Windows from the Keyboard Tips, Microsoft Excel with JAWS and NVDA – Speak Row and Column Headings, December 2, 2020

Attention: This blog series will end next Wednesday, December 9, 2020. If you have an idea for a future GTT blog series email it to:

Hello. This is Gerry Chevalier from the GTT Edmonton Chapter. This weekly blog provides tips that I find useful as a keyboard user of Windows 10 and Office 365.

The tips do not require a screen reader unless specifically noted. Thus, the tips apply whether you are a keyboard user or low vision mouse user. Here is this week’s tip.

Microsoft Excel with JAWS and NVDA – Speak Row/Column Headers

Screen reader users can set Excel column and row headings to be announced automatically while navigating cells.

If you want JAWS and NVDA to speak the row and column headings of your sheet as you arrow around the cells, follow these steps.

  • Position the cursor at the intersection of the row and column headings. For example, if row 3 contains the column headers and column A contains the row headers you would place your cursor in cell A3.
  • Press the Applications key or Shift+F10. This brings up a context menu. Arrow down the menu and press Enter on the Define Name item.

· This opens the Define Name dialogue with your cursor in the name field. Type “Title1..Z99” without the quotes and press Enter. You will be placed back in your document. You have defined a special name for cell A3 that JAWS and NVDA will recognize. Now, when you arrow around the cells you will hear the column and row headings announced. Note there are two periods in that defined name and that Z99 is an arbitrary cell that marks the bottom right corner of the region for which your headings pertain. If Z99 is not the appropriate bottom right cell of your title region, then change it to the cell reference that works in your case.

· If you have multiple regions in your worksheet with differing titles, just repeat the process for each region and change the Define Name to be Title2 etc. For example let’s say you have 2 regions with different column headers. One set of column headers is row 1 and it pertains to the first 10 rows. The second set of column headers is row 12 and it pertains to the rest of the rows in the sheet. Position at cell a1 and then bring up the Define Names dialogue using the context menu and type your first define name as:


Then position at cell A12, again bring up the Define Names dialog and type your second title reference as:


You may later edit or remove name definitions by using the Manage Names dialogue which can be opened with Control+F3.

  • These Excel Defined Names remain with the spreadsheet even if it’s document file is renamed or moved.

Note that there are relevant screen reader settings for column and title heading announcements to work.

  • JAWS: With Excel running, press JAWS key + V to open the Quick Settings dialogue. Type, “title”, (without the quotes) in the search box, Tab to the search results, arrow down to the Define Names Column and ROW Override setting and be sure it is set to Off. Then Tab to the OK button and press Enter.
  • NVDA: Press NVDA key + N to open the NVDA menu, choose Preferences and then Settings. Then arrow down to the Document Formatting category. Then Tab to the Row/Column Headers setting and be sure it is checked. Tab to the OK button and press Enter.

That’s it for this tip. Only 1 tip remains! Don’t forget to contact CCB if you have ideas for future blogs.

2 thoughts on “Windows from the Keyboard Tips, Microsoft Excel with JAWS and NVDA – Speak Row and Column Headings, December 2, 2020

  1. Gerry, it’s so sad to think that only one more tip will grace my Inbox. Thanks for all the tips you’ve so masterfully written and presented. If I think of any missing pieces I’ll be in touch with the GTT program. Be safe.


    1. Thank you Albert. I appreciate your comments and contributions over the past year as well. Gerry


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