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 taskbar on Windows 8.1, and it's been updated to cover the Windows 8.1 update released in April 2014.
The taskbar is a thin bar that normally runs across the bottom of the screen, and contains:
Following the Windows 8.1 update in April 2014, Windows store apps can both be pinned to the taskbar, and have a taskbar button when open, just like traditional desktop programs. Because of this similarity in behaviour, both Windows store apps and desktop programs will normally by referred to simply as programs in this guide.
The new features in the taskbar which were introduced in Windows 7, and which have been carried over into Windows 8, include:
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.
Assuming the default settings for taskbar buttons, which are described in the Customizing the taskbar buttons section of the Customizing section, a desktop program or a Windows store 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 a program's taskbar button you can:
There are two main ways of interacting with the taskbar buttons:
The first taskbar buttons are for the pinned programs. By default, after Windows has been installed, a number of programs are pinned to the taskbar, but you can easily pin and unpin programs as described in the Pinning and unpinning programs section.
Although you may find using the taskbar buttons convenient, you don't have to use them: you can open programs using the Start screen, and there are two other ways of switching to opened windows:
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:
For sighted users, the appearance of any taskbar button depends on how many windows or tabs belonging to that program are open. If no windows are open, which normally means that the program isn't running, then only the icon, which acts a label for the button, is visible. If one window or tab is open, then the outline of the button is also visible. And if there is more than one window or tab open, then there appears to be a stack of buttons.
When you move to a button, how Jaws reads the button also depends on the number of open windows or tabs, and in addition gives an indication of what happens when you press the button using Spacebar, which is described in the next section:
If you move to a taskbar button for a program 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:
The task switcher list box automatically opens above a program's taskbar button if the button has the focus, and the program has one or more open windows or tabs.
The list box normally contains the titles of a program'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.
There are a number of keystrokes which use the position of a program's button on the taskbar, and you can use the numbers 1 through to 0, which gives a total of 10 possible programs. Normally these are useful only for pinned programs, because their positions are known.
If there is more than one window or tab, you can also switch to any of these, rather than just the first:
You can pin a program to the taskbar, either using the taskbar buttons, or from the Start screen.
To pin a program to the Taskbar using the taskbar buttons:
To pin a program to the Taskbar from the Start screen:
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 this program to taskbar from its context menu.
To unpin a program from the taskbar, select the pinned program, open its context menu, and choose Unpin this program from taskbar.
Sighted users can change the order of the pinned programs by dragging them using the mouse. Jaws users can also do this using the Jaws cursor, although an alternative is simply to remove all the pinned programs, and then pin the programs in the order that you want.
To change the position of one of the pinned programs using the Jaws cursor:
For many programs, Windows 8 provides a Jump List, which contains recent or frequently opened items, and can also contain more permanently pinned items. A Jump List allows you to quickly open one of these items. So, for example, File Explorer's Jump List contains frequent locations, Microsoft Word's contains recent documents, and the Control Panel's contains recent tasks and settings.
You can only open a program's jump list from a taskbar button.
The Jump List is divided into one or more sections, and the sections present depends both on the program, and which items are present in the list. For users of screen readers, this division into named sections is not accessible, but in practice it's not a problem.
The following sections often appear on Jump Lists, and in this order:
You can select an item using all the usual keystrokes for a list: Up Arrow, Down Arrow, Home, End, and the first character of the item.
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:
The notification area contains a clock and an number of icons, which normally represent background programs or services which are running on the computer. 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, a network icon, and an anti-virus program icon. 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.
Occasionally, the program or service represented by an icon can open a small pop-up window, which is referred to as a notification. This provides some information, and may invite you to click it to perform some action. These are described in the notifications section below.
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 showing and hiding notification area icons section of the Customizing section.
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 is normally the most reliable method due to occasional problems when navigating the notification area using standard windows 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:
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 small pop-up window opens, which contains the hidden icons, and a customise link which opens the Notification Area Icons page of the Control Panel. You can then access both the visible and hidden 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.
Occasionally, the program or service represented by an icon can open a small pop-up window, which is referred to as a notification, and which automatically closes after a short time. Jaws automatically reads these notifications.
Sometimes the notification just provides some information, for example, that new hardware has been detected. Other notifications offer to perform some action if you click them. For example a notification may inform you that an update for a program is available and say that you can click here for it to be installed. You can click a notification by pressing Numpad Slash. By default notifications stay open for about 5 seconds before closing, but you can increase this time to give yourself more time to click them, as described in the Time notifications remain open section of the Customizing section.
Nearly all the settings for the taskbar are in the Taskbar and Navigation properties dialog, or in a Control Panel page which you can open from this dialog. There are a number of ways of opening the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog, including:
This dialog has four pages: Taskbar, Navigation, Jump Lists, and Toolbars. On the Taskbar page you can open the Notification Area icons page of the Control Panel by pressing the Notification Area Customize button.
To change the number of recent or frequent items in Jump Lists:
On the Taskbar page of the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog, there's a Taskbar buttons combo box which contains three options for how the opened windows of a program are represented:
On the Taskbar page of the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog, there's a “Show windows store apps on the taskbar” check box. If this is checked, which it is by default, then when a windows store app is open it has a corresponding taskbar button, just like desktop programs. Note that the ability to pin windows store apps to the taskbar is unaffected by this setting.
You can open the Notification Area Icons page of the Control Panel by opening the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog, and on the Taskbar page, press the Notification Area Customize button using Spacebar.
This page of the Control Panel contains:
To Show all icons and notifications, set the check box to checked, and then Tab to the OK button and press it. Alternatively, you can choose a setting for each icon, using the combo boxes. The options are:
To change the time that notifications remain open:
|Cycle round the Start button, the taskbar buttons, notification area, Show desktop button, and Desktop||Tab|
|Maximize a window||Windows Key + Up Arrow|
|Show Desktop||Windows Key + D|
|Open the taskbar and navigation properties dialog||Windows Key + T, then Alt + Enter|
|Cycle round taskbar buttons||Windows Key + T|
|For the focussed button: open the program 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 focussed button||Application Key|
|Open a new instance of the program for the focussed button, whether or not the program is already running||Shift + Enter|
|Open a new instance of the program for the focussed button, running with administrative privileges||Ctrl + Shift + Enter|
|For a program at a given position: open the program 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 a program 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|
|For a program at a given position: open the program if it isn't running; or switch to a single open window or tab; or switch to the last one viewed||Ctrl + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)|
|For an app at a given position which has more than than one window or tab open, cycle round them in the order in which they were last viewed||Hold down Ctrl and Windows keys and then press a number to cycle round these windows|
|Open the Jump List for a program at a given position||Alt + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)|
|Open a new instance of a program at a given position, whether or not it's already running||Shift + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)|
|Open a new instance of a program at a given position, running with administrative privileges||Ctrl + Shift + Windows Key + number (1 through 0)|
|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, if no notifications are open, or to the icon with an open notification||Windows Key + B|
|Click a notification||Numpad Slash|