Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 13:32

Continuing the second part: this article discusses about screen reading on KDE. This means you can automatically read out loud every key press, start menu, user interface of program, as well as text document in it. The program used is GNOME Orca Screen Reader which is integrated very well to KDE Plasma. You will learn the basic knowledge, requirements and how to install them, configuring KDE and Orca to work together, running and closing Orca, and of course how to tweak the speech for the speed and voice type. I hope you can help yourself and anyone with this brilliant technology so everybody can use computer regardless their impairments or disabilities.

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  • Demonstration Video
  • Preparations (Requirements, Installations, Enabling/Disabling)
  • Read out loud keyboard key presses
  • Read out loud start menu and context-menu
  • Read out loud file manager
  • Read out loud text document

Demo Video

This video is hosted at PeerTube (not YouTube). This first video demonstrates only in 3 minutes how to start/stop screen reader and read out loud everything.

(Video: basic running and stopping Orca Screen Reader on KDE; also explains how to open Orca Settings)
[Download: 9MB video]

Basic Knowledge

  • Orca is originated from GNOME. But it is compatible with KDE.
  • Orca is a high-level layer closer to you, and it makes use of lower-level layer consisted of speech-dispatcher and espeak. Notice, here, you meet them both one more time. Read again Part 2 and Part 1 for that.
  • Orca starts with Super+Alt+S and stops with same key combination.
  • Orca can read out loud everything: key presses from keyboard, start menu and context-menus, user interface of each program (including file manager), text files, etc. on your screen.
  • Orca has Configuration window which can be activated by invoking command orca --setup or by pressing key combination Insert+Space.  
  • "Desktop frame" or "frame" in general is Orca's language to call a window or a box section of user interface. This differentiates places whether it's a window or a menu, an entry of menu or child entry of that menu, to make them recognized easier by blind user. It is very important.


  • gnome-orca
  • espeak
  • speech-dispatcher

On Ubuntu family operating systems, you can run the installation command:

Install the dispatcher:
$ sudo apt-get install speech-dispatcher

Install the synthesizer:
$ sudo apt-get install espeak

Install the screen reader:
$ sudo apt-get install gnome-orca

Enabling and Disabling Screen Reader

Special on KDE, go to System Settings > Accessibility > Screen Reader > give check mark to Screen reader enabled > Apply. Logout and then login again. You just need to do this once.

(KDE settings for screen reader)

Turning on and off are easy at any time:
  • Press key combination Super+Alt+S until you hear the sound "Screen reader on".
  • Press Super+Alt+S again to make it "Screen reader off".

Prepare Your Start Menu

Beware, default Plasma start menu style is not readable by Orca. You must switch it first to "Application Menu" style.
  • Right-click start menu > Alternatives > Application Menu > Switch.

(This classic style start menu is compatible with Orca)

1. Reading Your Key Press

First, most basic feature of Orca is reading out loud every keyboard key press. You can try it out starting with alphabets, and then numbers, and then punctuations. See video below.

(Video: Orca reads out loud every tap of keyboard keys)
[Download: 1MB video]

2. Reading Start Menu

Second, Orca can read out loud your start menu one by one. Be patient to point out your cursor also one by one as Orca needs several seconds delay to read between them. The demo is included in the first video above. 

Problem might occurred: 
if you don't hear anything, or readings become incomplete, perhaps KDE Plasma need to be restarted: press Alt+F2 and type plasmashell --replace and press Enter. 

3. Reading Context Menu

To read context-menu (menu appearing when you right-click an item), you need to point and wait for several seconds until you hear the reading voice. Again, watch the first video above.

Problem might occurred: 
same as above, if readings are not complete, restart your desktop: press Alt+F2 and type plasmashell --replace and press Enter. 

4. Reading File Manager

Fourth, Orca can read out loud your file and folder names, document and multimedia file names, as well as the menu bar of your file manager. It can read out bookmark and partition names as well. See video below.

(Video: Orca reading file manager interface including file and folder names, menus, and partition names)
[Download: 9MB video]

5. Reading Text Document

Fifth, Orca can read text document. After running Orca, then run the text editor, then open the text file. With your cursor, block a word, or a line of text, or a paragraph to read it out loud. I use KWrite editor as example here.  Open up a plain text document and try to read out loud with Orca. It's very easy. See video below.

(Video: Orca reading text document in KWrite editor) 
[Download: 2MB video]

Further Readings

Before you read everything else, read Ali Miracle interview by It's Foss, a blind programmer and a real Orca user. He is a developer of GNU/Linux distro named Uruk.

Next Part...

That's all for now. For the next part, I will discuss about reading out loud LibreOffice Writer document with Orca as it needs special handling. You will need to install a certain program in order to do that. I hope you can help yourself and anybody more with this. Go ahead, enjoy!

to be continued...

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.