Help with a Few VoiceOver Commands

macOS & Mac Apps


I would like to know what VO Command backslash, VO delete, and VO shift j do. I haven't found a place in the Mac operating system where these are used. If someone could tell me exactly what these do and provide examples of places where these are actually useful, I'd appreciate it. I'm still learning about little commands and features of VoiceOver even though I've been using a Mac for more than three years now.



Submitted by Nicholas on Saturday, December 31, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello Chris,
VO Command backslash, moves the VO cursor to the parent row, in a table or list.
VO delete, deletes a ruler marker, usually in TextEdit.
VO shift j, jump to the current pop-up item. For spelling suggestions?

I often use VO k, to discover new VO commands. VO k, starts live keyboard help. In this mode, you can press any keys and VoiceOver will announce the keys, then tell you their function, if any. It will not perform their function in this mode. Press Escape to return to normal operation.

Note, I have been using Macs for 20+ years, still learn something new every day. I love it!
I hope this helps a bit.

Submitted by Mani on Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hello Nicholas,
Would you happen to know the VO command to determine the actual length of a line say in TextEdit? There is one command which gives the length of the VO cursor and that simply gives the same length for every line that does not help me.

Submitted by dvdmth on Saturday, December 31, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

For VO-Command-Backslash, suppose you have a list of items, such as in the Finder. There are folders in the list, each of which has a disclosure triangle which controls whether or not the contents of the folder are visible. You use VO-Backslash to toggle the disclosure triangle open or closed. When open, you then navigate into the folder's contents, but then you want to close the folder again. You can press VO-Command-Backslash, and VoiceOver automatically jumps back to the entry containing the folder. You can then use VO-Backslash to toggle the disclosure triangle again, closing the folder and removing its contents from the list.

I don't normally use list view in the Finder, since I prefer column view, but I do encounter this in iTunes, where I have my playlists organized into playlist folders. In the sidebar, each playlist folder appears as a single entry, together with a disclosure triangle. I use VO-Backslash to open the folder, which reveals the playlists I have placed inside the folder. These playlists occupy their own rows in the table, below the name of the folder containing them. If I focus on one of these playlists, then press VO-Command-Backslash, then focus jumps back to the folder itself, where I can then press VO-Backslash to close the folder if I want.

For VO-Delete, the only place I know of where this command does anything is within TextEdit, and presumably other text editors, when interacting with the ruler. Items in the ruler that can be removed will respond to VO-Delete while focused on them. A sighted user would drag these items out of the ruler to get rid of them, but there is no VO equivalent to the drag operation, which is why Apple made a special VO command for this operation. There may be other places where VO-Delete does something, but I am not aware of them.

VO-Shift-J is used to access a popover which is attached to an element currently focused. For example, in Safari there is a popover which appears when you press the Downloads button in the toolbar, or hit Command-Option-L to show your downloads. Normally VoiceOver automatically focuses on this popover, so you don't need to press VO-Shift-J, but I have run into situations in the past where the focus somehow ended up outside the popover and somewhere else on screen. When I navigated back to the toolbar and the downloads button, VoiceOver announced that the button had a popover, along with the hint to press VO-Shift-J to enter the popover. This is the only time I needed to used this command, although I'm sure there are other places where this could happen.

Regarding how to determine the length of a line in a TextEdit document, I don't think there is any way to do that.

Submitted by Chris on Sunday, January 1, 2017

Thanks for all these responses. Well, now I know what VO command backslash does. I don't usually expand rows or lists. In the finder, I use Macintosh keyboard commands to open folders in their own windows instead of adding items to the main list. As for TextEdit, I never use the ruler so this isn't important. Still, it's good to know these things. You really do learn something new every day.

Submitted by Siobhan on Sunday, January 1, 2017

Trust me, the best thing you can do is use Voice over K. I can't say VO personally I don't care for that abreviation, and it makes me think of vodka lol. Anyway just press Voice over K and it will let you push anything you want, even it works iwth trackpad gestures too. Hope that helps. That's one of the first things i did, before i screwed up anything. ;) Happy new year.