After letting the dust settle, and now that Freedom Scientific has released two updates to the latest release of JAWS, it seemed a reasonable time to give a quick overview of what the new version has to offer blind users.
Freedom Scientific has implemented an Optical Character Recognition system in JAWS 13 that will recognize the text of controls and documents that are otherwise inaccessible. Using the layered keystroke model, introduced a couple versions back, INSERT+SPACE followed by O will activate OCR. You can then choose to OCR the current window (W), current control (C), or entire screen (S). When the OCR has completed, you will have the JAWS cursor activated and be able to move through the recognized text. Using the mouse emulation commands will correctly perform a right or left click.
This should not be used as the only access solution for inaccessible PDFs, but it does work well enough to get an initial impression of the document’s contents. One other caveat I have found, if you use Windows Media Center (WMC) and try to OCR a DVD menu, or one of the text-only screens, OCR will fail if you are in full screen mode. I assume this has to do with how the full screen overlay is sent to the display. Pressing ALT+ENTER will put the WMC into windowed mode and you can then OCR the contents.
In the context of layered keystrokes, it is now possible to enter a table navigation mode where your arrow keys will move you among table cells instead of within their contents. This mode essentially “locks” the table modifiers CTRL+ALT. Once active, table commands are locked until you press a key that is not used for table navigation (such as SPACE). Additional navigation includes commands for going to the beginning and end of a row or column. I find this mode helpful when I want to quickly move through data tables and often times it is more convenient to not use three fingers to do so.
Improved Access to Top Windows
If you’ve ever experienced the scenario where you know there is a program window on screen, but you can’t find it in the ALT+TAB order, you can breathe a little easier. JAWS 13 will now locate these windows, often found in antivirus and other security programs, through the INSERT+F10 dialog and allow focus to be moved to them. In the dialog’s listbox, these windows are indicated with a parenthetical notation that they are a “top” window.
Outlook Command to Open HTML Messages in the Browser
Outlook 2007 and 2010 present a challenge to blind users when reading HTML messages. Often, these messages appear to be constructed of nested tables and navigating them in Outlook is cumbersome at best. The solution has always been to use the Outlook “open in browser” command and read the message in Internet Explorer. Until now, that command was difficult to locate, or, if you placed its icon on the quick access toolbar, required two keystrokes to activate. Now, simply hold the JAWS key and SHIFT+W to accomplish this task.
Many other additional enhancements have been added to JAWS, including better support for Microsoft Word, but these are my top highlights.