VoiceoverEasy.net courses are tutorials geared toward blind and visually impaired users of iPhones and iPads with Siri capability, and who use Apple Corporation's accessibility technology called Voiceover to read the screen of their device.

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Unit 4: Lesson 3, Reading Mail.

For iOS7,8, and 9.

Section 1: Introduction.

In order to display customized text to meet your needs VoiceoverEasy.net needs to know if you want to learn about iPhones or iPads.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

In this lesson you will learn about the Message Content Screen of the Mail application. This is the screen that appears when you read an email message, or when you compose a message. The layout and options are slightly different depending on whether you are reading or composing email. So we will cover composing email in the next lesson. At the end of this lesson you should know:

  1. About the mail message header and its different parts.
  2. How to expand ad collapse the list of mail recipients.
  3. How to open and review attachments.
  4. How to create a Contact Card from an email address in an email message.

SECTION 2: Terms You Should Know.

2.1: The To field.

This is where the list of intended recipients can be found.

2.2: The Cc field.

The Courtesy Copy or Carbon copy field contains the list of addressees that are being copied for informational purposes.

2.3: The From Field.

The name and email address of the sender of the message. It is fairly easy to spoof this field. If you receive a message that seems out of character for the sender, it is likely that this field has been spoofed. Check with the sender to confirm he or she actually sent the message before opening or previewing it.

2.4: The Message Header.

The message header is the area at the top of the message which contains the From, To, Cc, and Subject Fields. The header area also contains the date the message was sent.

2.5: The Message Body.

This is the main text of the message. In addition to text, this section can contain pictures, links, Headings and many other features.

2.6: Attachments.

Attachments are files that can be added to email messages. They can be photos, videos, word processing documents, spreadsheets, or just about anything. Be VERY CAREFUL of unexpected attachments. They can contain viruses or other undesirable code.

SECTION 3: The Message Content Screen in Reading Mode.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

3.1: The Action Row.

The Reading mode of the Message Content Screen is divided into three parts. The first is The Action Row, which has several Buttons. The second is the Message Header, which is immediately below the Action Row. The third is the Message Body. The Action Buttons are described in the following table.

Split Action Rows.

Sometimes devices with small displays, like iPhones, split the Action Row with part of it appearing at the top of the display, and the remainder at the bottom. All iPhone users are looking at a Split Action Row in this lesson. The Back button and the Previous/Next message buttons are on the top row. But the Action Row continues at the bottom of the screen with the Mark Message, Move, Delete, Reply, and Compose buttons completing the Action Row.

The iOS Device splits these buttons into two rows. The first row is directly below the Status Bar. It has three buttons. The second row appears below the Message Body. The table below lists the buttons as they appear from left to right. The first three buttons are on the top row. The remaining five are at the bottom of the display.

Table of Action Buttons.
Button. Function.
Back. Returns you to the Mailbox Screen and the Message List. The message just displayed will be the Current Item in the Message List.
Previous Message. Displays the contents of the previous message from the Message list without having to return to the Mailbox Screen. The previous message is the message that was directly above the message currently being viewed. If the message currently displayed is the first message in the folder, then this button will be dimmed. When Voiceover announces that an item is dimmed, it means that it is temporarily disabled.
When the new message is displayed, this button will remain the Current Item.
next Message. Displays the contents of the next message from the Message list without having to return to the Mailbox Screen. The next message is the message that was directly below the message currently being viewed. If the message currently displayed is the last message in the folder, then this button will be dimmed. When Voiceover announces that an item is dimmed, it means that it is temporarily disabled.
When the new message is displayed, this button will remain the Current Item.
The remainder of the action buttons are located at the bottom of the iPhone display below the message body.
Mark Message. allows you to flag or unflag the message, mark the message as read or unread, or move the message to the Junk mailbox.
Move. moves the current message to a different mailbox. If you are managing multiple accounts with your iOS Device, you will only see the mailboxes for one account listed at a time. To move the messages to a mailbox in a different account, activate the "Accounts" button and select the account you want from the list. When the move is complete, the next message will be displayed.
Delete, or Archive. The name and function of this button depend on how options have been defined in the "Mail, Contacts and Calendars" section of the Settings Application. See Mail Setup, Section 6. Moves the current message to the Trash or All Mail folder and displays the next message.
Reply. Opens a popup which allows you to Reply, Reply to all, Forward or print the message. When you reply to a message or forward it, the original text of the message is included at the bottom of your comments.
Compose. Opens the Mail Message Screen in Compose mode on a blank message.

NOTE: Users of iOS 8 and later will have the "Drafts" button as well, if they minimized another message while composing it.

SECTION 4: The Message Header.

The message header begins with the From address button. The to and Carbon Copy address information is next. The Subject label is next, and the date-time the message was sent is at the bottom.

If you cannot find the Message Header fields with the Explore gesture, and VoiceOver does not announce the Subject, From, or To information, then the address bar has scrolled off the display. Try one of the following:

4.1: The Subject label.

This is a one line label that contains text that summarizes what the message is about.

NOTE: You should be careful of messages with no subject or with subjects that are very general like "Hi there" or "Check this out!" These kinds of subjects are often used by hackers who want you to open a message that contains malicious content. It's best to delete them, or at least verify with the sender that he or she actually intended to send the message.

4.2: The Address display.

When the Message Content Screen is in reading mode, the addresses in the message header can appear in either expanded or abbreviated format. The Mail app remembers which format they were in the last time a message was displayed, and opens the next message in the same format.

abbreviated Format.

In abbreviated format there will be one label which contains the word "To," and then the names or addresses of the first few recipients on the To, and Cc lines combined. One of two buttons will appear to the right of the label. If there is only one message recipient, the “more button will display. If there are multiple recipients, the “And Others button will display and tell you how many recipients there are in both fields combined. Both buttons do the same thing. They switch the address fields to expanded format.

Expanded Format.

In this format each email address becomes a button. Sometimes the expanded list of addressees can be quite long. To find a particular address, use the Item Chooser to sort them alphabetically.

When the addresses are in expanded format, VoiceOver announces the "hide" button to the right of the From Address Button. Activate this button to switch the addresses to abbreviated format. This makes it easier to get to the message body, since you won't have to scan through so many addresses. If you activate one of the address buttons, the Addressee Options Screen appears.

4.3: The Addressee Options Screen.

If the address of the button you activated is in your contacts list, information from that contact Card is displayed. You can choose the Edit button in the upper right corner to edit the contact information. If the address is not in your contacts, then some basic information about the address appears. The following table lists all the buttons which can appear below the contact/address information. Not all of these buttons will be available for every address.

Table of Addressee Options.
Button. Function.
Add to VIP. You can use the VIP mailbox or the search field to filter messages in the message list to show only those from people you have marked as VIPs.
Send Message. Switches the Message Content Screen to Compose mode and opens a blank message with the address from the button in the "To" line.
Share Contact. This button only appears if the address is in your contacts list. It allows you to send the contact information for the addressee as an attachment in an email message to someone else. Please be sure you have the permission of the addressee before doing this.
Create New Contact. This button only appears if the address is not listed in your contacts. This allows you to create a new contact based on the email address.
Add to Existing Contact. This button only appears if the address is not listed in your contacts. If this is a new email address for an existing contact, you can use this function to update that contact record.
Add to Favorites. This button only appears if the address is associated with a contact. Pressing this button makes the contact a "Favorite." Favorites are covered in the Lesson about making phone calls.

A “Back button in the upper left corner returns to the Message Content Screen without taking any action.

SECTION 5: The Message Body.

The Message Body begins just below the message header. This is where the bulk of the message text is. The body can contain pictures, links, headings and many other items. Use an Activate gesture to activate links.

NOTE: You can get an idea of how long the message is by using the Where Am I gesture, when the message body is the Current Item. VoiceOver will announce, "Page 1 of x," where x is the number of screens in the message body.

As you scroll down through the message, the Message Header will scroll up off the top of the display. The Action Buttons remain stationary.

SECTION 6: Attachments.

Your iOS Device places all attachments to an email message at the end of the message body. A message can have more than one attachment. VoiceOver will read the title of the Attachment and then say an additional word like "Doc," or "image," but it doesn't actually say the word "attachment."

IMPORTANT! Attachments can contain malicious content. Be careful to open attachments only from trusted sources. Even if the email appears to be from a friend or colleague, you still need to be careful. It is very easy to spoof an email address. So if the attachment seems out of character for that person, confirm with them first that they are the ones who actually sent it.

Once you have determined that the attachment is safe, you open it with an Activate gesture. Your iOS Device has the ability to read certain common file types, such as .doc, .pdf, .jpg and many others. In some cases, like with PDF documents, the ability is very rudimentary. If you want complete access to all the attachments features, you may need to download a specific viewer from the App store. For example, you can read PDF documents with the built in reader, but you don't have access to bookmarks and the table of contents without Adobe's PDF reader application, which is available free from the App Store.

There are other things you may want to do with an attachment besides simply Activate it for viewing. For example, you may want to save it to your iOS Device or send it on to someone else. You must first make the attachment the Current Item and then use a new gesture.

6.1: Single Finger Tap Hold.

The Single Finger Tap Hold gesture activates an item or activates a menu of options which changes depending on what was the Current Item prior to performing the gesture, and on what was happening at the time.

You perform the gesture by tapping once with your finger, then raising your finger and putting it down again in approximately the same spot. Hold your finger on the display in that position until your iOS Device makes a "chirp" sound, then lift your finger. A menu of options appears, although its position on the display varies. VoiceOverEasy.net will refer to this gesture as the "Context Menu" gesture.

6.2: The Attachment Options Screen.

When you perform the Context Menu gesture on an attachment, the Attachment Options Screen appears.

The options available from this screen may include some or all of the following:

The Attachment Screen options will vary depending on the type of attachment and on which applications are installed on your iOS Device.

There is a "More" button on the Attachment Options Screen. This button brings up the Activities Screen which allows you to change the order in which the other buttons from the Attachment Options Screen appear. To the right of each button in the list is a "Reorder" button. Do these steps to change the order of the buttons.

  1. Use the Explore gesture until VoiceOver says the item you want to move.
  2. Explore to the right until VoiceOver announces the "Reorder" button.
  3. Use the Tap-hold gesture until your iOS Device makes a chirp sound.
  4. Without lifting your finger, Explore vertically up or down the screen. Your finger will drag the item under it to a new location. As you pass over each item, VoiceOver will tell you the name of the item you are passing over, as well as whether the item you are dragging will be placed before or after the item just announced.
  5. Lift your finger when the item you are dragging is where you want it to be.
  6. When you have all the buttons in the order you want them in, use the "Done" button in the upper right corner of the Activities Screen to return to the Attachment Options Screen.

From now on when a single finger Tap and hold is used to move items around the screen, VoiceOver will refer to it as the "Drag" gesture.

If you have a message with an attachment in your mailbox, open the message and make the attachment the Current Item. Try the Context Menu gesture and see what options are available.

6.3: Viewing the Contents of an Attachment.

Your iOS Device has the ability to display most common file attachment types using the "Quick View" option from the Attachment Options Screen. However, you may not get all the available features of the attachment. For example, Quick Viewing a PDF file allows you to read the text in the file, but does not allow access to the table of contents,, or to bookmarks. If you need more complete access to an attachment type, you may have to download a specific viewer from the App Store.

When you use the Quick View option to open an attachment, the display is divided into two areas, an Action Row, and the area where the attachment contents is displayed. The Action Row starts just below the Status Bar. However, in some cases the Action Row is split, with some items above the attachment viewing area, and others below. The most common items on the Action Row are:

The "Share" button is a way to open the Attachment Options Screen while viewing the attachment. Many of the options in this screen involve sharing the attachment with others.

SECTION 7: Review.

Table of New Gestures.
Gesture Name. Motion. Context. Function.
Context Menu. Single Finger Tap and Hold. in Text Fields, some item lists Invokes a context sensitive menu of options for whatever is the Current Item. When editing text, or an Attachment is the Current Item.
Drag. Single Finger Tap Hold then Explore. When dragable items are present. Use this gesture on an item to change its position in a list or on the display.

SECTION 8: Exercises.

  1. What is the area above the message body called where the "to", "Cc" and "Subject items are located?
  2. What is an attachment and why should you be careful about opening them?
  3. Where can you find the "back" button, and the "next" and "Previous message buttons?
  4. What are the two formats the addresses can appear in? Try opening a message with multiple addressees and try switching between the two formats.
  5. If you want to create a new contact based on one of the addresses in a message, how do you do it?
  6. How do you activate the menu of options for attachments?

Click here for answers.

Congratulations: This finishes the lesson on reading email messages. In the next lesson we'll compose and send some emails.

Before you go on to the next lesson, would you like to take the optional survey for this lesson?

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