December 2015 Issue  Volume 16  Number 12

Product Reviews and Guides

An Overview of OS X 10.11 El Capitan

On September 30, 2015, Apple released OS X 10.11 El Capitan, a new operating system for Mac computers. This operating system has some excellent new VoiceOver options as well as a few changes to other applications. There are fewer changes than between OS X Mavericks and OS X Yosemite. Some apps are now more accessible.

VoiceOver Changes

The main changes for VoiceOver are an additional VO modifier key, additional options for interacting, and a new feature called Window Spots.

Caps Lock Key as VO keys

The standard VO keys are Control + Option. There is now another choice: the Caps Lock key. Go to the VoiceOver Utility with VO + F8 or any other method you have previously used. In the General tab is an option to choose which keys to use as the VoiceOver modifier. Use the pop-up menu to choose Control + Option, Caps Lock, or both.


It is no longer necessary to interact with many lists, toolbars and scroll areas. In the VoiceOver Utility, select the Navigation tab. Go to the Grouping Behavior option. There are four options in the pop up menu. By default, the Standard option is selected. This means that it is always necessary to interact, just as in previous operating systems. The next option is Bookend groups. In this option, VoiceOver will announce the beginning and end of a group, list etc. The third option is Announce Groups. VoiceOver will announce only when you enter a toolbar, list, etc. The final option is Ignore Groups. With this setting enabled, VoiceOver will not say anything. Some items still require interaction such as tables.

Window Spots

This is a new feature. VoiceOver picks out items it thinks would be important and puts them in a menu. Window Spots is selected with VO + U. Navigate the menu with the up and down arrow keys and select an item with the Return key.

You can also create and delete your own Window Spots. Create a Window Spot by typing VO + Shift + Command + Right Bracket on the Window Spot Location. Delete the Window Spot by typing VO + Shift + Command + Left Bracket.

Content Chooser

This is similar to Window Spots, but it is only available in a few apps such as Mail and Notes. Go to Content Chooser selections with VO + U and Right Arrow to Content Chooser. Read the menu and make selections the same way as with Window Spots. Unlike Window Spots, you cannot add your own Content Chooser items.

Application Changes

A few applications have been changed in El Capitan.


Prior to El Capitan, the Favorites Bar was accessed with Command and whichever number the specific item had been assigned. Now, Command + Option and the number will perform this task.

Pinned tabs are a new feature in El Capitan. They are similar to items on the Favorites bar except that they are refreshed in the background so they always have the most recent content. Pinned tabs are accessed with Command and whichever number is assigned to the site.

Add a website to your Pinned tabs by bringing up the menu bar and going to the Window option. Open the Window menu and select Pin Tab. The website will be added to your Pinned Tabs. VoiceOver will say, "Remove tab." Ignore it. To remove a website, go to the site and VO + Left Arrow until you hear the name of the site followed by the words Pin Tab. Bring up the contextual menu and select Unpin Tab.


In Yosemite, when you attached a file to an email, VoiceOver only said, "Attached image." Now, VoiceOver has gone back to speaking the name of the file.

Apple Music

When viewing a list of content in the HTML area, use the tab key to reach the Play button quickly. VoiceOver now will also say the name of the album or playlist and artist or compilation.

Spotlight Search

Spotlight Search list has some new sources including stocks, weather, web video and sports. You can now search using Natural Language. For example, "Show all the documents I opened yesterday."

iWork and VoiceOver

Apple has improved accessibility to its iWork group of applications, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. According to 9TO5 Mac, the following accessibility improvements have been added to iWork with El Capitan:

Pages 5.6

  • Add and review comments with VoiceOver
  • Track changes with VoiceOver
  • Edit chart data and chart elements with VoiceOver

Numbers 3.6

  • Edit chart data and chart elements with VoiceOver
  • Add and review comments with VoiceOver

Keynote 6.6

  • More easily edit presenter notes with VoiceOver
  • VoiceOver can now read presenter notes during slideshows
  • Edit chart data and chart elements with VoiceOver
  • Add and review comments with VoiceOver


It is definitely worth updating to El Capitan. Personally, I like not having to interact with toolbars, scroll areas, etc. Pinned tabs in Safari is a nice convenience for frequently used web sites.

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