Voiceover quirkiness on my Mac

Hello Awesome Applevis users,

Good news, after 10 years of wanting a Mac, I finally acquired a Mac book air just over a week ago. Excitement abounds!
I'm slowly trying to pick things up as I go. From some one who has been a windows user all my life, even going back into the dos days, this was a huge learning curve, but I'm excited for the journey ahead. I've witnessed someone go through a voiceover utility on their Mac last year, and even though I was admittedly a little envious of watching someone get handed a new Mac, I was more intrigued on how the operating system worked, but I was only allowed a brief glimpse into this new world. Several people told me how much logical the Mac's operating system was, and the helpful items in the voiceover utility have made life a heck of a lot easier for most people. Until now, hearing about this wonderful operating system was all I could cling to along with my dreams of owning one in the near future, and it finally happened!

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to first off say that the guides and podcasts I've found on this site over the past few days have been abundantly helpful. I want to thank all my friends, and the apples community who have provided a wealth of information for me to confidently step out and explore this fun new world, which can get crazy at times, but I love a challenge! Also, thanks to all those who I've been bugging on twitter. The Mac community as a whole has welcomed me with open arms, and although my DSPS specialists at the college who help me in the high tech center say that I've gone to the dark side, I feel more confident in my decision to switch, and no regret at all!

With all that said, however, I am reaching out to help, because I have been noticing some issues with voiceover's behavior on the Mac. Knowing how picky ant tired screen readers can get when you are constantly throwing an array of keystrokes, webpages and windows at them, I just figured my behavior was par for the course, but this is becoming more frequent than I would prefer.
This behavior has happened occasionally system wide, but mostly in safari. I would be randomly reading a webpage, navigating through the various links and text elements, when I would suddenly lose speech. Thinking voiceover may have just froze, I would turn voiceover off, wait a few seconds, then turn it back on. The sounds would return, but no speech. Thinking that speech may have accidentally gotten turned off, I would do a three finger double tap on my trackpad, with only the sounds being muted, so naturally I'd bring them back again. I would again turn off voiceover, wait a while, and still reactivating voiceover brings me sounds, but no speech. Thinking the current app I have open, like safari for the most part, might be causing problems, I close the app with command q and try again.
Unfortunately, after several attempts, I'm left with only one option, to force restart my Mac to get voiceover speaking again. I know we encounter things like that once in a while. No technology is perfect, but this has become a daily occurrence more than once. When my Mac would restart, sometimes speech would be off, and sometimes it would resume speaking normally.
It usually behaves for a while, then it will act up again. There are times the Mac will take a few seconds to fully allow me to use any keys, because it gets stuck on this thing that says "Application has no windows." The only thing I have starting on my Mac is my Spotify, so I can blast music and party, erm... I mean play music in the background when I study. Lol!

Anyway, I start school in a week, and I'm looking forward to a new semester, but I know this new Mac thing will take a bit of time to adjust to. I'm thankful for the voiceover utility and keyboard commander, though I have not added any commands as of yet. I'll keep exploring any new possibility with this computer, because it just feels more comfortable with the ease of access Apple has built in for voiceover users. No more wondering if one keystroke will work the same way in certain screen readers. With all that, though, I'm a tad bit worried about this funky voiceover behavior on my Mac. I'd like to be able to take notes or perform a web search while doing a project in school or for homework, and hope that I don't get constantly shoved into the only choice of rebooting my Mac, which can slow things down.

Is this a bug with the current version? I'm running Mac 10.12.6. Is there something I can enable or fix to keep this from happening? Any help would be, and has been, greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for offering help. If you want to offer general comments that would be beneficial to others as well as myself, post on this forum, but if you would like to have a conversation with me privately to discuss things in greater detail, send me an email at:
or follow me on twitter: @morning_song
If you want to explore voice chat options such as Skype or FaceTime, please contact me using the methods above to arrange a time, as this college student is about to get busy. I hope to use my last ays of freedom figuring this out.

Again, thanks everyone for your help.
Take care,
Melissa Roe


#1 I've Experienced This

I've been a Mac user since the end of 2013, and have experienced this issue too. It used to happen all the time, but now it just happens occasionally. I've not been able to get a definitive answer about this, but it might have something to do with memory. I purchased an external hard drive last year, and that seems to have solved my speech issues for the most part. Having said all that, I'm glad you chose to dive in and get a Mac. I was skeptical as well at first, but having used this wonderful little machine for awhile now I feel differently. Those who claim that Apple doesn't give a hoot about accessibility, are just plain wrong in my books.

#2 Welcome to the Dark Side

Hi Melissa, well welcome to the Darkside. I too like you, have recently gotten a Mac after spending all my life with Windows and JAWS, and like you, have gotten that usual joke remark from friends and family saying that I had joined the Darkside. I too have not regretted switching over and am slowly learning bit by bit new things about the Ma Mac and how to use it.

I have not come across this VoiceOver bug though but would recommend sending an email to Apple Accessibility and letting them know about this, perhaps it could very well be a specific set of circumstances that could be causing this glitch, or something in System Preferences that is not configured correctly, or could very well be a bug with VoiceOver.

Anyways, good luck in solving this glitch. If you ever solve it, please be sure to let us know as it could help others encountering the same issue.

Welcome to the Mac side and enjoy it.

#3 Make sure you are using Alex for your voice.

Make sure that you have Alex set as your default voice. I tried to use other voices when I got my Mac several years ago. I had problems that I could not track down when I used voices other than Alex. I am not saying that this is causing your issues, but this fixed my issues at that time. I have upgraded the RAM on my Mac sense then so most issues I had have became a thing of the past. I hope this helps you.. It is great to see a new Mac user!

#4 Hmmm, those are interesting thoughts

Thanks for the tips. I'm not sure if those are what is causing my issue though. I have 8 gigs of dir 3 ram in this Mac book air. It's brand new. I do, however, have a 128 gig sad on this thing, but I mainly have apps and word documents. I prefer to use streaming services like Spotify or Sero instead of downloading music to my Mac. There are a few albums that iTunes saved from my library, but that's pretty much it. Anyway, thanks for those awesome tips.
Take care,
Melissa Roe

#5 Use Alex or other Macintalk voices

I'd recommend sticking to the Alex voice or other voices in the Macintalk synthesizer such as Fred, Bruce, Vicki, Victoria, etc. Don't touch any of the Vocalizer voices like Samantha or Tom. Apple has had major responsiveness issues with these voices since 2013 when Mavericks came out. I have no idea what the issue is, but it's either being ignored or incredibly difficult for them to fix. Aside from that, I have no idea. VoiceOver and macOS are more stable and reliable than any of the Windows screen readers I've tried. I know I've said thatVoiceOver has some stupid bugs, but it's getting better in High Sierra. I will continue to use the system.

#6 I stick to Alex only, and it still does this

I will keep trying to work at it, but even when my voices all stick strictly to Alex, this behavior still continues. I hope they'll work on allowing us to use vocalizer voices, because I really like Ava.

#7 A few things to try

Hi! I have experienced this quite a number of times.
When I'm in a hurry and this happens, and I'm more or less faced with a reboot as my only option, I found logging out of my user account then back in again, usually solves the problem and is a bit faster than rebooting from scratch. It can be a problem to get logged out without any speech, but I do it using the shortcut Cmd+Option+Shift+Q. Just remember you'll have to turn VoiceOver on after you have waited for some seconds to get properly logged out and arrive at the login screen where all the Mac's user accounts are displayed.
A more in depth fix, that seems to fix the issue for a longer time period, is to trash the VoiceOver preferences files, and start fresh.
Just remember to export your VO preferences first, if you have done a lot of tweaking there, so you don't have to start over from scratch again after wiping all the preferences files. You'll find an option to export the VO preferences in the Archive menu in the VO Utility, which is opened by hitting Ctrl+Option+F8.
After exporting, and then trashing the files, you can head back into the VO utility and find the Import preferences option on the Archive menu to get your old VO settings back from the file you just exported.
To delete all the VO preferences files, do this:
1 - Hit Cmd+Shift+G in finder to open an editfield where you can type in a folder to go to. This is usually necessary, because you want to access the Library folder, which by default is hidden.
2 - Type in: ~/library and hit enter.
3. When in the library folder, locate the preferences folder
4 - Scroll down untill you find all the files starting with the name "Com.Apple.Voiceover", I have 4.
5 - Select all of them and delete them. Don't worry, VO will create new ones when VO is restarted the next time.
6 - Turn VO off and then back on again, and you will have a fresh VO setup, and hopefully also gotten rid of any corrupted preferences files that might have caused speech to drop out.
Now you can go a head and import your old VO preferences to get things back just the way you like it again.
If that doesn't do the trick, try doin the same steps, but don't import the old settings afterwards, and try that for a while and see if it solves the problem. If it does, Then you'll know that it probably was some of your old settings that caused the problem. In that case, you'll have to start over from scratch setting up your own prefered preferences, but it's probably worth it if it solves the problem.
Another thing I often do if VO is acting strange or slow, is to delete the VO cache folder.
You'll find it in the library folder as well, so hit Cmd+Shift+G again in finder, type ~/library and hit enter.
Then locate the Caches folder, and in that folder, you will find a folder which if I remember right, is called Com.Apple.VoiceOver. Just go ahead and delete it. No worries, this wont affect any of your VO settings, and the folder will be re-created the next time you login to your user account or reboot your Mac.
A last thing to try, is to get an app like Memory Clean, or something like it, and do a scan to free up more memory. Can't remember where I got it, might be in the App Store, if not, just do a google search for it.
I hope some of theese suggestions might help you solve the problem. It has for me, at least for some weeks or months, before I'll have to start over with the same procedures to try to get it fixed again.
Take care, and enjoy your new Mac! :)

#8 This is why I do not

This is why I do not recommend Macs for blind users.

These kinds of bugs are not acceptable. No screen reader on Windows or Linux will have them and those are guys who do not know these system in the same in-depth level as Apple knows their operating system.

Restore the settings? Come on, her Mac OS is new, her computer is new, this is the first setup. No files had a chance to get emssed out or corrupted because no update has been made. Restore the preferences? Whatever is causing the bug will come back because it has not been fiixed.

Apple know that, everyone knows that and they do at least from 2013 on and nothing has been made. Nothing shows that something is going to be made and even if it is then it is not acceptable to wait for three years to have your speech (speech !!!!!! ) stable when using your own screen reader.

It is incredible how an organization with virtually no money compared to Apple such as NVAccess has been able to build a soo much stable screen reader...

Now, is it possible to reliably code a better solution than the aklmost abandoned voiceover ffor mac? No, that's not.

As for you, young student who has acquired a Mac, I wish you good luck with all the pdf you are likely to use on that platform ... and with all the epub books you might have to read on that platform .. but the unfortunate truth is that you will have trouble ... more trouble than your mac worths, even it being expensive the way it is.

Accessibility has for the most part ended om Mac OS for serious productivity, unfortunately.

#9 Split

I can agree with you to a certain extent, that VoiceOver need some more work on some stability issues on Mac, but not everybody experiences this. And when a few do experience this, why not try to find a way of fixing it, rather than throwing the Mac out the window and order a windows computer right away? Everything technical has bugs. There's just no way around it. A perfect computer or operating system has never been made, and will most likely not ever be built either.
But what I don't agree on, is the way of discouraging a new Mac user, who has just started out using a Mac for the first time.
If you had spent all your savings on a new fancy gadget, the last thing you want to hear is that the gadget you have just bought is just plain crapp. That most certainly isn't the way of encouraging a new user to enjoy and learn using a completely new operating system.
We can argue back and forth forever about what's best of Windows and Mac, but I don't beleive that was the purpose of this exact post.
Some like Windows, some like Mac, some like Mercedes, some like Volvo. It's just a mather of personal taste. But what we probably all can agree on, is that when something goes wrong with our expensive stuff, we'd rather have helping comments than comments about how crappy our faulty equipment is.
When that is said, I've been a Windows user for most of my life, before switching to Mac 5 years ago, and I certainly had my deal of problems there too. I've also faced problems on Mac, but in my case, not at all to the extent I was having on Windows, and that have caused me to stick with using Mac for 5 years now. But that's probably for a different thread.
And for those of you who's worried about reading pdf's on Mac, yes that has been a major drawback for Mac users as long as I can remember, but it's doable, and support for pdf's will get much improved in about 1 month from now with the release of High Sierra, so to say that VoiceOver is abandund on Mac would not be completely fair, if not to say incorrect.

#10 agreed

I agree with cliff on this one. You said it better than I could.

#11 Agree Completely Too

First off, I'd like to say that I agree completely with the previous 2 comments. For those of you who claim Apple doesn't care about accessibility, think of it this way. What if VoiceOver--or these other access features for that matter--never even existed? What if we had to rely on 3rd-party access to use our Apple products, or what if we couldn't use them at all due to total inaccessibility? Just take a moment and think about that. Sorry to be so blunt here, but I too, am sick and tired of reading all these comments about how the company has just abandoned the whole accessibility thing because they haven't. Someone may prefer one screen reader over another for whatever reason or use multiple screen readers, but please don't ruin it for the rest of us. Rant over; now onto my comment. Thank you to the people who suggested going into the system library and deleting old preference files. That seems to be working for me.

#12 Glad to hear

I'm glad to hear that my suggestions were helpful to you! :)

#13 check for updates

Try checking for an update, this used to happen to me before, but it rarely happens with mac os sierra.

#14 at split

Have you ever even tried using a mac? If not, then don't judge its system by its bugs or its looks. And I agree with cliff, not the best way of putting it, discouraging new users. Hell, I know lots of blind friends who had, windows; and switched to mac. Don't judge a book by its cover, I would say go try a mac first, and then what you said could be counted as a valid argument

#15 Sir,


I am a mac advanced user.

I am also someome who ahve worked with the TI industry for over 15 years and who study AT for more than 20 years now.

I have gome through several projects to learn that bugs are unavoidable but they can be reduced if there is a real interest onn keeping them away. They can be for sure fixed in a time manner should the need arise to do so.

And I have learned that if you are at the core of a product then if you have bugs at the very core of that product then something is really wrong.
The main function of a screen reader is to be able to speech or braille stuff.

This is something that screen readers do not deppend upon any other system layer to do. If screen readers are not being able to speak, then there is something very very endeed wrong.

Accessibility is a hard thing. You have to count on so many layers working, accessibility api's designed, implemented by the apps developpers, bla bla ... this is problematic on Windows, Linux, Mac's and in virtually any other system.

But being able to eficiently manage speech is something that is a pure responsibility of the screen reader itself.

For those of you using Alex ... does that voice speak anything else than english? No? Well ... I am sorry to say that there are other countries speaking other languages around, folks ... World is not composed of only US and UK ... fortunately for me I would say ... but the thing is we do not have the option of using Alex. We do need to use the vocalizer voices and loosing productivity with them is not, again, acceptable.

But what points the finger at Apple the most and confirms that Accessibility is over on Mac is ........ Apple itself. Because there is another system, called iOS, that implements state-of-art accessibility, and it is produced, screen reader included ... by Apple!
How can that be that for one system accessibility is such a dream and for the other it is such a nightmare where the screen reader can not even speak if you do not reset ocasionally some prefs or use a voice that will speak only one language? The response is: priority. Accessibility is a priority on iOS ... not on Mac.

To code and guarantee quality of a product also is related to resources. Put the right resources on that and it works. Give limited resources and it will barely survive. I still make my point that serious productivity is not something I would use macs for ...

And about the pdfs ... Apple is fixing it? Great! What about all students that have been frustrated by Macs inability of handling pdf on the last five years or more? Could Apple have fixed it before? Sure should they want it ... what proves that they are going to fix that on this release? I don't know. May be yes, may be not. But even if they do fix that they are many many years late already. PDF's are not new technology.

#16 RE: Application has no windows"

One of the first troubleshooting steps I might take would be to identify which application is giving you the "application has no windows" message. Next time you encounter this message, try bringing up the application chooser by pressing VO+F1+F1, then switch to each application one at a time, and press VO+F2 when in the application to describe the currently open window. if VO announces "no windows" maybe google the application name to make sure it's legit, or post it here if you're not sure.

#17 RE: Spotify automatically starting

Another first-level troubleshooting step I might try would be to review applications that are automatically starting at logon. You mentioned Spotify is automatically starting. I've not personally tried the Spotify Mac client, but a quick google search seems to indicate a history of issues.. I might try disabling the Spotify client from starting automatically, then use my Mac for a few days without using Spotify, to see if my issues clear up.

#18 RE: Issue happens in Safari "for the most part"

Another first-level troubleshooting step I might take would be to ask other Mac Users to try to replicate my issue. The proper way to do this is to provide as much detail about my system as possible, list the exact steps I take which will normally cause the issue to occur, and list the troubleshooting steps I've already tried. For example, my request might look like this:

Issue: VoiceOver stops speaking on a certain website.
System: MacBook Air 11 inch, Mid-2013, i7 processor, 8GB RAM, 90GB free HD space, macOS 10.12.6, Safari Version 10.1.2 (12603.3.8)
Steps to replicate the issue:
1. Go to www dot website dot com
2. Do this and that and this and that for X amount of time.
3. VO stops speaking.
4. Try X, Y, Z to get VO speaking again.
5. Here's what happens when I try the same thing in Chrome instead of Safari.

#19 re, sir

I'm running the latest version of mac os, and currently, I'm not encountering speech problems. Apple does care about accessibility, and improving it, if they did not, voiceover would be a lot more buggy than what it is.

#20 agreed

Agreed wi hthe previous poster. I've come across a fair few bugs, but nothing that prevents me from using Mac OS as a whole.

#21 Concur with the comments

Concur with the comments above. Sure, VO has it's quirks, but in my opinion, the mac side is a very stable and user friendly operating system once you figure out it's quirks/bugs/etc. I've used the mac for the past 7 years exclusively, and truly don't regret one second of the switch. Sure, there are bugs. Sure sometimes there are issues. However at least if something happens on the mac VO usually comes right back up and running. I clearly remember a few years ago on the windows side, when you would loose speech, you had to either reboot the system, or restart the screen reader. Sometimes on mac side, you have to do those things, but not as frequent. Cudos to apple for the mac, and also for having Voiceover implemented on all their devices! I am truly one happy apple user!

#22 Reset


I had an issue similar to what you described. Reinstalling the OS didn’t work and 16GB and over 500GB of free space confirmed it was not a resource issue. I ended up doing a PRAM reset and it fixed the issue. That’s something you might want to try.

HTH and good luck.

#23 for those who don't know...

For those who don't know, you can reset the PRAM by doing the following:

1: shut down your mac. Make sure all apps are closed and work is saved.

2: hold down command, option, p and r and turn on the power to your mac.

3. keep holding the keys down until you hear a second chime from the mac. the first one will have happened when you first powered the machine on.

4: after you hear the second chime, release the keys and let your mac boot as normal.

#24 Ironic

I'm typing this on a Windows computer. As I moved to the edit field to start typing a response, Jaws on my Windows computer completely stopped talking. No amount of bringing it back worked, and I had to force a restart. So the person who said this doesn't happen on other operating systems is incorrect. This happens frequently with Jaws. It always has, and my guess is that it always will.

#25 Right!! I had the same issue

Right!! I had the same issue you did on windows Brooke. I know exactly what you are talking about!

#26 Thank you all for your help

Hello everyone,

First off, I want to thank you for your suggestions. Although I haven't implemented all the changes yet, I'm keeping this page for reference to try anything else listed that can help fix this issue. I'll give an update in a moment about how things are going. I do want to say thank you to those who have backed me up on the purchase of my Mac. It's certainly nice to hear helpful comments rather than discouraging ones. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I cannot change what people feel or think about the Mac. I only know that after being a windows user and struggling with so many problems on the windows side for so long, I felt it was time to shift things and give another operating system a try. Like I said before, this is a journey, and I'm learning new things with each step. It's awesome to have people who are willing to step in and help.

First, I did try the PRAM reset as one user suggested. The issue still persists, but it is less frequent. I've disabled Spotify on startup, and when I'm ready to use it, I just launch it using that vo Spotify file the developer posted on the forums, so that I can log in and access my playlist and stuff. That helps tremendously, but whether Spotify is launched or not, the issue still occurs.
As far as safari, it doesn't really depend on the site I'm using when voiceover decides to misbehave. In fact, while preparing to type this comment, it froze, and I had to turn it off and on to get it to behave itself again. Also, it froze on me earlier while I was typing a post in the go for Facebook app. As I've said, this occurs system wide, and although safari is where most of it takes place, I don't think it is safari itself, because it will freeze up on pages when I'm simply writing paragraphs to a story.

I have not yet tried clearing voiceover preferences yet, but that is the next step. School starts tomorrow, and I've been busy with preparations. I will be exploring those options when I have some free time, so this page will be a great help. That is pretty much the only option I have left. My friend states she has this trouble from time to time on her Mac as well, so whatever I can do to fix mine, I'll pass it along.

If you have anymore suggestions, please send them up. Thanks again for your help and kindness. Again, if you feel it would be better to voice chat or email, contact me using the methods in my initial post. Take care, and thanks again.