Use Gmail with a screen reader

Use the tips on this page to get the best Gmail experience with a desktop screen reader.

Note: If you're using Gmail in basic HTML, follow these tips.

Turn on keyboard shortcuts

Note: If you use JAWS, turn off the visual cursor first by pressing Insert + z + z.

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Open the Settings menu, then select Settings.
  3. In the "Keyboard shortcuts" section, select Keyboard shortcuts on.
  4. At the bottom, select Save changes.

Go to the full list of keyboard shortcuts, or press ? while you're in Gmail.

Screen readers & browsers you can use

Gmail works with these browsers and screen readers:

  • Chrome with VoiceOver on Mac
  • Chrome with ChromeVox on Chromebooks
  • Firefox with NVDA or JAWS on Windows

Get to know the Gmail layout

Here are the sections you'll use in Gmail:

Main section

Browse and read emails. The landmark for this section is "Main."

If you're viewing a conversation list, the heading is "Conversations." If you're viewing an individual conversation page, the heading is the subject.

Conversation list

When someone replies to a message you send, the messages are grouped into a conversation with the same subject. Conversation subjects are listed in a table. To read a conversation, select the subject.

  • Switch categories: Your messages will also be organized into categories, like Social, Promotions, and Forums. To switch to another category, press Tab, then select a category.
  • Select messages: Press x to select a conversation. Once you select a conversation, you can also use the Archive, Report spam, or Delete buttons.

Conversation page

  • The last message and any unread messages will be expanded.
  • If you've turned on keyboard shortcuts, press n and to go to the next and previous conversation.

Navigation list

This section includes the following:

  1. Compose button: Send a new message. If you've turned on keyboard shortcuts, press c.
  2. Folders and labels: Go to your Inbox, Sent Mail, Drafts, Trash, or labels you've created. For example, if you select Sent Mail, messages you've sent will show up in the "Main" section. 

Tip: To switch back and forth between "Navigation" and "Main," press the right and left arrow keys.


The landmark for this section is "Complementary." Start chats, phone calls, or video calls.

If your heading is "Chat," you're using the old version of chat. For the best experience with a screen reader, upgrade to the new Google Hangouts:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Under the "Chat" heading, select Options.
  3. Select Try the new Hangouts.

Google Account options

The landmark for this section is "Banner." Find links and menus related to your Google Account:

  • Google apps: Go to other Google applications, like Drive, Calendar, or Maps.
  • Google notifications: View notifications (for example, if someone adds to a Google Photos shared album).
  • Google Account: Sign out, add an account, view your account details, or read Google's privacy policy.

Search, Contacts, and Tasks

The landmark for this section is "Search." You can also select Contacts or Tasks.

To move focus to the Search box, press /.

Send messages

Compose a message

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. There are two ways to compose a new message:
  1. In the "To" field, add recipients.
  2. Add a subject.
  3. Write your message.
  4. At the bottom of the page, select Send.

Spell check

Check for misspelled words before sending a message.

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Press Tab until you hear "More options," then press Enter.
  3. Select Check spelling.
  4. To find a misspelling, press Ctrl or + ' (apostrophe) or ; (semicolon).
  5. To open the list of suggested spellings, press Ctrl or + m.
  6. Select the correct spelling.

Search messages

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the Search box, write what you're looking for.
  3. Press Enter.

If you can't find the messages you're looking for, inside the Search box select Advanced search options. This opens up a page with more ways to filter your search results.

Tip: You can also use search operators to filter your search results.

Find unread messages

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the Search box, write is:unread.
  3. Press Enter.

Find messages from a specific sender

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the Search box, write from: followed by the sender's name.
  3. Press Enter.

Find messages in a folder or label

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the "Navigation" section, select a folder or label, like Sent Mail.
  3. Go to the "Main" section for a list of conversations in that folder or label.

Organize your messages using labels

You can organize your emails by setting up labels. Labels work like folders, but you can add more than one label to a message.

Create a label

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Select any message.
  3. Select Labels and then Create new label.
  4. Enter a new label name.
  5. Select Create.

Add a label to messages

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Select the messages you want to label.
  3. Select the Labels button, then choose a label.

Michelle is a Gmail expert and the author of this help page. Leave her feedback about this help page.

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