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 8.1, and it's been updated to cover the Windows 8.1 update released in April 2014.
The Start screen replaces the Start menu in previous versions of Windows, and on the Start 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 which are referred to by a number of alternative names: Windows store apps, or modern apps, or Windows 8 apps. These are different from traditional programs in a number of ways, including:
Microsoft refer to traditional programs as desktop apps, but in this guide they are often referred to as desktop programs.
In Windows 8, Internet Explorer is available in two versions: an modern app version, and a traditional desktop version. By default, if you open Internet Explorer using a Taskbar button, then the desktop version opens, and if you open it from the Start screen, then a modern app version opens. However, you can change this so that you can open the desktop version from the Start screen, and this is described in the Opening the desktop version of Internet Explorer section of the Customizing section.
The Start screen contains:
You can move between the items in this list by pressing Tab or Shift + Tab.
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 Windows store apps which are installed by default. 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. You can 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. Each pinned item is represented by a tile, which can have number of different sizes, as described in the Tiles section below.
If you're using Jaws 15 or later, then there are couple of ways of moving around the pinned items. The first is to use standard Windows keystrokes, and the second, which is much easier, is to use Jaws's touch cursor. These are described in the next two sections.
If you want to know the current column and row number, you can find out by pressing Insert + Up Arrow.
The touch cursor was introduced in Jaws 15, and provides an alternative way of navigating the objects on the screen. To switch to the Touch cursor, press Shift + Numpad Plus, and if you need to switch back to the PC cursor, press Numpad Plus twice quickly. If you're using Jaw's laptop keyboard layout, then the two keystrokes are Shift + Caps Lock + Semicolon and Caps Lock + Semicolon twice quickly.
Using the Touch cursor:
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. Some of the tiles for Windows store apps are live tiles: they can contain information which is updated. For example, the tile for the News app contains a recent news headline.
Tiles can have a number of different sizes:
By default, the tiles for traditional programs are medium square tiles, and the tile for the Desktop is a Wide tile. The default tiles of Windows store apps vary. If you use Jaws's touch cursor to move around the pinned items, then you don't have to worry about the pinned items having different sized tiles. However, you can change the size of the tile of pinned item as follows:
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 + Up Arrow.
If the size of all the tiles is medium, then when you move an item forwards or backwards within a group, it's moved in the same order as when when you use the touch cursor to go through the items. If some of the items have different size tiles, then the order is changed to take account of this.
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 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:
To name a group, you first have to enable customization. To do this press Windows Key + Z to open the command bar, which appears along the bottom of the screen, and then press the customize button. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut for this button, which is Ctrl + E.
Then, to name or rename a group:
When you leave the Start Screen, the customize option is automatically turned off. If necessary you can manually turn if off using the same method used for turning it on.
From the Start screen you can easily search. If you type in some text, then a Search pane automatically appears on the right had side of the screen, and the text that you've typed appears in the search edit box in that pane, and the search results are shown below the edit box. This search pane is sometimes known as the Search charm.
For sighted users, the kind of search result is shown visually, for example by the program's icon or a setting icon. For users of screen readers, roughly the same information is provided by appending the kind of search result after the item's name. So you'll find that words such as app, setting, and file are appended to the names of the results.
Although, by default, you can search for many kinds of items, you'll probably use the search most often for opening items on the Apps screen: desktop programs and associated items, Windows store apps, and items pinned to the start screen, which can include portable programs and folders. If you're searching for settings or files, you'll probably find it easier to search for them with the scope of the search set to settings or files as described in the separate Search pane guide.
You can use either complete words or the beginnings of words as search terms. As you type characters in the Search box, the list of search results is continuously updated. Results from the Apps screen are always listed first, and if the first result is from the apps screen, then it's automatically selected. Whenever you pause after typing one or more characters, Jaws reads the name of any selected result. So, 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 select another item in the list so that you can then open it. You can select other items in the list by using Down Arrow and Up Arrow.
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:
The Apps screen contains a list which includes all the installed Windows store apps, and all the installed desktop programs together with any associated items.
From the Start screen, there are a couple of ways to move to the Apps screen: either press Ctrl + Tab, or Tab to the Apps button and press it. If you need to return to the Start screen, then either press Ctrl + Tab or Windows Key, or Tab to the Start button and press it.
The Apps screen contains:
You can move between the items in this list by pressing Tab or Shift + Tab.
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.
The list of desktop programs and Windows store apps and so on, can be sorted by name (the default), date installed, most used, and category.
The list is divided into two parts, and both of these are sorted alphabetically. The items in the first part are:
The second part of the list consists of groups of items, where the items can either be desktop programs, or items associated with these 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.
The items are sorted by the date they were installed, with the most recent coming first. In addition, they are also grouped into a small number of groups, with names such are last week. For items such as folders pinned to the start screen, then the date that they were pinned is used in this ordering.
The items are sorted by their frequency of use, from the most to the least frequent. In addition, they are grouped into a small number of groups such as most used, and moderately used.
The list is divided into two parts. By default the items in the first part are Windows store apps and associated items, and the items in second part are everything else. The items in both parts of the list are grouped into categories.
There's an option to reverse the order of the two parts of the list, and this is described in the List desktop apps first in Apps screen section, which is in the Customizing the Start screen section of the guide.
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 a summary, and can make navigation quicker. The items in the list are the names of groups of items in the original list, and in general, these are the same groups which are in the original list. The one exception to this, is when the items are ordered by name. In this case, the first group names 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.
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 the name of a group 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.
When you search the Apps screen, then you get the same results as the results with the word App appended when searching from the Start screen.
To search the Apps screen, you don't have to first move to the Search edit box. As soon as you start typing any text, the Search box automatically becomes the focus, the text appears in this box. The original list of items on the Apps screen is temporarily replaced by the search results.
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.
In addition to the items on the Apps screen, 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:
To Shut down, sleep, or restart, then once you've moved to the Start screen:
Windows 8.1 provides alternative ways to Shutdown, Sleep, and restart, including using the Quick link menu and the Shut Down Windows dialog, which are described in the next two sections.
Press Windows Key + X to open the quick link menu, open the Shutdown sub menu, and then choose shutdown, Restart, or Sleep. As an example of making use of the access keys, to shutdown you can press Windows Key + X, and then U twice.
As well as opening desktop programs and Windows store apps, you can also perform a number of additional tasks. These are available using a program's or app's context menu, which can be opened on either the Start Screen, or on the Apps screen or from the results list of a search.
Open the context menu of the app, and choose Uninstall.
Open the context menu of the program or app, 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 – the Open file location command does not appear on its context menu. If you want to create a shortcut for Internet Explorer, then this is one way of doing it:
In Windows 8, Internet Explorer is available in two versions: an modern app version, and a traditional desktop version. 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.
This is an option to go to the Desktop instead of the Start screen when you login. Note that following the Windows 8.1 update in April 2014, going to the desktop is now the default option.
This is an option to go the Apps screen instead of the Start screen when you press Windows Key:
This is an option to list desktop programs first in the Apps screen, when it's ordered by category:
|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|
|On the Start screen, move between the pinned items and the account picture button||Tab|
|On the Apps screen, cycle round the list of programs and apps, start button, list order combo box, and search box.||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|