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Edit spreadsheets with a screen reader

You can edit spreadsheets on your computer using a screen reader.

Note: Before following the steps below, make sure you've turned on Docs screen reader support.

Move around in your spreadsheet

When you open a spreadsheet, your focus is in the first cell. As you move through the spreadsheet, the screen reader announces each cell's address and contents. For example, if cell C4 contains "New York City," the screen reader reads "New York City C4."

Use keyboard shortcuts

Sheets is different from a typical website, so some standard screen reader shortcuts don't apply. For the best experience, use Sheets shortcuts while editing your spreadsheet.

To open a list of shortcuts in your spreadsheet, press Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or ⌘ + / (Mac). You can search for actions such as move or columns. To return to your spreadsheet, press Escape.

Take quick actions by searching the menus

  1. Press Alt + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Option + / (Mac).
  2. Type a command, such as Rename or Insert
  3. Press the down arrow to hear search results. For example, if you type Insert, the options include adding rows, comments, and other choices. 
  4. To choose an action, press Enter.

Use the menus, top-level buttons, and toolbar

Note: If there are no buttons and menus at the top, press Ctrl + Shift + f (Windows, Chrome OS, or Mac).

To browse the menus:

  1. Open the File menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + f
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + f
    • Chrome OS: Alt + f
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + f
  2. Press the right arrow to explore other menus, including Edit, View, Insert, Format, Data, Tools, Add-ons, Help, and Accessibility.

Tip: To get help, open the Help menu and select Sheets Help. Press Tab to reach the search box, then type your search, such as Formulas, and press Enter. The help opens in a box where you can read or navigate to other topics. To return to the spreadsheet, press Escape.

From the menus, you can move to two other sets of controls:

  • Top-level buttons: These buttons are for spreadsheet-level actions, such as renaming, starring, sharing, or moving the spreadsheet to a different folder. From the menus, press Shift + Tab.
  • Toolbar: The toolbar has options for editing and formatting, such as font and alignment. From the menus, press Tab.

Use the Accessibility menu to read or move around your spreadsheet

  1. Open the Accessibility menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + a
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + a
    • Chrome OS: Alt + a
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + a 
  2. Press the down arrow to hear options, such as Speak, Go to range, and more.
  3. Press the right arrow to open a sub-menu, and press the down arrow to explore options in the sub-menu.
  4. Press Enter to select an option.

Editing and formatting basics

To edit the contents of a cell, press Enter on the focused cell. Type your changes, then press Enter to make a change or Escape to cancel.

Announce cell formatting and contents

As you move through the spreadsheet, you'll hear relevant announcements about the contents of the cells. For example, the screen reader announces the following information:

  • Links: To follow a link, press Alt + Enter (Windows) or Option + Enter (Mac).
  • Notes: To add or edit a note on the focused cell, press Shift + F2 (Windows, Mac) or Shift + Search + 2 (Chrome OS). In the window that appears, type your note, then press Escape. To delete a note, delete all text within the note.
  • Data validation: You'll hear if a cell has invalid contents as a result of data validation.
  • Filtering: If you move from an unfiltered range of cells to a filtered range, you'll hear that you've entered a filtered region.

Find out the formatting of a focused cell

  1. Open the Accessibility menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + a
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + a 
    • Chrome OS: Alt + a
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + a
  2. Select Speak.
  3. Press the down arrow to hear the different formatting options, then press Enter to select.

Change cell formatting

You can change the formatting for an entire cell or for specific parts of a cell.

  • To change the formatting for an entire cell, select the cell. 
  • To change a specific part (for example, to make a single word bold), press Enter, then hold Shift and use the arrow keys to select the part that you'd like to change. 

Explore formatting styles

  1. Open the Format menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + o
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + o  
    • Chrome OS: Alt + o
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + o 
  2. Press the down arrow to hear options, then press Enter to select.
  3. To clear formatting for the selected cell, press Ctrl + \ (Windows) or ⌘ + \ (Mac).

Learn more about editing and formatting cells.

Duplicate, copy, or rename a sheet

The sheet menu lets you perform a variety of actions on the active sheet, such as duplicate, copy, or rename. 
  1. Press Alt + Shift + s (Windows) or Option + Shift + s (Mac).
  2. Press the down arrow to navigate through the options, and press Enter to select.

Work with multiple sheets in a spreadsheet

  1. Press Alt + Shift + k (Windows, Chrome OS) or Option + Shift + k (Mac).
  2. Use the up and down arrows to move through the list.
  3. To move to a sheet, press Enter

Select and work within a range of cells

  1. Go to the first cell that you'd like to include in the range.
  2. Hold Shift and use the arrow keys to select a range of cells.

After you select a range, use the following shortcuts to move your focus within the range:

  • Enter: Move from top to bottom.
  • Shift + Enter: Move from bottom to top.
  • Tab: Move from left to right.
  • Shift + Tab: Move from right to left.

To edit a cell without deselecting your range, press F2 (Windows, Mac) or Search + 2 (Chrome OS).

Add, delete, or move columns and rows

Select rows or columns

  1. Go to a cell in the row or column that you'd like to select.
  2. To select a row, press Shift + Space. To select a column, press Ctrl + Space.
  3. To select additional rows or columns, press Shift and the arrow keys.

Add rows or columns

  1. Select a cell where you'd like to add the new row or column.
    • Tip: To add multiple rows or columns at one time, select the same number of cells as the number of rows or columns that you want to add. For example, to insert two rows at the top, first select one cell each in rows 1 and 2.
  2. Open the Insert menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + i
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + i
    • Chrome OS: Alt + i
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + i
  3. Choose one of the options to insert rows or columns.
  4. If you selected multiple cells in step 1, the Insert menu has options to insert multiple rows or columns.

Delete rows or columns

  1. Select one or more cells in the rows or columns that you want to delete. If you select multiple cells, you can delete multiple rows or columns at a time.
  2. Open the Edit menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    1. Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + e
    2. Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + e 
    3. Chrome OS: Alt + e
    4. Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + e
  3. Choose one of the options to delete rows or columns.

Move rows or columns

  1. Select a cell in the row or column that you want to move.
  2. Select a column (Ctrl + Space) or row (Shift + Space) that you want to move. To select multiple columns or rows, press Shift and the arrow keys.
  3. Open the Edit menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    1. Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + e
    2. Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + e 
    3. Chrome OS: Alt + e
    4. Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + e
  4. Choose one of the options to move the columns or rows.

Hide, unhide, or freeze columns and rows

Hide rows or columns

  1. Select a cell in the row or column that you want to hide.
  2. Select a column (Ctrl + Space) or row (Shift + Space) that you want to hide. To select multiple columns or rows, press Shift and the arrow keys.
  3. Open the context menu by pressing Ctrl + Shift + \.
  4. Press the down arrow until you reach Hide column or Hide row, then press Enter.

Unhide rows or columns

  1. Select the columns or rows surrounding the hidden ones.
  2. Open the context menu by pressing Ctrl + Shift + \.
  3. Select Unhide columns or Unhide rows.

Freeze rows or columns

You can freeze up to ten rows or five columns in any sheet. Freezing rows and columns lets you keep some of your data at the top or far left as you scroll through the rest of your spreadsheet.

  1. Open the View menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + v
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + v  
    • Chrome OS: Alt + v
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + v
  2. Select Freeze rows or Freeze columns
  3. Press the down arrow to hear the options from zero through 10, then press Enter to make a selection.

If you place your focus inside a frozen area, the screen reader announces that you're inside frozen rows or columns.

Work with formulas, charts, or images

Add or edit a formula

To add a formula to a cell, type an equal sign (=) followed by the name of the function. You'll hear a read-out of the formula as you type. Learn more about functions and formulas.

To change or delete a formula, press Enter to edit the cell, then type your changes. If there's an error in your formula, you'll hear an explanation of the error along with the cell contents.

Read formulas

If a cell contains a formula, you'll hear the value of the formula. There are a few ways to read formulas:

  • Option 1: Press Enter to edit a cell and read its contents.
  • Option 2: Go to the formula bar by opening any menu, then tabbing to the formula bar. If the formula bar is hidden, open the View menu and select Formula bar.
  • Option 3: Set a sheet to always view all formulas. Press Ctrl + back quote (`), or go to the View menu and select Show formulas.

Find charts, images, or drawings

Your spreadsheet can include information that's not part of the data grid, such as embedded charts, drawings, or images.

If you navigate to a cell that's covered by an embedded chart, image, or drawing, the screen reader announces that the cell is covered.

When a chart is selected in your spreadsheet, the screen reader announces the chart title, alt text, and gives you the option to read a summary of the chart.

Edit charts, images, or drawings

  1. Open the Accessibility menu using the shortcut key for your browser:
    • Windows with Chrome browser: Alt + a
    • Windows with other browsers: Alt + Shift + a  
    • Chrome OS: Alt + a
    • Mac: First press the pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then Ctrl + Option + a
  2. Press e to choose Select, then press the down arrow to browse the objects that you can select, such as charts, drawings, or images. Press Enter to select an object.
  3. The embedded object is now selected. From here, choose an option:
    • Press the arrow keys to move the object.
    • Press Tab to move to the options button, then press Enter to open the options menu. Press the down arrow to browse other actions that you can apply to the object, and press Enter to select.

Learn more about adding charts or graphs.

Find answers to questions about your spreadsheet data

You can ask questions about the data in your spreadsheet. You can also find formula, formatting, or chart suggestions based on your data.

  1. Open the Explore region in your spreadsheet by pressing Alt + Shift + x (Windows, Chrome OS) or Option + Shift + x (Mac).
  2. Use your screen reader keystrokes to navigate through the Explore region and hear headings such as Answers, Formatting, and Analysis.
  3. In the Answers section, enter a question about your data, then press Enter. You can find example questions below. (Note: The Answers feature is only available in English.)
    • To hear the answer read aloud, use your screen reader keystrokes to navigate through the answer card.
    • To find out what formula was used to provide your answer, select See formula. To copy the formula to the clipboard, press Enter. You can then insert the formula in your spreadsheet.

Example questions

  • "Which person has the top score?" (where "person" and "score" are in your spreadsheet)
  • "Total sales in September 2016" (where "sales" and a "date" column are in your spreadsheet)

Examples of questions that don't work:

  • Help questions like, "How do I bold this cell?"
  • Web search questions like, "What’s the weather?"

Learn more about using suggested charts and analysis.

Mary is a Docs & Drive expert and author of this help page. Leave her feedback below about the page.

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