Accessibility tips and tricks for Visual Studio


To learn more about recent accessibility updates, see the Accessibility improvements in Visual Studio 2017 version 15.3 blog post.

Visual Studio has built-in accessibility features that are compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies. This topic lists common shortcut key combinations that you can use to perform tasks with the keyboard only, and includes information about using high-contrast themes to improve visibility. As well, it shows you how to use annotations to reveal useful information about your code, and how to set sound cues for build and breakpoint events.

Save your IDE settings

You can customize your IDE experience by saving your window layout, keyboard mapping scheme, and other preferences. For more information, see Personalize the Visual Studio IDE.

Modify your IDE for high-contrast viewing

For some folks, some colors are more difficult to see. If you want more contrast as you code but do not want to use the typical "High Contrast" themes, we now offer a “Blue (Extra Contrast)” theme.

Compare the Blue theme and Blue Extra Contrast theme

Use Annotations to reveal useful information about your code

The Visual Studio editor includes many text "adornments" that let you know about characteristics and features at particular points on a line of code, such as lightbulbs, error and warning “squiggles”, bookmarks, and so on. You can use the “Show Line Annotations” command set to help you discover and then navigate between these adornments.

Use the Show Line Annotations command set

Access toolbars by using shortcut key combinations

The Visual Studio IDE has toolbars as do many tool windows. The following shortcut key combinations help you access them.

Feature Description Key Combination
IDE toolbars Select the first button on the Standard toolbar. ALT, CTRL + TAB
Tool window toolbars Move focus to the toolbars in a tool window.

NOTE: This works for most tool windows, but only when the focus is in a tool window. Also, you must choose the SHIFT key before the ALT key. In some tool windows, such as Team Explorer, you must hold the SHIFT key for a moment before choosing the ALT key.
Toolbars Go to the first item in the next toolbar (when a toolbar has focus). CTRL + TAB

Other useful shortcut key combinations

Some other useful shortcut key combinations include the following.

Feature Description Key Combination
IDE Switch High Contrast on and off.

NOTE: Standard Windows shortcut
Dialog box Select or clear the check box option in a dialog box.

NOTE: Standard Windows shortcut
Context menus Open a context (right-click) menu.

NOTE: Standard Windows shortcut
Menus Quickly access a menu item by using its accelerator keys. Choose the ALT key followed by the underlined letters in a menu to activate the command. For example, to view the Open Project dialog box in Visual Studio, you would choose ALT + F + O + P.

NOTE: Standard Windows shortcut
ALT + [letter]
Toolbox window Move among Toolbox tabs. CTRL + UPARROW


Toolbox window Add a control from the Toolbox to a form or designer. ENTER
Keyboard, Environment, Options dialog box Delete a key combination entered in the Press shortcut keys option. BACKSPACE


The dialog boxes and menu commands you see might differ from those described in Help depending on your active settings or edition.

Use the Sound applet to set build and breakpoint cues

You can use the Sound applet in Windows to assign a sound to Visual Studio program events. Specifically, you can assign sounds to the following program events:

  • Breakpoint hit
  • Build canceled
  • Build failed
  • Build succeeded

Here's how.

  1. In the Search box on a computer running Windows 10, type Change system sounds.

    Search box in Windows 10

    (Alternatively, if you have Cortana enabled, say "Hey Cortana", and then say "Change system sounds".)

  2. Double-click Change system sounds.

    Search results in Windows 10

  3. In the Sound dialog box, click the Sounds tab.

    Then, in Program Events, scroll to Microsoft Visual Studio, and select the sounds that you want to apply to the events that you choose.

    Sounds tab of the Sound applet in Windows 10

  4. Click OK.

See also