Input methods

Microsoft Accessibility Standards (MAS), rule 57, makes documenting input methods mandatory. This is a challenge, especially when you're writing a procedure with multiple steps. Products now have lots of different input methods: mouse, keyboard, voice, touch, eye gaze, sip-and-puff technologies, and so on. Publishing teams decided to generalize how we describe an input method in a procedure.

You can approach procedure writing in different ways:

  • If an article contains procedures that can cover input methods on a variety of devices—PC, phone, tablet, laptop—use method-neutral terminology. Write the procedure by following a standard style guideline.
  • If an article contains procedures for a single type of device (for example, a phone), it's okay to use actions terms (tap, swipe, flick, etc.) specific to that device.
  • If an article contains procedures written by using method-neutral terminology, you can link to other articles about the same topic that documents individual input methods.

Use method-neutral terminology

Method-neutral terminology avoids using words that are specific to an input method. You can make a single procedure apply to any input method (such as keyboard, mouse, touch, voice, and so on). It then is up to users to make choices or selections through their chosen input method or combination of methods. As a rule, for example, it's best not to use mouse-specific terminology when documenting procedures, except when you specifically want to document mouse methods.

Example of method-neutral procedure

Procedure extracted from "Use LinkedIn for Outlook app to connect to your social network."

  1. Go to Apps for Outlook, and choose the LinkedIn for Outlook app.
  2. Choose Add to install the app, and follow the instructions to finish the installation.
  3. When the app is installed, open Outlook and go to File > Manage Apps. Then select LinkedIn > Enable if it's not enabled already. You can also enable the app from Outlook Web App > Settings > Manage apps.
  4. Confirm after you enable the app that you see it listed below the To line in the email message header. If you don't see the app in Outlook Web App or in Outlook after a few minutes, disable the app, and then re-enable it.
  5. The first time you select the app, you'll be asked for your LinkedIn credentials. Enter your LinkedIn email address and password to sign in.


You can also install other communications apps for Outlook. Visit the Apps for Outlook page to view available apps.

Make user interface elements method-neutral

The following table lists syntax guidelines for method-neutral choices and provides examples for each.

User interface element Syntax Examples
Check box Select the [check box name] check box. -or- Clear the [check box name] check box. In the Sort dialog box, select the My data has headers check box. -or- Clear the Office on the Web URL check box.
Command button Choose [button name]. Note: The label "button" can be added to a command if necessary. Choose the screen resolution that's best for your computer, and then choose Apply.
File name or folder name Open the [file name/folder name] and then [do whatever]. In File Explorer, open the My Documents folder, and then open the Terminology.docx file.
Keyboard key Choose the [key name]. For a two-step key selection: Choose [key name 1]+[key name 2]. When several keys should be chosen in a specific sequence: Choose [key name 1]+[key name 2]+[key name 3]. Note: There is no space between the plus sign and the key name. Choose Insert. Choose Alt+Enter. To copy formatting, press Ctrl+Shift+C. To paste the formatting to other text, select the text, and then press Ctrl+Shift+V.
List In the [list name], choose [option]. In the Theme list, choose Shades2.
Menu On the ribbon, choose [menu name] > [submenu name]. -or- On the [menu name] menu, choose [submenu], and then choose [option]. On the ribbon, choose Insert > Shapes. -or- On the View menu, choose Zoom, and then choose 75%.
Option button Choose [option button name].

In the Chrome State box, choose Normal.

Tab On the [tab name] tab, in the [group name] group, choose [option]. On the Insert tab, in the Tables group box, choose the table format that you want.

Additional notes

You can vary your instructions based on content level. For example:

  • In non-introductory content:
    • Browse to the appropriate file and open it.
    • Create a presentation and name it MyPresentation.
  • In introductory content:
    • Choose Browse, navigate to the appropriate file, and then choose Open.
    • On the File tab, choose New, and then choose Presentation. In the Name box, type MyPresentation.

If the product team hasn't provided a keyboard equivalent for a mouse action such as pointing, describe it. For example, use "Point to the icon."