Chapter 6. Browsing the Internet

This chapter provides information about using VoiceOver to browse and navigate webpages effectively using two different navigation modes, tables, images, frames, and web spots, as well as the VoiceOver Web Item rotor.

Browsing webpages

When you browse webpages using VoiceOver, you can hear a summary of webpage statistics that tells you how many headers, links, tables, and more are on the page. This information can help you assess the scope and structure of the webpage and navigate in ways that best suit the webpage.

Here are ways to navigate:

To hear the summary of statistics for the current webpage, press VO-Shift-I. Or set the option in the Web category in VoiceOver Utility to have the summary automatically read when a webpage opens. VoiceOver speaks statistics only for the items you have included in the Web Item rotor.

Web developers can assign keyboard shortcuts, called “access keys,” to webpage items such as links and buttons, to make them easier to interact with. VoiceOver can notify you when it detects access keys. For example, if VoiceOver detects an access key on a link, it might say “Access key available: s,” where “s” is the access key. You can then press Control-S to open the link. To hear access keys, you must select the option to speak help tags in the Hints pane of the Verbosity category in VoiceOver Utility.

Navigating webpages using DOM or group mode

VoiceOver provides two modes for navigating webpages: by a webpage’s Document Object Model (DOM), or by grouping related items. Navigating by DOM moves left and right, in the order set by the webpage’s author. (Moving up and down in DOM mode is based on the current setting of the Web Item rotor.) Navigating by group moves in any direction, to help give you a sense of context.

You set the default web navigation mode in VoiceOver Utility, but you can easily switch modes to best suit the current webpage.

To set the default navigation mode:
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table and then select a web navigation mode.
To switch modes:
When navigating by DOM:

You don’t need to interact with a list to navigate the list items. Just press VO-arrow keys to navigate list items.

When navigating by grouping items:

When you navigate to a list, VoiceOver indicates the number of items in the list and when it has reached the end of the list.

If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, the current web navigation mode affects how you navigate webpages using the rotor. In DOM mode, flicking up or down on the trackpad moves to the previous or next instance of the item that matches the current rotor setting. For example, if the rotor is set to headers, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next header. In grouping related items mode, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next group of related items. You can assign the “Toggle Web Navigation DOM or Group” command to a gesture using the Trackpad Commander, to easily switch modes to suit your needs.

Navigating images on webpages

Webpages typically contain images, some of which may be used as links. Images may include a description of the image, called “alt text.” You can set an option to navigate only to images that contain alt text, to never navigate to images, or to always navigate to images.

To customize image navigation:
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table and then choose an option from the “Navigate images” pop-up menu.

    For a description of the options, click the Help button (looks like a question mark) in the lower-right corner.

To navigate to images:

When you navigate to images that don’t have image descriptions (called “alt text”), VoiceOver speaks the image filenames. You can create a custom label for these images, or for images whose alt text isn’t useful.

If you included images in the Web Item rotor, you can listen to the webpage summary to hear how many images are on the current webpage. To hear the summary, press VO-Shift-I.

Navigating tables on webpages

Tables are used extensively on webpages for visual layout and to present data. You can choose to navigate data tables by grouping items within the tables. When navigating tables by grouping, you hear a summary of a table and its cells as you press the arrow keys to navigate the table. You don’t need to interact with the table unless you hear something that you want to explore in detail. You can use a VoiceOver command to turn the setting on or off to best suit the current table.

To set table navigation by grouping:
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table and select the “Group items within” checkbox.
To turn on or off grouping for the current table:

Press VO-=.

Only the current table is affected by this command; other tables you navigate to will use the setting as specified in VoiceOver Utility. VoiceOver remembers the setting for the current table and will use it each time you navigate to the table.

To navigate tables by grouping:

When you’re navigating tables without grouping, you can navigate more quickly to the next column by pressing VO-Command-Y or navigate to the previous column by pressing VO-Command-Shift-Y.

Navigating webpages using web spots

As VoiceOver opens a webpage, it evaluates the visual design, groups items based on the design, and creates a web spot on the first item in each group on the screen. VoiceOver briefly outlines the group with a large rectangle, which transitions into the VoiceOver cursor, positioned on the first web spot in the group.

You can jump from one web spot to another, hearing the content in each web spot, essentially scanning the webpage for content that interests you.

You can create your own web spots to mark favorite content on a webpage (say, the top headlines or sports scores) and navigate there more quickly. If you mark a spot as the “sweet spot,” it appears first in the list of web spots in the Web Item rotor.

To use web spots:
To create a web spot:

Press VO-Command-Shift-}.

To remove a web spot:

Press VO-Command-Shift-{.

To set the sweet spot:

Press VO-Command-Shift-}-}.

To open the Web Item rotor to use the list of web spots, press VO-U. You can use the rotor with VoiceOver gestures.

If you have the VoiceOver Utility preference set to move the VoiceOver cursor to a webpage whenever a page opens, the cursor will be on the sweet spot.

You can create an unlimited number of web spots for a webpage. You can delete web spots you create, but you can’t delete auto web spots. If the design of a webpage changes significantly and VoiceOver can’t locate an existing auto web spot or web spot, it creates a new one that closely matches the original one.

Navigating webpages using frames

Some webpages organize information into separate areas called “frames.” Sometimes one frame has links in it that update the contents of other frames on the page. You may find it easier to navigate these webpages using frames.

Here are ways to navigate frames:

If you included frames in the Web Item rotor, you can listen to the webpage summary to hear how many frames are on the current webpage. To hear the summary, press VO-Shift-I.

Navigating webpages using the Web Item rotor

When you browse a webpage, you can display the Web Item rotor and use it to jump directly to a specific heading, table, link, or other item on the webpage.

To navigate to items:
  1. While browsing a webpage, open the Web Item rotor by pressing VO-U.
  2. Navigate the lists using the Right Arrow or Left Arrow key until you hear the list you want, such as Headers or Links.

    If you’re using Quick Nav, press Left Arrow-Up Arrow or Right Arrow-Up Arrow to move through the lists.

  3. Navigate the items in the list using the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you find the item you want.
    • If you know the name of an item in a list, type some letters of its name to narrow the list to only items that contain those letters. If you’re in the Headers List, you can type the heading level (such as 3) to narrow the list to only headings of that level.

      To show all items in the list again, press the Delete key.

    • If you don’t find the item you want, press the Escape key to exit the rotor without making a selection.
  4. Press Return or the Space bar to select the item and jump to it on the webpage.

    The Web Item rotor closes.

You can choose the types of items that are listed in the Web Item rotor.

If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, you can access the web-related rotor settings with a gesture.