Switching From Jaws To NVDA.
Switching From JAWS To NVDA
The purpose of this guide is to assist users of JAWS (Job Access With Speech), a commercial screen reader by Freedom Scientific to switch to the open source
screen reader NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) with ease. It assumes prior knowledge of JAWS and that you are proficient in it’s use.
It is not intended to be a replacement of the included user guide, rather as a means to make NVDA seem less daunting.
Strengths And Weaknesses
The intent of this guide is not to be a comparison of JAWS and NVDA, but it is necessary to mention some things that NVDA doesn’t currently support or
that needs improving so you can make an informed choice.
NVDA at present doesn’t support remote access solutions such as Sitrix or Microsoft Terminal Services. However This will probably only affect users working
in corporate environments.
Support for advanced features of the Microsoft office suite is a fairly recent addition, so you may not find it as polished an experience as JAWS. However,
saying this is not to belittle the work the developers are putting in this area as it’s constantly being improved.
With that said, you’ll find that – in most daily situations, NVDA works just as well as JAWS, if not better in some cases.
A Quick Note about NVDA’s Laptop Keyboard Layout
Selecting the laptop keyboard layout does not automatically set the CapsLock key to act as the NVDA modifier key. However, a check box is provided next
to the Keyboard Layout combo box to toggle this setting.
One of the most asked questions concerns the use of the Eloquence synthesizer with NVDA. In a nutshell, it is currently illegal to do so. The following
link is to a blog post by NVDA’s developers explaining the situation as it currently stands.
eSpeak is not the only synthesizer supported. The following link is to a page detailing where to get extra voices.
Most of the time, both NVDA and JAWS share a lot of the same terminology to describe controls e.g. radio buttons, combo boxes, check boxes etc.
One notable difference is that NVDA differentiates between single and multi-line edit fields, and will also tell you if a field is “protected” (anything
you type wil be replaced by asterisks). It will also alert you if text is selected in a field when you tab over to it. If so, typing will replace the highlighted
NVDA refers to the different languages a speech synthesizer can speak as voices, and the different voices supported by your synthesizer as variants.
NVDA has various cursors to aid in navigating Windows and applications, similar to jaws. The terminology is slightly different as described below.
The PC cursor in NVDA’s documentation is referred to as the system focus and system caret.
The equivalent to the jaws cursor is a combination of object navigation, the review cursor, Document Review and Screen Review. The Screen Review function
is the one perhaps most similar to the JAWS cursor, however it is beneficial to become familiar with all 3. You will find thorough, easy to understand
instructions for these in the user guide.
Unlike JAWS, you don’t have to switch between the PC and JAWS cursor equivalents as the numpad is reserved exclusively for working with the JAWS cursor
The virtual cursor in NVDA is known as browse mode. it functions in much the same way as JAWS, giving you access to navigation quick keys, or in NVDA speak,
single letter navigation.
Why Is Everything On One Line?
In case you are unaware, JAWS has two modes for displaying webpages or other documents using the virtual cursor, simple layout and screen layout. Simple
layout is the default, which displays content in a linear fashion – putting each link or control on its own line. Screen layout formats the content similar
to how it’s displayed on screen.
The default in NVDA is screen layout, but you can easily switch to it’s version of simple layout by pressing NVDA+V while in browse mode. This will turn
Screen layout off. Be sure to save your configuration after making this change with NVDA+CTRL+c.
It Keeps Saying Clickable Clickable Clickable.
While reading webpages, you might notice sometimes that NVDA says “clickable” too much, even multiple times on the same link or control.
However, this is easily fixable as of version 2014.1 or later. Go to the Document Formatting dialogue, uncheck the “Report if clickable” check box and
press OK. Remember to save your configuration.
Find doesn’t work on the web.
This I would imagine is a common complaint for new users of NVDA that are used to JAWS.
While JAWS is loaded, pressing ctrl+f in Internet Explorer or Firefox brings up the JAWS Find dialogue rather than activating the browser’s built-in find
command. This is to allow you to search for text using the virtual cursor. The regular find command will search for the next occurrence of the entered
text, but will not move the virtual cursor to that location. This is due to how screen readers interact with web pages.
NVDA has it’s own find command to search in browse mode, but it has not been tied to CTRL+F, so pressing that shortcut key calls up the browser’s find
command, hence find not working as expected.
To bring up NVDA’s find dialogue, press ctrl+NVDA+F. Type in what you wish to find then press enter.
The equivalent of forms mode in NVDA is focus mode, and it behaves very similar to JAWS, Even switching modes automatically when navigating through a webpage.
It will play a sound alerting you to which mode you are in.
Details about Focus Mode can be found in the user guide.
NVDA talks too much.
Sometimes you may find that NVDA can seem overly verbose, particularly in some list views. This is because as far as NVDA is concerned, list views are
tables. NVDA is configured by default to announce each column or row header.
To turn that option off, uncheck “Report table row/column headers” in the “Document Formatting” dialogue.
Solving unexpected Speech Dictionary behaviour.
NVDA has always included a function to edit “Speech Dictionaries”, which are similar to JAWS’ dictionary manager files. However, until recently, the result
of adding a word to them might not be what you had expected. If you added a word you wanted to change the pronunciation of to a dictionary , such as “mono”,
any word that started with or included the word mono would be effected. Where is in JAWS, only the text entered into the “actual word” field would be effected,
unless you appended an asterisk (*). So as in my example, mono would be seen as a route word.
There was a work around, but this involved regular expressions, which aren’t at all obvious to the average user. However, As of 2014.4 or later, you will
now find a group of radio buttons in the Add/edit dictionary entry labelled type, which determines how the text in the pattern, (NVDA speak for actual
Word), box will be treated.
list of 3 items
• anywhere, which is the default behaviour.
• Whole word, which is how JAWS handles dictionary entries.
• Regular Expression, which is complicated.
You will also find a case sensitive check box.
If you previously found NVDA’s speech dictionaries frustrating, be sure to take another look.
Like JAWS, scripts can be added to NVDA to provide support for other applications or to add new features that can be accessed from anywhere. These script
packages are called NVDA Add-ons. You can find several add-ons here:
These include a few that emulate JAWS features not currently present in NVDA such as a system tray list, virtualise window function and ability to append
text to clipboard. Scripts for popular applications such as GoldWave are also available. The user guide has details on installing add-ons, and you can
read help documentation that comes with each add-on to learn more about how to use the add-on.
The following link is to the developer guide with information on how to create ad-ons.
With regards from Inamuddin
Secretary General Amigos Welfare Trust For The Blind Persons/In charge of this site.