Tips/Copying and Pasting Text Spoken By Your Screen Reader

There are times when screen readers may speak the contents of a page or an error message and being able to copy and paste what was spoken could prove to be very helpful. This has come in very handy for me when I’m testing a page or piece of software. The screen reader says something unexpected and I want to let the developer know exactly what I’m hearing, without trying to remember and then type what I thought it was. JAWS
With JAWS, there are three very nifty tools which can assist with this task. The first is called speech history, which diligently records everything JAWS has spoken during the current session. To access it, press insert-space, which JAWS calls a layered command. Once you press insert-space, you should hear a couple of clicks and JAWS is now waiting for you to enter a second letter. Press H for the speech history. Everything which was spoken is displayed in the virtual buffer, allowing you to peruse it as well as using copy and paste commands on specific portions of the history text. Pressing the escape key closes the history text window and returns you to where you were before you invoked the command.
Next, JAWS has a couple of tools for doing what they refer to as virtualizing the current window or control. Essentially, you can take any window and have the text of that window “virtualized”, meaning that it gets placed in the virtual buffer, allowing it to be read, copied or pasted as needed.
To virtualize the current window, press insert-alt-W. To virtualize just the currently focused control, press shift-insert-alt-w. (The Virtualize current control command, while it may be useful, may not work consistently.) As it may feel as though you need three hands to execute some of these keystrokes, it is possible to change the key bindings for these commands in the JAWS keyboard manager.
NVDA has a very cool feature which, while I believe it’s documented, is not always very well-known. Essentially, you can copy and paste blocks of text found while reviewing text with NVDA’s review cursor. If you’ve never used the numeric keypad to control NVDA’s review cursor, it can be quite a trying experience if JAWS is what you’re used to. If you have a logical mind and are used to the interaction model used on the Mac, you’ll have a very easy time adjusting to this method of reviewing. Sections 5.4 through 5.6 of the NVDA user guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to use the numeric keypad to review text on the screen.
Once you’re familiar with using the numeric keypad for either flat review or object navigation, here is how you can copy and paste text which you are reading. While using the numeric keypad, pressing insert-f9 will place a marker, indicating that you’re at the beginning of a block of text you want to select. NVDA should say “start marked” after this key has been pressed. Next, keep moving with the numeric keypad until you come to the end of the block of text and press insert-f10. Pressing this key takes the block of text and places it into the clipboard, where it can be pasted into a document or email message. In addition, there is an addon which can be downloaded that, essentially, attempts to give NVDA the capability of the virtualize window feature for JAWS. The URL for the addon is This addon is in the development section of the repository and so it’s not officially ready for prime-time release. I find that it does not work with the consistency which I would expect and have gotten used to with JAWS. Therefore, your mileage with this addon may vary. If you’ve never installed an NVDA addon, the process is quick and simple. Just double-click the addon, confirm your action and the installation should take a few seconds, followed by an NVDA restart. To virtualize the current window, press insert-ctrl-W. Again, this may not work reliably with every application window.
Mac users should be able to press VO-shift-C to copy the last spoken phrase onto the pasteboard. As far as I’m aware, VoiceOver does not include the capability to virtualize a window.
iOS users can also copy the last spoken item to the pasteboard. To do this, perform a three-finger quadruple tap. (With three fingers, tap the screen four times.)
Happy virtualizing.

2 thoughts on “Tips/Copying and Pasting Text Spoken By Your Screen Reader

  1. hi. a it blind student using the jaws for windows screen reader from,

    and studying a diploma of software development from,

    in australia. i have microsoft office 2010 pro, legally purchased. now looking for a free upgrade to microsoft office pro 2016. where can i get it. my

    institution, has had major hassles getting certified from microsoft dreamspark, and partners. not an easy process, and so in the end, they gave up, and

    not a partner any more. so, where can i get a free legal copy of office 2016 pro, and also what about adobe cs 6.0 for students, got 5.5 student premium,

    but would like to upgrade free to 6.0, and is it accessible with my screen reader? also compattible with windows 10 64 bit pro. can any one let me know

    and e-mail me or reply to this. thanks. Marvin from Adelaide, Australia.

  2. NVDA also has something similar to a speech history. Navigate to the NVDA menu>>tools>>speech viewer. Keep the speech viewer open. Next, switch to the application or task, and perform the task you want to copy. the utterances of NVDA are then placed in the speech viewer.

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