On November 3, Freedom Scientific announced the release of JAWS version 10. JAWS is one of the most popular and versatile of the screen readers which turn print on the computer screen to speech output. Version 10 represents a substantial upgrade with many new features.
I’ll begin with my favorite new feature which will be very helpful for those who like to surf the web, shop online and perform other actions that require the user to fill out web forms. Version 10 includes a new feature that automatically switches on ‘forms mode” when the user navigates to an edit box using either the up and down arrows or the tab key. A popping sound indicates that forms mode” has been switched on and that the user can begin typing information into the form. This is much smoother than having to switch forms mode on and off. With some of the more well-designed forms, the user of previous versions of JAWS could enter forms mode at the beginning of the form, use the tab key to navigate to the form fields and fill out the form. But, more commonly, the user had to switch forms mode on and off in order to complete the form because in forms mode, some of the information did not talk properly. With automatic forms mode, this inconvenience is eliminated. AS an impatient soul, I often get frustrated by this problem and sometimes prefer to get sighted assistance to fill out hardcopy versions of longer forms which could be done in half the time it took me to fill out the forms online. When I upgrade to JAWS 10, I’ll be much more likely to fill out even the longest of forms online. The user can adjust settings so that forms mode acts like it did in previous versions of JAWS.
Next, let’s take a look at something totally new. JAWS 10 includes JAWS tandem which allows remote control of the PC. In order to establish a remote connection, the user of one PC obtains a special code from the software and gives this code to the individual who is going to take control of the computer remotely. The individual taking control then enters the code into a JAWS edit box and presto! This is all done very smoothly and quickly. Both individuals can now control the same computer and the settings of the computer being controlled are invoked for both users. The individual taking remote control of the second individual’s computer can quickly switch back and forth between both computers. Freedom Scientific intended that this feature be used by technical support personnel to trouble shoot customer computers. But I can think of other uses for this feature. IT might come in handy when an experienced JAWS user wishes to assist a novice in learning the finer points of JAWS. Also, both users can share files of any type from one computer to the other. Finally, this feature could allow an individual to work from home provided that someone is in the office to help get the connection started. I could imagine this coming in really handy if someone were stuck at home recuperating from surgery or an injury.
Now, let’s look at speech options and voice settings. Beginning with version 7, JAWS allowed the user to switch from the default Eloquence speech synthesizer to a variety of sapi 5 voices that are more human-sounding. However, this feature substantially delayed the responsiveness of JAWS generally. This reduction in responsiveness meant that this feature was not very popular. In version 10, JAWS adds the same sapi voices along with some new ones but with a twist. These are now proprietary voices for Freedom Scientific and the responsiveness is much closer to that which the user gets with Eloquence. I would venture to guess that more users will now consider using the newer more human-sounding voices. The dictionary manager has been expanded nicely in version 10. The user can now set different pronunciations for different languages, voices or synthesizers.
Finally, accessibility to iTunes has been added to JAWS version 10. While it was possible for users of JAWS 8 and 9 to purchase jTunes scripts, this is no-longer necessary in JAWS version 10. For more information on the accessibility of iTunes, try iTunes is now accessible