Taskbar (10 versions 1903 and 1909) Guide

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.

Contents

Introduction

This is a guide to the taskbar on Windows 10, using Jaws 2019 or later, and it covers both the 1903 and 1909 versions of Windows 10. There are only minor differences between these two versions, and for this guide, they only affect notifications.

The version number of Windows 10 became 1903 after the May 2019 update, and 1909 after the November 2019 update. All Windows 10 updates are being rolled out over a period of time. If you're unsure which version you have, then to find this, press Windows key, to open the Start menu, type the word winver, and press Enter. An about windows dialog opens, and it includes the version number. Guides to the taskbar for older versions are still available, including: a taskbar 10 version 1809 guide.

The taskbar is a thin bar that normally runs across the bottom of the screen, and contains:

If the focus is the Desktop, or one of the components of the taskbar, then you can cycle round these by pressing Tab. However, in practice, you'll normally use the more specialized keystrokes to move to the items in the taskbar, and which are described in this guide.

Desktop apps and Windows store apps

In Windows 10, in addition to traditional desktop programs, there are also Windows store apps. These are also often referred to as Universal apps, or modern apps, and are different from traditional desktop programs in a number of ways, including:

Microsoft refer to traditional desktop programs as Desktop apps, and this name will normally be used in this guide.

Start menu

Using the Start menu, you can:

To open the Start menu, press Windows Key. If you select a menu item and press Enter, then the Start menu automatically closes, just like any other menu. However, if you want to close the menu without choosing an item, you can press Esc or Windows key, which closes the menu and returns the focus to wherever it was before you opened the menu.

Normally, after you've selected an item on the menu, you'll just want to open it by pressing Enter. However, unlike normal menus, the items on the Start menu have context menus. For apps, these include commands for pinning it to the Start menu and Taskbar, which will be referred to in the relevant sections.

Structure

The Start menu opens immediately above the left hand end of the taskbar, and is divided into three main columns:

When the Start menu is open, the Search box on the taskbar behaves as if it's part of the Start menu, and the Search box is the initial focus. The Search box can be used for opening apps, and a range of other items, and is described in detail in the Search section of this guide.

Moving around the menu

After opening the Start menu, the Search box, which appears underneath the All apps list, is the initial focus. To move to other items, you can use the following keystrokes:

Start list

This list contains the following items:

Changing the list of places in the start list is described in the Customizing the start menu section. For example, you can include folders like your personal folder, and your music folder.

All apps list

From the Search box, you can move to the All apps list by pressing Up Arrow, or Down Arrow, or pressing Tab a few times. The list contains:

An item in the “all apps” part of this list is either an individual app, or a folder, which contains a number of items which have been grouped together. For example, the Windows Accessories folder contains apps such as Notepad and WordPad.

For each of the recently added, most used, and suggested groups, you can set whether or not the group is shown, and this is described in the Customizing the start menu section.

Selecting an item in the list

As with any list, you can select an item by pressing Up Arrow, Down Arrow, Home and End.

You can type the first character of an app to take you to the first app in the all apps part of the list which starts with that character. Note, however, that typing the character again doesn't take you to any subsequent apps starting with that character. You have to press Down Arrow to select other apps starting with the same character.

By default, each folder is collapsed. You can press Enter to expand it, and then the items which it contains are displayed below it.

Shut down, sleep, restart, and sign out

You can shut down, sleep, restart and sign out using either the start menu, or the Quick link menu which is described in the following section, and which you may find more convenient.

To Shut down, sleep, or restart, then after you've opened the Start menu:

  1. Tab to the Start list.
  2. Press Down Arrow till you get to Power
  3. Press Enter or Spacebar to open a menu, and choose Shut down, Sleep, or Restart.

To Sign out, then after you've opened the Start menu:

  1. Tab to the Start list.
  2. Press Down Arrow till you get to User account.
  3. Press Enter or Spacebar to open a menu, and choose Sign out.

Quick link menu

The Start button's context menu is called the Quick link menu. You can open it by moving to the Start button, and pressing the Application key, but a much quicker way is simply to press the shortcut for this menu, which is Windows key + X.

The Quick link menu contains a number of useful items, including: apps and features, and a Shutdown or sign out sub menu. The items on the menu all have access keys, so for example to shut down the computer you could press Windows key + X to open the Quick link menu, and then press the letter U twice.

Pinned tiles list

The pinned items are arranged into one or more groups. Each group has a group header, which contains its name, and below this are the pinned items in the group which are laid out as a grid. Each pinned item is represented by a tile, which can have a number of different sizes, as described in the Tiles section below.

If a new account is created using version 1903 of Windows 10, there are two groups: Productivity, and Explore. By default the pinned tiles list has one column for displaying these groups.

If the number of groups does not exceed the number of columns, then each group is placed in a separate column, and so in effect the groups are in a single row. If there are more groups, then these are added to the bottoms of the columns which already contain one or more groups. The maximum number of columns is three, and you can change the number of columns, as follows. With any item of the Start menu, apart from the Search box, as the focus, you can increment or decrement the number of columns by pressing Ctrl + Right Arrow or Ctrl + Left Arrow respectively.

After opening the Start menu, you can move to the pinned tiles list either by pressing Tab a few times, or by pressing Up Arrow to move to the All apps list, and then pressing Tab once. The initial focus is the group header of the first group.

Moving around the pinned tiles

To move around the pinned tiles:

Tiles

The pinned items on the Start menu 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 desktop apps are medium square tiles, but the sizes of the Windows store apps vary. You can change the size of the tile of a pinned item by opening its context menu, opening the resize sub menu and choosing a size. Note that on the Resize sub menu, the current size is checked.

Pinning and unpinning items

You can pin items to the Start menu by choosing Pin to start from their context menu:

When you first add a pinned item, it's added to a new group, rather than to either of the existing default groups. After that, the item is normally added to the last group.

You can unpin either individual items of groups of items. To unpin an item, open its context menu and choose Unpin from Start. For apps, you can do this either in the list of search results produced by using the Search box, in the pinned tiles list, or in the All apps list. For folders, drives, or libraries, you can do this either in the pinned tiles list, or in File Explorer.

To unpin a group of items, move to the group header, open its context menu, and choose Unpin group from start.

Rearranging the tiles

There are keystrokes both for moving groups, and moving the tiles within and between groups. All these keystroke coincide with the keystrokes used by Jaws for moving the mouse. So to use the keystrokes for rearranging the pinned items, you have to press the Jaws passthrough key Insert + 3 before you press one of these keystrokes.

To move a group, select its group header, and press Shift + Alt + Arrow key.

Moving a tile within and between groups is not at all easy using Jaws, as it doesn't give you any feedback as to where the tile has moved to, and how other tiles have been moved to accommodate this. The keystrokes are again Shift + Alt + Arrow key, but it may not be worth the struggle.

Naming a group

To name or rename a group:

  1. Select the group header, and press Enter. The focus becomes an edit box.
  2. If there is any existing text in the edit box, it is unselected, so if you which to overwrite the name, just press Ctrl + A to select this text, before typing in the new name.
  3. After you have typed in the text, press Enter to close the edit box.

Additional tasks

As well as opening desktop and Windows store apps, you can also perform a number of additional tasks. These are available using an app's context menu, which can be opened after selecting an app either anywhere on the Start menu, or in the list of results produced by using the Search box, which is described in the Search section.

Uninstall a Windows store app.

Open the context menu of the app, and choose Uninstall. Note that it appears that not all Windows store apps can be uninstalled.

Pin a desktop or Windows store app to the taskbar

Open the context menu of the app, and either choose Pin to taskbar, or if that isn't present on the menu, open the More sub menu, and then choose Pin to taskbar.

Create a shortcut on the Desktop for a desktop app

  1. Open the context menu of the app, and either choose Open file location, or if that isn't present on the menu, open the More sub menu, and then choose Open file location. File Explorer opens at one of the locations where the shortcuts corresponding to to items in the All apps list are stored, and the shortcut to the app is selected.
  2. Open the shortcut's context menu, open the Send to sub menu, and choose Desktop (create shortcut).
  3. Press Alt + F4 to close File Explorer.

Create a keyboard shortcut for a desktop app

If there's already a shortcut on the desktop for the app, then you can open the properties dialog of that shortcut to create a keyboard shortcut. However you can create a keyboard shortcut without having to create a desktop shortcut:

  1. Open the context menu of the app, and either choose Open file location, or if that isn't present on the menu, open the More sub menu, and then choose Open File location. File Explorer opens at one of the locations where the shortcuts corresponding to the items in the All apps list are stored, and the shortcut to the app is selected.
  2. Open the shortcut's context menu, and choose properties. The properties dialog for the shortcut opens on the shortcut page.
  3. Tab to the Short cut key edit box. Press a single character, and the shortcut will be Ctrl + Alt + character.
  4. Press Enter to press the default OK button.
  5. Press Alt + F4 to close File Explorer.

Create a shortcut on the desktop for Window Store or Desktop apps

You can't create a shortcut on the desktop for a Windows store app using the Start menu. If you open its context menu, there's no menu item to open its file location. However, you can create one using File Explorer, and the instructions are given here for convenience.

  1. Press Windows key + E to open File Explorer.
  2. Press Alt + D to move to the address bar, type shell:appsfolder (without any spaces), and then press Enter. The items view now includes an item for each of the apps in the All apps list.
  3. In the items view, select an item, open its context menu, and choose Create shortcut. A dialog opens, telling you that “Windows can't create a shortcut here. Do you want the shortcut to be placed on the desktop instead?”.
  4. The Yes button is the initial focus in this dialog, so just press Enter to press it.

When you open the Start menu by pressing the Windows Key, the Search box is the initial focus, and this can be used for opening apps, and a wide range of other items.

To open most apps, type either all or part of its name into the Search box, and press Enter. You can type in either complete words of the beginnings of words, and whenever there's a pause in your typing, Jaws reads out the best match to what you're typing. As soon as you hear the name of the app, you can press Enter to open it – you don't have to type in the full name.

The following sections describe the use of the Search box in more detail.

What is searched

The Search box can be used for finding and opening the following categories of items, and the search results are displayed using these categories:

You can limit the search to specific categories, as described in the Searching a specific category section below.

Searching

As soon as you type any characters into the Search box, the Start menu is replaced by the Search window. A column in this window is directly above the search box, and the search results are displayed in this column. The Search window is described in more detail in the Search window section below.

You can use either complete words or the beginnings of words as search terms. As you type characters into the Search box, the list of search results is continuously updated. The first result is automatically selected, and whenever you pause after typing, Jaws reads the name of this item, followed by its category. You can open it by pressing Enter. Jaws also reads the phrase “press right to switch preview”. The search result's preview provides one way of accessing alternative actions to simply opening the result, and is described in the More actions section below.

Normally, by either typing in some distinctive search terms, or by typing the full name, you can get the item you want to open to be the first item in the list. However, sometimes there's a need to select other items in the list, so that you can open them. You can do this by using Down Arrow and Up Arrow. Note that these keystroke don't move the focus away from the Search box – if you type in more characters, these appear in the search box.

From all the search results, only about the top eight are shown. The best match or matches are at the top of the list, and the rest are grouped using the categories which were described in the last section, for example apps and settings. Before each of these groups, there is an item which acts as a group heading, and which has the form: Find results in some category. Note that for web results, this item is Find results in search suggestions. If you select one of these items, and press Enter, then the search results are filtered so that only results with that category are shown. Sometimes a group heading is present in the results list with no search results in its category following it. And so in this case, you have to press Enter to see any results in this category.

More actions

Most of the time, you'll probably just want to open the item you find. However, other actions are available from a search result's context menu, and its preview.

The commands which are on an search result's context menu depend on the category of the result. For apps, some of the commands were described above in the Additional tasks section, which is in the Start menu section. For files, you can open its location, which opens File Explorer at the location of the file. This can be useful if you don't know where a file has been saved. Note that when you open the context menu, Jaws does not announce that the menu has been opened, you can still select menu items using Down arrow and Up arrow.

As described above, after the name and category of a search result, screen readers read the phrase “press right to switch preview”. If you press Right Arrow, then the focus moves to a preview of the result which is displayed in a column to the right of the search results in the Cortana window. As in the case of a search result's context menu, its preview also depends on the category of the result. For example:

Searching a specific category

You can limit a search to a specific category, for example, settings or documents, and the following sections describe three ways of doing this. Just use the way that you find most convenient. When you search for documents, the names, properties, and the contents of files are searched, rather than just the names.

Using the filter your results tab list

You can set the category using the filter your results tab list either before or after you type in your search terms. However if you want to do this before typing in your search terms, you need to press Windows Key + S to open the Search Window, rather than just pressing Windows Key to open the Start menu, because the filter your results tab list is part of the Search Window.

Press Up Arrow to move to the Filter your results tab list. This list is laid out as a row, and appears along the top of the Search window. You can move between the items using Left Arrow and Right Arrow. The list contains tabs for finding results in some of the more common categories, and a more button.

To filter for one of the more common categories, move to the appropriate tab, for example, the documents tab and press Enter to select it. The focus returns to the search box. If you have already typed in your search terms, Jaws will read the first result. Otherwise, type in your search terms.

To find results in other categories, move to the More button, and press Enter to open a menu. Move to the item you want, and press Enter.

If you want to remove the current filter, press Up Arrow until you get to the Filter your results tab list, move to the All tab, and press Enter.

Specifying the category in the Search box

You can limit a search to a category by typing the category followed by a colon followed by your search terms. For example, if you are looking for a document which is either named fred or contains the word fred, you can type doc:fred. You can use the following words to specify the category which is searched: app, doc, folder, music, photo, setting, video, and web. In addition, if you've signed in with a Microsoft account, then you can also use the words email, and people. Where appropriate you can also use the plural form of these words, so for example, you could search using either app:fred or apps:fred. You can also use document rather than doc, if you really want to type the extra letters.

Using the headings in the list of results

As mentioned above, before each of the groups in the list of results, there is an item with a name which has the form: Find results in a category, for example, apps. To use one of these items to filter the results, select it, and press Enter.

Search Window

After opening the Start menu, as soon as you type any characters in the Search box, the Start menu is replaced by the Search window. You can also open the Search window directly by pressing Windows Key + S. The Filter your results tab list always runs along the top of the window, but the contents of the main part of the window depend on whether there is any text in the search box.

If there's some text in the search box, then the main part of the window is divided into two columns. The first column, which is directly above the search box, contains any search results. The second column shows the preview of the selected result.

If there's no text in the search box, for example, immediately after pressing Windows Key + S, then the main part of the window contains:

You can select these items using the Down Arrow and Up Arrow keys.

Cortana

Cortana is a personal assistant. You can ask Cortana questions, and ask it to do tasks like setting an alarm or reminder. If you ask it to “tell me a joke”, some of the jokes are even quite good.

To be able to respond to many types of requests, Cortana needs your permission to collect and use personal information. When this occurs, Cortana's request for your permission to use some specified personal information appears in the main area of the Cortana window, together with “Sure” and “Maybe later” buttons.

In addition, for many requests, Cortana needs to have access to a Microsoft account. If you've signed into the computer using a Microsoft account, then Cortana automatically has access to this account. However if you've signed in with at Local account, then you'll need to sign in to Cortana with a Microsoft account, which is described the Signing into Cortana with a Microsoft account section.

Cortana sends notifications to the action center for items such as reminders and breaking news about the interests which you've given in Cortana's notebook, which is described below. If you use Microsoft's Edge browser, then on a new Tab, the items are customized according to your interests.

The Talk to Cortana button on the Taskbar has the shortcut Windows + C. However, before you can use this shortcut, it has to be enabled in the Settings app, as described in the Customizing Cortana section which is in the Customizing the Taskbar section.

Speaking a request

There are a couple of ways that you can indicate to Cortana that it should listen for a request. The first way is to press the Talk to Cortana button:

  1. Press Windows key + C to press the Talk to Cortana button. Cortana immediately plays a sound to indicate that it is listening. In addition, the Cortana window opens, and a button at the bottom of this window is the initial focus. When Cortana is listening, the name of this button is execute now, otherwise it's talk to Cortana. So when the window first opens the name of the button is execute now. You may want to press Ctrl to silence Jaws when it starts reading the name of the button.
  2. Speak your request. You don't have to press the execute now button, but you can if you want to. If Cortana can deal with this request, then any reply is shown in the main area of the Cortana window, and Cortana reads at least some of the reply. If you need to read more than Cortana reads out, then because the reply is formatted like a web page, you should be able to use all the standard Jaws commands for reading web pages. However, when this was tested in September 2019, these Jaws commands were not working. After Cortana has stopped reading, the focus may already be in the main column, but if not, you can easily Tab to it.
  3. If Cortana can't deal with your request, then it opens a web browser to search for your request on the web.

You can also set Cortana to listen for a request after you have spoken the phrase “Hey Cortana”. How to set whether Cortana responds to this phrase is described in the Customizing Cortana section, which is in the Customizing the Taskbar section.

After you say Hey Cortana, then a window opens which is either the standard Cortana window, or a full screen version of the Cortana window. The full screen version opens in the following two circumstances: the first is that it's been longer than about ten seconds since you pressed a key on the keyboard; the second is that you've recently said hey Cortana, but haven't spoken a request.

The full screen version of the Cortana window includes Close and Microphone buttons, and the Close button is the initial focus.

Cortana window

The Cortana window opens as soon as you press the Talk to Cortana button (Windows Key + C). If you say “Hey Cortana” then as described in the last section, either the Cortana window or a full screen version of that window opens. The remainder of this section describes the standard Cortana window which contains more controls, enabling you to perform more tasks.

The window opens immediately above the Talk to Cortana button on the taskbar, and is divided into two main parts.

The execute now button is the initial focus, and pressing Tab cycles you round: the navigation list, the close button, any controls or links in the main area, and the Talk to Cortana / Execute now button.

Navigation list

This list contains both items for setting which page is displayed in the Cortana window, and items for opening the Settings app at an appropriate page. For both cases, select the item in the list and press Enter. The items in the list are as follows:

Cortana's notebook

Using Cortana's notebook you can specify which tasks you want Cortana to perform for you, provide personal information to help with those tasks, and edit the lists and reminders which can be managed by Cortana. You can access Cortana's Notebook on the Notebook page of the Cortana window:

The main page of Cortana's notebook contains:

Unfortunately, Jaws does not read which of the two tabs is selected. To select one of the tabs, tab to the tab name and press Enter.

Organizer tab

On this tab, you can edit the lists and reminders which are managed for you by Cortana. The tab contains four links:

Manage Skills tab

On this tab, you can specify which tasks you would like Cortana to perform for you, such as keeping you up to date with the news or the weather. In addition, you can supply information to help Cortana with these tasks.

There are a number of links, which each open a page, and all these pages contain a back button.

Help and tips

To go to a collection of help and tips for using Cortana:

  1. Press Windows key + C to open the Cortana window. The execute now button in that window becomes the focus, and you can press it to save time. Cortana says that it didn't hear you.
  2. Press Tab to move to the list in which Home is the initial focus, and press Enter to refresh the home page.
  3. Tab to an all tips link, and open it. A help and tips page is shown in the main area of the Cortana window.

The help and tips page contains a series of links for the things which Cortana can help you with. If you Tab to a link and open it, you're taken to a new page which contains a series of links, which are ideas for requests. If you open a link, then Cortana receives that request, and any reply is shown in the main area of the Cortana window. If you want Cortana to read the reply, then speak the request, rather than opening the link. To return to the previous page, press Shift + Tab to move to a back button, and press it.

Taskbar buttons

Assuming the default settings for taskbar buttons, which are described in the Customizing the taskbar buttons section of the Customizing section, an app has a button on the taskbar if it's pinned to the taskbar, or it's running and has one or more windows open. Using an app's taskbar button you can:

There are two main ways of interacting with the taskbar buttons:

The first taskbar buttons are for the pinned apps. By default, after Windows has been installed, a number of apps are pinned to the taskbar, but you can easily pin and unpin apps as described in the Pinning and unpinning apps section.

Although you may find using the taskbar buttons convenient, you don't have to use them: you can open apps using the Start menu, and there are two other ways of switching to opened windows:

Moving to a taskbar button

You can use Windows Key + T to cycle round the taskbar buttons. If the focus is not one of the taskbar buttons, then pressing Windows Key + T moves you to the first taskbar button, and if the focus is one of these buttons it moves you to the next button.

Once the focus is one of the taskbar buttons, you can also use these keystrokes to move around the buttons:

When you move to a button, Jaws tells you the number of windows which the app has open:

Note that the number of open windows determines what happens if you press the button using Spacebar, as described in the next section.

Interacting with a taskbar button which is the focus

If you move to a taskbar button for an app which has one or more windows or tabs open, then a taskbar switcher list box temporarily opens above the button, and this contains the titles of these open windows or tabs, in the order in which they were opened. The focus doesn't automatically move to this list box, but it's used in some of the following tasks, and is described in more detail in the next section.

If a taskbar button is the focus, then:

Task switcher list box

The task switcher list box automatically opens above an app's taskbar button if the button has the focus, and the app has one or more open windows or tabs.

The list box normally contains the titles of an app's open windows, listed in the order in which they were opened. However, in the case of Internet Explorer, if an open window contains multiple tabs, then there are titles for each of the tabs, rather than just a single title for the window, and these are also listed in the order in which they were opened. Bug Warning: Jaws seems to think that there are three times as many items in this list box as there actually are. So, for example, if there are two items in the list box, then when Jaws reads the first item, it incorrectly says 1 of 6.

The items in the list box are displayed as a row of items, and you can use the following keystrokes in the list box:

The task switcher list box can also temporarily open whilst using the Windows Key + number keystroke, as described in the next section.

Keystrokes which use an app's position

There are a number of keystrokes which use the position of an app's button on the taskbar, and you can use the numbers 1 through to 0, which gives a total of 10 possible apps. Normally these are useful only for pinned apps, because their positions are known.

Pinning and unpinning apps

You can pin an app to the taskbar either using the taskbar buttons, or from the Start menu.

To pin an app to the Taskbar using the taskbar buttons:

  1. Open the app, and move to its taskbar button.
  2. Open its context menu, and choose Pin to taskbar.

To pin an app to the Taskbar from the Start menu:

  1. Move to the app either on the Start menu or in the list of search results.
  2. Open its context menu, and choose Pin to taskbar.

So, for example, if you wanted to pin the Control Panel to the taskbar, you could open the Control Panel, press Windows key + T until you get to the taskbar button for the control panel, and then choose Pin to taskbar from its context menu.

To unpin an app from the taskbar, select the pinned app, open its context menu, and choose Unpin from taskbar.

Changing the order of the pinned apps

Sighted users can change the order of the pinned apps by dragging them using the mouse. Although, in theory, Jaws users can do this using the Jaws cursor, in practice it's easier just to remove all the pinned apps, and then pin the apps in the order that you want.

Jump Lists

For many apps, Windows 10 provides a Jump list, which contains recent or frequently opened items, and can also contain more permanently pinned items. For example, File Explorer's jump list contains frequent locations, and Microsoft Word's contains recent document. If an app has a jump list, then it's included in the context menu of both the app's taskbar button, and the app on the Start menu. So if an item is on an apps jump list you can quickly open it by choosing it on one of these context menus.

A Jump List is divided into one or more sections, and the following sections often appear, and in this order:

Note that in the context menu of an app's taskbar button, Jaws reads the names of these groups as you move about the menu, but this isn't the case in the context menu of an app on the Start menu.

You can select an item using most of the usual keystrokes for a list: Up Arrow, Down Arrow, Home, and End. Unfortunately, you can't use the first character of the item — hopefully Microsoft will fix this.

Pinning and unpinning items

There are a couple of ways of pinning a frequently used or recent item:

Similarly, there are a couple of ways of unpinning a pinned item:

Notification area

The notification area contains a clock and an number of icons, which normally represent background programs or services which are running on the computer. In versions of Windows before Windows XP, the notification area was known as the System tray, and Jaws still refers to it using this name.

Each icon normally provides some status information, and allows you to change some of the settings of the program or the service. Examples of icons which are normally present are a speaker(volume) icon, and a network icon. New in Windows 10, there is an action centre icon which provides one of the ways of opening the Action centre, and provides the status information as to whether there are any new notifications in the Action centre. Unfortunately the status of this icon is not currently accessible to users of screen readers. Notifications and the Action centre are both described in the next main section of this guide.

By default, some of the icons are hidden. However, you can either set them all to be shown, or set each icon individually, as described in the Customizing the notification area section of the Customizing section. Normally, it's most convenient to have them all shown.

You can interact with the icons and the clock using either keystrokes which are part of Jaws, or standard Windows Keystrokes, and these are described in the next two sections.

Using Jaws keystrokes

You can access the icons in the notification area by opening the Select a System Tray Icon dialog (Insert + F11), and you can read the time by pressing (Insert + F12), and the date by pressing the latter keystroke twice quickly.

The Select a System Tray Icon dialog contains:

So, for example, to open the volume mixer dialog to adjust the system volume:

  1. Press Insert + F11 to open the Select a System Tray Icon dialog.
  2. Press the letter S until you select the Speakers.
  3. Press Enter to press the default Right Single Click button.
  4. The volume icon's context menu opens with Open volume mixer selected. Press Enter to choose this option.
  5. The Volume mixer dialog opens, and the initial focus is the volume slider of the Speakers. Adjust the volume, and then close the dialog by pressing Enter.

Using Windows keystrokes

Assuming that all the icons are shown, then you can use the following keystrokes to move to an icon.

When an icon is the focus, then a small amount of text appears above the icon, and this is what Jaws reads when you move to an icon. This text is normally either the name or the status of the program or service which the icon represents.

With an icon as the focus:

If there are any hidden icons, then the first item in the notification area is a notification chevron button. If you press this button then a toolbar, which contains the hidden icons, appears directly above the notification area. You can then access all the icons using the arrow keys. However if the button is the focus, you can't use the first character of an icon to move to it.

Note that for a small number of icons, after you have pressed Spacebar, or Enter or Application Key, the mouse pointer is moved to this icon, and this can interfere with the subsequent navigation to the other icons in the Notification area.

Notifications

From time to time, Windows or an app, may want to draw your attention to some information, such as an update has been installed, or you have a new mail message. This can be done using a notification, which can take the form of one or more of the following:

The notifications sent by apps and from Windows, can be customized in the Settings app, as described in the Customizing notifications section. For each sender, you can set whether or not you want notifications, and if you do, you can set which sorts of notification are sent. The default settings for many, but not all senders are to send all types of notification. In addition, for some apps, the notifications sent by them can be customized in their own settings.

For periods of time when notifications banners and sounds would be an unwanted distraction, a feature known as Focus assist allows you to temporarily control which notification banners and sounds are received. Focus assist is a successor to quiet hours which was available in previous versions of Windows 10, and is described in the Focus assist section below.

Notification banners

A Notification banner is a small window which temporarily appears above the notification area, and it's also often called a toast notification. Jaws automatically reads the content of a notification banner, and while the notification banner is still open, you can move to it by pressing Windows key + Shift + V. By default, notification banners stay open for about 5 seconds before closing, but you can increase this time to give yourself more time if you need to move to them, as described in the Time notification banners remain open section of the Customizing section.

After moving to a notification banner, pressing Spacebar or Enter normally takes you to the app or part of Windows which sent the notification. In addition, a notification banner may contain controls for actions related to the notification, and always includes a dismiss this notification button. You can move between these controls by pressing Tab and Shift + Tab. Once the notification banner is the focus, you can also dismiss it by simply pressing Delete. In rare cases where more than one notification banner is open, if you tab past the dismiss this notification button, you'll move to another notification banner.

Action centre

The easiest way of opening the Action centre is to use the shortcut Windows key + A. Alternatively you can move to the action centre button in the notification area, and press it. You can close the Action centre by pressing Esc or Windows key + A. The Action centre contains the following controls:

If there aren't currently any notifications, then the list of notifications, and the clear all notifications button are not shown.

When the Action centre opens, the Action centre window is the focus. You can move to the list of notifications by pressing Down Arrow. If there are no notifications, then pressing this key takes you to the collapse/expand quick actions button. You can also Tab to the list of notifications, but if you are using version 1909 of Windows 10, then you'll have to Tab past the Manage notifications button.

You can cycle round the controls forwards or backwards by pressing Tab or Shift + Tab respectively.

List of notifications

The notifications are grouped by the Windows service or the app which sent them. In the list, the name of the group appears before the notifications in that group, and has the format “Notifications from some group”. By default, for each group, the Action centre keeps only the three most recent notifications, and in addition, some notifications are automatically removed after an appropriate time. So although there are a number of ways of removing notifications manually, you won't normally need to use them.

You can move to all the items in the list using the keystrokes Up Arrow, and Down Arrow. In addition, you can move through just the names of the groups, by pressing Tab or Shift + Tab.

After moving to a notification in the list, pressing Spacebar or Enter normally takes you to the app or part of Windows which sent the notification. In addition, the notification may contain controls for actions related to the notification, and if present, these controls come after one or two buttons, which will now be described.

At the right hand side of each notification in the list, there are some buttons, which you can move to by tabbing:

The context menu of a notification usually contains the following items for customizing the notifications from that sender:

To the right of each group name there's a “Clear all notifications in this group” button. Again, as an alternative to moving this button by pressing Tab and pressing it, you can just press Delete. If you Tab past the button, you'll move to either the next group name, if there is one, or the Collapse/Expand quick actions button.

For each Windows service or app which sends notifications, there is a priority level which determines how near the top of the list of notifications the notifications from that sender appears. So by setting the appropriate priorities, you can ensure that the notifications of most interest are at or near the top of this list. How to set the priorities of senders is described in the Customizing notifications section.

Focus assist

Focus assist allows you to temporarily control which notification banners and sounds are received. The notifications sent to the Action centre are not affected. It has three settings:

You can change the Focus assist setting both manually, and by using automatic rules. One way of manually changing the setting is to use the context menu of the action centre icon in the notification area:

  1. Press Windows key + B to move to the notification area.
  2. Since the action centre is the last icon in the notification area, you can move to it by pressing Left Arrow.
  3. Open its context menu, open the Focus assist sub menu, and choose an option.

You can also manually change the focus assist setting by going to the focus assist page of the Settings app, and you can do this by searching for focus assist in the Start menu.

You can set focus assist to turn on automatically, triggered by the time of day and for some tasks. The settings for the automatic rules are also on the focus assist page of the Settings app, and are described in the Customizing focus assist section.

Customizing the taskbar

In Windows 10, many of the settings for customizing the various parts of the taskbar are to be found in the Settings app. And so this will be described in the next section, before going on to the describe the customizations.

Settings app

The easiest way of opening the Settings app is by pressing the shortcut Windows key + I. Alternatively, by default it appears in the start list on the Start menu, or you can search for it.

The following sections describe both how to browse the pages of the Settings app, and how to search for settings.

Home page

The home page of the Settings app contains:

You can move between the Search box and the list of main categories by pressing Tab. If you move to one of the main categories in the list, and press Enter, then you're taken to a page for that category, and the layout of this page is described in the next section.

Main category page

The page for each main category contains:

When a main category page opens, the first category in the category list is selected, so if you're interested in the settings for this category, you can just Tab past the list to them. If you're interested in another category, move to it in the list and press Enter, and then you can Tab to the settings.

There are a couple of keystrokes for moving around the Settings app:

A type of control which is used for many of the settings is a control which Jaws reads as being a button. This control behaves like a switch which can be either On or Off, and you can change its setting by pressing Spacebar. Note that whilst Jaws 2018 or later reads the state of the button as On or Off, Jaws 18 or earlier reads the button as being checked if it is On, and just reads the name of the button if it is Off.

Search box

You can search for settings from both the home page, and the main category pages. You can move to the Search box either by tabbing, or pressing Ctrl + E. The results includes settings in both the Settings app the Control Panel.

Once you have moved to the search box, there a couple of ways in which the search results can be presented. The first way uses a drop down list:

  1. Type in your search terms. The search results appear in a drop down list box which is displayed below the search box.
  2. Select one of the search results in the list by pressing Down Arrow, or Up Arrow, and then press Enter.

The second way gives a very similar experience to searching in the Cortana window:

  1. Once you have moved to the Search box, press Enter. You are taken to a new page, which contains only a search box, and a home button.
  2. Type in your search terms. As soon as you start typing, as list of search results is displayed, and in similar manner to searching in the Cortana window, Jaws reads the first result when there is a pause in your typing.
  3. If the first result is what you were searching for, just press Enter. Otherwise you can select other results in the list using Down Arrow and Up Arrow, and then press Enter.

Customizing the Start menu

The settings for the Start menu can be found in the Settings App. In the main Personalisation category, there's a Start category which includes controls for the following settings:

Whether the most used, new and suggested apps are shown in the All apps list

There are the following buttons:

Which items appear in the start list

By default, the list of places in the start list are Documents, Pictures, and settings. To changes which places appear in the list, open the “Choose which folders appear on Start” link. You're taken to a page which contains a button for each of the items which can appear in the places list, and these include your personal folder and your music folder.

Customizing Cortana

The settings for Cortana can be found in the Cortana page of the Settings app, and the list of categories on that page are: talk to Cortana, permissions, and more details. Here are three ways of getting to that page, with the talk to Cortana category selected. The first is to open the Settings app, and then open the main Cortana category. The second it to search for the phrase talk to Cortana. And the third is as follows:

  1. Press Windows key + C to open the Cortana window. If you haven't yet enabled that shortcut, then an alternative is to press Windows Key + T to move to the first taskbar button, press Shift + Tab twice to move to the Talk to Cortana button, and then press it.
  2. Press Tab move to a list, in which Home is the initial focus.
  3. In this list, select Settings, and press Enter.

Enabling shortcut to get Cortana to listen

By default, this shortcut is not enabled. In the Settings app, in the main Cortana category, in the Talk to Cortana category, there's a button with the name Let Cortana listen for my commands when I press the Windows logo key + C. You can press Spacebar to change whether this button is On or Off.

Whether Cortana responds to “Hey Cortana”

In the Settings app, in the main Cortana category, in the Talk to Cortana category, there's a button with the name Let Cortana respond to “Hey Cortana”. Press SpaceBar to change whether the button is On or Off.

Signing into Cortana with a Microsoft account

If you've signed into Windows using a local account, rather than a Microsoft account, then for Cortana to respond to many requests, you need to sign in to Cortana with a Microsoft account. You can do this either when Cortana prompts you with a sign in page, or whenever you want, by going to the sign in page of the Cortana window:

  1. Press Windows key + C to open the Cortana window.
  2. Press Tab to move to a list, in which Home is the initial focus.
  3. In this list, select Sign in, and press Enter. The sign in page is displayed in the main area of the Cortana window, and the Sign in button on that page becomes the focus.
  4. Press the Sign in button. You are taken to the first of a series of pages for signing in.
  5. Enter the email address of your Microsoft account, Tab to the Next button, and press it.
  6. Enter your password, Tab to the Sign in button, and press it. You are taken to another page.
  7. Tab to the “microsoft apps only” link, and open it.

Customizing Jump Lists

You can set whether or not Jump Lists include recently or frequently opened items. In the Settings app, in the Personalization main category, in the Start category, there's a “Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the taskbar and in File Explorer Quick Access” button. This button is On by default.

Customizing the taskbar buttons

By default, if there are a number of windows open for the same app, then these are combined into a single button. This is normally the best of option, but you can change it if you want to.

In the Settings app, in the Personalization main category, in the Taskbar category, there's a Combine taskbar buttons combo box, which contains three options:

Customizing the Notification area

The settings for the notification area are in the Settings app, where in the main Personalization category, there's a Taskbar category.

To change which icons are shown in the notification area:

  1. Tab to the “Select which icons appear on the taskbar” link, and open it. You are taken to a new page.
  2. The first control on the page is an “Always show all icons in the notification area” button. This button is Off by default.
  3. If the first button is Off, that is all icons are not set to be shown, then following the first button, there are buttons for the possible apps and system services that might appear in the notification area.

Customizing notifications

The settings for notifications are in the Settings app, where in the main system category, there's a Notifications & actions category.

Whether to show notifications which give tips about windows

There's a “Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows” check box, which is checked by default.

Whether to get notifications

There's a “Get notifications from apps and other senders” button. If this is Off, then you won't get any notifications from these senders. If it is On then, you can customize the notifications as described in the next two sections.

Whether to allow notifications to play sounds

If you're using Windows 10 version 1909, there's an “Allow notifications to play sounds” check box, which is checked by default. If this is unchecked, then no notifications will play sounds, regardless of the settings for individual apps, which are described in the next section.

Customizing the notifications from each app

For each app which sends notifications you can set whether you want to receive notifications, and if so, what type, and the priority they are given in the Action centre. The controls for these settings appear after the heading “Get notifications from these apps”.

For each app, there are a couple of buttons.

The context menu of a notification in the Action center provides a convenient way for customizing the notifications from the sender of the notification. On that menu, the command Go to notification settings opens the page in the Settings app which contains all the notification settings of that app. And there is also a command for turning off the notification from that app.

The page which contains all the notification settings for an app contains the following controls. The first control is a notifications button: if this is Off there will be no notifications of any kind; if it's On, then after this button a number of additional controls are available which let you specify which types of notification you want. For example, there are controls for showing notification banners, and playing a sound. In addition, there is a combo box for setting the number of notifications visible in the action centre for this sender, and a series of radio buttons for setting the priority of the notifications in the action centre.

Time notification banners remain open

You can change the time notification banners remain open both in the Control panel, and the Settings app, and using the latter will be described here.

  1. A quick way of opening the Settings app at the main Ease of Access category is to press the shortcut Windows key + U. The settings app opens at the Ease of Access page, with the first category, Display, selected.
  2. Tab to the Show notifications for combo box, and select the time that you want.

Customizing the Action centre

You can choose both which quick action buttons are shown, and their order. There are a couple of ways of opening the Action Center in a mode which allows you to customize the list of quick actions. The first is that in the Settings app, in the System main category, in the Notifications & actions category, there's an Edit you quick actions link. And the second way is to open the Action center, move to any of the quick action buttons, open its context menu, and choose Edit quick actions.

With the Action center in this mode, the list of quick actions buttons are replaced by buttons which unpin the action, rather than execute the action. In addition, after the list of buttons there are two more buttons. The first is a Finish editing quick action button, which closes the Action Center. The second is an Add quick actions button, which opens a menu of actions which can be added to the list.

As is the case with the normal quick action buttons, the buttons which unpin the actions are displayed as one or more rows, and you can move between them using the keystrokes Left Arrow, Right Arrow, Home and End. You can change the position of a button in the list by using the keystrokes Shift + Alt + Left Arrow, and Shift + Alt + Right Arrow which move the button one position nearer the start or the end of the list respectively.

Customizing Focus assist

The settings for Focus are in the Settings app, where in the main system category, there's a Focus assist category.

Automatic rules

Four rules are provided for automatically turning Focus assist on: during these times, when I'm duplicating my display, when I'm playing a game, and when I'm using an app in full-screen mode.

For each of these rules, there are a couple of buttons.

The settings which are available if you press the first button are as follows. There is a button for setting the rule to be on or off. If the button is on, then after the button there are a number of additional controls for the rule's settings. For all rules this includes:

After the three pairs of buttons for the rules, there is a check box for whether you want a banner notification sent at the end of a period when focus assist has been automatically turned on, giving a summary of the notifications which have been kept out of your way.

Priority list

To customize your priority list, open the customize your priority list link, which comes immediately after the Priority only radio button. A Priority list page opens, and this has three sections: Calls, texts, and Reminders; People; and Apps.

In the People and Apps sections there are lists of contacts and apps respectively. If you want to remove an item from one of these lists, press Enter or Spacebar to expand the item, Tab to a remove button that is now shown, and press it.

Keystrokes

General keystrokes

Command Keystroke
Cycle round the Start button, type here to search button, talk to Cortana button, task view button, a group of taskbar buttons, notification area, Show desktop button, and Desktop Tab
Open the Start menu Windows Key
Open Quick link menu Windows Key + X
Open the search window Windows Key + S
Start Cortana listening Windows Key + C, if enabled
Task view Windows Key + Tab
Show Desktop Windows Key + D
Maximize a window Windows Key + Up Arrow

Taskbar buttons keystrokes

Command Keystroke
Cycle round taskbar buttons Windows Key + T
For the focused button: open the app if it's not running; or switch to a single open window or tab; or move to the task switcher list box if there's more than one window or tab open Enter or Spacebar
Cycle forwards through the titles in a task switcher list box Right Arrow or Tab
Cycle backwards through the titles in a task switcher list box Left Arrow or Shift + Tab
Open the Jump List for the focused button Application Key
Open a new instance of the app for the focused button, whether or not the app is already running Shift + Enter
Open a new instance of the app for the focused button, running with administrative privileges Ctrl + Shift + Enter
For an app at a given position: open the app if it isn't running; or switch to a single open window or tab; or switch to first one opened Windows Key + number (1 through 0)
For an app at a given position which has more than than one window or tab open, switch to any window or tab Hold down the Windows Key and then press a number key to cycle round the titles in the task switcher list box
Open the Jump List for an app at a given position Alt + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)
Open a new instance of an app at a given position, whether or not it's already running Shift + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)
Open a new instance of an app at a given position, running with administrative privileges Ctrl + Shift + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)

Notification area keystrokes

Command Keystroke
Open the Select a system tray icon dialog Insert + F11
Read the time Insert + F12
Read the date Insert + F12 twice quickly
Move to the first icon in the notification area Windows Key + B

Notification keystrokes

Command Keystroke
Open the Action centre Windows key + A
Close the Action centre Esc or Windows key + A
Move to a notification banner Windows key + Shift + V
Dismiss a notification banner which is the focus Delete

Settings app keystrokes

Command Keystroke
Open the Settings app Windows Key + I
Open the Settings app at the main Ease of access category Windows Key + U
Open the Settings app at the Taskbar category Windows Key + T, then Alt + Enter
Go back up a level Alt + left arrow
On a main category page, to go from any of the controls for the settings to the list of categories Backspace
Go back up a level, except when on a main category page and the list of categories is not the focus. Backspace