My journey back to Windows - Voice interface

Published on 2018-08-24 16:00

Couple of years ago I had to make a switch from Windows to Mac because Windows lacked affordable accessibility features. Now it's time to go back.

There are couple of things which I need to work effectively, mainly a code editor and web browser, occasionally a calculator. So let's see how these three things work for me as a sighted person who needs to use a screen reader because of my dyslexia.

Code editor - Visual Studio Code

Code is my editor of choice because it's not a full GUI which usually overwhelms me by number of possibilities that I can do and things which I have to set up. I am saying this because at my day job I have to work with Intellij IDEA and getting things done there takes me a long time.

One thing which surprised me is that Code doesn't detect when Narrator is on but is able to detect when NVDA is turned on. This means that you need to turn it on manually in settings by turning editor.accessibilitySupport  on. Another side effect of not having tested enough compatibility between those two is there are points out of where I can't recover without restarting Narrator and accessing some options.

Another thing which I would love to see is better highlighting of current item. At the moment there is a highlighter at work but it makes a black rectangle around which is unfortunate since I use dark theme with Code.

This sounds like a lot but compared to Intellij IDEA, these are just hiccups. Since Narrator is Windows native I'd prefer to use it. Unfortunately Intellij is Java based and that doesn't work well with Narrator[1]. An option would be to use NVDA but I don't like the robotic voices.

Internet browsing

Usually I am using on my Mac Safari as a default browser because it works the best with VoiceOver. Somehow I thought that Narrator will work with every browser but I thought the same when I started on Mac. (Un)fortunately this means that for non-dev work I'll have to use Edge because it works with Narrator as good as Safari with VoiceOver.

This doesn't mean that Firefox or other browsers are sitting ducks. It just means that some features aren't as supported because interoperability between browser vendors and accessibility tech vendors isn't always as seamless as disbled folks need and deserve.

Office stuff

So far I've tested Outlook, Word and Excel. Outlook and Word work for me fine even though I have to have a cheatsheet with shortcuts on hand because I am not used to them yet. Excel is a little bit different case because I struggle there a bit more but I am quite confident that in time I'll be able use it quite effectively.


Situation is not perfect but for my needs it's reasonable to make the complete transition to Windows without needing to spend a lot of money for JAWS, although I might consider trying them in the future.