How to use Skype with the NVDA screen reader

Skype is a programme that is used to communicate with your family and friends. Skype can be used to do an audio/video call using video from your web cam. Some web cams will have both audio and video built into them. If there is no mic with the webcam, a mic must be bought in order to use the audio chat side of it. These must also be configured to work with Skype.

To use Skype 7 and above, you will need a copy of NVDA 2015.1 and above. This will allow extra functionality and give you a better experience with Skype.

If you don't have a copy of Skype already, you can grab a copy from  The version of Skype you will need is the desktop version for Windows. After it has been downloaded to your computer and set up, when you go to log into it, if you already have one of the following you can sign in that way. (For example a Skype account, a Microsoft account or a Facebook account).
If you don't have one, you will need to set up a new Skype account, so you can use Skype. Make sure you jot down your details and save them somewhere safe.

Skype profile

You can go into this section and change your details for your Skype profile. This may be to upload a picture of yourself, assign certain sounds to Skype, or edit your profile. It is also a good idea to tweak your Privacy settings in Skype, so people you don't know can't contact you. Most people will have it set so that it is only friends and family on their Skype list.

The best view for Skype is the compact view. This will cut out unnecessary windows that normally don't get used.
When Skype is open, press the Alt key until the Skype menu comes up, then arrow right to the view menu. Next, arrow down to the compact view menu, then press the Enter key. This will put Skype into compact view and cut out unnecessary windows that you may not use.

Adding a contact in Skype

If the person you are trying to add has joined Skype already, then you can search for them by user name or email address.
To add a contact, press the Alt key until the Skype menu comes up. Arrow right to contacts. Arrow down to add contact. Right arrow until you hear Search Skype directory. Press Enter and you will be taken to a search edit box. Type in the details for the person that you are looking for (this may be their Skype name or their email address). Press Enter. It will search through the Skype directory and bring up any relevant results. Select the person you are trying to add. Click on add to contacts. Before you press Enter to send the request, you can also add in a line of text to let them know that it is you! If they have set their Skype so that they have to authorise all "add contact" requests, then as soon as they accept your request they will be added.

Importing Facebook contacts into Skype

With Skype for Windows desktop, you can also import contacts from Facebook, so you don’t have to worry about losing touch with your friends who are not on Skype. To add contacts from Facebook:
1. Click Contacts...Import Contacts.
2. Enter your Facebook username and password, then click Import.
3. Skype will import your Facebook contacts into your Skype contact list.

Audio and video settings in Skype

These settings can be found under the call menu. Press the Alt key until the Skype menu comes up, then arrow right to the call menu. Once there, arrow down to the audio settings menu and press the Enter key. Here it will give you options to configure your speakers and mic. A mic and speakers must be present on your computer. A headset with mic built into it can be used as well so you don't disturb others in the house.

Video conferencing in Skype

A web cam must be present on your computer. You can buy webcams with both a webcam and mic built into them, otherwise other alternatives will have to be used. For example a webcam without a mic, will require a mic to use the audio chat part of Skype. These settings can also be found under the Tools/options menus.

Skype options

To get to the advanced settings in Skype, press the Alt key until the Skype  menu comes up, then arrow right to the tools menu, then down to the options menu, and press the Enter key. Under this section it will give you a whole heap of different options. When the next screen appears it will land you in a tree view. Use your up and down arrow keys to navigate the tree. To go into any of the sections use the tab key. You are able to tab between the different settings in each section. If you keep on tabbing it will take you back to the start of the tree you were at on that branch. For example general settings, audio settings and so on. Shift/tabbing will take you in the opposite direction.

Advanced settings in Skype

Under this section you can configure your hot keys for Skype. This will let you configure your hot keys for the most frequently used functions in Skype (for example to answer a call or to hang up a call). These must be enabled before they work. The "enable keyboard shortcut" check box must be checked before the other keys can be applied. The next time you tab, it will give you a list of shortcut keys that you can enable or disable. Just use the spacebar to check and uncheck these boxes. If a shortcut key can not be assigned, it will also give you the option to assign another shortcut key to do that task.

Under the accessibility branch, you can also enable accessible mode if you are using a screen reader.  Make sure you save your settings after you are happy with your changes.

Skype shortcut keys (also referred to as hotkeys)

Answer call = Alt + PgUp
Answer call with video =  Ctrl + Alt + PgUp
Ignore call (unassigned)
Hang up =  Alt + PgDn
Decline incoming call = Ctrl + Alt + PgDn
Take a snapshot during video calls (unassigned)
Focus Skype (unassigned)
Search for people on Skype (unassigned)
Mute microphone (unassigned)
Toggle mute (Push-to-talk) (unassigned)

For any of the above Skype functions marked as unassigned, you can set your own hotkeys.

To make a call with Skype (Skype to Skype)

You can quickly get to your contacts list by using a shortcut key. Use the Alt key and the number 1 on the main qwerty keyboard to do this. This will place NVDA's focus onto your contacts list, then it is just a matter of finding the person you want to call.
Use your up and down arrow keys to do this.

If you already have people on your contact list, you will need to locate it first. Once located, find a person you want to call. The up and down arrow keys can be used to do this. Once a person has been picked, you can do either of the following...
1    Route your mouse to the contact you want to call. Use the NVDA key (for example the Insert key) and the divide key on the numeric keypad to do this. Once the mouse has been routed to your contact, you will need to right click the mouse. The multiply key on the numeric keypad is used for this. Next arrow down to call, press the Enter key, and it will start calling the contact for you. This will require a mic so that you can audio chat to that person.
While the context menu is open, it will give you other options as well (for example, send an IMS, send a video message and so on).

2    Locate the contact you want to call.  Next, press the applications key.  This will bring up the context menu on the screen. Next, arrow down to call and press the Enter key. (It will call the contact for you). This menu will give you other options as well (for example call, send IM, send video and so on).
So, depending upon which option you choose, it will determine which device is used.

To call a landline phone or mobile number with Skype

You can call landline phones, mobiles etc, but you must have credit in your account to do this.

To call a home phone after you have bought some credit, press the Alt key until the Skype menu comes up. Next, arrow right to the call menu, then down to the call phones menu, then press the Enter key. This section will let you buy Skype credit, get a subscription, view my account, and so on.

You can tab around this screen to hear the different options there. For example, select your country, the dial pad and so on. You can either enter in your numbers using the dial pad, or via the keyboard by typing them into the edit box. This is found just before the recent call menu. Once you have put in your number, it is simply a matter of ringing them by pressing the Call button or Enter key.

To review text messages in Skype

When you are in a Skype text chat, you can review the last 10 messages to that person.

In Skype for Desktop, you can now report and review recent messages using NVDA + Ctrl + 1 through to NVDA + Ctrl +0. For example, NVDA + Ctrl +1 for the most recent message, and NVDA + Ctrl + 0 for the tenth message.

To quickly get to your recent messages list, you can use another shortcut key. Use the Alt key and the number 2 (on the main qwerty keyboard) to get quickly to this section. This will give you a list (or log) of your recent activity while using Skype. In this section there will be a search box and a link that will take you to your recent messages list. It is a matter of just pressing the Enter key and your latest messages will appear from people you have spoken to recently.

To sign out of Skype

Press the Alt key while in Skype. Next, arrow down to "sign out" and press the Enter key. You should now be signed out of Skype.