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.

Debug Label

Surfin' 101.

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

Your iOS Device has the ability to read pages on the World Wide Web, WWW. This activity is called Browsing. Web pages can contain anything from news articles, personal posts, games, financial information, and yes, even advertising. You can transact with retailers, your bank, your doctor, and even your government on the web. In this lesson we will review the basics of web browsing with Safari, the web reader that comes with your iOS Device. By the end of this lesson you should understand:

Searching the web will be covered in the next lesson.

SECTION 2: Terms You Should Know.

2.1: Elements verses Items.

Elements are just like items. From now on VoiceOverEasy.net will use the word Elements to describe objects on a web page, and the word Items to describe objects that are part of the applications on your iOS Device. Elements can be; headings, like the one preceeding this paragraph; or links, which take you to another web page or to a different spot on the same page. They can also be buttons, Text boxes, graphics, video frames, lists, Tables, and many more.

We have learned certain gestures which apply to items. They are Previous and Next Item. These gestures have their corresponding gestures on web pages, the Previous and Next Element gestures. They are made exactly the same way. The same holds true for the Current Item> If the Current Item on the display is a web element, VoiceOver will use the term Current Element.

2.2: HTML.

HTML stands for Hyper Text markup Language. It’s the language that web pages are written in. Did you ever wonder when you review web sites how the page knows to make some text a heading, other text simply plain, and some text an active link? How does your iOS Device know to play music when the page opens, or to run an animated clip? The answer is that in addition to the text and images shown when the web page is displayed, there are hundreds of hidden commands that tell the web page to appear or act just so. Many companies also use HTML when they send you emails so they can embed links or make the message more fancy.

Here are some examples of the HTML code behind all web pages. You may want to read these a character at a time to get an idea of how the HTML code looks. You don't need to no the specific code. It takes a lifetime to become proficient with HTML code. This is intended only as a sample for what is going on behind the screen.

Two examples of simple HTML
Code. Function.
<h1>Surfin Basics</h1> Displays the title at the top of this page as a level 1 heading in large bold text.
<a href="http://www.Apple.com">Apple</a> Turns the word Apple into a link to Apple Corporation's web site.

2.3: Browsers.

A browser is a program that runs on your computer, smart phone or tablet. It interprets the HTML commands in each web page and displays the page in a format readable by us humans. Four of the most common browsers are in alphabetical order in the "List" element below.

2.4: Universal Resource Locator (URL).

The URL is simply the web address of the page. For example, the URL for Apple is http://www.Apple.com. The URL forVoiceOverEasy is http://www.VoiceOver-Easy.net. The URL for NASA is http://www.NASA.gov, and the URL for the Lions Club website is http://www.lionsclubs.org/. The URL for the web page you are viewing will appear in the address bar at the top of the browser screen.

2.5: Search Engines.

Search engines are programs that search web pages for specified keywords, then return a list of the web pages where the keywords were found. Some of the most popular ones are Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Duck Duck Go.

2.6: >Cookies.

According to SurfTheNetSafely.com "Internet cookies are small pieces of information in text format that are downloaded to your computer when you visit many Web sites. The cookie may come from the Web site itself or from the providers of the embedded advertising banners or other graphics that make up a Web page. Thus visiting a single Web site can actually result in the downloading of multiple cookies, each from a different source. You may never actually visit a page of one of the major advertising agencies like Doubleclick.com but you will still get cookies from them."

SECTION 3: Setting Up Safari Features.

To access the settings for Safari, Activate the Settings App and Select Safari from the Settings main menu. Some of the settings listed below were covered in Section 7.1 of the Privacy lesson, but they are repeated here for completeness. VoiceOverEasy.net STRONGLY recommends that if you haven't read the Privacy lesson, you do so before going further in this one. Your privacy while browsing the net is important.

The Safari settings are divided into groups with a heading at the top of each group. You can use the Rotor to jump from one heading to the next by Dialing it to the Headings Function and using the Move Forward and Backward gestures.

3.1: The "Search" Settings Group.

The Search Engine Button.

At the top of this group is a button that reads, "Search Engine," followed by the name of the current search engine used by Safari. The default is Google. If you use an Activate gesture on this button, a list of search engines appears. You can change the engine from Google to one of these using the Select gesture. There is a search engine on the list called DuckDuckGo. Unlike Google, Bing and many others, DuckDuckGo does not keep any records of your search. If this is important to you, you can change the search engine to DuckDuckGo, and then press the Back button to return to the Safari Settings. VoiceOverEasy.net has not compared the features of DuckDuckGo to any of the other engines, only its stance on privacy.

Search Engine Suggestions.

When Search Suggestions are enabled, Safari will ask your search engine for search suggestions based on what you typed.

VoiceOverEasy.net was not able to determine from this statement if the search engine is making suggestions personalized on what YOU have searched for in the past, or on general criteria based on many people's searches.

Spotlight Suggestions.

When you use Spotlight suggestions in Safari, your search queries,the Spotlight suggestions you select, and related usage data are sent to Apple. If you have location services on your device turned on, when you make a search query to Spotlight, the location of your device at that time will be sent to Apple. Location, Search queries and usage information sent to Apple will be used by Apple only to make Spotlight suggestions more relevant and to improve other Apple products and services.

If you don't want Apple to have this information, you can turn this feature off.

Quick Web Search.

You can use an Activate gesture to have this button toggle this setting Off and On. On is the default. When this setting is on, you can type in a partial web address to have the search look only in that location. For example, if you wanted to search Wikipedia for references to Saturn, you could type "wiki Saturn," and only wikipedia would be searched. If you wanted to search the App store for an app about baseball, you could enter "baseball app," and only the app store would be searched.

Preload Top Hit.

When this feature is set to On, the first page in the list returned by the search engine is automatically loaded in the background. Background loading means the page won't immediately be displayed, but is available in the Pages list. See below. Use an Activate gesture to toggle this setting on or off.

At the bottom of this group is the "About Search and Privacy" link. It has some additional information beyond the cited information above. You can Activate it with the Menu gesture, once you have made it the Current Item.

3.2: The "General" Settings Group.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

Block Popups

Many advertisers use Popups to display ads when you visit a web page. Press this button to toggle Popup Blocking off and on. When this is on, all Popups from web sites will be blocked. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine if the popup is an advertising popup, or a legitimate part of the website. So if the web site you are on doesn't appear to be working correctly, you can try turning this setting off.

3.3: The "Privacy and Security" Group.

Do not Track.

If you do not want web sites to track information about you, you can toggle this setting to on by pressing this button. When you do, your iOS device will politely ask the web site not to track data on you. Unscrupulous or unaware web site developers will simply ignore this request, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Block Cookies.

Cookies are small files a web site can place on your computer or device to store information. Reputable web site operators usually use them to remember the settings you have for a particular web page. The next time you visit the page, it checks for the cookie and sets itself up the way you left it. Cookies cannot contain viruses, but they can affect your privacy. What you do online can be tracked by cookies. The table below lists the four options available for this setting and their efects on Privacy and Performance.

Block Cookie Settings in iOS8
Setting. Description. Effect on Privacy. Effect on Performance.
Always Block. Safari doesn’t let any websites, third parties, or advertisers store cookies and other data on your iOS Device. Best. Degraded. This may prevent some websites from working properly.
Allow from current website only. Safari accepts cookies and website data only from the website you’re currently visiting. Very Good. Minimal: Websites often have embedded content from other sources. Safari does not allow these third parties to place or access cookies or other data on your iOS Device.
Allow from Web Sites I visit, Default. Safari accepts cookies and website data only from websites you visit. Safari uses your existing cookies to determine whether you have visited a website before. Good. Minimal: Selecting this option helps prevent websites that have embedded content in other websites you browse from storing cookies and data on your iOS Device.
Always. Safari lets all websites, third parties, and advertisers store cookies and other data on your iOS Device. Terrible! VoiceOverEasy.net does NOT recommend this setting!

Fraudulent Web Site Warning.

Apple maintains a list of web sites which are known or suspected to be phishing sites. To help protect your identity, you can leave this feature ON. If you do, the address of each web site you visit will be sent to Apple to check against the list, and you will be warned if necessary. If you don't want Apple to know what web sites you are visiting, you can turn this feature off.

About Safari and Privacy.

This is a link you can activate with the Menu gesture, once the link is the Current Item.

Clear History and Website Data

When you press this button, a popup alert appears which says, "Clearing will remove history, cookies and other browsing data," then you can either press the Cancel button to take no action, or the Clear History and Data button to remove the data.

NOTE: Clearing this data will not remove your favorites or reading list entries, but once the cookies are removed, web sites that remember your settings, form field entries, and the like will have to learn them all over again.

3.4: Reading List.

The Reading List is designed to allow you to store the contents of web pages to be read later at a time when online access is not available. The advantage to this is that you can read the page while you're not connected. The disadvantage is that the copy in your reading list may become stale or outdated.

Bookmarks are like what some browsers call Favorites. Bookmarks only store a link to a page, and the page is refreshed each time you access the bookmark. The disadvantage is that you must have an internet connection for this to work. The advantage is that you don't have to worry about reviewing stale material.

Use Cellular.

Pressing this button toggles this function on and off. When on, pages can be downloaded over the cellular network. When off, pages can only be downloaded over WiFi networks. If you are worried about exceeding your data plan limits, you may want to turn this off.

3.5: Closing the Settings App.

We will skip the Advanced settings button for now. Go ahead and go to the App Switcher by pressing the Home button twice, and make the Settings app the Current Item. The rotor secretly dials itself to the Actions function. To close the Settings app you can do one of the following:

Now use the Home button to return to the Home Screen.

SECTION 4: Starting Safari.

There are several easy ways to launch Safari.

  1. find the Safari icon, which by default is located in the Dock at the bottom of the Home Screen. You could just use an Activate gesture to launch Safari.
  2. You can activate a link in an email message, text message, calendar appointment, note, or just about any Text Field.
  3. if you have a good 3G, 4G, LTE, or WiFi internet connection, you can activate Siri and say, "launch Safari."

Of course at VoiceOver-Easy.net we never do things the easy way the first time. So forget about options 1 and 3 for now. We promise to come back to them. The problem is that Safari will remember the last thing that was done and return to that spot when it is opened again. Since there is no way for VoiceOverEasy.net to know what's already been viewed on your iOS Device, we're going to start Safari using the second method, by activating a link. That way everyone will start Safari in the same place.

But first, we're going to have to create the link. To do this we will use our old friend from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Working with Apps. Remember the Notes Application?

  1. Launch Notes. You can >Go to Working with Apps, Section 6, and 6.1 to review how to find and use the Notes app and start a new note, or if you have a good internet connection, you can activate Siri and say, "Open Notes," or "Launch Notes.".
  2. Now start a new note. You can do this by pressing the button in the Action Row.
  3. NOTE: If your internet connection is good enough for Siri, you could have completely skipped the above steps by saying, "Create Note."

  4. On the top line of the note type the link for VoiceOver-Easy.net. the link is http://www.VoiceOver-easy.net. Don't forget the hyphen between VoiceOver and Easy.
  5. Save the Note.
  6. Go to the notes List Screen.
  7. Open the note again. The first line of the note is now an active link.
  8. Use an Activate gesture to follow the link. Safari will open to the VoiceOver-Easy.net home page.

4.1: The Safari Main Screen.

Well, looks like you made it. Congratulations! Sorry about the run around back there, but it got everyone to look at the same starting screen, and it dusted off the Notes application. However, if you want a break before moving on, this is a good time for a cookie. Not one of those internet cookies, but a real cookie with something good to wash it down.

The Action Row


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

NOTE: All of the items discussed above are not part of the web page. They are part of the Safari browser itself. As you scroll up and own the page, these items remain fixed for easy access.

SECTION 5: Getting to Know a Web Page.

The remainder of the display is dedicated to the web page you are viewing. Let's use the Explore gesture to examine the VoiceOverEasy.net home page.

  1. Start at the "Reader" button in the Action Row and slowly Explore down the display.
  2. VoiceOver says, "Main, Link RSS Feed, Landmark." Let's break this statement down. We'll start at the end with the word Landmark. Web site designers can put Landmarks in a page to assist users with navigation on the page. They divide the page into regions of varying sizes. VoiceOver uses two landmarks on most of it's pages. The first is called "Main," and is where the main text of the lessons can be found. VoiceOver told you the name of the Landmark, "main," as the first part of it's announcement. The second Landmark is called "Navigation," and it's where the you can change certain settings or go to other pages using the table of contents.

    After the word "Main" VoiceOver also said, "link, RSS." RSS stands for Really Simple Sindication. The RSS feed gives you a way of telling your browser that you want to be notified if the web page is updated. RSS Feeds are commonly used by news sites to keep their readers informed each time the page is updated.

  3. Continue exploring slowly downward from this point. When your finger passes over text, VoiceOver begins reading from the beginning of the line or paragraph your finger passes over. If you stop moving your finger, or if you lift it, VoiceOver will read the entire line or paragraph. That line or paragraph of text is now the Current Element.
  4. The first thing VoiceOver encounters is text which reads, "SECTION 1: Introduction," but after VoiceOver reads this text, it says, "Heading, Level 2."
  5. Headings are styles that web designers can apply to text to make it stand out from normal text. Most web aware screen readers, including VoiceOver give you a mechanism for quickly jumping between headings to make zeroing in on what you're looking for go much quicker. We'll discuss how to do this in Section 6.

  6. Go ahead and continue Exploring the web page with your finger. Explore side to side and move your finger up and down the center of the display as well.

You may have noticed that when you explored down the page from the top of the left side VoiceOver announced Main, then the RSS Feed, then the brief description of VoiceOverEasy, then a level 2 heading called Introduction. However, when you explore down from the top of the center of the page, you found something you missed before. Just before the "SECTION 1: Introduction," VoiceOver said, "Welcome to VoiceOverEasy.net, Heading Level 1," but you didn't hear that before. That's because the level 1 heading is used in VoiceOverEasy.net as the page title, and the page title is centered on the page. It's easy to miss things when you just use the Explore gesture. So let's talk about some other ways of getting to know a web page.

5.1: The Previous and Next Element Gestures.

  1. Use the Explore gesture again until you find the RSS link at the top left of the page, then lift your finger. The RSS link is now the Current Element
  2. Use the Next Element gesture, a single finger flick right. VoiceOver says, "period," because there is a period after the RSS link, but it's not part of the link.
  3. Use the Next Element gesture again. VoiceOver says, "Show Settings and Contents, Checkbox, Checked."
  4. The Checkbox Element.

    A checkbox is a web page element which has two possible states, Checked or Unchecked. You toggle between the two states by using an Activate gesture while the checkbox is the Current Element. When this checkbox is checked, the Navigation region of the web page is displayed. When it is unchecked, the region is hidden, and the lesson text expands to fill the void. This makes it easier to print the lessons for your personal use.

  5. Use the Next Element gesture again. VoiceOver reads the descriptive text about VoiceOverEasy.net that is at the top of every VoiceOverEasy page.
  6. Do the Next Element gesture again. VoiceOver says, "VoiceOverEasy.net Home Page, Heading level 1," which is the title of the introductory page.
  7. One more Next Element gesture reveals the section title for the Introduction."

You could continue using the Next Element gesture to review the page. You will get a very detailed look at the page, and you won't miss anything. You will also give VoiceOver the time to give you more information about each element on the page, but the process is extremely slow and somewhat disjointed.

5.2: The Read Top Down Gesture.

Another way to review the web page is to use the Read Top Down gesture. When you do this VoiceOver will announce all the items in the Action Row, then start reading from the top of the web page. It will not stop until you make a gesture to stop it, or it reaches the end of the page.

This gives a smoother reading of the page, but it willread all the clutter on the page like ads, and the long random numeric names of graphics files. You can pause the reading with the Pause/Resume gesture, and use the same gesture to start again where you paused. However, if you make any other gesture, you won't be able to resume.

5.3: >The Read to Bottom Gesture.

The Read to Bottom gesture works just like the Read Top Down gesture, except that it begins reading from the Current Element. If you stopped VoiceOver in the middle of a paragraph , this gesture will start reading from the beginning of that paragraph. This is because each paragraph of text is considered one element.

5.4: The Next and Previous Screen Gestures

The Previous and Next Screen gestures work the same way they do in other applications. They move up and down by one screen full of data at a time.

There are pros and cons for each technique above. As you become more familiar with Safari, you'll probably use a combination of all of them to read web pages.

SECTION 6:Navigating to Different Web Elements.

VoiceOver gives you a way to quickly navigate between different types of screen elements. The most useful of these is Headings. If the website designer has made good use of headings, you can jump from one heading to the next in a web page, and only read the details for the areas that interest you. The Rotor gives you an easy way to skip to the next or previous heading. It also allows you to do the same thing with many other types of web elements. Let's take a look at the three most common web elements and how you can quickly skim web pages through their use. Then we'll look at how to set up the rotor.

6.1: Headings.

A Heading is used primarily to indicate what the paragraphs following the heading are about. Text in headings usually appears larger and bolder than normal text. Their is a hierarchy of headings with a level 1 heading being the highest, or most important, heading, and level 6 being the least important. VoiceOverEasy.net uses Headings to divide the main section, which is where the lesson text is, as follows:

VoiceOverEasy.net Heading Structure
Heading. Use
Level 1. The Lesson title. There is one level 1 heading at the top of each lesson.
Level 2. Used for the title of each section within a lesson. Most lessons have from 8 to 10 sections. The last section is usually exercises.
Level 3 Used for subsections. These sections usually start with a number followed by one or two decimal places. For example, in this lesson Section 2, Terms you should know is divided into subsections like 2.1, 2.2, and so on.
Levels 4, 5, and 6. VoiceOverEasy.net uses heading 4 to further divide subsections if necessary. These headings are not preceeded by numbers. VoiceOverEasy.net does not use levels 5 and 6 at this time.

6.2: Links.

Links are web elements that when activated will take you to another web page, or to a different place in the same web page. Text links on a web page normally appear in a different color and underlined. When VoiceOver detects a link, it will say either the word "link," or the words, "in page link," after reading the text of the link, but there is no indicator as to where the link begins. VoiceOver indicates the links which take you to another spot on the same page by saying, "In Page Links."

In page links are typically found in Tables of Contents for an article, or in FAQs. The questions are listed together as links at the top of the page, and when you click one, you jump down to a part of the page that has the answer.

6.3: Static Text.

Static text is the plain text that appears on a web page. VoiceOver treats each paragraph of static text as a separate web element. That way you can use the Next and Previous Element gestures to quickly skim paragraphs.

NOTE: If another web element, such as a link, is embedded in the middle of a paragraph, VoiceOver will not read the entire paragraph when you find it with the Explore gesture, or when you make it the current elementusing the Next and Previous Element gestures. For example, if you used the Next Element gesture to read the next paragraph, VoiceOver will read until it encounters the link, and then stop. You will have to use the Next Element gesture again to hear the link, and one more Next Element gesture to read the next part of the paragraph. However, if you use the Read to Bottom gesture, the paragraph will be read without stopping.

6.4: Setting Up the Rotor.

The Rotor can be set up to allow the Move Forward and Backward gestures to jump between web elements of the same type. For example, if you dial the rotor to "links," you can use the Move Forward and backward gestures to jump from one link to another. The same holds true for Headings and static text elements. Before we can do this, first we have to add these three elements to the rotor.

  1. Press the Home button once to go to the Home Screen.
  2. Launch the Settings Application.
  3. Activate the "General" options button from the Settings main menu.
  4. Activate the "Accessibility" options.
  5. NOTE: If you have a sufficient internet connection as described above, you could simply tell Siri "Show Accessibility Settings" to skip all the above steps.

  6. Activate the "VoiceOver" options.
  7. Activate the "Rotor" options.
  8. Use the Select gesture to add the Headings, Links, and Static Text options to the rotor. As you select each one, VoiceOver will say the word, "Selected."
  9. Press the Home button twice to go to the App Switcher.
  10. Switch back to Safari. The VoiceOverEasy home page should still be displayed.

6.5: Moving around Web Pages with the Rotor.

Finding Headings.

Let's take a look at the headings on the VoiceOverEasy.net home page to see how it is organized.

  1. Start by using one of the techniques we've already discussed to move to the top of the page and make the "RSS" link the Current Element.
  2. Dial the Rotor to the "Headings" function. If you wait for a second after VoiceOver announces the current rotor function, it will tell you how many instances of that element are on the current web page. It will also do this for all other web element navigation functions, except for static text.
  3. Use the Move Forward gesture. VoiceOver reads the first heading it finds, and makes it the current Element. In this case VoiceOver reads the page title, "Welcome to VoiceOverEasy.net Home page, " and then says, "Heading Level 1."
  4. Use the Move Forward gesture again. VoiceOver says, "SECTION 1: Introduction," followed by, "Heading Level 2."
  5. If you wanted to start reading this section, you could use the Next Element gesture, or the Read to Bottom gesture to begin reading.

  6. For now let's skip to the next section with the Move Forward gesture. VoiceOver says, "SECTION 2: How to Use VoiceOverEasy.net," and then tells you another level 2 heading.
  7. use three more Move Forward gestures to skip down to Section 5: About the Web Master."
  8. Move Forward one more time. VoiceOver reads, "5.1: Semi-Legal Stuff," and then indicates that this is a Level 3 heading.
  9. Try the Next Element gesture and listen to the next paragraph. It's very exciting!

Finding Static Text.

Static text is text on the web page with no special formatting. It also excludesall other web elements like links, buttons, checkboxes, headings and so on. If you dial the rotor to Static Text, you can jump from paragraph to paragraph, but you'll miss the headings and links. This might be helpful on a very cluttered page, but the better way to handle this might be the Reader, which we will discuss later in this lesson.

Finding Links.

Now Let's use the same process to determine what links are on the page.

  1. Dial the rotor to the Links function and wait to see how many links are on the page.
  2. Use the Move Backward gesture. VoiceOver announces, "New Jersey Foundation for the Blind, Link."
  3. Use the Move Backward gesture again. VoiceOver announces the same thing. This is not a mistake. There are two links to the New Jersey Foundation of the Blind on the page. Finding identical links on a page is fairly common.
  4. Keep doing the Move Backward gesture until you reach the "RSS" link. We know from earlier that this is the first link on the page.
  5. Use the Move Backward gesture again. You will hear the "Thunk" sound and VoiceOver will say, "Link not found."

Let's move forward through the links again. Move to the link that says, "Email the webmaster," and Use the Move Forward gesture again. VoiceOver skips to the next link. But the next link is no longer in the "Main" section. It's in the Navigation section. It's also an "in Page" link. If you activate it, you will be taken to a different spot on the page. In this case it takes you to the top of the page again.

VoiceOver has a lot to say at this point. First it says the word Navigation to tell you that you have moved to a different region on the page. Then it says the text of the link. Finally it said, "in page link," which tells you the link will take you to a different place in the same page.

If you used the Move Backwards gesture, VoiceOver will start it's announcement with the word, "Main," which indicates that you have moved back to the Main region. If you move forward through the links, you will hear all the links in the Table of Contents, but all the buttons next to each link will be skipped.

SECTION 7: The Reader.

Click here for answers.

Congratulations! You have finished the section on Surfin' 101. This is a good time for you to take a break and do something else. Just don't tell anybody what that "something else" is.

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

Email the Web Master..
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