Instant messaging with Instantbird and the NVDA screen reader

Please note: At present, the facebook chat client does not work with Instantbird.

What is Instantbird?

Instantbird is an instant messaging client, which you download to your computer. It allows you to connect to others via your current social media accounts. For example, you can connect to: AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger (MSN), Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, Twitter, Facebook Chat, XMPP (Jabber), IRC and ICQ.

Where can I get the Instantbird program from?

To obtain your copy of Instantbird, please go to the following link at
When you are there, locate the "get Instantbird free" link. Press the Enter key and then it will give you the option to either open or save your file. Make sure you save it somewhere easy to find (for example the Desktop).
When you have downloaded it to your computer, locate the file, and click on it to set it up.
Make sure you note what the file was called (for example instantbird-1.5.en-US.win32.installer.exe)
To setup the program, just press the Enter key on the file and follow the directions. Once you have set the program up successfully, an icon will appear on your desktop, as well as under all programs.

Launching Instantbird for the first time

When Instandbird is launched, it has the good old style menus. Use your left and right arrow keys to navigate the main menus, and the up and down arrow keys to navigate the drop down menus.

Setting up your preferences in Instantbird

One of the things you will want to do is customize Instantbird to your likings. When Instantbird is open, press the Alt key until the file menu comes up. Right arrow to the tools menu, then down to the options menu, then press the Enter key.

In this section, you can customize Instantbird to your likings. It can be tabbed through easily. Make sure you check out the different options under this screen (for example General, Tabs, Content and so on). These are tabs, and the left and right arrow keys can be used to navigate them. To go into any of the sections, just use the Tab key. If you need your text enlarged, while in this section, check out the contents tab. Under this section you can enlarge the size of your text, change it to a clear font like Arial, and so on.

Adding an account in Instantbird

With Instantbird, one of the things you will want to do is set up an account. When setup, you will be able to text chat to your friends on any of the accounts you have setup (for example Facebook chat).

To setup an account, when Instantbird is open, press the Alt key until the File menu comes up. Right arrow to the Tools menu, then down to the Accounts tab, then press the Enter key. When the next screen comes up, you will need to find the "New Accounts" button. Press the Enter key on this button, and the next screen that comes up will give you a list of Instant Messaging Clients (such as Google talk, Facebook chat and so on).

If your chat client is not found under the first section, check out the "Show all protocols" section for more clients.

Select the client that you wish to add (for example Facebook Chat) and click on next.  It will ask you to enter your username for the facebook chat account. This is different to the one you use to log into facebook directly. Have a look under the (account...settings) section in Facebook to locate this. Once there, under username, it should say Enter only this last bit (for example freddo.frog.12 or whatever yours is). Once you have entered this, click on next. Enter your Facebook password and click on next. Enter the same information for alias as you did for username to make it simpler and click on finish. If you have entered your username and password correctly you will hear a noise and a list of available Facebook friends will appear that you can text chat to. Click on close. You should now see a heading called Facebook friends and underneath should be a list of those who are currently online. This will change as people log in and log out.

You may also choose whether to view only online contacts, or all contacts. If you wish to show only online contacts, locate "Facebook friends". (You may also hear change your icon, display name, your online status and the heading Facebook friends) if you tab in that area. Press the NVDA key (for example the Insert) & the divide key on the numeric keypad. This will route the mouse to the words "Facebook friends". Right click by pressing the multiply key (the star above the number 9 on the numeric keypad). Arrow to "show offline contacts" and press Enter. This will allow you to message a contact who is currently offline.  To go back to showing only your online contacts, simply repeat this process and only contacts who are online will be shown.

Once your chat client has been added (in Instantbird) you can see who is online

Once your chat client has been added, it will show all contacts that are in your chat client. When you log into Instantbird, it will automatically put you into a treeview. The treeview can be navigated with the arrow keys. Depending on how many clients you have, will depend on the number of branches used (for example Facebook chat and another).

If you wanted to use the Facebook client, you would find the branch called "Facebook friends". You will need to open the branch with your right arrow key. Then, it is a matter of using the down arrow key to see which chat contacts are online.

Using Instantbird to chat to friends online

When you have selected the person you want to chat with, you can do either of the following.
1     Route your mouse to the contact you want to talk to. To do this, press the NVDA key + the divide key on the numeric keypad. When the mouse has been routed to the contact, you can then right click with the mouse button. The multiply key on the numeric keypad is used for this. A context menu will come up. Arrow down to start a conversation, then press the Enter key. NVDA will automatically default to the section where you can type in your message. Type in your message, then press the Enter key. Your message will then be sent.
While NVDA is in focus (on the person you are talking to), it will automatically read out the messages to you as you chat. You can also use the Shift/Tab keys to take you into the message body of the chat. This is so you can see what was said previously (if you missed what was said). You can use the up and down arrow keys to review the chat. This chat session can also be saved.

2     While focused on your contact, if your keyboard has an applications key, press this key. A context menu will come up. Arrow down to "start a conversation", then press the Enter key. Now, type in your message and press the Enter key to send your message.
When the person replies (as mentioned before) it will be read out to you.

Frequently asked questions about Instantbird

The best source for frequently asked questions is the Instantbird website. The following link will take you straight to the frequently asked questions webpage at