December 2013 Issue  Volume 14  Number 12

Product Evaluations and Guides

An Overview of OS X Mavericks, the New Apple Operating System for Macs

On October 22, 2013, Apple released OS X 10.9, Mavericks. This is the upgrade to the operating system for Mac computers including the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Apple chose to make this a free upgrade no matter which older operating system Mac users are running.

This article will discuss installation and changes that can be important to VoiceOver users. According to the Apple website, Mavericks has more than 200 new features. Many of these upgrades are related to extending battery life, conserving memory and improving speed. There are, of course, many new features having to do with graphics and other visual content such as photos. There are also some new keyboard commands, which will be presented here. If you'd like to learn more, you can read a detailed article about the new features in Mavericks.


Before beginning the installation process, be sure to back up your computer. The importance of this step cannot be overstated. If you are presently running Mountain Lion or a previous Mac operating system, you should receive notification that Mavericks is available. If not, open the App Store. If update information isn't already presented, search for and select the update button to install Mavericks.

Mavericks can take several hours to download. Once the download is started, the download button will be dimmed. After completing download, the software needs to be installed. You enter the ID name for your computer and the password. The name is not the same as the Apple ID. Once correct information is entered, the software will install.

VoiceOver Changes

There have been several changes to VoiceOver. According to Apple, one change is that help tags of images will give a brief image description.


There are now many more voices from which to choose. The list of voices is located in the VoiceOver Utility. Type VO (Control + Option) + F8 to open the utility. Go to the Speech category in the utilities table and select the Voices tab. Then in the Voice pop-up menu, select Customize, and then VO + Right-Arrow to the table of voices.

Audio Ducking

This allows VoiceOver to speak over the system volume by lowering the system volume until VoiceOver is finished speaking. The checkbox to enable or disable audio ducking is located in the Sound category of the VoiceOver Utility.


When Mavericks was initially released there was a lot of e-mail list chatter about Mavericks not working with Gmail and other IMAP accounts. I had no difficulty with my Gmail account, but some people did have a problem. Apple released a software update to fix this problem. If you already use Mavericks and you have your apps set to update automatically, then there's no need to do anything. If your apps don't update automatically, go to the Apple menu and choose Software Update. Before making the upgrade, I checked with many people, both visually impaired and sighted, and no one had a problem with their Gmail accounts.


iBooks, which was previously available only on iOS devices, has finally come to the Mac, but only with the Mavericks operating system. However the Mac version is not as accessible as the iOS version. At this time some of the buttons are not labeled and the book will not read continuously. The app can be used if you're willing to deal with these accessibility issues.


The dictation feature was first introduced in Mountain Lion and could be used in applications such as Mail and TextEdit. In Mountain Lion you could only record for 30 seconds at a time. If you wanted to continue dictation the program had to be re-started; in Mavericks there is no time limit.

Another useful feature in Mavericks, called Enhanced Dictation, has the ability to dictate without an Internet connection. Previously, dictated material was transmitted to the Apple website and then back to the Mac.

In order to use Enhanced Dictation, an approximately 800 megabyte program needs to be downloaded. In System Preferences, go to Dictation & Speech and activate the Dictation tab. Make sure that dictation is turned on. Check Use Enhanced Dictation. Once the program downloads, you'll no longer need to be online to use dictation. Press the Function key (lower left on MacBooks) twice to begin the dictation process. Press twice again when you're done.

Using the Power Button

In Mavericks, pressing the power button once for less than a half second will put your Mac to sleep. This works with all Macs. Pressing the power button again for less than a half second will wake it up.

The shut-down dialog can be accessed by holding down the power button for about 1.5 seconds. If your Mac has a media eject key, hold down the control key and press the media eject key to bring up the dialogue. If your computer doesn't have a media eject key, hold down the control key and press the power button to access the dialogue. If the computer is not responding, hold down the power button for 5 seconds. This will force the computer to turn off. You may lose unsaved data. Of course, all sleep and shut down options can still be accessed through the Apple menu.

Short Cuts

Short cuts created on your iOS device will now sync with your Mac and vice versa. To create short cuts on the Mac go to System preferences/Keyboard/Text. Activate the Add button and fill in the short cut and the expanded text. When the short cut is typed followed by the spacebar, the expanded text will automatically be added.

iCloud Keychain

iCloud Keychain is a new feature in Mavericks and iOS 7 which lets you have login information, passwords, and credit card information automatically entered when you land on a website where you have previously created an account. The activation information for Keychain is in the iCloud pane in System Preferences on the Mac and in the iCloud category in iOS 7. When using a Mac and another Apple device, the information entered in the Keychain will sync throughout all your Mac and iOS devices. According to Apple all your information is encrypted and security measures are in place. You can add to security by having a pass code on your locked screen. If you decide to have Keychain remember your credit card information for a website, you will still need to enter the card's security code.

The set up for Keychain is a bit lengthy. An article on set up will be listed in the resources at the end of this article. On the Mac, begin by going to System Preferences/iCloud and check the Keychain option on the iCloud services table. It is necessary to insure that Safari is checked on the table. To begin on an iOS device, go to Settings/iCloud/Keychain. Safari needs to be checked on the iOS device as well.

App Store

The App store will now automatically update apps purchased from the App Store. You can manually update apps through the App Store's pane in system preferences as well. Uncheck the box that says to automatically check for updates.


There have been a few reports that Safari isn't reading links or repeating phrases but I haven't experienced these problems. A new feature in Safari lets you share links with friends on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Activate the "Share" button and then choose the social network you want to use. Read all the information carefully before deciding to use this feature. You'll have to log into your account and give your consent.

Battery Usage

It is now possible to determine if a particular app is using a significant amount of battery power. Bring up the menu extras with VO + MM and navigate to the Battery menu. Open the menu and arrow down. VoiceOver will speak the names of any app currently using a significant amount of battery power.

The Dock

When Mavericks is downloaded, there will be two new applications on the dock: iBooks and Maps. When reading apps on the dock, VoiceOver will now say the word "open" if you land on an open app. The key combination has changed for adding items to the dock. It is now Command + Control + Shift + T. The key combination to remove items from the dock has not changed.


It's now possible to open multiple tabs in the finder window. This feature is similar to tabs in Safari. Type Command + T to open a new tab. When you land on the tab you want to view, type VO + Spacebar.


There is now improved accessibility in Apple's iWork suite consisting of a publishing program called Pages, a spreadsheet program called Numbers and a program similar to PowerPoint called Keynote.

Actions Menu

On any item, typing VO + Command + Spacebar will bring up an actions menu if there are options available for interacting with the item. If there isn't anything to be done with the item, VoiceOver will not say anything and a sound will play.


On the Mac, the Keychain feature, Safari sharing links, Maps, Finder tabs, and iBooks are only available in Mavericks. If you are hesitant to upgrade to Mavericks and are happy with Mountain Lion you might consider waiting until Apple releases a Mavericks software update. If you don't need these features then there's no harm in waiting.

Before doing the update, make sure that all the applications you use, including those not purchased from the Mac App Store, are compatible with Mavericks.


Tech Support
Phone: 877-204-3930
Apple has specially trained tech support staff familiar with VoiceOver. If you have upgraded to Mavericks and are having an accessibility issue with an app or a problem with the system, you can contact them.

The site has podcasts, app recommendations, and a user forum. There is information on all Apple products.

How To Be Blind
Check this site for podcasts, brief tutorials, and app recommendations.
Get to Know Mavericks: System Preferences
How-to: Setup and use iCloud Keychain for Mavericks and iOS7

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