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Microsoft makes it easier to navigate touchscreens by sound with new Windows 8 Narrator changes

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Microsoft has made improvements to its Windows 8 Narrator accessibility system, primarily by simplifying the touch interface and providing more feedback to let users know their gestures were recognized.

nokia windows 8 tablet mockup
nokia windows 8 tablet mockup

After rolling out a new version of its Windows 8 accessibility tools and taking feedback, Microsoft has made some changes to text-to-speech tool Narrator on the Consumer Preview. Most of them concern the new touch features, which let users move a finger across the screen to be read the icons or content, then tap to select. While the tools were meant to make touch screens easier to navigate for the visually impaired, people apparently had trouble knowing whether the screen had recognized their touch, and the reader was sometimes too slow to recognize when someone had touched an icon.

In response, Microsoft has added quick audio cues to provide feedback for actions, and it's streamlined the gestures people used to navigate. It's also made some improvements to navigating the web, adding more "views" to control how text is read out. These tweaks should be live in the Release Preview, but they'll primarily affect tablets, which need to support at least four contact points for the features to work. That means most people won't be using them until the first wave of Windows 8 tablets is released.