On October 22, 2012, Freedom Scientific announced the official release of JAWS for Windows Version 14, called JAWS 14 by those who know the program well. JAWS for Windows continues to occupy a large share of the nonvisual access marketplace and to serve as a powerful screen access tool which makes it possible for a lot of blind people–including me–to perform their jobs.
I have been using JAWS 14 since the first public beta was released in September. In my experience, the program has been relatively stable and free from major problems.
In this post, I want to comment specifically about three features in JAWS 14 which I personally have used. There are many other features and enhancements that have been included with JAWS 14, but since I have had no personal experience with them, I will not mention them here. If you want to obtain a complete list of JAWS 14 enhancements, you should point your browser to the “What’s New in JAWS 14” page.
Microsoft Outlook 2010 and 2007 Virtual Buffer Message Support
In earlier versions of JAWS, when running Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010, it was difficult if not impossible to read HTML messages containing tables without first viewing the message in the default web browser (in Outlook 2010, this task is accomplished by entering the following keystrokes: ALT+H, then A, then V). As you might imagine, having to view each message in the browser was, at best, cumbersome, and at worst, a tremendous waste of time.
With JAWS 14, I no longer need to view each HTML message in the default Web browser. I can read the message the same way I read other email messages, and it all works quite nicely. The behavior of JAWS in this type of message is about the same as when reading the contents of a Web page, and this has certainly improved my over-all productivity.
Support for Vocalizer Direct Synthesizer
With JAWS 14, Vocalizer Direct voices from Nuance Communications are now supported. These new voices work exclusively with products from Freedom Scientific. They are not supplied automatically with the JAWS installation package; you need to download them from the Freedom Scientific Website at .
With these voices, JAWS can now sound like your iPhone (smile). On a more serious note, additional languages are supported, and in my experience, I have found the Vocalizer voices to be just as responsive as the default Eloquence speech that normally comes with JAWS, and in particular, I have found the Samantha voice particularly pleasant and easy to listen to. What I find remarkable is that the installation package for one of these voices is almost three times larger than the entire JAWS program. You are certainly going to need a hefty Internet connection to retrieve it.
Select between Temporary PlaceMarker and the Current Position in HTML
Starting with JAWS Version 13, Freedom Scientific provided a much more efficient way for the nonvisual user to select large blocks of text in Microsoft Word. This involved setting a temporary place marker within a Word document, moving the cursor to the beginning or end of a large block of text, and then instructing JAWS to select the text between the location of the temporary place marker and the current cursor position. Prior to JAWS 13, nonvisual users who wanted to select huge chunks of text in Microsoft Word were forced to hold down the shift key and move from line to line with the arrow keys. Anyone who has ever done this knows that this is an incredibly labor-intensive and inefficient procedure, which has been vastly improved with JAWS 13.
Now, in JAWS 14, the same efficient temporary place marking and selecting capability has been extended to HTML environments–that is, Web pages. I have used this feature on many occasions to lift text off of Web pages, and I find it a very useful timesaver.
As I said earlier, there are many features and enhancements that have been included with JAWS 14. However, the three features described here are enough, in my opinion, to warrant an upgrade to JAWS Version 14.