In this section, we cover how to navigate some of the interfaces in MS Windows and some useful Windows keyboard shortcuts. How long this will take to cover depend on how much your participants already know about MS Windows, how much useful vision they have and how far you want or need to cover different Windows versions.

As written this section covers Windows 10, there are differences between this and Windows 7 or 8, if your learners are using either of them it will need adapting but the basic structure can remain the same.

If you have participants with low vision using a screen projector and a screen magnifier for this session might be useful.


Before working with NVDA, let's discuss some general features of the Windows operating system starting with the desktop. The desktop is a grid of shortcuts to programs files, folders, and websites. The desktop is the default view presented with when Windows starts. Application windows appear in front of the desktop. The desktop is always available behind other running applications.

The taskbar runs across the bottom of the desktop and contains the Start button on the far left, notifications on the far right and running and pinned applications in the centre. The taskbar is always visible unless you are running a full screen application, which we won't be doing in this tutorial. Pressing the Start button in the task bar or the `Windows` key on the keyboard opens or closes the Start Menu.

The Start Menu lists recently used applications; the File Explorer, Settings, and the Power Menu. The Start Menu contains all of the installed applications in an alphabetized list under the All Apps Button. New to Windows 10, is a grid of pinned apps that appear to the right of the Start Menu list. Microsoft dropped the Start Menu for Windows 8, a mistake for which they were roundly and justly criticised. If you're running Windows 8 the `Windows` key opens a full screen start page with a grid layout of icons. However, omputers running MS Windows 8 can be modified with the free utility Classic Shell ( to have a classic style start button.

Applications that are pinned to the taskbar always appear in the taskbar whether they are currently running or not. Applications run in Windows sit on top of the desktop. These applications can be minimized, that is, hidden from view so that they are still running but no longer visible. Minimized applications can be restored by activating the application in the taskbar or by switching to the application using the `Alt` plus `Tab` key combination.

In Windows 10, there are two types of applications Legacy Windows Desktop applications and Windows 10 apps that are downloaded from the Windows Store. We will only be covering the Legacy Desktop applications as most applications have not yet been converted to the new Windows 10 format. Most of the principles covered apply to both types of applications.

Many applications have a menu bar that appears the top of its window and contains most of the options for the application. The bar is a series of tabs with drop down menus generally with file, edit, view and other options. Below the menu bar is the body of the application and some applications have a status bar across the very bottom.


Let's get started with NVDA. The desktop, has icons arranged in a grid, the desktop is a convenient place to store files and shortcuts, but learners should avoid over using it. Encourage them to keep a clean desktop, while learning to use the Start Menu for launching programs and a logical system of folders on the computer for storing files.

This is covered in detail later. As the Desktop is the first thing that a learner will encounter after they log on to a computer, it makes sense to talk about it first. Press the `Home` key to get to the first shortcut icon then the `up` or `down arrow` key to move through a column of shortcuts, the `left` and `right` arrows to move between columns.

NVDA will announce each shortcut in turn when you reach the end of a column or row, NVDA won't announce anything if you keep trying to move in the same direction.

You can also type the first few letters of a shortcut and move directly to it. If I have a shortcut to the Notepad program on my desktop I could start typing Notepad to move directly to it. I could now press `Enter`


Demonstrate starting NVDA and using the Desktop from the keyboard then quitting NVDA and get yor learners to practise it. If any of them start a program by accident during this exercise pressing `Alt` and `F4` will close it.


To minimize any open applications and return to the desktop press `Windows` plus `D`. I'll press the `Windows` plus `D` combination to return to the desktop. You can press `Windows` plus `D` again to restore your open windows.


This way of starting programs can take quite a few keystrokes so also demonstrate this and let learners practise it  on their own.

Another method of quickly launching programs is to press the `Windows` key to open the Start Menu. By default, focus is in the search field. This means that you can immediately begin typing in Notepad. Listen with NVDA as Windows searches through the computer in real time and presents with the results.

After a few letters it has narrowed the search down to Notepad and you can press `Enter` to launch the program. This is a better way to launch programs than using desktop shortcuts because the search box is always immediately accessible by pressing the `Windows` key. It will also search all of your programs and files and there's no need to ensure that there is a shortcut on your desktop. You can launch any program on your computer using this method. In Windows 10 Search has been enhanced with several new advanced features that you can check out on your own. Go ahead and launch Notepad by pressing `Enter`.


To minimize any open applications and return to the desktop press `Windows` plus `D`. I'll press the `Windows` plus `D` combination to return to the desktop. You can press `Windows` plus `D` again to restore your open windows.


You can press the `Windows` key at any time to open the start menu.

When the start menu opens, your focus is placed in the search field. Windows 7 has a simpler start menu that can be navigated fully with the arrow keys. The Windows 10 start menu has two panes. The left pane contains the All Apps button, the power menu, settings and recently used apps. The right pane has smart tiles that Windows 10 apps can use to present snippets of information such as news headlines or stock prices. You can use the arrow keys to move within a pane and the Tab key to move between sections. In Windows 10 the power button is located above the All Apps button.

In Windows 7 the power menu is located to the right of the search field. You can activate this button with the `Enter` key or `Spacebar` key. This will open a dialog containing Shut Down, Restart, and Sleep. We'll go ahead and activate this button with the Enter key and press the up arrow to navigate through the options. If you want to shut down your computer, activate the Shutdown button with the `Enter` key or press the `Escape` key to dismiss the shut down dialog. Emphasise to learners that Windows should always be shut down from the power menu and never by pressing the computer power button.

In Windows 7, the All Apps button is called All Programs. Press `Enter` or `Space` to expand this menu and arrow up and down to navigate through the list.

This is a list of all the applications currently installed on your computer. As you navigate over the items in this list, some indicate that there collapsed. These are folders that can be expanded with the `Spacebar` or `Enter` key. To start an app that you’ve selected, press the `Enter` key or `Spacebar`.

The all apps list is a good way to review what programs you have installed. It's also good for finding the names of programs you don't use often. However, using this menu, is less efficient than the search features to directly find an app to launch. Pressing `Escape` will dismiss the start menu.


Demonstrate to your learners starting NVDA and using the search facility from the keyboard then get them to practise it. If any of them start a program by accident during this exercise pressing `Alt` and `F4` will close it.

Demonstrate to your learners starting and using the Start Menu from the keyboard then quitting NVDA, then get them to practise it. If any of them start a program by accident during this exercise pressing `Alt` and `F4` will close it.