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Screenshot of Microsoft Narrator in Windows 10
|Operating system||Windows 2000 and later|
|Type||Screen reading program|
Narrator is a light-duty screen reader utility included in Microsoft Windows. Narrator reads dialog boxes and window controls in a number of the more basic applications for Windows. Developed by Professor Paul Blenkhorn in 2000, the utility made the Windows operating system more accessible for blind and visually impaired users.
While Microsoft recommends that the visually impaired purchase a full-function screen reader for general computer use, Narrator is a useful piece of built-in accessibility software. Narrator is included with every copy of Microsoft Windows, providing a measure of access to Windows without the need to install additional software as long as the computer in use includes a sound card and speakers or headphones. Windows 2000 was the first Microsoft operating system released with some degree of accessibility for the blind built in, permitting a blind person to walk up to any such computer and make some use of it immediately.
Narrator can assist a blind person in installing a full-function screen reader, assisting the user until their screen reader of choice is up and running. Because Narrator is a lightweight screen reader that requires minimal "hooks" into the operating system, Narrator can provide speech when a full-function screen reader might be unable to do so, such as during the process of updating hardware drivers.
The Windows 2000 version of Narrator uses SAPI 4 and allows the use of other SAPI 4 voices. The Windows XP version uses the newer SAPI 5. However, it only allows the use of the default voice, Microsoft Sam, even if other voices have been installed.
In Windows Vista and Windows 7, Narrator has been updated to use SAPI 5.3 and the Microsoft Anna voice for English. In Windows Ultimate and Windows editions for China, the Microsoft Lili voice for Mandarin Chinese is included.
In Windows 10, Narrator is available in English (United States, United Kingdom, and India), French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional), Cantonese (Chinese Traditional), Spanish (Spain and Mexico), Polish, Russian, and Portuguese (Brazil).
A version of Narrator is also included in all Windows Phones, though with far fewer settings than the Narrator for the desktop. Narrator for Windows Phones previously only worked if the phone's language is set to "English (United States)".
There are numerous voices included in the narrator pack, such as Microsoft David, Microsoft Zira, Microsoft Mark, and in earlier editions, Microsoft Hazel.