By now, many of you have probably encountered, or even own one of the many iDevices. You are also probably using Voiceover to access its many built-in functions. But, are you using Voiceover efficiently? If you are constantly looking for edit fields and/or buttons by slowly sliding your finger endlessly around the screen, then the following information is for you. Don’t get me wrong, Voiceover is definitely working, reading the pertinent information, but there are quicker ways of getting things done.
Unlocking your phone
To quickly unlock your phone, push the home and/or lock buttons and do a 3-fingered swipe to the right.
If you have password protected your iPhone, (something I strongly suggest), you will be dropped into the password edit field. Otherwise, you will be put into the home screen.
Alternatively, sliding one finger up from the home button and slightly to the left will bring you to the unlock button. Do a one-fingered double tap and you are off to the races.
Navigating The Home Screens
Some of you may have remembered how your home screen is laid out. If this is the case, simply slide a finger on the screen until you find the app that you seek and do a one-fingered double tap to launch it.
Alternatively, you can do a one-fingered swipe left or right to cycle through all of the icons, including the doc bar at the bottom of the phone. The doc area is where you can keep up to 4 of the most used apps, regardless of what home screen page that you are on.
Swiping through elements is something you should get used to, as this is one of the ways to navigate many apps that may not be fully accessible, but functional.
Notice the sounds that accompany your gestures when you are swiping? The single click means that you are progressing from one icon to the next. The combined high and low click means you are moving up or down one line of icons.
Now back to gestures.
Answering your phone and other stories:
Are you finding it stressful trying to answer your phone, searching for that elusive answer button? No need to panic. Once it starts ringing, simply do a two fingered double tap on the screen and your phone call is started. Repeat the same gesture to end the call. This gesture toggle will also work to start and stop music and may also be used in various apps to control their behaviour.
Where are all of my apps?
You have now collected a healthy amount of apps and they seem to be disappearing? No says I. They’re actually spilling into another page on your phone. You can get there by doing a 3 fingered swipe to the left. Voiceover will announce the page number and land on the first app listed there. Repeat the gesture for successive pages. Use a 3 fingered swipe right to move back through pages. To get a description of the page that you are on, do a 3 fingered single tap.
Pressing the home button once will bring you back to the your main home page.
Going back is a pain:
Some apps, such as the settings area, have many layers and you need to back out of them in order to get back to various sections. There is usually a “back” button located at the top left of the screen. But, why not use a gesture instead? You can mimic a back button click by doing a 2 fingered scrub. You essentially place 2 fingers on the screen and move them back and forth quickly.
Voiceover can read information sequentially. Some apps will even let you read long portions of texts such as iBooks or Mail without any intervention on your part. All you have to do to get the process started is do a 2 fingered swipe down. Need to pause for a second? No problem, do a 2 fingered single tap. Repeat the gesture to continue from where you left off.
Mastering the rotor:
A hidden Voiceover control, the rotor enables you to navigate elements on the screen. It also lets you change various aspects of Voiceover settings. It consists of 2 gestures.
Rotating the rotor:
Before we venture playing with the rotor, imagine it as one of those old radio knobs that you would change the frequency and/or crank the volume with. The rotating gesture is accomplished by using 2 fingers on the screen, slightly apart and then turning them clockwise or counter clockwise. This will move through the options. You will notice a cricket-like sound while moving throughout the various settings.
Changing a rotor option:
To activate a feature or change an option, swiping up or down with 1 finger will do the trick. For example, if you rotate the rotor to characters, you can then swipe down repeatedly to spell out the word that Voiceover is currently focused upon.
Help is only one gesture away:
These are the most commonly used gestures on an iDevice. If you want to practice your gestures, or just want a bit more help, you can do so by doing a four fingered double tap and the Voiceover help system will be at your disposal.
You can find more gestures and descriptions by visiting the user guide for your particular iDevice.
Incidentally, if you want an educational and entertaining way of learning how to use Voiceover, (besides this blog entry that is(, you might want to try out the Looktel Voiceover tutorial app available in the iStore.
Two Bonus Gestures:
I was at a loss as to where to put these, so I decided to throw them into this section.
Sometimes, you want Voiceover to be quiet and out of the way; like when you’re listening to music for example. You can do this with a three fingered double tap gesture. Repeat the gesture to bring Voiceover back to life. The second bonus enables privacy and saves on battery life. This is what Voiceover calls the screen curtain. Essentially, it dims out your screen so that wandering eyes cannot see what you are doing. You can enable and disable this with a 3 fingered triple tap.