Editing Text Guide

A guide for Jaws users, written by Chorlton Workshop for hsbp. More guides are available on the Jaws Guides page of the VIP Software Guides website.



This guide describes some basic ways of editing text which you can use in a large range of contexts:

Undo and redo

If you make a mistake whilst editing, you can always undo your last edit by pressing CTRL + Z. This undoes your last insertion of text, delete, cut, or paste.

In fact, programs keep track of your last few edits, so if you press CTRL + Z repeatedly, your edits are undone one by one in reverse order.

Once you've undone one or more edits, you can redo the last undone edit by pressing CTRL + Y.

Inserting text

To insert some new text into some existing text, simply move to where you want to insert the new text, and start typing. The new text is inserted before the character which was the current character before you started typing.

Deleting text

Deleting characters

Deleting words

The keystrokes for deleting words described below are useful, but their implementation is patchy. They work in both Microsoft Word and most email programs such as Outlook Express, but elsewhere it's best to check whether or not they work. An alternative is to select the words and press DELETE as described in the next section.

To delete a word:

Deleting the selected text

To delete the selected text, press DELETE. Pressing CTRL + A selects all the text, and so lets you easily delete all the text. The selection of part of the text is described in the next main section below.

Overwriting the selected text

If any text is selected and you start typing, the selected text is replaced by the text that you type – there's no need to press DELETE to delete the selected text before starting to type the new text.

For example, when you move to an edit box in a program window or dialog box the text is normally initially selected, so you can just type in text to replace the existing text.

Selecting text

As mentioned above, you can select all the text by pressing CTRL + A. This section describes how to select any series of characters which are next to each other.

Apart from CTRL + A, all keystrokes for selecting text have the form SHIFT + navigation keystroke, where a navigation keystroke is a keystroke which changes which character in the text is the current character. A navigation keystroke can be:

If you press one or more navigation keystrokes on their own, then you'll end up with some character as the final current character. If you add SHIFT to all of these, then:

As you press these selection keystrokes, Jaws gives you a running commentary on what is being added or removed from the selection. If you need to check what text is selected, then you can press SHIFT + INSERT + DOWN ARROW, which reads the selected text. Note that this doesn't always work for selected text in edit boxes on web pages.

If some text is selected and you press any navigation key on its own, then the selection is deselected, as described in more detail in the Deselecting text section.

Selection examples

Using the line of text “my kingdom for a horse” as an example, and assuming that no text is initially selected and that the initial current character is the k at the beginning of kingdom:

Deselecting text

If some text is selected and you press any navigation keystroke, then the selection is cancelled, and which character in the text is the current character is changed. In particular:

Cut, copy, and paste

The cut, copy and paste commands are used for moving or copying text. This can either be within a single edit box or document, or between edit boxes or documents in the same program or different programs.

These commands all use the clipboard, which can temporarily store text (and other objects), and which is available to all programs.

To copy text:

  1. Select the text you want to copy.
  2. Press CTRL + C to copy: the selected text is copied to the clipboard.
  3. Move to where you want to copy the text, which might involve switching programs.
  4. Press CTRL + V to paste: the text on the clipboard is copied to the new location.

To move text, the procedure is the same to copy text, except that in the second step the copy command is replaced by the cut command (CTRL + X). This removes the text from its current location as well as copying it to the clipboard.

Note that after a paste command, the text on the clipboard is unchanged. So if you paste twice, without any cut or copy commands between them, the same text is pasted on both occasions.


Description Keystroke
Undo the last edit CTRL + Z
Redo the last undo CTRL + Y
Delete the previous character BACKSPACE
Delete the current character DELETE
Delete the previous word CTRL + BACKSPACE
Delete the current word CTRL + DELETE
Delete the selected text DELETE
Select all the text CTRL + A
Select text SHIFT + (HOME or END or CTRL + HOME or CTRL + END)
Select text SHIFT + (Read previous or current character, word, or line)
Read selected text SHIFT + INSERT + DOWN ARROW
Deselect text Any navigation keystroke
Copy the selected text to clipboard CTRL + C
Cut the selected text to clipboard CTRL + X
Paste text from clipboard CTRL + V