Introduction to Microsoft Office 2013 with JAWS and MAGic

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In this module we will look at the Ribbon and several other features in Microsoft Office 2013. Most of the menus in Office have been replaced by what is now called a ribbon. The File tab, formerly the File menu, now opens in a new environment for Office 2010 and later called the Backstage View. The Office Backstage view is where you manage your files and the data about them. It is where you do things TO a file, as opposed to doing things IN a file.

NOTE: Even though the menus have been replaced by the ribbon, there are still many of the dialog boxes you might be familiar with in Office products. You just have to know how to get to them. One way is to use Dialog Launchers, mentioned further in this module. However, if you still remember the keystrokes from previous versions of Office that you pressed to do certain tasks, those keystrokes still work, in most cases. The problem is that if you don't remember the keystrokes, you won't have the menus to fall back on.

Description of the Screen for Microsoft Word 2013, an Overview

Start Screen

When programs in Microsoft Office first open, you are presented with a start screen in the backstage view. This typically contains a collection of different styles or templates you can use to create documents. To get out of this screen, just press ESC, and the program user interface most of us are familiar with appears. You can change the settings for each program to optionally not show the start screen, if desired.

After dismissing the start screen, the program window consists of the following items, from top to bottom:

Moving to Different Parts of the Window in Office 2013

Let us look at how to navigate within the different parts of a typical Office 2013 program, including moving from the document area to a task pane, the status bar, the ribbon, and so on. A couple of keystrokes you should remember include:

EXERCISE: Open Microsoft Word 2013 and follow along with the instructor.

  1. Type a sentence or a couple of words in the document to get started.
  2. Now, open the Apply Styles task pane. You can do it quickly by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+S. The Apply Styles task pane opens with focus in the Style Name edit combo box, on the word Normal, in my case. We are not going to apply any styles now, but the object is to show you how to move around in this environment.
  3. Press the F6 key. Focus moves from the apply styles task pane to the Status Bar at the bottom of the page. You can press RIGHT or LEFT ARROW to move across the status bar. For example, on my computer, focus first moved to the page number button. Press RIGHT ARROW and focus moves to the Line number button on my copy of Word, and most likely the Word count button on your copy. (Note: If you have customized the toolbar, you may find different buttons available.) Keep pressing RIGHT ARROW and, eventually, focus moves back to the Page Number button. Since these are buttons, you can press ENTER on any of them to perform certain tasks.
  4. Press F6 again and focus moves to the Ribbon. Much more time will be spent discussing the ribbon. For now, just press F6 again. Focus moves to the document edit area again.

So, that's how to navigate the big picture of what might appear on the screen. Use F6 or SHIFT+F6 to move with the keyboard to the different areas. If you're using the mouse, of course, you can just point and click.

For now, press F6 again until focus moves back to the apply styles task pane. Once there, press CTRL+SPACEBAR to open a context menu of choices and then press ENTER on Close to close it. Focus returns to the document.

NOTE: You don't have to have a task pane open to move around to the different parts of the screen. You can use the same keystrokes to do this without having a task pane open. However, many times one or more task panes will open when you are working in Microsoft Office 2013 and you need to know how to get to them. Once focus has moved to them, of course, you can press TAB or use the ARROW Keys to navigate to the different controls within them, depending on the task at hand.

The Ribbon

I think of the ribbon almost like a multi-page dialog box. The upper ribbon tabs stick up behind the ribbon except for the current one, which is in the foreground. When you click on one of the ribbon tabs, it comes into the foreground and the lower part of the ribbon changes to groups of buttons and controls specific to that particular tab. Unlike a multi-page dialog box, however, you cannot press CTRL+TAB to move from one ribbon tab to another. To move to the upper ribbon, just press the ALT key by itself and focus moves to the first tab for whatever program happens to be running. Then you can press ARROW keys to move left and right across the upper ribbon tabs. Remember, as you do this, the lower ribbon changes to the task at hand.

EXERCISE: Let's take a look at the ribbon in Microsoft Word 2013. Open Word 2013 if you have it and follow along.

Now, let's look at the ribbon in Word.

  1. Press the ALT key to move to the Home tab of the ribbon in Word. I hear MAGic or JAWS say "home tab."
  2. Press RIGHT ARROW to move to the right across the upper ribbon. You hear things like the Insert tab, Page Layout tab, References tab, Mailings tab, Review tab, View tab, and some of you may hear other ones, depending on what you've got installed.
  3. Continue pressing RIGHT ARROW from there and the focus eventually wraps around to the left side of the screen to the File tab and then back to the Home tab. I'm going to press ESC to get out of the ribbon.

File Tab and the Backstage View

The File tab is located in the upper left corner of the program window on what would be row two of the screen. Clicking or otherwise accessing the File tab opens the backstage view. You can access it from the keyboard by pressing ALT+F. Let's take a look at it. Go ahead and press the keystroke ALT+F. The backstage view has several parts to it. On the left side is something that resembles a vertical menu. Use the DOWN ARROW to move through the items here. As focus moves down or up these items, the area on the right side of the screen sometimes changes. JAWS will identify this to you by announcing the word TAB as if it were a vertical multi page dialog box.

The backstage view is usually divided into two or three sections:

NOTE: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all have the same items listed in the left side of the backstage view. Outlook is slightly different but behaves in a similar fashion.

To get out of the backstage view, press ESC or click on the Home tab of the ribbon.

Tab Order and Pinning Documents in the Backstage View

There is also a tab order in the backstage view. You can press TAB or SHIFT+TAB to move forward or backwards through the different choices, in addition to using the arrow keys. If focus is in the leftmost column of the file tab menu, for example, on the word Recent, press RIGHT ARROW or TAB and focus moves to the right side of the menu into a middle column where the recent documents are located. To the right of this column is another column titled Recent Places.

In the Recent Documents pane the default is to show up to 25 most recent documents. To the right of each document is a push pin. In the Recent Places pane the default is to show up to 25 recent places, such as folders, help, or web files. In this part of the backstage view one could press TAB 50 times before you get back to the beginning tab where Recent is. Each document (or place) is a tab stop. To pin or unpin a document in Office 2013, press the APPLICATION Key and choose "Pin to list" or "Unpin from list" from the context menu that opens.

NOTE: Remember, the right hand side of the backstage view automatically updates when you hear focus is on an item in the left pane called a tab. If focus is on one of the menu items in the left pane, you press ENTER and a dialog box will usually appear in a separate window.

If you don't have anything listed here in the recent documents pane, try creating or opening several documents and then open the menu again. As you open new documents or create new ones and save them, the most recent document becomes the number one in the list. So number one is the most recent document open, number two was the one opened prior to that, and so on.

NOTE: You can use a keystroke to open the recent documents IF you know what number the document is. The keyboard sequence is ALT+F followed by R, followed by the document number 1, 2, 3, etc. The most recent document is normally at the top of the list, unless you have pinned documents there. So if you know the number of each of the recent documents, you can access them quickly. Also, if you know you have three pinned documents, and you have modified another document more recently, you know you can open it by pressing ALT+F, R, 4.

As the recent documents list eventually gets filled up, documents at the bottom disappear to make room for the new ones at the top. Pinning a document here causes it to remain in this list. The pinned documents appear at the top of the list in alphabetical order, where they reside until you unpin them. Unfortunately, you cannot use first letter navigation in the recent documents list.

KeyTips and Keyboard Navigation of the Ribbon

When you press the ALT key and begin navigating in the ribbon, keyboard indicators, called keytips, appear. Visually, KeyTips remind me of Scrabble pieces. They look like a small block with a letter on them. Actually, though, sometimes a single KeyTip block can have more than one letter, it just depends. So, how do they work?

When you press the ALT key, KeyTips appear on all of the upper ribbon tabs. In Microsoft Word, they are:

In Excel, they are almost the same except for a couple of different tabs:

Pressing any of the KeyTips once they are activated on the upper ribbon causes that tab to come into the foreground if it is not already there. In addition, those KeyTips on the upper ribbon disappear and are then replaced by KeyTips on the lower ribbon. If you know the KeyTip to jump to a particular button or control on the lower ribbon, great, just press that KeyTip or combination of KeyTips to access it. If not, you can navigate through the lower ribbon by pressing TAB or SHIFT+TAB.

NOTE: When using the virtual ribbon menus with JAWS you cannot use the keytips built in to Word. Instead, you use the arrow keys or first letter navigation.

In earlier versions of Word, you could go to the Format menu by pressing ALT+O and then to Paragraph (P) and the paragraph dialog box would open, with the focus in the alignment combo box. Guess what? You can still do it that way in Office 2007 and later, provided you remember the exact keystrokes. You won't get any menus to help you remember.

EXERCISE: Type the keystrokes I just mentioned in Word 2013.

  1. First, press ALT+O. What happens? A dialog box pops up with those keystrokes in it. The dialog box reads, "Office Access Key: ALT, O, Continue typing the menu key sequence from an earlier version of Office, or press Escape to cancel."
  2. It is waiting for you to finish typing in the letter P, but there's not a menu to help you out if you don't remember. I'll go ahead and press P now. The familiar Paragraph dialog box opens and focus is in the alignment combo box. Basically, this is the same Paragraph dialog box as in previous versions of Office, but of course, it may have some new controls. Otherwise, you'll find it very familiar. I'll press ESCAPE to get out of this dialog box.

Finally, if you remember the direct hot keys for actions you can perform, for example, text alignment in earlier versions of Word, you can still use those as well. They are:

What it boils down to is this -- if you remember keystrokes for accomplishing a given task in previous versions of Office, you can generally still use them. However, you won't get any assistance or help if you don't remember them. If you DON'T remember them, you'll just have to learn how to do each task in the new way with the ribbon. It is going to take everyone a little time to figure out the new way, no matter if you are using a screen reader, a screen magnification program, or not. This is not an accessibility issue for screen reader users or screen magnification users. It's a learning issue for everyone.

Moving From One Ribbon Group to Another with the Keyboard

The controls on the lower ribbon are grouped together by function. For example, on the Home tab there are the following groups:

As you press TAB on the lower ribbon, you eventually move from one group to another. Each group may be composed of one or more rows of buttons, icons, and various controls. When using the ARROW Keys focus can move from one group to another and miss items that are in the row above or below where the cursor is at the moment. This is one of the primary reasons Freedom Scientific created the virtual ribbon menus. When you are using them, focus stays confined to the group as if it were a submenu. This gives you a much more predictable user experience and lessons the learning curve.

Conquering the QAT - The Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar, pronounced "cat," is actually located on the title bar, or the top row of the screen, over on the left side. Buttons that typically are found on the QAT might include the following, depending on the program in use:

There may also be other buttons present by default on the QAT, again, depending on the program in use. This will also depend on whether the QAT has been customized previously.

You can move to the QAT with the keyboard or you can click one of the shortcut buttons there with a mouse. The QAT can be customized; you may add or delete the buttons to suit your needs. Since I already know the keystrokes for Save, CTRL+S, Undo CTRL+Z, and Repeat CTRL+Y my own preference is to delete these and add new ones that I want to use. For example, in Outlook 2013, if I am reading an incoming message that has an attachment and I want to save the attachment, I have added the Save Attachment button to the QAT. Likewise, if I am creating or forwarding a new message, I have customized the QAT for composing messages to include the Attach File button.

Even though you may be able to find buttons in different groups on the ribbon and access them with a mouse or with the keyboard, adding those you use most often to the QAT makes them easier to find. Especially if they are not on the default ribbon tab and are initially hidden from view under a tab in the background.

Let's add a button to the QAT to see how it's done in Microsoft Word. The process of adding items to the QAT is the same in all Office applications.

Adding an Item to the QAT in Microsoft Word

  1. I have Microsoft Word 2013 open.
  2. If you're using the keyboard, move to the button on the ribbon that you want to add to the QAT. Let's use the button for inserting a table in Word.
  3. I'll press ALT followed by N to move to the Insert tab of the ribbon. It is hidden behind the Home tab, just to the right of it. If you're using a mouse, just click the Insert tab to bring it into the foreground.
  4. The table button is in the Tables group, the second group from the left. Using the keyboard, press TAB until you reach the Tables drop down grid. If you're using a mouse, just hang on for a second. If you are using the JAWS virtual ribbon menu feature, press DOWN ARROW to move to the Tables submenu, and then press RIGHT ARROW to open the submenu. Focus is on the table button dropdown grid.
  5. Once you reach the table button with the keyboard, press the APPLICATION Key. That's normally the third key to the right of the spacebar. Mouse users just right click on the button. In either case, a context menu opens. If you are not sure where the application key is you may also use the keystroke SHIFT+F10 to get the context menu.
  6. Choose "Add to Quick Access Toolbar." It becomes the last number in the QAT in that particular program. Since I did not delete the other three buttons there, it is now the fourth button on the QAT.

Accessing Items on the QAT

There are three basic methods to access the items on the QAT, depending on which application you are running and how you use the computer:

In Outlook when reading incoming messages or composing outgoing messages you will need to manually move to the QAT to access the buttons there. Here are the steps to do that in any Office program, including Outlook:

  1. Press ALT by itself to move to the Home tab of the ribbon. If focus moves to a different tab, which is possible if you were last working on a different tab in the ribbon, just press LEFT ARROW until you reach the Home tab.
  2. The QAT is directly above the Home tab. Press UP ARROW to move directly to it. Focus moves to one of the buttons on the QAT. Some of these buttons can have several different states, depending on what you have been doing in the application you are using. For example, you may find the Repeat button in the "can't repeat" state if you have done nothing yet that can be repeated, or the Undo button in the "can't undo" state if you have done nothing yet that can be undone.
  3. Press LEFT or RIGHT ARROW until you find the button you want to access. Pressing ENTER on this would activate the button and return focus to the document. NOTE: this may not work consistently when using the JAWS virtual ribbon menu feature. In that case, you should use the method described above by pressing ALT followed by the appropriate number of the button to access it.

EXERCISE: Let's test this in Word. Follow along with the instructor to insert a table into Word using the button you just added to the QAT.

  1. If you are not there already, switch to or open Microsoft Word 2013. Make sure you are in a practice document where you can insert a table.
  2. Press ALT followed by the number 4 to access the fourth button on the QAT, the insert table button. A grid opens that reads 1x1 table. This is a grid that changes as you right arrow and down arrow to include the number of columns and rows for the table you want to insert into the document. As the grid changes with each keystroke, a table with the corresponding number of rows and columns appears in the document. It is updated dynamically in the document as focus moves in the grid.
  3. I am going to choose a 3x3 table, or three columns and three rows. Press ENTER and focus returns to the document. The cursor is in the first row and first column of the table.

Removing an Item from the QAT

  1. Press CTRL+END to get out of the table you just inserted into the document. If you are just joining in this part of the lesson, make sure that the cursor is on a blank line in the document (i.e. not in a table).
  2. Press ALT to move to the Home tab of the ribbon. If focus is on a different tab, first press ALT+H to move to the home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Press UP ARROW to move to the QAT. It does not matter which button you are on for the purposes of this demonstration.
  4. Next, press the APPLICATION Key. If you are using a mouse, just right click any button on the QAT.
  5. Notice that one of the choices in the menu now is "Remove from Quick Access Toolbar." I'm not going to do it now, but it's very easy to accomplish. I'll press ESCAPE twice to get out of the menu and the QAT for now. Focus returns to the document area.

Alternatively, you can go to the Options dialog box for whatever Office program you are using and choose the Customize category. In this dialog box page you find a couple of list boxes, one with a list of possible candidates to add to the QAT and another with a list of items currently on the QAT. Next to the list for the QAT there is also an UP or DOWN button to rearrange the items on the QAT.

Contextual Tabs

Switch back to Microsoft Word if you are not already there, and then move the cursor into the table we created earlier. It does not matter where you are in the table.

When the cursor entered the table, the ribbon above also changed. A new set of tabs has appeared to the right of what was the last item on the ribbon before now. These are called Contextual Tabs, and they contain new buttons and tasks directly related to the table where the insertion point is. This is the Table Tools Contextual Tab section. It has actually caused two new tabs to appear on the ribbon that were not there before. They are a Design tab and a Layout tab, and focus is in the Design tab.


A Gallery is simply a collection of different items that pertain to the task at hand, such as a group of buttons that could be used to format a table layout, or a page number gallery that might have several different preformatted page number styles, or a shapes gallery with different preformatted choices such as lines, rectangles, and so on.

The contextual tabs for the table are still open on the ribbon because focus is still in the table. As soon as the cursor moves out of the table, the ribbon returns to normal. The contextual tab and any associated galleries disappear. However, whenever focus moves back into the table, those contextual tabs and galleries become available on the ribbon again. For now, I'm just going to press ESCAPE a couple of times to get completely out of the gallery and the ribbon.

Dialog Launchers

I mentioned earlier that you can still get to more-or-less familiar dialog boxes if you know how to. One way is to use dialog launchers. These don't appear everywhere on the ribbon, but when they do they are usually located in the lower right corner of any particular ribbon group. Using the JAWS virtual ribbon menus it will be the last item in a submenu for a group before focus wraps back to the top of the submenu. For an example, let's look at Microsoft Excel for a minute.

EXERCISE: Open Microsoft Excel if you don't already have it open. When I use Excel I often need to format groups of numbers. In Excel 2013, using the ribbon, here's how I might do it:

  1. First, select a cell or a range of cells to format, and then press ALT+H to move to the Home tab.
  2. Press TAB several times until you find format cell number button menu in the Number group. It is the seventh control of seven controls in this group.
  3. Mouse users click the button in the bottom right corner of the group. Keyboard users just press ENTER to open the Format Cells multi page dialog box.
  4. When you are finished press ESC to close the Format Cells dialog box. Focus returns to the worksheet area of Excel.

Finally, guess what? If you need this dialog box often, you might consider adding it to the QAT to make it easier to find. There is also a Microsoft Excel keystroke you can use for opening the Format Cells dialog box, CTRL+1.

Opening or Saving Documents in Office 2013

Because you have the ability to open or save documents in the cloud, getting to the more familiar Open or Save As dialog boxes takes a few more steps.

When you press CTRL+O in any Office 2013 program focus is on the Open tab in the backstage view, or the Save As tab if you pressed CTRL+S. There are two columns to the right of this first column. The second column has a list of categories, such as the following, for example, in Microsoft Excel:

The third column changes to show items related to whatever item is selected in column two. Since this is time consuming, the instructor recommends using the following keystrokes to immediately go to the Open or Save As dialog boxes:

JAWS Virtual Ribbon Menu Feature

NOTE: If you want to use the JAWS Virtual Ribbon menu feature follow the steps below to enable it.

  1. Press INSERT+F2 to open the list of JAWS managers.
  2. Press S until you find Settings Center in the list, and then press ENTER to open it.
  3. Press CTRL+SHIFT+D to open the default settings for JAWS. The title bar should indicate the default settings are opened.
  4. Type in the letters r i b. The tree view of settings center changes and filters out everything except for the virtual ribbon menu feature.
  5. Press DOWN ARROW to move to Use Virtual Ribbon Menu in the tree view.
  6. Press SPACEBAR to check the check box for using the virtual ribbon menus.
  7. Press TAB to move to the OK button, and activate it with the SPACEBAR. Settings center closes and the changes are saved.

For more information on using the JAWS virtual ribbon menu feature, visit the Archives of Free Webinar Training page Opens a new window and search for the heading, "Virtual Ribbon Menu Feature Archive."

When you're finished with this lesson, go ahead and press ALT+F4 to close Microsoft Word and Excel and just answer "no" if asked to save any changes.

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