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 4, Composing Mail.

For iOS7,8, and 9

Section 1: Introduction.

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DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

In this lesson you will learn about the Message Content Screen of the Mail application in Compose Mode. The layout and options are slightly different than Reading mode which was discussed in the previous lesson. By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

SECTION 2: Terms You Should Know.

Some of these terms were covered in the previous lesson, but now we will examine them from a different perspective.

2.1: The To field.

This is where the list of intended recipients can be found. In a business environment you usually place the addresses of people in this field that you would expect to take some kind of action based on the message.

2.2: The Cc field.

The Courtesy Copy or Carbon copy field contains the list of addressees who are being copied for informational purposes only. They need to be aware of the message content, but don't necessarily have to do anything about it.

2.3: The Bcc Field.

This is the Blind Carbon Copy field. Addressees in this field will get a copy of the message, but no one else will know they got it. When you are sending a message to a group of your friends who don’t know each other, it’s a good idea to put the list of addressees in the Bcc field. That way you’re not giving out email addresses that the owners might not want distributed to people they don’t know.

2.4: The From Field.

Your name and email address. If you are managing multiple email accounts with your iOS Device be sure the right "From" address is being put in the message.

2.5: The Message Body.

This is the main text of the message. When you forward or reply to a message, your introductory comments are placed at the beginning of the message thread. Remember that you must use an Activate gesture on the field before you can begin typing.

2.6: The Message Header.

The message header is the area at the top of the message which contains the From, To, Cc, Bcc and Subject Fields.

2.7: Attachments.

Attachments are files that can be added to email messages. They can be photos, videos, word processing documents, spreadsheets, or just about anything. The easiest way to add an attachment to a message is to launch the app that the attachment was created in, and use the "Share" function. More about that later. Also, remember that some email providers will automatically filter out attachments that might be dangerous. Common types of files that get filtered are .exe, .com, .bat, .scr and .zip. You can check with your service provider for other attachment types that might get filtered.

SECTION 3: The Message Content Screen in Compose Mode.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

The Compose mode of the Message Content Screen is divided into four parts; The Action Row, The Message Header, The Message Body, and the Soft Keyboard, which is at the bottom of the display.

There is a new button above the Action Row. This is the "Minimize Draft" button. When you Activate or Press this button, the message you are composing is minimized and you are returned to the mailbox Screen with the "Drafts" button now showing at the bottom. You can use this button to return to editing the message again.

3.1: The Action Row.

This row is at the top of the Mail Message Content Screen just below the Status Bar. It has a button at either side and a heading that reads "New Message" at its center. On the left is the Cancel Button . This button works somewhat like a “back button. Activate this button to discard the message being written, or to save it to Drafts for later editing. You will be returned to the screen you were on before starting the message.

The "Cancel" button is on the left hand side of the Action Row. Pressing this button cancels any changes to the new message you have made and returns you to the "Mailbox Screen. You will be prompted to save your new message in drafts for later editing. The default answer to this prompt deletes the draft.

The Send Button is on the right side of the Action Row. Pressing this button sends the message to the intended recipients. If the message cannot be sent at that time, it is placed in the "Outbox" folder and sent when a connection to your Email provider can be made. Once the message is sent, a copy is stored in the "Sent Items" folder. So it is not necessary to include yourself as an addressee. You can always look at your Sent Items folder for messages you have sent.

3.2: The Message Header.

The header contains Text Fields for the To, Cc, Bcc, and From fields. These fields are known collectively as the address fields. As you activate each field the “Add Contact button appears. The “To" field is the first field in the message header, and is the Current Item when a new message is first started. VoiceOver announces, "To, is editing" to indicate this. The “Cc field is next. The “Bcc or Blind Carbon Copy field is third. The “From field is down at the bottom of the address fields. You can use the soft keyboard to enter email addresses as well as the "Add Contact" button.

Entering Addresses from the Keyboard.

As soon as you begin typing an Email Address, your iOS Device begins searching your contact list for matches, as well as email addresses you have recently used. It displays a list of those addresses below the address field you are editing. The more letters you type, the narrower the list becomes.

For example, suppose you still have the Contact Card for Jim Nazium, our friend from section 5 of the lesson on Creating and Managing Contacts. If you type the letter, "N," the list includes everyone with an "N" in their email address. This isn't too helpful, so let's type the letter, "A," and see what happens. Now let's Explore above the keyboard until you find the list of names. If you still have too many people with NA in their email addresses, go back to the keyboard and type the letter, "Z," and the list will shorten again. In fact, Jim will probably be the only one in it.

Now that you have found his entry in the list, use the Select gesture. Jim's email address will be added to the address field, and you are ready to add another address.

NOTE: Email addresses are not case sensitive. This means that it doesn't make a difference to the mail program whether you type the address in upper case, lower case, or mixed case. However, capitalizing certain letters in the email address can make it more understandable when you use VoiceOver or another screen reader. For example, Let's say you have a friend Sue Elsworth who has an address on the Optimum On Line network, and that her email address is just her first and last name run together. Her email address written with no capitalization sounds like, "sueelsworth@optonline.net," but with a capital "S" for Sue, and a capital "E" for Elsworth, it sounds like "SueElsworth@OptOnLine.net."

The Add Contact Button.

Pressing this button brings up the contacts list. Use a Select gesture to add a recipient. If the chosen contact has more than one email address, or has an email address plus a mobile phone number, you will be asked to select which address to use. As smart phones become more common the lines between email messages and text messages are blurring. Many smart phones can receive email messages as text messages. Once you have made the selection, you'll be returned to the "To" field in the Mail Message Content Screen. You can add another address or move on to the next field.

Let's try composing a short message to yourself. We'll begin by filling in the Message Header.

  1. Launch the mail app from the Home Screen, and then press the Compose button. VoiceOver says, "To field, is editing."
  2. Start typing your Email address. Notice that the “At" sign appears to the right of the spacebar, and the period to the right of the “At" sign. This makes entering email addresses easier.
  3. After you've typed three or four letters, Explore under the "To" field and see if your full email address is listed there.
  4. If it is, use the Select gesture to add it to the "To" field. If not, keep typing or look it up with the "Add Contact" button.
  5. While the “To" field is active, take a spin through the Rotor functions. Normally there are three Navigation functions; Characters, Words, and Lines. However, since the address fields are one line fields, the “Line function is omitted.
  6. Use the Next Item gesture to skip the other address fields.
  7. 3.3: The Subject Field.

    This field is a one line field that can contain some words that give the recipients a general idea of what the message is about. It pays to put some thought into this field. Messages without subjects or with subjects like “Hi There, or “Check this out, are usually treated as junk mail by the recipients email provider. Even if they get through, they should set off warning bells to your recipients.

  8. Activate the Subject Text Field.
  9. IMPORTANT! , Remember to Activate the field before typing. Otherwise, what you type next will go into the last field you were editing.

  10. Now type, “Message to Myself," and notice that the At Sign and period are no longer to the right of the spacebar. This is because you are no longer typing in an address field.
  11. Activate/Press the RETURN Key. VoiceOver says, “Message Body, Is Editing. This is because when you press the RETURN key in a single line field, the cursor jumps to the next item.

Now that the Message Header is complete, Let's put something in the body of the message.

3.4: The Message Body.

The Message Body Text Field begins just below the Subject. This field behaves just like the Notes Text Field in the Notes App with respect to text formatting. The message body can also contain links to web sites and so on. To bold, underline or italicize text, it must first be selected. Then while the rotor is dialed to the Edit Function, use the Set Mode gesture to find the desired setting and Activate it.

  1. Use the Start/End of field gesture to move the Insertion Point to the beginning of the message body. The Insertion Point should start there by default, but this is a good habit to get into as a double check. The Strife you save will be your own!
  2. NOTE: when a new message is started, whatever text is in the signature Block setting will be automatically inserted in the message body. See Mail Setup, Section 2.3 and Section 5.12 for details, If the Insertion Point is not moved to the start position before typing, then the typed text will be added AFTER the signature block.

  3. Type, “Here is bold, italic, and underlined text" in the message body. Separate "Bold", "Italic", and "Underlined" with commas.
  4. Use the Characters, Words, and Lines functions of the rotor to move the Insertion Point onto the word “Bold.
  5. Dial the Rotor to the Edit Function and use the Set Mode gesture until VoiceOver says, "Select,", but NOT when VoiceOver says, “Select All."
  6. Use an Activate gesture. The Select Mode will automatically select the entire word, bold. VoiceOver will announce, “bold selected."
  7. Now use the Set Mode gesture to change the rotors mode to bold. and Activate it.
  8. Dial the Rotor to the Words function. Navigate off the word “bold and then back on to it. VoiceOver will tell you that the word appears bold.

Congratulations, you have just bolded some text to emphasize it. Now let's use the same technique to apply italic and underline formatting.

  1. Navigate to the word “italic and select it using the Edit function of the Rotor and its Select mode.
  2. Set the rotor's mode to "Italic," and use an Activate gesture.
  3. Navigate to the word “underline and select it.
  4. Set the mode to "underline" and activate it.
  5. Now explore using VoiceOver one word at a time. Each time VoiceOver hits a specially formatted word, it will announce it. When you move to an unformatted word, VoiceOver will announce that as well.
  6. Activate the Send Button in the Action Row to send the message to yourself.

3.5: The Soft Keyboard.

The soft keyboard is located just below the message body. It functions exactly the way it did in the notes app.

SECTION 4: Forwarding and Replying to messages.

In order to forward or reply to an email, you must activate the "Reply" action button. This brings up a screen with several options. You can forward the message and any attachments to one or more users. You can reply back to the message sender with any comments you may have, or if the message went to multiple recipients, you can "Reply to All."

The difference between forwarding a message and replying to it has to do with how attachments to the original message are treated. When you forward a message, you will be prompted as to whether or not you wish to include the attachments. When you reply to a message, the attachments are not included with your reply.

NOTE: Be careful when replying to all. If only the sender needs to see your reply, then don't reply to everyone. Just like you, the other people on the original message don't want to receive SPAM.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

Let's try forwarding a message now.

  1. If the mail app isn't open, open it now.
  2. Open the message you want to forward. If you have a message with an attachment, let's use that one.
  3. Activate the "Reply" button.
  4. Choose "Forward" from the list of options.
  5. If you are asked whether or not to include the attachments, allow them to be included.
  6. Use one of the techniques discussed earlier to add addressees.
  7. When you are done adding addressees, activate the Message Body text editing field and add any introductory comments you wish.
  8. Send the message.

NOTE: Remember to use the Start of field gesture to ensure that the insertion point is at the beginning of the message body before you start typing. Otherwise you're comments could appear in the middle of the original message or your signature block.

You can Reply to a message in the same way you forward it. Simply choose the "Reply" or "Reply to all" button. If the original message had an attachment, notice that it is NOT included with your reply.

SECTION 5: Creating Messages with Attachments.

There are several ways to create a message with an attachment.

  • You can insert a photo or video into the message body while the text field is active by Dialing the Rotor to the Edit function, and using the Set Mode gesture to select the "Insert Photo or Video" option. Then use an Activate gesture and select a photo or video stored on your iOS Device.
  • "forward" a message that already has an attachment.
  • Go to the application that created the item you want to attach and use the "Share" function of the application.

Let's use this last technique to attach a contact from your contacts list to a new message and send it to someone else. So they can save it in their contacts list.

  1. Launch the Contacts App.
  2. Select a contact from the list and open the Contact Card.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the card and you will find the "Share" button.
  4. Press the Share button and then choose the "Mail" button from the list of options.
  5. You will be taken to a brand new message in Compose mode.
  6. Fill in the addressees and edit the Subject and Message Body fields. Then send the message.

IMPORTANT: When sending attachments avoid generic subjects like "Check this out" or "Here's something to see." Also, it's a good idea to put something in the message body so that the recipient can tell you really intended to send it. Generic subjects, blank subjects, empty message bodies and vague message body text can be an indicator of an attachment containing malicious software. Many people will not open messages with these characteristics.

There are thousands of apps which can attach an item to an email message. Unfortunately, we can't go into all of them here, but most will have a "Share" button somewhere, and that is what you must activate in order to find the "Mail" option.

SECTION 6: General Tips when Sending Emails.

  • Don't send messages with blank subjects or subjects like 'Check this out", "Hi There" or other generic subjects. Many service providers will interpret them as SPAM and the user will never see them.
  • When you only need to reply to the sender of a message, be careful to use "Reply" and not "Reply All."
  • Remember that the recipient of your email message can't hear your voice or see your body language. When you say things like, "You're gonna get it!" they may not be able to tell you are joking.
  • When you type in all capital letters, it is often interpreted as yelling.
  • You can indicate some emotion in your message by certain character combinations. For example, a colon followed by a dash and then a closing parenthesis looks like a smiley face turned on its side. People often use this to indicate they are kidding around. Change the closing parenthesis to an opening parenthesis and now you have a frowning face. As you would expect, this means you're unhappy. There are other character combinations. These are often called emoticons.
  • Remember, once you send an email, you can't take it back. Emails take on a life of their own. You send a comment or photo to a friend, then they pass it along, and so on, and so on. If you wouldn't want your mom to see it or read it. Don't send it.

SECTION 7: Exercises.

  1. You are planning a weekend getaway withsome friends. You need Bob to bring the camping equipment, Carol to bring her guitar, Ted to be aware that you won't be around this weekend, and Alice to pick up burgers, dogs and beer. Whose email addresses might you put in the "To" field? Whose might go in the "Cc" field?
  2. If you are sending a message to many addressees who don't know each other, which address field should you consider putting all the recipients' addresses in?
  3. You've just filled in the subject field of your message. You use the Explore gesture to find the Message Body field. Now you begin typing the body of your message. Where will the text actually be typed?
  4. What are the four parts of the Message Screen when it is in Compose mode?
  5. If you press the Send button after creating a message, but the message cannot be sent right away, where is the message stored?
  6. How do you access your Contacts list to add a contact's email address or mobile phone number to the list of addressees as you are composing a new message?
  7. If you want to forward or reply to a message, where must you look for these functions?
  8. If a message has attachments, what is the difference between forwarding it and replying to it?
  9. You've activated the Message Body field and are ready to type. What gesture is good to perform first to ensure your typing starts at the beginning of the message?
  10. Suppose you previously used the Notes app to create a short note that you wanted to share with others via email. How would you attach it to an email message?
  11. What are some signs that an email message may contain malicious information or attachments?
  12. If you type text in all capital letters, how might the reader interpret it?

Click here for answers.

Congratulations! This concludes the lessons on using email from your iOS Device. VoiceOverEasy.net hopes you found the lessons enjoyable and informative. We suggest that when you're ready, you try the lesson in the intermediate VoiceOver section called Using Dictation with VoiceOver. You may find that it greatly simplifies composing email messages.

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

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