Scan mode is a state that your screen reader can be in so that you may navigate your computer more quickly by utilizing letters as navigation keys. This includes things like pressing the letter T to quickly navigate to a table or the letter B to navigate quickly to a button.
Scan mode stops the letters you press from going straight to the program you are in so that you may navigate quickly without accidentally typing things.
Should I always use scan mode?
Most screen readers automatically toggle scan mode while you are navigating a web page. Often you will hear a noise associated with it turning on and off. Scan mode should be turned off if you intend to type actual text into a program and should be turned on when you are trying to navigate a page. JAWS, NVDA, and Narrator allow you to toggle scan mode at will while Voiceover does not.
Turning on scan mode can be useful when you are trying to understand a page and its context. There are a range of navigation keys provided in screen readers to help you understand a page. You can read about a few of the most helpful ones in our article on navigating your webtext with a screen reader.
How to toggle scan mode
Name of mode
JAWS key (Caps Lock or Insert) + Z
NVDA key (Caps Lock or Insert) + Space
Narrator key (Caps Lock or Insert) + Space
Not able to be toggled
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