Creating a Word Document on a Mac with VoiceOver: Video Tutorial

I recently sat down at my Mac with a my handy-dandy list of Mac VoiceOver commands.  As a sighted educator, who is fluent with VoiceOver on the iPad, I thought I could simply spend an hour or two and teach myself the required steps and VoiceOver commands required to create a Word document while running VoiceOver.  The first thing I did was an Internet search - why reinvent the wheel if someone has already shared the step-by-step instructions or video tutorial?  I could find overwhelming VoiceOver command cheat sheets and some video tutorials on other Mac and VoiceOver activities; however, I was not able to find any free, helpful information on how to create a Word or Pages document while running VoiceOver.  So, I devoted my "spare time" that evening to teaching myself. . .the next morning, I quickly moved on to Plan B.

Plan B:  If you have a tech question, just ask a student!  In this case, Victor, a 9th grade tech savvy student, came to my assistance!

To Create a New Word Document

  • Turn on VoiceOver: Command + F5
  • Open Word, open Spotlight: Command + space
  • Type Word and press Enter
  • Create a new blank document: Enter
  • Maximize the window: Control + command +F
  • Type content

To Save a Word Document

  • To save: Command + S
    • (VoiceOver focus is automatically on the Save As textfield; if you want to navigate around the window, use Tab or Shift Tab)
  • Type document name
  • To move around the window: Tab or Shift Tab
  • Choose saved location: (Default is last saved location)
    • If you choose to change the location, Open the list of options:  VO + space
    • Move through the options: down arrow
    • Select your preferred option VO + space
  • When on your preferred location, press Enter
    • Note: I typically save to my desktop or Dropbox; Victor saved this document to his Downloads folder)
  • To finish Saving the document: Enter
  • To quit Word: Command + Q

Open a Document Saved to Downloads Folder

  • Go to Microsoft Word in the Download folder:  Command + option + L
    • Voiceover announces that you are on a "text element inside a browser. . . "
  • To move between items in Downloads folder: VO + shift + down arrow, then VO + up, down, left or right arrow
    • (If you choose to exit, VO + Shift + up arrow)
  • When on the desired document, open document: Command + O
  • Navigate to the end of the document:  Victor used right arrows in the video
    • Jump to the end of the document: Command + End or Command + function + right arrow
  • Continue typing
  • Save document again: Command + S
  • Quit Word: Command  + Q
  • Close Finder window: Command + W


There are multiple locations that you can save your Word document.  In this video, Victor demonstrated how he saves his Word document to his Downloads folder.  I tend to save my Word documents either on my desktop (as I continue to work on the document) or in the cloud storage system such as Dropbox or Google Drive.  Saving documents into the cloud ensures that the document is backed up and that it can be easily accessed from multiple personal devices and/or from other computers.  For a student who does not have a personal device, it is important to be able to access his/her document from any school or personal computer/device.  Cloud storage also enables users to create folders and multiple levels of subfolders, making it easier to find organize documents.

Note: The default is your last saved location.  If you always save your documents in the same location, you will not have to navigate to the Location button and select your favorite location.

On my computer, I have added Dropbox in the Men bar at the top of the page.  It is the first icon on the right side of my screen.

Open a Document Saved on the Desktop

  • Move to Desktop:  VO + Shift + D
  • Move to desired Word document:  Up, down, right or left arrows to navigate desktop icons
  • Open desired document:  VO + space
  • Close Word document: Command + W

Teacher Hint

If you are not used to a screen reader, it seems like there is a lot of "chatter".  However, that chatter will quickly become your best friend, especially if you are learning to use VoiceOver.  VoiceOver will announce the commands that you need to know!  VoiceOver will announce the common next-step commands that are currently available.  Be sure to actively listen to what VoiceOver is trying to tell you.  Only if you know your next command, should you "shush!" VoiceOver!

Printable Directions to Creating, Saving and Opening a Word Document on a Mac Running VoiceOver attachment.

Printable Basic VoiceOver Commands used in Word or Pages Documents attachment.


Collage of creating word document with VoiceOver



Posted by Renée CleggSep 07, 2018

I want to learn how to use Word on my Mac

Posted by John FarinaSep 11, 2018

Hi Dianne and all, I am curious if you were able to get the word for mac application through an office 365 subscription as I would like to do. When I tried to install the mac version of this product on my current macbook with the latest software update, I was unable to open word on the mac side. The error seemed to indicate this product might not be compatible but I got it from my account page on office 365. Thoughts?

Posted by Diane BraunerSep 11, 2018

Hi John,

I have Word through my 365 subscription on my Mac. I have been using Word on my Mac for many years and purchase the subscription every year. I'd suggest talking with Microsoft directly. Personally, I have not had any issues with Word, Excel, or PowerPoint on any of my Mac computers. I am currently using a MacBook Pro (2018) and current software.

Posted by John FarinaSep 11, 2018

Hi Dianne, Thanks for the info. It is a mystery for sure. Not sure it is related but I also have the office apps on the windows side of this mac book pro which runs vmware fusion for a virtual machine. Going to talk to a friend who has successfully installed it on a couple macks. Keep you posted.

Posted by Natalia VoegeleSep 16, 2018

Hi Diane,

I am a technology instructor. I have been using Word on my Mac for the last year or so. I love it very much!! I find it sad that hardly anyone seems to use Word with VoiceOver. It works really well. The more of us who use it, and tell students and others that it is accessible, the more we can effect change for it, for the better. I've hardly ran across any documents talking about the use of Word, with VoiceOver.

Thank you so much for this!

Posted by Diane BraunerSep 17, 2018

Thanks for sharing Natalie! I agree that Word is a wonderful, fully accessible app available on the Mac. The credit for this post defiiitely goes to Victor! I would love to see more student-created tutorials on basic apps like this one. We can all learn from our tech savvy students!

Posted by John FarinaSep 22, 2018

Hi Dianne and others, I was able to solve the issue with the installation error. It turns out that because I have the Windows versions of the office apps under a virtual machine, these apps have a presence in the applications folder on the mac. Removing these from that folder and installing the office application again fixed the issue. Thanks also to those who have given command references to make navigating word documents easier on the mac. Is anyone also using Excel for instance on the mac and if so do you find it accessible with voiceover?

Posted by John FarinaDec 09, 2018

Hi Diane and everyone, I have been able to use word with the mac rather successfully with the current versions of both word and VO. I have found some glitches which may be related to the kind of documents I sometimes need to create however. I have a document used for assistive technology evaluations which has some formatting in it. When I have done bulleted lists I find it more difficult to navigate the document with VO, even when I have interacted with the list. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, it seems that when I start with any document, I end up focused on the “share” button rather than the first line of the document. If I create a new blank document with command plus n, I can then switch to the first document with focus on the first line. I wonder if any other VO users have noted this? Thanks.