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Welcome to the series of spoken tutorials on the Orca Screen reader. Orca is a Free and Open source screen reader that works in GNU/Linux operating system. It is an integral part of the gnome desktop.

A project initiated and funded by the accessibility department of Sun Micro Systems (now Oracle), it is the most efficient and powerful accessibility tool for totally blind and low vision computer users in the FOSS arena. Since Sun is no longer involved with the project, it is now a community based project and gets its resources from many government and private organizations including research institutes.

With the use of Orca, a totally blind person can work on the desktop with no sighted assistance. With the output in synthetic voice, all activities can be independently performed. These activities include word processing, working with spreadsheets, surfing the internet, working with emails, chatting and also main-stream programming. What this talking software does is that it gives audio feedback through a speech synthesizer by following the focus and reading any textual information and informing the user about any widget in and around the focus.

About these spoken tutorials These set of spoken tutorials will be a comprehensive documentation on Orca for a visually disabled person. The tutorials will start from absolute basics and then go on to explain specific computing activities which a user can perform using this screen reader. We have used Vinux version 3.1 for these set of tutorials. We strongly recommend that you use version 3.1 of the said distro of Linux. Vinux is a customised version of the Popular Ubuntu distro, with additional features tuned to the needs of blind users. With all the latest enhancements made to Orca in this release of Vinux, its the best choice for desktop accessibility. Hence, it is used for these tutorials as well.

Level 0 : BASIC

will cover,
1.First time with Orca    

  • Introducing Orca
  • A few basics on menu and Desktop navigation using keyboard
  • Opening the help file on keyboard shortcuts
  • Adjusting Orca to speak slower or faster
  • Using navigation commands to read text

2.Adjusting speech through preferences dialog    

  • General settings
  • Adjusting Orca feedback for speech output
  • Tutorial messages

3.Customising the Orca Key Echo    

  • What does it mean to enable Key echo
  • Customising the echo by character
  • Instructing Orca to echo important keys like enter and escape
  • Echo by sentence a unique feature

4.Interracting with popups and application menus    

  • Creating a file in Gedit text editor
  • Navigating home folder and opening file

5.Copy,cut and paste using Orca    

  • Navigating and selecting text for copying
  • Copying and pasting using keyboard
  • Moving files around

6.Advanced orca settings    

  • Setting Orca to announce blank lines when present
  • Setting Orca to announce indentation and justification
  • Knowing how many items are present at a location
  • Customising Orca to read Multi Case strings as words
  • Should Orca pause at every line or break speech at end of sentence?

7.Taking Notes through Tomboy    

  • Need for learning Tomboy
  • How tomboy assists in note taking
  • Creating a new notebook
  • Creating a new note
  • Opening notes
  • Properly organising notes

8.Word processor basics    

  • Creating a new document in the word processor
  • Getting information on text formatting
  • Aligning and decorating text
  • Performing spell check
  • Saving the file

9.Spreadsheet basics    

  • Creating a spreadsheet
  • Understanding how orca reads rows and columns
  • Entering and modifying data in columns
  • Moving between sheets
  • Setting row headers for Orca feedback

10.Internet basics with Orca    

  • opening firefox with google as an example
  • Understanding a basic web page structure
  • navigating between elements of a web page such as links
  • address bar and other basic widgits

11. Structural navigation using Orca    

  • moving between headings
  • visited and unvisited links
  • jumping directly to a link
  • directly focusing a form field

12.Configuring Orca on other distros    

  • Starting Orca through the run dialog
  • Initial configuration for distros other than Vinux


Orca and office productivity :
After understanding Orca basics, Its time to get into specific details with Office software topics include

13.Structuring and formatting spreadsheets

  • Merging cells
  • Adjusting row or column size


  • Adding formula in a cell
  • Simple calculation example
  • How orca reads the formula and results
  • Applying formula to a range

Using Orca on the internet:

Orca has a state of the art approach to assist blind user on the internet. Currently Firefox is the only browser which is totally accessible with Orca. We will cover its use in these set of tutorials. Additionally we will also look at how a visually disabled person can use the pidgin messenger for chatting. Then we will look at specific things which are common to every user such as reading news paper or using facebook and how Orca helps a totally blind person to do so.

15. Adding useful plug-ins

  • what is a plug-in
  • adding the navigation bundle to Firefox
  • learning the use of links list
  • learning the use of headings list

16. Accessing news papers using Orca

  • mobile versions are generally accessible
  • Times of India as an example

17. Using Facebook for social networking

  • mobile version of Facebook
  • creating an account
  • other activities

18. Chatting using orca

  • using the chat messenger to talk on google, yahoo, msn etc
  • moving between multiple chat windows

Level 2 : ADVANCED

Contributors and Content Editors

Minal, Nancyvarkey, PoojaMoolya