Assistance using Microsoft Windows XP


Microsoft Windows XP has a built in narration utility, which is free although a little limited in use.

As their disclaimer says:
"Narrator is a text-to-speech program that can help people with low vision set up their own computer or use other people's computers. Narrator might not perform well with some programs and only speaks in English."

However, if you find it is satsfactory for regular use, the advantage is that it is a built-in utility with
Windows and is free.

Note: You must have sound enabled on your computer for narrator to work - if you here a beep or two when you start the computer then it has some sort of sound capability. Make sure the volume is not turned down very low or muted before continuing.

Below are instructions for switching on the narrator:

Action Using the mouse Using the keyboard
Click once on the start button. Press the Windows key ()on the keyboard or hold the Ctrl key down and press Esc (called the Escape key).
Move the mouse to "All Programs". If an additional menu does not automatically appear, click once. Press P on the keyboard and the press the Enter key or the right arrow key.
Click on or move the mouse over the Accessories option until another menu appears next to it. Press A to go to the first option starting with that letter. If it is not the Accessories option use the uparrow and downarrow keys to find it and the press enter.
Click on or move the mouse over the Accessibility option until aonther menu appears next to it. Press A to go to the first option starting with that letter. If it is not the Accessibility option use the uparrow and downarrow keys to find it and the press enter.
You should then see the accessibility menu. You should then see the accessibility menu.
Click on the narrator option Use the arrow keys to highlight the narrator option and press enter.


Alternative Instructions:

If you find the keyboard instructions above a little difficult to follow, there is an alternative below:

Action Using the keyboard
Press the Windows key (with the symbol on it).

The "Run" window should be displayed.

Type in the word narrator.

Press ENTER.

  Notes: A message box with a link to more information about Microsoft Narrator may appear. To close the box, press ENTER.

To use Narrator but hide the Narrator Settings box, select Minimize by pressing ALT and SPACEBAR,then N.

To turn off Narrator, in the Narrator Settings box, press ALT and X.


Narrator Settings:

Initially you may get a screen which gives you some general information about the narrator. If you do, click OK or press ENTER to get the next screen shown below which has some narrator settings on it. Assuming you have your volume turned up, you should also here a robotic type voice announce and dictate the windows as they appear.

Display Action

These are the default settings, which many people will find satisfactory. However, you can adjust them if you wish and most of the effects have an immediate effect so you can try them out without making them permanent.
At the bottom of the box shown opposite are buttons labelled Help, Voice and Exit. Clicking on Help does, as expected, display some additional help for this utility. The Voice option brins up another window with some limited voice options as detailed below. However, be warned that clicking on Exit, closes the narrrator and removes it from use. You should minimise the window by clicking on the little box at the top right (third from the end) with the symbol in it. This will leave a Narrator option on your toolbar across the bottom of the screen. Clicking on the red "X" button at the top right has the same effect as clicking the Exit button.

The "Start Narrator Minimized" option can be useful to enable once you have got the settings as you like. It saves you minimising the settings window every time you run it by doing it for you.


Voice Settings:  

Selecting the Voice option above will display a window like the one shown opposite.

The Narrator system built in to Windows XP only has the "Microsoft Sam" voice as an option. There are currently no other compatible voices you can obtain. You would need some third party software (at a cost) to hear a different voice.
However, you can adjust the Speed, Volume and Pitch settings for the voice by changing the values in the boxes shown. You can immediately hear the effect of changes you have made by clicking on either a menu in another open application or clicking on the Start button.
Select the OK option to make any changes permanent or use the Cancel option to put everything back as it was. Either of these options will return you to the settings screen shown above.