A guide for users of the Jaws screen reader, written by David Bailes. More guides are available on the Jaws Guides page of the VIP Software Guides website.
This is a guide to the Start screen on Windows 8. Note that if you're using Window 8.1, there's a separate guide to Start screen on Windows 8.1.
The Start screen replaces the Start menu in previous versions of Windows, and on this screen you can:
To go to the Start screen, press Windows Key. If you move to item, or search for an item, you can open it by pressing Enter, and you'll automatically leave the Start screen. However if you want to leave the Start screen without opening anything, you can:
In Windows 8, there's a new class of program called a Windows 8 app. These are different from traditional programs in a number of ways, including:
In this guide, Windows 8 apps are normally referred to simply as apps, and traditional programs, are normally referred to simply as programs. Note that Microsoft refer to these traditional programs as desktop apps, since their windows normally appear on the desktop area of the screen.
In Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10 is available in two versions: an app version, and a traditional version, which is very similar to Internet Explorer 9 in terms of its user interface. By default, if you open Internet Explorer using a Taskbar button, then the traditional version opens, and if you open it from the Start screen, then an app version opens. However, you can change this so that you can open the traditional desktop version from the Start screen, and this is described in the Opening the desktop version of Internet Explorer section of the Customizing section.
When you open a context menu in a traditional program, the items in the menu are arranged in a column, and you move between them using Down Arrow and Up Arrow.
However, if you open a context menu of an item on the Start Screen or the Apps screen, or in the list of search results, then the context menu is displayed as a row of commands in the Command bar, which appears when it's needed at the bottom of the screen. You move between the commands using Right Arrow and Left Arrow. Jaws indicates that you've moved to the command bar, but unfortunately suggests the normal keystrokes for moving between the commands.
On Windows 8, you can't shut down, sleep, or restart from the Start screen. However, you can use either the Shut down windows dialog, or the Settings pane, as described in the next two sections.
The Start screen contains:
You can move between the pinned items and the account picture button by pressing Tab.
Moving around the pinned items on the Start screen is far from ideal for the users of screen readers. However, even if you don't find it useful to open pinned items by navigating to them on the Start screen, you may find it useful to pin items such as folders to the Start screen, since when you search from the Start screen, the search includes all the pinned items.
After a user account is created, the items pinned to the Start screen consist of the apps which are installed by default, and installed programs. There's also an item called Desktop. Opening this has the same effect as pressing Windows Key + D: you're taken to the active window on the desktop, or to the desktop, if there isn't an active window. When you install further apps or programs, then these are normally added to the Start screen. You can also unpin or pin items yourself, as described in the pinning and unpinning items section.
The pinned items are arranged into one or more groups. The groups are displayed in a row, and in each group, the items are laid out on a grid. You can move around the pinned items using the following methods:
If you want to know the current column and row number, you can find out by pressing Insert + Tab.
The pinned items on the Start screen are represented by tiles. These are similar to icons on the desktop, but they can have additional features.
The tiles for traditional programs are square. However the tiles for the desktop, and for some windows 8 apps are rectangular by default: they have the same height as the square tiles, but twice the width, and so take up two columns of the grid. When you move to one of these larger tiles, Jaws reads expanded after the name of the tile. You can change the size of these tiles to to square, like the other tiles, and this makes moving around the tiles more straight forward. To do this, move to such a tile, open its context menu, and choose Smaller.
Some of the tiles for apps are live tiles: they can contain information which is updated. For example, the tile for the News app contains a recent news headline.
There are a few reasons why you might want to pin an item to the Start screen:
You can pin items to the Start screen by choosing Pin to start from their context menu:
When an item is pinned to the Start screen, then it's added to the last group of pinned items.
To unpin an item, open its context menu and choose Unpin from Start. You can do this either in the list of search results, or on the Start screen or on the Apps screen.
If you want to remove all the pinned items on the Start screen, you can just keep on repeating the pair of keystrokes Application key and Spacebar, since Unpin from Start is the first command on the context menu.
There are standard windows keystrokes for moving a pinned item forwards or backwards though the pinned items. To move an item forwards, press Alt + Shift + Right Arrow or Alt + Shift + Down Arrow, and to move it backwards, press Alt + Shift + Left Arrow or Alt + Shift + Up Arrow. Although these keystrokes are normally used by Jaws to move the mouse, this is not the case on the Start screen.
Jaws does not give any feedback as you use these keystrokes, which is unfortunate, as the order in which the item is moved is not straightforward. To find out the current position you can press Insert + Tab.
For each group of pinned items, then behind the scenes, there is a list of these items, and the position of an item in this list determines where it's placed on the grid. Going down the list, the items are placed using a pair of columns at a time, so that items with double width tiles can be easily handled. Starting from the top of the list, then assuming square tiles for the moment, the items are placed at positions column1 row 1, column 2 row 1, column 1 row 2, column 2 row 2, and so on. Any items with double width tiles occupy both columns. If there are more items in the group than can fit into the first two columns, then the items are placed in the next two columns at the positions column3 row 1, column4 row 1, column 3 row 2, column 4 row 2, and so on. If you press either Insert + Up Arrow, or Insert + Tab, then when Jaws reads something like 5 in 11, it's the position in this list which it's referring to.
When you use the above keystrokes for moving an item forwards or backwards, you're moving it through the list of items for the group, and this determines where on the grid it's moved to.
The keystrokes also move the items between groups and allow you to create new groups:
On the Start screen, you can use a special type of zoom. This has just two settings: the default setting, and a setting when you zoom out. To Zoom out press Ctrl + Minus, and to zoom in, and so return to the normal setting, press Enter or Ctrl + Plus.
When you zoom out, the original groups of pinned items are replaced with a list of the groups. By default, the name of the group is the name of the pinned item which occupies the top left hand corner, that is column one, row one. However, if the group has been given a name, as described in the next section, then this name is used. This list of groups is displayed as a row, and so the the keystrokes for moving between the groups are Right Arrow, Left Arrow, Home, and End.
If you move to a group and press Enter or Ctrl + Plus, then you're returned to the normal zoom setting, with the first pinned item in the group as the focus.
When you're zoomed out, you can rearrange the order of the groups:
When you're zoomed out, you can name or rename a group:
From the Start screen or Apps screen, you can easily search for programs, apps, and items pinned to the Start screen. If you type in some text, then a search pane automatically appears on the right hand side of the screen, the text that you've typed appears in the search edit box in that pane, and the search results are shown as a list on the left hand side of the screen.
You can type in either complete words or the beginnings of words. As you type characters into to the Search box, the list of search results is continuously updated, and whenever there's a pause in your typing, Jaws reads the name of the first result. As soon as you hear the name of the program or item you want, you can press Enter to open it – you don't have to type in the full name.
Normally, by either typing in some distinctive search terms or by typing the full name, you can get the program or item you want to open to be the first item in the results list. However, to open some items, there's a need to move to another item in the list so that you can then open it. You can move to other items in the list by using Down Arrow and Up Arrow.
The full range of items which you can search for from the Start screen or Apps screen is a follows. You can search for anything on the Apps screen, that is:
In addition, you can search for the following, but you have to type in the full name of the item before it appears in the list of results:
You can also use the Search pane to search for settings and files, and to search an app, and this is described in a separate Search pane guide.
The Apps screen contains a list which includes all the installed apps, and all the installed programs together with any associated items. By default a group of Administrative tools is not shown, but you can change this, as described in the Showing the administrative tools section of the Customizing section.
From the Start screen, there are a couple of ways to move to the Apps screen:
If you need to return to the Start Screen, just press Windows Key, or Ctrl + Tab, or use the Command bar if you really want to.
On the Apps screen, the items are presented as a list which is laid out as a number of columns. The list is divided into two parts, and the items in the first part are:
The second part of the list consists of groups of items, where the items can either be programs, or items associated with programs. Examples of groups include:
When Jaws reads the position of an item in the list, it reads its position in the part of the list, not the entire list. Jaws uses the names Windows 8 apps and desktop apps for the two parts of the list, and these names are read out at the appropriate times when navigating the list. However, Windows 8 apps is a misleading name for the first part of the list, as it can contain items other than Windows 8 apps, as described above.
On the Apps screen, as on the Start screen, you can use a special type of zoom. This has just two settings: the default setting, and a setting when you zoom out. To Zoom out press Ctrl + Minus, and to zoom in, and so return to the normal setting, press Enter or Ctrl + Plus.
When you zoom out, the original list is replaced with a list which acts as a summary, and can make navigation quicker. The first items in the list are letters of the alphabet. A particular letter is present if at least one of the items in the first part of the original list starts with that letter. This is followed by the names of the groups of items, listed in alphabetical order. As is the case with the original list, can move through the items using the arrow keys, and Home and End.
If you move to a letter of the alphabet and press Enter or Ctrl + Plus, then you're returned to normal zoom setting, with the first item in the first part of the list which starts with that letter as the focus. Similarly, if you move to one of the names of the groups and press Enter or Ctrl + Plus, then you're returned to the normal zoom setting, with the first item in that group being the focus.
As well as opening programs and apps, you can also perform a number of additional tasks. These are available using a program's or apps context menu, which can be opened on either the Start Screen, or on the Apps screen or from the results list of a search. As described in the introduction, the context menu is displayed in the Command bar as a row of commands, and so you move between the commands using Right Arrow and Left Arrow.
Open the context menu of the app, and choose Uninstall.
Open the context menu of the program, and choose Pin to taskbar
Open the context menu of the program, and choose Run as administrator (Ctrl + Shift + Enter).
Note that you can't use this method to create a shortcut for Internet Explorer 10 – the Open file location command does not appear on its context menu. If you want to create a shortcut for Internet Explorer 10, then this is one way of doing it:
In Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10 is available in two versions: an app version, and a traditional version, which is very similar to Internet Explorer 9 in terms of its user interface. The default behaviour for which version of Internet Explorer is opened is that:
You can change this default behaviour on the programs page of the Internet Options dialog. There are a number of ways of opening this dialog, for example:
On the programs page of the dialog, the first two controls are:
The group of administrative tools includes tools such as System Information, System configuration, and Computer Management. By default, these are not shown on the Apps screen, and don't appear in any search results. To change this:
After setting the administrative tools to be shown, then an administrative tools group is added to the Apps screen, and the tools are pinned to the Start screen.
|Move to Start screen||Windows Key|
|Leave Start screen, and go back to previous location||Windows Key or Esc|
|Leave Start screen, and go to the active window on the Desktop, or the Desktop if there is no active window||Windows Key + D|
|Move between the pinned items and the account picture button||Tab|
|Move between the Start screen and the Apps screen||Ctrl + Tab|
|Search from the Start screen or Apps screen||Type search terms|
|Zoom out||Ctrl + Minus|
|Zoom in||Enter or Ctrl + Plus|
|Open a program running with administrative privileges||Ctrl + Shift + Enter|
|On the Start screen, move pinned item forwards through the pinned items||Alt + Shift + Right Arrow or Alt + Shift + Down Arrow|
|On the Start screen, move pinned item backwards through the pinned items||Alt + Shift + Left Arrow or Alt + Shift + Up Arrow|
|On the Start screen, when zoomed out, move group to the right||Alt + Shift + Right Arrow or Alt + Shift + Down Arrow|
|On the Start screen, when zoomed out, move group to the left||Alt + Shift + Left Arrow or Alt + Shift + Up Arrow|