back to the PC cursor voice. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+SEMICOLON.
  4. Press INSERT+NUM PAD 5 or CAPS LOCK+K to say the current word. Notice that the PC cursor is still on the word sparkling.
  5. Press NUM PAD 5 by itself or CAPS LOCK+COMMA and verify the PC cursor is still on the s in sparkling.
  6. Next, press the NUM PAD MINUS or CAPS LOCK+P by itself to activate the JAWS cursor again. Notice that JAWS says JAWS cursor and the voice changes back to a slightly deeper pitch.
  7. Press INSERT+NUM PAD 5 or CAPS LOCK+K to say the current word. Notice that the JAWS cursor is still on the word beaches.
  8. Press NUM PAD 5 by itself or CAPS LOCK+COMMA and verify the JAWS cursor is still on the b in beaches.

Guess what? You now have two different cursors in two different locations on the screen and you can activate either cursor and read with each independently. Pretty nice!

It is a good idea to keep the JAWS cursor voice sounding different from the PC cursor voice. That way when you hear the voice in a different pitch it helps to remind you which cursor is the active cursor.

Mouse Commands with the JAWS Cursor

The JAWS cursor can be used to simulate clicking of mouse buttons. For more information, view the section "Cursor and Mouse Commands for Desktop Layout" in the JAWS Keystrokes HTML file.

NOTE: A copy of JAWS Keystrokes in accessible PDF format is also included for your convenience.

EXERCISE: Let's take a look at an example. Follow along with the instructor as we take a look at the Help About box in the JAWS window.

Press the following keystrokes:

  1. INSERT+J to switch to the JAWS window.
  2. ALT+H to open the Help menu.
  3. A for About JAWS. The menu closes and the dialog box opens. JAWS begins reading the dialog box. When you are ready, press CTRL to stop speech if JAWS is still reading.

The static text in the Help About box was read automatically by JAWS. But what if you want to reread some or all of it? This provides a perfect example of how you can use the JAWS cursor to read static text and go somewhere the PC cursor cannot go. This type of situation occurs often in the Windows environment, so you should know how to work with it.

Find out where the PC cursor is and what it reads first, then route the JAWS cursor to the PC cursor and begin reading with it. When you are finished, use the JAWS cursor to click the OK button to close the dialog box. Remember to turn on the PC cursor when you are finished. Here are the basic steps to follow:

  1. Press TAB to explore where the PC cursor can go.
  2. Route JAWS to the PC cursor to get the mouse pointer (JAWS cursor) into the dialog box.
  3. Press PAGE UP to move to the top of the dialog box.
  4. Begin reading with some of the reading commands you have learned in this lesson. Include reading by:
  5. When you are finished, click the OK button with the JAWS cursor to close the dialog box.
  6. Finally, make the PC cursor active again.

Virtual PC Cursor

Text in a Web page is very much like the static text in a Windows status message. The PC cursor cannot move to this text, as there is no insertion point. The JAWS cursor can access this text, but this is not the most efficient way to access larger documents such as those often found on the World Wide Web. When using Internet Explorer 5 or later (or programs that tie into the core components of Internet Explorer), or Adobe® PDF files, JAWS provides the Virtual PC cursor to simulate an insertion point. This provides you the same functionality as that found in any word processing document. Text can be read by character, word, line, sentence, or paragraph, and text can be selected and copied to the Windows clipboard. The Virtual PC cursor is active by default in applications that support it. If you switch to another cursor, you can press NUM PAD PLUS to make the Virtual PC cursor active again. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+SEMICOLON.

Invisible Cursor

The Invisible cursor allows you to move around the screen without changing the position of the PC cursor or the mouse pointer. You can use this cursor to read text and access options that you cannot move to with the PC cursor. You can also use the Invisible cursor to provide a quick overview of the information currently available on the screen. To activate the Invisible cursor, press NUM PAD MINUS twice quickly. Use the standard JAWS reading commands to move the Invisible cursor around on the screen. Laptop users press CAPS LOCK+P twice quickly.

After completing these exercises, make sure that the PC cursor is your active cursor by pressing NUM PAD PLUS, laptop users, CAPS LOCK+SEMICOLON. Close the Saint Pete.rtf practice document by pressing ALT+F4 and answer "No" when asked if you want to save any changes.

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