voiceover rotor is a Godsend!

iOS & iPadOS

I have just recently begun doing a lot more with my iOS devices in certain apps like Safari. by no means is that to say that I have not used such apps previously. I have, but just not to the extent that I am doing so now.

for security purposes, I cannot go into the specifics, however, there is a website which I use on quite a regular basis as part of my job. essentially, we log into the system, and then through the website, we securely answer emails back and forth between client and us staff members. for this reason, as you probably can imagine, this website relies very very heavily on different form controls, things like buttons, text fields, etc. also, the people that designed the platform we use for our messaging system did a very very good job with accessibility, as certain parts of the website are defined by different headings on the page.

for the longest time, I have used the voiceover rotor to allow me the ability to navigate by headings on a particular webpage. that said however, I never really went into the voiceover settings on iOS and looked at all of the different things that I could add to my rotor that were not there already by default. given the fact that I use this website so regularly from my iPhone, I figured that perhaps I should go look, to see if I could speed up my efficiency in anyway with navigating that particular website. this is when I realized that I could actually add form controls to my rotor. I did so, and, boy! What a difference! I am now able to fly through the webpage very very quickly and efficiently. but it doesn't stop there, hence the reason for this forum topic post.

this got me thinking. I was under the impression that a lot of these rotor options only worked with web content. Boy was I ever wrong! i'll give you a perfect example.

OK, as I said earlier, I have the ability in my rotor to navigate by headings. you may recall that under settings, accessibility, things are laid out in headings. For example, you have a heading cold vision, another called hearing, etc. yes, very true, I could simply swipe between all of the options on the screen until I get where I want to be, but let's say that I am at the very top of the screen focused on the back button, and I want to double tap on hearing devices. I could definitely flick God knows how many times, we'll just call it around 15 or 20 to reach this button. however, I know that it is the first option under the hearing heading. so what is the point of swiping all of those times whenever I have heading navigation as one of the options in my voiceover rotor? now, all I do is move my voiceover rotor to heading navigation, then swipe down with one finger until I reach the hearing heading, then swipe to the right one time, and boom! simple as that, I am right where I need to be.

that's obviously only one example of many, however, this got me to thinking, how far can I actually take this? I figured, if heading navigation works anywhere, not just on the web, I wonder if navigating by form control would also be available across-the-board? sure enough, it is. so here is an example outside of safari where this really helped.

I have a conversation thread going between myself and about to other people through iMessages. this thread was created approximately a month ago, and so, as you can probably imagine, this thread has become fairly big with lots of messages between myself, and the other two people. this morning, I opened up this thread, and went back in the thread history to look at a message that was dated approximately a week and a half ago from one of the other two people. this meant having to swipe down with three fingers to scroll up probably at least six or seven pages worth of messages. yes, I could very easily have touched with four fingers at the bottom of the screen to move to the bottom, and then swiped to the left to find the text field, different folks, different strokes, I get it, but hear me out on this. I figured, would it allow me to set my rotor to form control, then navigate by next control until I quickly jumped over all those other messages and hit the text field where I could double tap to begin writing my response. The short answer? Absolutely! It worked like gold. now, considering the fact that that text field is already near the bottom of the screen regardless the situation, this is not exactly the best example, I will admit, but it still proves my point, that this could prove to be very useful.

so, before I get to my final question, I will give you one more trick that I did which really helped speed things up for me. starting in… I think it was iOS 13? there was the ability to reassign gestures, or add commands to certain gestures. this said, I found that I was not using the two finger swipe up or down gestures very much. I know, a lot of people really really like the read all command, which by the way, is 2 fingers swipe down. call me weird, but I just prefer swiping item by item through content. I guess, old habits die hard. at any rate, since I wasn't really relying on either of those gestures, I changed both of them. So now, 2 fingers swipe up moves me to previous control, and the same swiping down moves me to the next control. my point being, doing it this way, I don't even have to worry about setting my voiceover rotor. I could leave it on heading navigation, so that I still have the ability to do that by swiping up or down with one finger, but at the same time, I also have the ability with this other gesture to move to the previous or next control without even having to bother with the voiceover rotor in the first place. and, seeing that these navigation granularity's are systemwide, you can imagine the flexibility that the snout gives me. The possibilities are virtually endless.

so I would be curious, firstly, if you have reassigned any of your gestures, what have you reassigned, and secondly, what things have you found work really well for you in your rotor as far as navigational settings. I know that you can put other things and your voiceover rotor, however, I am speaking more specifically of granularity navigational settings, things like buttons, form controls, text fields, headings, links, etc. What things have you put in your rotor, which you have found have really sped up your workflow tremendously?

please excuse any typos in this post. I am currently using Siri voice dictation, which, all things considered? I'm quite impressed!



Submitted by Jeff on Saturday, October 17, 2020

For some reason, I find the rotor gesture to be a bit awkward, so I reassigned the 2-finger swipe left and right to the rotor gestures. This makes it easier for me to change the rotor settings.

Submitted by peter on Saturday, October 17, 2020

As handy as the gestures are, I would think that one would find it a lot more efficient to use a blue tooth keyboard to have ready acces to most of these features without having to twist one's way through the numerous rotor settings.

I only use Voiceover on my phone so don't have need for a blue tooth keyboard to take advantage of keyboard shortcuts that I assume are built into Voiceover. But when on a real PC (running Windows in my case) I find the keyboard shortcuts extremely useful and efficient. In addition, using a keyboard in Windows with JAWS, for example, one doesn't have to keep switching modes to navigate through various types of elements. Hitting Insert+F brings one to the next Form field, insert+X moves to the next chekbox, insert+B to the next button, and on and on. Very productive in a workplace environment. I assume using Voiceover with a blue tooth keyboard gives one access to similar functionality for quickly navigating documents, web pages, etc.


Submitted by OldBear on Saturday, October 17, 2020

At some point you might find you have put so many options on your rotor that you get frustrated having to go through all of them to find the one you want. I've tried to arrange them in a useful order, but some other arrangement might be best in various apps.
For example, in the Amazon app, you need headings, links and images near each other because they list products with any of those three, and it changes from page to page. In some other app it might be buttons and fields that you need. If you have fifty options on your rotor, you'll be spending a lot of time going through them.
I also had trouble making the two finger twist, maybe because I'm getting old, so I changed the rotor gesture to the two finger side swipe. Sped things up for me. Oddly, the twist still works for the rotor because I haven't reassigned it yet.
I need to look into if there can be a shortcut made to go directly to the change rotor section in settings. That would truly be a god send.
The bluetooth keyboard commands are much faster for me, except for finding and moving to different parts of text on the screen and a few other situations, so I still touch the screen when I'm using the keyboard. I also forget the commands sometimes because I use a few different screen readers across platforms, like Orca and NVDA.

Submitted by Yvonnezed on Saturday, October 17, 2020

I use headings so much absolutely everywhere that I assigned two finger swipe left and right to headings. Having the rotor set to links and still going by headers with the swipe in safari is nice, not to mention being able to take headers off the rotor to add something else.

I agree with the rotor getting long with too many options. It'd be nice if, say, activities would let you change what was on it based on activity.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Sunday, October 18, 2020

Like it on my phone. Do not use it in Series 5. Is hard to use it. Maybe when I can use 2 finger sliding left or right.