Menus 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 the structure and navigation of menus, where they're used, and the use of access keys for quickly navigating them.

A menu is a list of commands or options, which are also referred to as menu items. For example, the commands in the File menu in Microsoft Word include Open, Save, Print and Close. A menu item can also be the name of another menu, and this menu is known as a sub-menu. For example, the File menu in Outlook Express contains the item “New” which is the name of a sub-menu, and if this is opened the items on this sub-menu include Mail Message, Contact and Folder.

Menus are normally hidden, and are only displayed when opened by the user. They can be opened from menu bars, menus buttons, split buttons, the Start button, and as a shortcut menu from a selected item, as described in the Where menus are used section.

The navigation of menus follows naturally from their layout on the screen, and so this will be described before going on to give a list of keystrokes.

A menu is laid out as a conventional list, with each item being beneath the previous item. An item which is the name of a sub-menu is indicated by a right pointing triangle after the name, and by Jaws saying sub-menu. If the sub-menu is opened, then this appears immediately to the right of the name of the sub-menu, and the sub-menu is also a vertically aligned list.

Once you've opened a menu, which is described in the next section, then to read and navigate the menu:

Where menus are used

Menu bar

A menu bar is a horizontal list of menu names, which is located near the top of a window, often immediately underneath the title bar. Nearly all program windows have one. For example, the menu bar in Microsoft Word contains the following menu names: File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, Window, and Help. To navigate a menu bar:

Context menu

A context menu is a list of the common commands you might want to apply to an object, and it's also known as a shortcut menu. To open the context menu for one or more selected objects press either APPLICATION KEY (normally one key to the left of of the right CTRL key) or SHIFT + F10.

The commands present on a context menu depend both on the type of the object selected, and the context of the selection. All the commands are normally also available from the menus on the menu bar, a context menu just provides a quicker method of accessing these commands. The first command on a context menu is normally the default command, that is the command that is executed when you simply select one or more objects, and then press ENTER.

The context menus of most objects contain the Properties command which opens a properties dialog box for the object. A shortcut to open the Properties dialog of a selected object is to press ALT + ENTER, rather than having to open the context menu, and then choose Properties.

Menu button

A menu button is similar to a normal button, except that pressing one opens a menu, rather than executing a command. A menu button is indicated visually by a downward pointing triangle to the right of the name of the button, but unfortunately, Jaws just reads the name. You can always press a menu button using DOWN ARROW, and sometimes using ENTER and SPACEBAR. Examples of menu buttons are the Page, Tools, and Help menu buttons on the second toolbar of Internet Explorer 7. Note that pressing these buttons using either ENTER or SPACEBAR doesn't work.

Split button

A Split buttons consists of two parts, and this is indicated visually by a vertical line when the button is the focus. On the left hand side of the button there's a name or a graphic, and if you press this part of the button by pressing SPACEBAR or ENTER, then a command is executed, just like pressing a standard button. On the right hand side of the button there's a black triangle, and pressing this side of the button opens a menu. If the split button is in a group of controls which are arranged as a row, for example, in a toolbar, then you press the right hand side of the split button by pressing DOWN ARROW. However, if a split button is part of a group of controls which is arranged as a column, then you press the right hand side of the button using RIGHT ARROW.

Start menu

This is used for starting programs, going to folders, logging off, shutting down, etc.. To open the Start menu, press WINDOWS KEY. The Start menus in Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 are described in these separate guides: Start menu guide, Start menu (Vista) guide, and Taskbar (7) guide.

This sections describes some of the features of menu items.

Using access keys

Access keys are either either letter or number keys, and they're normally used together with the ALT key to activate a control. They're a type of shortcut which saves you having to navigate to the control using the standard navigation keystrokes and then activate it. Almost always, the access key is one of the letters of the control's label: for example, the address bar in Internet Explorer has the access key D.

The options for whether Jaws speaks the access key of an item after its name are located in the Basic Settings dialog which can be opened from the Options menu of the Jaws program window.

Nearly all menu items have access keys, and all the menu names in menu bars have them. The access keys for common menu names and menu items are standard across most programs. For example, the File menu has the access key F, and the Options menu item has the access key O. Although access keys are normally used with the ALT key, the access key alone is used if the focus is in either a menu bar or a menu. The following examples illustrate the use of access keys for navigating menus: