Use Google Sheets with a screen reader

Get started using a screen reader in Google Sheets

When you open a Google spreadsheet, your screen reader will read the name of the spreadsheet and some information about the page as it’s loading. When loading completes, you’ll be viewing your spreadsheet with the top-left cell, A1, selected.

  • If you’re using a screen reader other than ChromeVox (e.g. JAWS), you can enable support for the screen reader extension by pressing Alt + Shift + ~.
  • If you’re using ChromeVox you don’t need to explicitly enable screen reader support.

Keyboard shortcut help overlay

If you ever forget a key combination, just press Ctrl + / to bring up the keyboard shortcut help overlay. The screen reader will read the shortcuts to you. You can also visit the full list of spreadsheets keyboard shortcuts in a new window.

ChromeVox users
You can move between shortcut headings by pressing Ctrl + Alt + N + H to move to the next heading or Ctrl + Alt + P + H to move to the previous heading. To explore the specific shortcuts in a section, press Ctrl + Alt + Up arrow and Ctrl + Alt + Down arrow. Pressing Escape will dismiss the help overlay.

Navigate your spreadsheet

Move your cursor around the spreadsheet

To move your cursor around the spreadsheet, use the up, down, right and left arrows. Each time you move to a new cell, you’ll hear the cell’s address followed by the contents of the cell, if any. For example, if cell C4 contains the words “New York City,” your screen reader will read “C4 New York City.”

If the cell contains any comments or errors, they’ll also be read to you. If you use ChromeVox, you'll hear a special sound when you navigate to a cell that has comments or errors. And if a cell contains a formula you’ll hear the value of the formula. To read the formula itself you can edit the cell or you can make formulas visible by selecting "Formula Bar" in the View menu.

Sometimes it’s helpful to jump around the grid quickly. For example, quickly moving to the next data region in a row or column can help you figure out if there’s any more content above or below the current cell in a particular column, or to the left or right of the cell in a particular row. To move to the next data region, hold down the Ctrl key (Cmd on a Mac) while using the up, down, right and left arrows:

  • If your cursor starts in a cell that has data you’ll jump to the next empty cell in the specified direction.
  • If your cursor starts in an empty cell, you’ll move you to the next cell with contents. If all cells in that direction are empty, you’ll move to the end of the row or column in that direction.

Navigate to different sheet tabs

To move from one sheet tab to another, press Alt + Shift + Page up or Alt + Shift + Page down. When a new sheet is activated you’ll hear the name of the sheet. For example, if you move to Sheet5, you’ll hear “Sheet5 activated.”

Find cell contents

Activate the quick-find feature using Ctrl + F (Cmd + F on a Mac) to search the current sheet for keywords. Or, use Ctrl + H (Cmd + Shift + H on a Mac) to activate a our full Find and Replace dialog.

Add and follow links in cells

Your screen reader will tell you when a cell contains a link. To follow a link, press Alt + Enter (Option + Enter on a Mac). To get the link read to you before opening the link, bring focus to the overlay that appears when you select a cell and then press the Tab key until you get to the URL.

To add a link, simply type a URL in the cell and Google Sheets will automatically turn it into a link. If the cell contains text that should be linked, press Ctrl + K (Cmd + K on a Mac). You'll be placed in a dialog that allows you to modify the text and link in the cell. In this dialog, type the desired URL and press Enter to apply.

Edit contents of a cell

To edit the contents of a cell, press Enter to activate the cell’s input box. Type some text, and press Enter again to save the cell contents. If you’d like to ignore your changes, press Escape.

Select and work within a range of cells

To select a range of cells, hold down the Shift key while moving the active cell with the arrow keys. As you move the cell you’ll hear the selected range, for example “A2:F7 selected.” You can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Space to select an entire row or Ctrl + Space (Cmd + Space on a Mac) to select an entire column.

Once a range is selected you can restrict your cursor movement to be within that range by using an alternative to the arrow keys:

  • Shift + Enter to move up
  • Enter to move down
  • Shift + Tab to move left
  • Tab to move right

These keys won’t move your cursor outside of the selected range, which is useful if you want to restrict your movement to a specified range and explore that range without worrying you’ve moved too far in any particular direction.

You can also edit a cell without deselecting your range by pressing F2.

Hide and unhide columns and rows

To hide a column (or row):

  1. Select a column (or a cell with a row) you want to hide.
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + \.
  3. Press the Down arrow until you reach Hide column (or Hide row) and then select it.
  4. Press Enter to hide that column (or row).

To unhide a column:

  1. Go to the column immediately before the hidden column and select it by pressing Ctrl + Space.
  2. While the first column is selected, hold down Shift and press the Right arrow once to select the column next to it. You will have now selected the columns immediately before and after the hidden column.
  3. Press Ctrl + Shift + \ to bring up the context menu.
  4. Press the Down arrow until you reach Unhide columns and then select it.

To unhide a row:

  1. Go to the row immediately above the hidden row and select it by pressing Ctrl + Space.
  2. While the first row is selected, hold down Shift and press the Down arrow once to select the row below it. You will have now selected the rows immediately above and below the hidden row.
  3. Press Ctrl + Shift + \ to bring up the context menu.
  4. Press the Down arrow until you reach Unhide rows and then select it.

Navigate the menus

Now that you’re comfortable moving around the spreadsheet grid, you’ll want to start learning about the application menus. There are three areas where you might activate a menu: the context menu for the current cell, the sheet menu for the current sheet, or a top-level application menu like “File” or “Data.”

Application menu

The application menus offer the greatest variety of commands.

To activate the application menu, press Alt + F. (Note: This key combination varies based on your operating system and browser.) This will specifically activate the File menu at the top of the application. Use the right arrow key to navigate to other top-level application menus, including Edit, View, Insert, Format, Data, Tools, and Help.

Once you locate the application menu you want to explore, use the up and down arrow keys to read the menu items. If you’re over a menu item with a sub-menu, you can enter the sub-menu with the right arrow key. Press Enter to select a menu item and execute a command.

Pressing the Escape key when a menu is expanded will close the menu bar. Pressing Escape again take you back to the main spreadsheet area.

To access additional items in the toolbar, which are located directly below the application menu, press Alt + F to first activate the application menu and then press Tab. You’ll now be in the toolbar. Press the left and right arrow keys to cycle through items in the toolbar and Enter to execute a command.

Context menu

To activate the context menu for a particular cell you can use the context menu key on your keyboard if you have one or press Ctrl + Shift + \. Once the context menu is active, you’ll hear the menu items spoken to you as you move up and down the menu using the arrow keys. You can explore submenus by using the right and left arrow keys. To select a menu item and execute a command, press Enter.

The items available on the context menu differ depending on what you’ve selected. For example, if an entire row is selected the context menu will include the option to “Insert 1 above” and “Insert 1 below” for adding additional rows.

Sheet menu

To activate the sheet menu press Alt + Shift + S. The sheet menu includes operations on the active sheet, including options to rename, delete, copy, hide, and duplicate the sheet.

To explore the names of the other sheets without switching to them, press Alt + Shift + K. That command activates the sheet list menu, which is a list of all sheets, including hidden sheets. When moving up and down the sheet list menu you’ll hear the name of the sheet. Pressing Enter will activate the sheet you’ve selected in the menu.

Share a document with someone

To share a document, activate the application menu with the keyboard shortcut Alt + Shift + F. Select the "Share" menu item, and press Enter. You'll be placed in the sharing dialog, where you can tab through the elements to see who the collaborators are, change their permissions, and add more collaborators. When you're finished, press the "Share & save" button.

Helpful tips and additional information

For the best experience, we recommend that you use Chrome with the ChromeVox screen reader. If you prefer to use another screen reader, you might find that certain features are not as well supported. If you’re using a screen reader other than ChromeVox, remember that you must enable support for the screen reader extension by pressing Alt + Shift + ~ once the spreadsheet loads.

Google Sheets is designed to be used in application mode with a screen reader. Enabling “document mode” in your screen reader won't give you the best experience. Use the Google Sheets commands to move around the grid and edit cells rather than the “document mode” screen reader commands.