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A Guide for Configuring Outlook with JAWS

I was asked some time ago if I would be willing to create a blog post containing some useful pointers to ensure JAWS is more responsive and easier to access alongside Microsoft Outlook 2010. This post attempts to briefly do that.

I have to say before continuing that none of the below items are essential to configure. Using my Windows7 64 bit machine with Outlook 2010, JAWS is very responsive in all areas of the program without any adjustments being made at all. However, according to some email lists there are people who have had some problems and so you may like to take account of the following.


  1. Disable the Reading Pane, ALT+V, then P, then N, then O.
  2. Disable the To-Do Bar, ALT+F2.
  3. Disable "Show in Groups", ALT+V then Tab through to Arrangement and press Enter. Press Up arrow and if JAWS says "Show in Groups Checked", press Enter to uncheck it. This procedure should be carried out on each mailbox you have.
  4. Disable Protected View:
    1. Launch Microsoft Word.
    2. Press ALT+F then T, then T repeatedly until Trust Centre is located.
    3. Do not press Enter, but Tab through until you reach Trust Centre Settings, then press Enter.
    4. Press the letter P to reach Protected View.
    5. Press Tab repeatedly and uncheck the boxes in this dialog.
    6. Press Space Bar on the "OK" Button.

Note that this latter procedure of working in the Trust Centre should be carried out at your own risk as this is a security feature. However, while potentially the "Enable Editing" option could be activated with the keyboard on every attachment you open, some people may find this approach easier since if this is not done JAWS is unable to read documents you open, such as those generated with Microsoft word, in Protected View.

Using the Virtual Ribbon

When exploring the menus (or the Ribbon Bar), you may find it easier to use the JAWS Virtual Ribbon. This presents all the Ribbon Bar items found in Outlook 2010 in a vertical list. You can simply arrow down to the item you wish to access and press Enter. This is useful as otherwise you may miss items on the ribbon bar and this presents them to you in a logical order so you can systematically work through them.

How to enable the Virtual Ribbon will vary depending upon the version of JAWS you have. However, try to follow these steps:

  1. With your Inbox in focus, press Insert+V to access the Quick Settings (or Adjust JAWS Options dialog).
  2. If focus lands in an Edit Field, press Tab.
  3. Press V for Virtual Ribbon and if JAWS says this is unchecked, press Space Bar to check it.
  4. Press Enter to save the settings.

Additional Options in Quick settings or Adjust JAWS Options

There are a number of options in the Quick Settings (or Adjust JAWS Options) dialog which may improve the reading experience when working with a considerable amount of email. Here are some to consider. Again, press Insert+V, and if focus lands in an Edit Field press Tab to reach the Tree View. All options can be enabled or disabled by pressing the Space Bar. Press Enter when you have completed making the changes so as to exit the dialog. Note that alongside each option, which you can reach by pressing Tab from the Tree View, a Help Window exists so as to give you more information about the selected choice. Press Shift+Tab to return to the Tree View.

  • InformationBarMessagesAnnouncement. While the Information Bar does contain useful data, (which if this option is enabled is automatically spoken by JAWS as and when it appears on screen), you may find it distracting. For example, when you open a message JAWS will announce when you have forwarded it or replied to it. Disable this option to silence the output.
  • Message Header Field With Message Announcement. This is one you will probably want to disable. As you open a message, JAWS will speak the header information, such as the author and subject. If you process a lot of email this can slow you down. As we will see later, there are other ways of getting the information if you really want it.
  • Message Type Announcement. A small group of us have asked for this feature for some time so as to disable it and it is now available in JAWS 14. As you open a message, JAWS will not speak the message type, such as whether it was composed in HTML or Plain Text.
  • Link Count Announcement. If this is disabled, and a message is opened, JAWS will not announce how many links are in the message. However, of course this does not prevent you from accessing them with the use of the Arrow keys or Insert+F7.
  • Messages Automatically Read. If this is enabled, JAWS will begin reading the message automatically if it is opened. If you use a Braille display particularly, you may care to have this option disabled.

As a summary, if you disable most of these options, but have Messages Automatically Read Checked, as you open each message you will not hear any extraneous output but JAWS will begin reading the message automatically.

It is also worth noting that JAWS 14 has an additional option entitled Use Virtual Cursor for ReadOnly Messages which is enabled by default. This places the message in a virtual environment in order that Tables and HTML content can be more easily read and understood.

JAWS Reading Keys

A final note is to alert you to the JAWS Header Reading Keys. As you open each message, you can press ALT+1 through to 0 to read important header information. Press the keystroke twice quickly to set focus to the desired field if you wish.

  • ALT+1 will read who the message is from.
  • ALT+2 reads the date the mesage was sent.
  • ALT+3 reads the data in the "To" field.
  • ALT+4 reads the data in the "CC" field.
  • ALT+5 reads the data in the "Subject" field.


I hope you have found the above useful. Don't forget that you can always press:

  • Insert+H to get a list of the JAWS keystrokes relative to Outlook;
  • Insert+F1 to gain Context Sensitive Help;
  • Insert+W for a list of keystrokes native to Outlook.