GW Micro released public beta versions of Window-Eyes version 6.1 beginning on January 30, 2006 which was also the general release of Microsoft Windows Vista. This is the first time in computer history when an MS Windows-based screen reader was available on the same day as a new operating system. The final release of version 6.1 will follow shortly, but this series of articles highlights features which apply both to the public beta as well as the final release of version 6.1.
Window-Eyes 6.1 provides complete access to all 32-bit versions of Microsoft's newest operating system: Windows Vista. Windows Vista is similar to Windows XP in terms of layout: there's a start menu, task bar, system tray, and desktop, all of which you can tab between. Windows Explorer still lets you browse your file system, the Internet and e-mail are still accessible through Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Mail (formerly known as Outlook Express), and all other third party applications will still sound and feel the same.
One of the features of Windows Vista that will seem familiar and at the same time, have a new look and feel is the Start Menu. The Start Menu includes three new features.
First is the Integrated desktop search-After pressing the Windows key, just enter the name of an application you want to run (for example, Word), and press ENTER. If multiple search results are found you can simply arrow through them and press ENTER on the one you want to launch. All of this functionality is contained completely within the start menu.
The second new feature is the All Programs tree view'After pressing the Windows key, press TAB a few times until you hear, All Programs. Instead of using multiple expanding menus, the All Programs menu now resolves to a tree view listing all installed applications. The standard method of opening and closing the various folders and files works similar to other tree views. This feature is also contained completely in the start menu.
Finally you can Tab between various portions-Common folders and shutdown/power tasks are also included in the start menu. Simply press the TAB key to move between each start menu group. After pressing TAB, use your arrow keys to move through the items in that group. Press ENTER on the selected item to open it.
If you are reading this prior to the official, final release of Window-Eyes 6.1, then you are free to try the full-install, public beta which can be downloaded at http://gwmicro.com/Window-Eyes/Beta/. You do not have to own Window-Eyes to try this public beta version but remember it is designed for Windows Vista'not other operating systems.