New & Updated: Remapping the Keys on your Mac's Keyboard to Enhance the VoiceOver Experience

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In this podcast, Eric Caron provides updated information and instructions on how to remap the keys on your Mac computer to enhance the VoiceOver experience.

Since his original podcast on this topic, the software used by Eric to remap the keys has been updated to offer improved usability and features for VoiceOver users.

Eric's Notes:
Below I've written out the steps needed to have the VoiceOver Keys, Control and Option, mapped to the Caps Lock key. This allows a VoiceOver user to use Caps Lock with keys that might be difficult to reach with the standard Control Option VO keys. In addition this new setting now automatically creates Caps Lock as the modifier in a VM machine. Finally the application creates a number pad on the standard keyboard centered around the letter i.

This is a update to my earlier podcast. Takayama Fumihiko, the developer of these applications has changed KeyRemapper4Macbook, making it much easier to set up the computer to use the Caps Lock as the VO keys.

Below I will write out the steps to complete the set up.

Here are the steps needed to have a number pad added to your keyboard, have Caps Lock work as a VoiceOver Key, and have the Caps Lock work as the Jaws key or similar modifier in other screen readers used in VM Fusion.

Go to the developer web site and download and install both  KeyRemap4MacBook and PCKeyboardHack.

http://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/pckeyboardhack-usage.html.en

Be sure you restart your computer at the end of the install.

Now go to System Preferences and to Keyboard. Change the behavior of the Caps Lock key to no action.
Now also in System Preferences under Other you will find both PCKeyboardhack and Keyremap4Macbook. Go to PCKeyboardhack and in the settings tab in the first table interact on the field that currently reads 51. Press enter after interacting, then change the number to 110. This changes the Caps Lock key to the windows Application key. then close the application

Still in System Preferences and in the Other category go to KeyRemap4Macbook. In the Change Key tab move over to the search field and type in "blind voice over" without the quotes. Then arrow right over to the table. Interact and you should be on the correct setting. Arrow to the check box and select it. Close the application.

The new setting name is "Use Caps Lock as VoiceOver key."

Now if you press the Caps Lock key it will act as if you are pressing the Control and Option keys. You have the original VO keys to use, as this only changes the Caps Lock key. Also If you press the FN key and letter i you will find it is a 5 and the rest of the number pad is there. If you turn on num pad commander you can now use the VoiceOver controls with this number pad.

For VM Fusion users you have another bonus. The Caps Lock key will now act as the Jaws key if you are using a VM Fusion machine with windows.

The Keyremap4macbook application can be used instead of sharp keys or the VM fusion key settings. They should not be used to try to control the same keys at the same time.

The Keyremap4macbook needs to be version 7.8.17.

If you want to be sure you have that one here is the direct link:

http://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/files/KeyRemap4MacBook-7.8.17.dmg

In VMware Fusion, the Help key will be interpreted as Insert Key. As this is often the screen reader modifier in Windows screen readers it will now work as the Caps Lock key.

For more information here is a helpful link:

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?cmd=displayKC&externalId=1001675

Here are the steps to update KeyRemap4Macbook if you followed the original podcast and used the Private XML. This is only for those who want to add the VM Fusion option or simply want the newer application. The Caps Lock key on the Mac and the Num pad behavior will be the same so you may not want to bother to update.

Those who did a new install as listed above already have the VM Fusion option and the other capabilities.

If for some reason you want the Caps Lock Key to only work as the VO keys and not be available in the VM machine then follow the directions in the original podcast that includes the private xml. You will find this at applevis.com and all needed text and links are in the Guides section.

Steps to update Keyremap4Macbook, for those who used the private xml.

Go into system Preferences and to Keyremap4macbook and uncheck the box for Application key to Control Option. For me it is the first item in the table when I interact. Then close the application.

Download the new version 7.8.17 link above. Be sure to restart the computer after you install. Then do the same as above.

Go to KeyRemap4Macbook and in the search field enter "blind voice over", then interact with the table and you are on the setting that needs to be checked.

Thats it.

Please remember that this software is donation supported. You will find the donation link at the same location you downloaded the applications.

Podcast File: 

Tags: 

15 Comments

Beware: Instructions Are Not Currently Correct

Hello Everyone,

Unfortunately, I must report some significant inconsistencies in the instructions provided, so that others don't run into the challenges I did while trying to follow them.

First, the instructions for remapping the Control+Option VoiceOver keystroke combination to Caps Lock don't work, because the "Blind Voice Over" option is not listed in the preferences for the KeyRemap4MacBook application. I suspect what may have happened here is that a later version of this app was released by the developer that, for some unfortunate reason, no longer contains this valuable shortcut.

Second, I was able to use the PcKeyboardHack application to turn the Caps Lock key into a screen-reader modifier for Windows under a virtual machine, but I was not able to get it done using the instructions provided.

I'll give you all a rough outline of what I had to do now, in hopes we can create a more accurate, definitive guide for all this in the very near future.

1. Follow the given instructions for changing Caps Lock to "no action" in System Preferences > Keyboard.
2. Visit http://www.randyrants.com/sharpkeys/ and install SharpKeys 3.5.
3. Use SharpKeys to remap the Grave Accent key to Caps Lock and be sure to write the remapped key to the registry and restart your computer.
4. In System Preferences > PCKeyboardHack, check the box to change Caps Lock and remap it to the back quote, which is key code 50.
5. Press Command+W and switch back to your Windows virtual machine to enjoy your new Caps Lock screen-reader modifier key!

OK, everyone, I hope this helps. Please comment or tweet me @darrell with any questions or other feedback.

Regards,

Darrell

"Blind Voice Over" option is only found in version 7.8.17

The addition of the "Blind Voice Over" option to KeyRemap4MacBook is specific to the version that Eric described in his amended notes: "The Keyremap4macbook needs to be version 7.8.17". Did you try downloading that linked dmg version? The general way to customize the PCKeyboardHack is to customize a private xml for this file with an editor and reload it by pressing the "refresh" button on the "Change Key" tab. Takayama Fumihiko, the developer of KeyRemap4MacBook, set up a private.xml file with the new Caps Lock mapped to Control+Option definition at:
https://github.com/tekezo/Files/blob/master/KeyRemap4MacBook/private.pc_application_to_controloption/private.xml

You can susbstitute this private.xml for the general one in the user manual link for "How to add your own settings" that you can navigate to from the main KeyRemap4MacBook web page. (VO-Space on the link for "Documents" then Right arrow or VO-Right arrow to "Manual". On the user manual page VO-Space on the link for "How to add your own settings"). You can skip the steps for editing and then reloading the private.xml (steps 3-8) because the linked version already contains the edited changes, but you do need to press the "refresh" button (which is described as the "ReloadXML" button in step 5."Press "ReloadXML" button on "Change Key" tab.")

As a result of Eric's interaction with the developer, a special version of the app with the "Blind Voice Over" option was made available. New settings in this software only get added at major revision levels, so you won't find this option if you download the default version (7.8.0) from the web site. Also, because this option involves a setting which requires use and download of the PCKeyboardHack, and KeyRemap4MacBook is designed to work independently from that, I'm not sure that this "Blind Voice Over" setting can easily be made a customizable setting of the general application.

Bottom line: I think things work as Eric outlined if you get version 7.8.17 of KeyRemap4MacBook. Otherwise, it's possible to configure this setup without using Sharp Keys, but it takes a few more steps than he described. Finally, you need to download and install the correct version of the PCKeyboardHack for your operating system from the web site at:
http://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/pckeyboardhack.html.en
There's a different version to use for anyone who's running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6).

HTH.

the best means of remapping keys?

I have a MacBook Air and plan to install Windows 7 in BootCamp and also install VMware Fusion. I will use JAWS as my Widnows screen reader. I'd like to use the caps-lock as my JAWS key on the Windows side, but I'm very comfortable with using the standard VO keys in VoiceOver. I do not want the numpad option. Irarely use the caps-lokck on either VoiceOver or JAWS, so don't much care if it doesn't function as a caps-lock key after remapping
Which option for remapping is the best to do this?
Thanks

Use KeyRemap4Macbook to remap Caps Lock under VMWare Fusion

Hello Ray, 

The only way I know to successfully remap the Caps Lock key for use under VMWare Fusion is to use KeyRemap4Macbook along with the PCKeyboardHack from the same site. You can use whatever you like under Bootcamp, since this is basically just like configuring Windows. For VMWare Fusion you can use the VMWare preference remapping options, you can use SharpKeys from randyrants.com, which is a Windows registry hack, or you can use KeyRemap4Macbook to remap keys. Neither of the other two options will let you use the Caps Lock key for alternative functions, because the Mac OS X Operating system builds in a delay in the response to the Caps Lock key presses. This was a deliberate change that was introduced about the time the Intel Macs were introduced. The consequence is that neither of the simpler remapping strategies used by SharpKeys or the VMWare preferences scheme can give you use of the the Caps Lock key as your JAWS key.

You can read more about using KeyRemap4Macbook at the entry that Eric Caron wrote under the Guides section. You do not need to use the NumPad option -- it can be simply disabled with a check box. However, if the NumPad option is active, you can also use those keys with VoiceOver's NumPad Commander customized key definitions. And if there is a different customization of other keys that you want for the PCKeyboardHack, you do not have to download the verso that the developer customized for Eric. That was simply a step he took to make the specific changes that Eric requested without making users go through the general customization process of remapping selections, which is also accessible. If you want to read more about KeyRemap4Macbook, my Mac-Access list post describes using KeyRemap4Macbook in more detail. 

Esther

updated key remap

Hi, I followed the guide and was able to remap the caps lock key to VO but wanted to note some differences I experienced - the link given for the 7.8.17 version actually links to a new 8.0.0 version, I could not find 7.8.17 in the website so I downloaded and installed the 8.0.0 version and followed the instructions in this post, however, I did not find the two new apps under 'Other' in system preferences - so I opened
the apps from applications and made the changes as described in the guide, works great! I am a newbie to the Mac so if anybody can point out why the apps don't show up in system preferences please advise. I greatly appreciate this very useful key remap - thanks again.

Can this solve issues with VO and other keyboard languages?

Hi guys! I've just sent an email to the people at accessibility@apple.com regarding a problem that I have with not being able to execute some VO keyboard commands while using norwegian keyboard layout. But maybe this app can help to resolve my problem...?
My problem is, i.e. while working in GarageBand, I will sometimes have to move the edges of a loop or a region that I've recorded, or I would want to resize it. The VO keyboard command to start moving a object is VO+Cmd+`. I hear now that VO don't read the symbol if your not in spelling mode... But that symbol isn't standard on my norwegian keyboard layout. The only time I can reach it is by holding down right option-key and pressing different letter keys to find it while I'm in a editfield. So it definitely don't work during executing VO keyboard commands. Right now, the only way I can do this, is by hitting VO+H+H to enter the Vo helpmenu, go down to the resize menu and then hit enter on Start moving object. Wow, sorry for spamming you guys down with a long description! :)
Guess my question is, can I use KeyRemap4Mac to remap such advanced VO shortcuts to fit my norwegian keyboard, or is this only useful to change the standard VO keys to Capslock? Puhh...
Hope that was understandable in some way ;)

Updated version 8.0.0 puts preferences into apps

Hi Carlos,

Thanks for posting about the updated KeyRemap4MacBook version 8.0.0 that was released on January 30. As you noted, with the major version update, links to previous minor version releases are now directed to the main application download page for the latest release, which should incorporate those features. If you use the Links chooser menu (VO-U) on this page, you'll note that after the download link for version 8.0.0 there is also a link for "old versions", which you can also reach if you navigate to the next element after the download link. Activating that link brings up a page that describes the version release history and provides links to the previous releases along with a description of the changed features. The first of the listed changes for version 8.0.0 is "Preferences has been integrated into app". I'll paste in the complete list of 10 changes:

Version 8.0.0 Jan 30, 2013
Preferences has been integrated into app.
Integrated a status message indicator. (Removed Growl support.)
Added a preference of ignored area into "multi-touch extension".
Changed KeyRemap4MacBook_cli location.
Dynamic KeyCode::VK_CHANGE_INPUTSOURCE definition feature has been added.
definition feature has been added.
Added Option::SIMULTANEOUSKEYPRESSES_STRICT_KEY_ORDER.
Added DeviceLocation into , filters.
Changed --KeyToKey-- to __KeyToKey__ at .
Some minor improvements.

The other place to find out about changes to an application is the application's listing at the MacUpdate site. Just Google the name of the app along with "macupdate". This site uses a standard layout format, with a brief description of the application, followed by a "What's New" summary you can navigate to with item chooser menu (VO-I then quickly press "w h a"; you can press return and then start reading). This lists the same list of changes pasted in above. There's an information tab that lists the date of the current release. Again, you can use item chooser to quickly navigate to here: VO-I, quickly press "t a b" then press "i n", I press return to move to the selected item and start reading. In addition to the release date, the information tab section describes the price (free), and type of license (free), along with the fact that there are have already been 624 downloads in the less than 2 weeks since the release. For many paid apps that are in the Mac App store, this part of the page contains information that there may be a demo version or shareware that provides a trial download, which is not available through the Mac App Store, which does not allow versions of apps that are designed to later "stop working" for any reason. I always check the MacUpdate pages for applications, even when I know there are direct links for an app at the Mac App Store. Also, for people who are not updated to the latest version of Mac OS X and have older machines, the MacUpdate pages will provide links and information about version availability of programs that work for these systems. These are some of the reasons why the AppleVis site includes MacUpdate site links for Mac apps, when these links are known.

version 8.0.0

Esther thanks for the thorough (as your posts always are) explanation - you always provide precise and useful info - thanks again, and this remap utility works great for me.

VMWARE FUSION with JAWS

Hello, I have been using the caps lock as the VO key after reading this post and it's working great on the Mac side - I recently installed VMWare Fusion and JAWS 7 and although the CAPS-Lock key is working as the JAWS modifier key, some of the laptop mode commands such as JAWS cursor (CAPS lock+P) and such cursor navigation keys do not work, the only one that seems to work is the right-click keystroke - I am using an Apple wireless keyboard - any suggestions from others that are using VMWare Fusion with JAWS after remapping caps lock with the method described in this post?
Thanks for any help.

Trouble getting this working in virtual machine

I have followed the steps outlined above and am really enjoying using the caps lock as the VO keys; however, the caps lock is not functioning as my JAWS key in Windows. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

updated versions

The versions have now been updated to:
key remap for mac 8.3.0
and
PC keyboard hac 9.0

the link for version 7.8.17 no longer works.

Can I use the new versions?

Also, in his earlier post, Carlos noted that several of the JAWS keys wouldn't work. I note in Eric's description that he says the caps lock key in a virtual machine will act as the insert key in JAWS. Unfortunately, the insert key on a laptop keyboard doesn't perform all the functions that the caps lock key acting as the JAWS key will in Windows. Is there a solution for this?

Tomorrow is my day for putting Fusion on my Air as I still need to use Word in Windows with JAWS as my word processor, and I'm tired of switching with BootCamp.

Thanks for any help.
Ray

Two questions

I have two questions, if anyone can help. Please forgive me if these are answered in the podcast - I can't listen to it at the moment.

1. After remapping caps lock to act as the VO key, is there any way to turn on caps lock? In JAWS for Windows, you just double-tap caps lock. Is there a similar option when using it as the VO modifier?

2. The instructions say that pressing Fn + I causes it to act as the 5 on a num pad, and that you can use the num pad commander with this virtual num pad as well. My question: when num pad commander is on, do you still need to use the Fn key in order for the computer to recognize the commands as num pad commands (i.e., VO + Fn + I would equal VO + 5?)

Thanks!E

caps lock as VO key.

Personally instead of using caps lock as a voice over key I simply turned the right option key to the VO keys. Its already an option key so all you have to do is is use KeyRemap4MacBook to make it both an option key and a control key. This means that you have VO keys on both the left and right of the keyboard, which is great. Also I for one rarely used the right option key by itself. When you can do this I do not fully understand why you would choose to turn the caps lock key into a VO key, since it is on the left side of the keyboard, right above the normal VO keys.

newb question

Hi. Why would you use the VO keys with numbers anyhow? I have only heard of using VO keys with letters, shift and arrow keys.

the number pad comandeer can

the number pad comandeer can be used to let's say hit the number 5 to interact and the number 2 to stop interacting and such.

By the way the software names have changed so I think an update might or might not be in order.

Take care.