What’s Switch Control on Mac?

May 5, 2020

Physical disability is no more a barrier. The advancement and innovations in assistive technology are helping millions worldwide to unlock their true potential. More and more companies are coming forward and designing products with accessibility at their core. Apple is no stranger to this scheme and is working hard to keep up with the Joneses! It’s endeavored to empower every disabled person with powerful accessibility features. Switch Control, an assistive technology, helps people enter text, move your pointer, select items, and do a lot more—all by clicking a switch. In today’s post, we’ll see how to enable Switch Control on Mac and customize it to one’s preferences!

What is Switch Control?

Switch Control is an Accessibility feature that intends to make the use of conventional hardware like keyboard key, mouse, trackpad button, joystick, or adaptive device for differently enabled people easier. Until now, interacting with these items on the screen had been a challenge for such people. Here's how to enable it.

  1. On your Mac, click Apple menu.
  2. Choose System Preferences.
  3. Select Accessibility icon.
  4. From the left navigation bar, choose Switch Control.
  5. Check Enable Switch Control box.

You can select controls available in the Switch Control Home Panel to select a switch and use it to perform an action.

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How do you use Switch Control on a Mac?

Hover the mouse cursor over the ‘Apple’ menu.

System Preferences Window
System Preferences Window

Click the menu to select the ‘System Preferences’ option listed there.

Here, choose ‘Accessibility option.

Switch Control Apple
Switch Control Apple

Hit the ‘General’ tab and select the ‘Enable Switch Control’ button.

Once Switch Control is enabled, the Home panel should appear on your computer screen.

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How to use the Switch Control Home Panel

To glance through and select items from the ‘Home panel’, press a switch (a mouse button or the Space bar) and press the switch for the second time to select the highlighted item. By default, the Space bar is used as a switch when Switch Control is enabled.

Switch Control Keyboard Settings
Switch Control Keyboard Settings

For setting panel options, wait until the Panel Options icon (visible as a gear) appear.

When seen, click the ‘Select Item’ switch.

Click the switch again when the option you would like to configure is highlighted.

Here, increase or decrease the size of the panel or increase or decrease its transparency, as desired.

To return to the Home panel, click the ‘Select Item’ switch when the Home icon in the upper-right corner is highlighted. In the interface, press the switch when the Home panel is highlighted.

Set Panel options

Switch Control Strip
Switch Control Strip

The Switch Control Home Panel includes the following options,

  • Keyboard - This display or shows the default keyboard. Type text in a document or field by scanning the keyboard in the panel, opening a group of keys, and then selecting a key. The first group contains suggested words based on the first keys you press. This intelligence feature helps save both, time and efforts while typing by selecting a suggested word. If there are additional keyboards available, they can be seen in the Custom panel.
  • Pointer - Provides buttons to move and click the pointer. To move the pointer to an area of the screen, select ‘Move’. Similarly, to automatically click the pointer when you get to an area of the screen, select ‘Move & click’. For both the options listed above, a vertical block starts to glide across the screen as soon as you press the ‘Select Item’ switch, When you press the switch again, the blue line either stops or (if the pointer precision is set to High in the ‘Navigation’ pane of ‘Switch Control preferences’) substantially slows down before you press the switch again to stop it. When you perform the same action horizontally, you'll see the pointer moving towards the intersection of the two blue lines.
  • App - Scans items and groups in the active window of the current app.
  • Dock - Starts scanning the items in the Dock, immediately.
  • Menu Bar - When configured, it scans the menu bar group first and the menu extras group, later.
  • System - Alongside controlling the media playback, it controls the volume or display brightness of your Mac.
  • Custom - Offers options to create custom panels in the ‘Accessibility pane’ of ‘System Preferences’.
  • Location - This option finds its utility under situations where you would like to reposition the Switch Control Home panel on the screen.

It is important to mention here that if you have marked the ‘Allow platform switching to control your computer’ checkbox under ‘Switch Control General preferences’, you can also use your other devices to control your Mac.

Customize Switch Control on Mac

While you have the Switch Control panel open, you can choose to customize the Switch Control via 4 different tabs

  1. General
  2. Typing
  3. Switches
  4. Navigation

See what customization options these tabs have to offer.

1] General

It lets you modify the appearance of Switch Control Panel. You can choose to keep it dark or light.

Switch Control Appearance
Switch Control Appearance

Just check the box next to ‘Appearance’ heading. Similarly, you can force the panel to go into inactivity after few seconds. Select the time frame by clicking ‘Up’ or ‘Down’ arrow of ‘Hide panel after inactivity’ setting.

As the name suggests, you can use other Apple devices that’s already set up to work with your switches to control your Mac via ‘Allow platform switching to control your computer’. Just make sure the devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and using the same Apple ID.

2] Typing

Typing tab lets you enable some additional typing features such as

  • Automatic corrections
  • Text substitutions
Switch Control Keyboard
Switch Control Keyboard

You can easily configure them via ‘Keyboard Preferences’. So, switch to the ‘Typing’ tab under ‘Switch Control’ and hit the ‘Keyboard Preferences’ button located at the bottom of the window. Adjust the options as desired!

3] Switches

The tab allows you to add or delete switches, assign actions, and do other things.

4] Navigation

Helps you configure options related to actions you can take while navigating. For example, what should be done when the pointer reaches the edge, set Switch Control cursor size, what should be cursor’s restart position and others.

That’s All! Hope it helps!

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Hemant Saxena
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