What’s New in JAWS 2021 Screen Reading Software
This page describes the new features and improvements available in JAWS 2021.
- Download JAWS
- Latest JAWS Enhancements, for a complete list of enhancements made in this release, including the most recent update.
- Read previous JAWS release notes by selecting a version from the list
Picture Smart Improvements
Introduced in JAWS and Fusion 2019, Picture Smart allows you to choose a photo and submit it to be analyzed. A description of the image is then displayed in the Results Viewer. To use Picture Smart, press INSERT+SPACEBAR, followed by P to activate the Picture Smart layer. You can then press A to describe a photo acquired from the PEARL camera or a flatbed scanner, F to describe a selected image file in Windows Explorer, C to describe the current control, or B to describe an image on the Windows Clipboard.
JAWS and Fusion 2021 continues to expand this feature by offering several improvements including:
- Describing images on web pages: If focused on an image that is part of a web page, such as a photo on Facebook, pressing INSERT+SPACEBAR, P followed by C now describes the photo.
- Submitting images to multiple services to help improve accuracy: By default, images are submitted to Microsoft for analyzing. However, the Results Viewer now contains a More Results link which submits the image again to additional services for analyzing and displays an updated description. You can also add SHIFT to a Picture Smart command to use multiple services. For example, INSERT+SPACEBAR, P followed by SHIFT+F, SHIFT+C, or SHIFT+B.
- Using Picture Smart in multiple languages: If you are using JAWS or Fusion in a language other than English and you attempt to use Picture Smart, JAWS and Fusion will use machine translation to display descriptions in the particular language. You can also manually choose from 38 languages for displaying results, configurable using the new Picture Smart Language option in Settings Center.
Please note that these changes, especially the machine translation for other languages, is still experimental, so things may not always work as expected. Results will improve as we continue refining this functionality.
For more information on Picture Smart, press INSERT+SPACEBAR, P followed by QUESTION MARK or refer to the Picture Smart topic in the JAWS help.
OCR Text Directly into a Word Document
The Convenient OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature has been enhanced to support sending recognized text directly to Word. Convenient OCR enables you to access images containing text that is part of the image and displays this information in the Results Viewer. This includes onscreen images such as the graphical setup screen for an application, an inaccessible PDF opened in Adobe Reader, a currently selected image file in Windows Explorer, or a document acquired by the PEARL camera or a flatbed scanner.
If Microsoft Office is installed on your system, you can now:
- Use the new command INSERT+SPACEBAR, O followed by R to perform OCR on a selected image file in File Explorer or the Desktop and place the recognized text directly into a Word document. You can also press the APPLICATIONS key and choose Convenient OCR to Word with JAWS or Fusion from the context menu.
- Use the new Open in Word link that appears at the bottom of the Results Viewer once the OCR process is complete.
For more information about using Convenient OCR, press INSERT+SPACEBAR, O followed by QUESTION MARK or refer to the Convenient OCR topic in the JAWS help.
New Voice Assistant to Help with Various JAWS Commands and Features
The new Voice Assistant provides a way to interact with JAWS in Windows 10 using speech input. Supported languages include English, Dutch, German, Spanish, and French. Ask it to help you out with various JAWS features using natural speech. This means that the same action can be performed by more than one similar phrase instead of a single predefined voice command. For instance, to launch JAWS Settings Center, you could say “Settings Center” or “change settings.” Unlike keyboard shortcuts, which can be hard to remember, natural voice commands are an easier way to interact with the JAWS software. Using voice input to control JAWS can also benefit users with certain conditions which prevent them from using a keyboard effectively.
The JAWS Voice Assistant uses your computer’s internal microphone or you can talk to it using an external microphone or headset. To tell the Voice Assistant to begin listening for a specific command, there are three options:
- Press the key combination, INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR.
- Speak a specific wake word which alerts the software to begin listening for a voice command, similar to using an Alexa or Google Home device. The wake word is “Sharky.” Speak this word followed by a specific JAWS command, such as, “Sharky, list links.”
Note: The wake word is not available if you are using a Bluetooth microphone. In this case, you must use the keystroke before speaking the voice command.
- From the JAWS main window, press ALT+U to open the Utilities menu, expand the Voice Assistant submenu, and then select Talk to JAWS.
When the Voice Assistant starts listening for a voice command, a short audio indicator plays, and a visual indicator is displayed. After hearing a voice command, a different audio indicator plays until the command is processed. After processing, the visual indicator is removed, a different, short, audio indicator plays, and the desired JAWS action is performed.
If the Voice Assistant does not hear anything, the message, “Sorry, I didn’t hear anything” is spoken. If the Voice Assistant does not understand or if the voice command is not supported, the message, “Sorry, I didn’t catch that” is spoken.
Note: Since all voice recognition processing is performed over the Internet using Microsoft Services in the cloud, there will be a slight delay depending on your connection. Be patient and experiment with different commands. This is a new technology being added to our software products and will continue to change and evolve over time. We welcome your suggestions and feedback.
To turn off the Voice Assistant or change other options, such as whether or not JAWS listens for the wake word or to turn off the sounds, open the JAWS Utilities menu, expand the Voice Assistant submenu, and then select Settings.
You can also press INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR twice quickly to immediately toggle the wake word on or off. When the wake word is off, you must always press INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR first to tell JAWS to begin listening for a command.
To learn more and to view a full list of voice commands for specific actions, say “Sharky, help.” You can also select Getting Started from the Voice Assistant menu.
Here are a few commands you can try to help you get started. Remember to say “Sharky” or press INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR before speaking each command.
- Talk faster
- Talk slower
- Change settings
- Command search
- What time is it
- List links
- List headings
- List spelling errors
- Tell me a joke
Improved Microsoft Teams Support
- If you press ENTER on a document in the Files list which opens the inaccessible document viewer, you can now press ESC to return to the files list. You are also prompted to use the SHIFT+F10 context menu and open the document in the desktop application, which is the suggested method.
- You can now press ALT+1 through 5 to go directly to the first five tab pages.
- Pressing ALT+LEFT ARROW now automatically activates the back button from anywhere in Teams.
- You can now press ALT+H to hang up a call in progress.
- You can now press ALT+T to set focus to the Teams tree view, if visible. Note that it is usually only visible if CTRL+3 has been pressed to show the teams and channels list. The screen should also be maximized to ensure this control is visible.
- Pressing ALT+R now raises or lowers your hand in a meeting.
Teams also allows you to show meetings and calls in separate windows with fewer controls. To do this, press CTRL+COMMA to open Preferences and select the check box labeled: “Turn on new meeting experience (New meetings and calls will open in separate windows. Requires restarting Teams.)” While JAWS specific keystrokes for meetings and calls will not work in this split mode, Microsoft has their own set of keystrokes you can review by pressing CTRL+PERIOD.
New Keystroke for Setting Punctuation Level
You can now press INSERT+SHIFT+2 on the number row (CAPS LOCK+SHIFT+2 in the Laptop keyboard layout) to cycle through the four punctuation levels which controls how much punctuation JAWS and Fusion speak while reading. The available levels are None, Some, Most, and All. Similar to toggling Screen Echo (INSERT+S) or Typing Echo (INSERT+2), the punctuation level will revert back to the previous setting when JAWS or Fusion is restarted. To permanently set a punctuation level, use the JAWS Startup Wizard or Settings Center.
Note: Due to issues with some Dell keyboards when using the Laptop layout, you may need to use the RIGHT SHIFT key to perform this keystroke.
Announce Most Recent Windows Notification
You can now perform the new layered command INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by N to have JAWS repeat the last notification that was spoken. Notifications include an incoming Teams or Skype call, a recent Zoom message, a new email in Outlook, and more. If you use a Focus braille display, you can also press RIGHT SHIFT+N (DOTS 1-3-4-5). To view and manage all your Windows notifications, use the Microsoft keystroke WINDOWS Key+A.
FS Support Tool for Gathering System Information
The FS Support Tool is a new utility that collects information about your computer and sends a report to our Technical Support and Software Development teams to help us troubleshoot any issues you may be experiencing while running JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion. You will typically be asked to run this utility during a technical support session if it is determined that additional details about your system are needed. Some information that is collected includes:
- System information such as processor, RAM, operating system, architecture, and more
- Event logs
- Version of Adobe Reader (if installed)
- Versions of all installed web browsers
- Information on installed Microsoft Office applications
- Crash dumps
- Installation logs
- Currently running system processes
- User settings
The FS Support Tool can be started from the Help menu in JAWS, or the Support menu in ZoomText or Fusion and guides you through collecting and submitting a report.
Announce Accessible Notification Events
By default, JAWS now automatically announces Windows generated accessible event notifications in both speech and braille. These types of notifications are found in a variety of places including business bars in Microsoft Office. If you do not want to hear these announcements, open Settings Center and clear the Enable Accessible Notification Events check box.
Automatic Message Reading in Outlook 365
When you open a message from the Inbox in Outlook 365, JAWS and Fusion will now immediately begin reading the message contents without reading the title or header information. Currently, messages are not automatically read if you ALT+TAB to an open message, or you press ENTER on a message in the Inbox that is already open.
To further customize how messages are read, open Quick Settings (INSERT+V) while in Outlook, search for “message,” and configure any of the resulting options. A few items you might want to change include:
- Message Header Field with Message Announcement: Turn this option on if you want JAWS and Fusion to announce the sender’s email address and the subject of the message when a message opens or gains focus.
- Messages Automatically Read: Turn this option off if you do not want JAWS and Fusion to automatically read messages when they are opened.
- Speak Window Titles For Read-only Messages Automatically: Turn this option on if you want JAWS and Fusion to announce the title of the message window when a message opens or gains focus.
- Fixed a long-standing issue in File Explorer where JAWS would often not announce the correct number of files in the current folder.
- JAWS now properly reads as expected in Skype when moving focus back to the app without the need to first press ALT and ESC.
- Added a new Settings Center and Quick Settings option called “Pan Text by Paragraph” which is off by default. When enabled, JAWS sends an entire paragraph to the braille display instead of only the current line as you navigate web pages and documents. This can help improve the flow of reading when panning through text as you are less likely to encounter large amounts of empty space on the display when you reach the end of a line. You should now only encounter blank space if you reach the end of a paragraph, and you would move to the start of the next paragraph when panning again.
- While in a Zoom meeting, you can now press CTRL+SHIFT+T to find out who is currently talking. Zoom recently added this option with CTRL+2 but we were previously using it for a JAWS feature.
- The default graphics verbosity for JAWS is now to read only labeled graphics as it is no longer as important for JAWS to read graphics that are not labeled. If you encounter a situation where you need to read unlabeled graphics, or you do not want to hear graphics at all, open Settings Center and search for Graphics Verbosity.
- When using certain keyboards or headsets with multimedia controls, you can now press the layered command INSERT+SPACEBAR, followed by the GRAVE ACCENT key to toggle volume notification announcements. These announcements are off by default.
- Removed the announcement of Tutor Messages in Microsoft Office Ribbons as they were very verbose when attempting to navigate.
- Increased the size of the Speech History Buffer to allow for 500 strings rather than just 50 when you press INSERT+SPACEBAR, H to review the most recent strings sent to the synthesizer.
- Updated braille drivers provided by Papenmeire.
Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2102.34 (February 2021)
The following is a list of improvements made between the January 2021 release and the February 2021 update.
To download the latest release, visit the Downloads web page. You must be logged on as an administrator to install this software.
Virtual Cursor Support Now Available in Windows 10 Universal Apps
The Virtual PC Cursor, used to read web pages, PDF documents, and emails in JAWS and Fusion, has been extended to work in Windows universal applications. Universal apps are usually obtained from the Microsoft Store, however some apps, such as Weather or the Calculator, are pre-installed as part of Windows.
Once the Virtual Cursor is enabled in a universal app, it greatly improves the reading experience by allowing you to:
- Use the ARROW keys to navigate the app’s contents just like a web page.
- Use Navigation Quick Keys to quickly move to specific elements like Regions, Headings, lists, tables, form fields, and more.
- Display a list of links (INSERT+F7), headings (INSERT+F6), and form controls (INSERT+F5).
- Use Forms Mode to type text or interact with other controls.
Currently, Weather is the only app where the Virtual Cursor is on by default. As you use other universal apps, press INSERT+Z to manually activate the Virtual Cursor and try navigating to see if you notice any improvements with how JAWS reads.
Pressing INSERT+Z is used to toggle the Virtual Cursor in HTML applications. However, if focus is in a universal app, pressing INSERT+Z results in JAWS announcing that the Virtual Cursor is toggled for UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps and the UWP virtual cursor is temporarily toggled for the current UWP app. If you decide you want the UWP Virtual Cursor enabled by default for a particular app, open Settings Center (INSERT+6 on the number row) from the app and select the Enable Virtual Cursor for Windows Universal Apps check box.
Note: While the Virtual Cursor may greatly improve the experience when using certain universal apps, there will be many of these apps where there is really no need for the Virtual Cursor. A great example where users will not need to use the Virtual Cursor is the Windows Calculator as it works well using the default cursor and you can easily navigate using the TAB Key and ARROW keys to find all controls. The Calculator doesn’t have static text like in the Weather app that you would need to read.
- When focused in a Teams chat, pressing INSERT+T now indicates the current status of the other participant along with the window title.
- If focused on a link and you press INSERT+F1 for screen-sensitive help, the link address is displayed at the top of the help window. This enables you to quickly verify the source of a link in an email message or on a web page if there is concern that it could be a phishing link.
- You can now type text from a braille display into a Microsoft Teams chat using contracted braille input.
- Added a new JAWS Dictionary entry for “QA.”
- In Google Docs, resolved an issue where an extra “blank” announcement was heard when reading by word.
- Resolved reported issues that occurred when trying to re-authenticate credentials for an online Microsoft account. After typing the first character, JAWS exited Forms Mode and you were unable to complete the process with JAWS running.
- Resolved a reported issue where JAWS was not automatically reading the state of check boxes in the Grammar Settings dialog box of the Proofing options for Word.
- Addressed a reported issue where JAWS was not reading as expected when attempting to search for special characters in Word, such as a manual page break.
- If a graphic in a Word document is selected and the document contains multiple graphics, when the TAB key is used to move through the different graphics, JAWS now announces the kind of image and its text alignment. Additionally, the type of image is indicated when reading the current line, and reading by word or character indicates the alignment and dimensions of the image. If you prefer not to hear the alignment and dimensions of graphics, open Quick Settings (INSERT+V) and clear the Include Graphical Dimensions and Include Graphic Alignment Description check boxes.
- Addressed issues with JAWS sometimes double speaking in Microsoft Office when toggling bold, italics, or underline.
- Resolved reported issues of Volume fluctuating with JAWS and Fusion while navigating Word documents using the Proof Reading Scheme. Moving quickly through the document with the ARROW keys was much worse than navigating slowly and letting it finish reading.
- Resolved a PowerPoint issue related to opening a slide show using something referred to as “Browsed by an individual (window)” rather than the expected, “Presented by Speaker (full screen). Microsoft has now added a change to UIA in PowerPoint versions greater than 16.0.13517 which allows JAWS to read the slide show in either case.
- When editing Alt text for graphics in PowerPoint using a braille display, resolved a reported issue where cursor routing was not working as expected.
- Resolved an issue where the Avoid Speech Cut Off feature stopped working when using the Sound Cards option in the JAWS Utilities menu to switch to another sound device.
- For users experiencing issues with JAWS and Fusion not reading as expected in the Windows 10 Start Menu, as well as in Universal apps including Weather or Calculator, open JAWS Settings Center (INSERT+6), press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the Default File, search for “start”, and select the Start menu: Access-Out-of-Process check box.
- Addressed a reported issue where JAWS language detection on web pages was not working as expected for Mandarin text, even if the page used the correct language tags and a Mandarin Vocalizer Expressive voice was installed. Note that this change only affects the default Vocalizer Expressive voice profile for each language. Refer to this Technical Support Notice for details on applying this change to any custom voice profiles.
Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2012.57 (January 19, 2021)
This update addresses a few key issues that were reported shortly after the January 2021 release.
- A new feature was introduced earlier this month, designed to let a user change the volume of JAWS speaking or the system volume itself using a layered keystroke: INSERT+SPACE, V followed by J for JAWS or S for System. Since this change, Eloquence users reported hearing Ticks when reading and typing, especially around the letter O. We also had reports of the volume randomly changing when reading documents or web pages. These issues are now resolved.
- Resolved an issue where pressing INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR was not starting the Voice Assistant in JAWS or Fusion.
- The JAWS voice commands to speak faster or slower now adjusts the speech in larger increments.
- Addressed an issue where JAWS was not reading table headings in Excel.
- Added a new JAWS Dictionary entry for “DocuSign.”
- When spell checking a document in Word, resolved an issue where JAWS was not reading as expected when navigating by word through the text containing the error.
- Resolved an issue where attachments were not being reported correctly in the Danish version of Outlook 2019.
- In the Italian version of JAWS, addressed an issue where the keystrokes to access the Braille and Text Viewer layer, as well as the Volume layer, were not working as expected.
Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2012.48 (January 5, 2021)
The following is a list of improvements made between the initial 2021 release and the January 2021 update.
New Layered Keystrokes for Adjusting JAWS and System Volume
Many users working with conferencing applications like Zoom and Teams have raised the issue of JAWS volume blocking their ability to hear a meeting or webinar while trying to navigate in other applications. To solve this issue, we have introduced a new feature that lets you easily adjust the volume of JAWS independently from the volume in other applications, such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, YouTube, or other apps that play audio.
JAWS and Fusion now offer a set of layered keystrokes for quickly adjusting volume. To access this layer, press INSERT+SPACEBAR, followed by V. Next, press J to control the volume of JAWS speech or S to control the main system volume. After pressing J or S, use the ARROW keys to raise or lower the volume in small increments, or PAGE UP or PAGE DOWN to raise or lower the volume in larger increments. Press ESC to exit the layer when finished. Volume changes remain in effect until you later adjust them using the same commands.
Note: When adjusting volume with the ARROW keys or PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN, the lowest level that can be set is 10 percent.
New Voice Assistant Option for Selecting the Microphone
You now have the option to choose which microphone the Voice Assistant uses when listening for commands. By designating a different microphone for this feature than what is being used for other applications such as Teams or Zoom, it allows you to mute those applications during meetings and still use the Voice Assistant with JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion. You can find the Microphone input device combo box under the Voice Assistant group in Settings Center.
Support for Native Math Equations in Microsoft Word
JAWS and Fusion now supports reading math content in Word documents inserted through the Office ribbon without the need for additional extensions. While you can still use the MathType extension from Design Science to create math content, you now have the option to also use the built-in math creation functionality in Word. Whether math content was inserted in a document using the MathType extension or directly through the Insert tab of the ribbon, when you encounter a math equation or formula, JAWS reads the problem and then says “Math Content.” You can then press INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by EQUALS to open the JAWS Math Viewer so you can study the equation in greater detail.
Once the Math Viewer is opened, you can navigate individual parts of an equation, such as variables, terms, coefficients, or exponents. As you navigate to the various components, pressing DOWN ARROW lets you drill down into and navigate within that level of the equation using LEFT and RIGHT ARROW. Pressing UP ARROW moves you back to the prior level. In addition, if you have a Braille display and JAWS is set to United States English or Unified English Braille Grade 1 or Grade 2, math equations or formulas are displayed in Nemeth Braille. Pressing ESC closes the Math Viewer and return to the document.
- To accommodate the new Volume layer keystrokes, the layered command to access the Braille and Text Viewer layer is now INSERT+SPACEBAR, B.
- When using the Convenient OCR feature to recognize the current control, screen, or window, you now have the option to use the Microsoft OCR engine as this may provide better OCR results for onscreen images than OmniPage, which is the default. For example, if you press INSERT+SPACEBAR, followed by O, and then W to recognize the graphical window in an application and you find the results less than satisfactory, open Settings Center, select the Use Microsoft OCR For Screen Recognitions check box, and then try the OCR again.
- You can now have both the Avoid speech cut off when using Bluetooth headphones or some sound cards and Lower audio volume of programs while JAWS speaks options enabled at the same time in Settings Center. Previously, these two features could not be used together.
- When using the mouse to select text in Outlook messages, resolved a long standing issue where pressing CTRL+C was not copying the selected text to the Clipboard as expected. This only worked if text was selected using the keyboard.
- Resolved issues where JAWS and Fusion were not reading as expected when tabbing through links in Outlook messages.
- In response to customer feedback, improved the description of the Speak Window Titles for Read-Only Messages Automatically Quick Settings option.
- JAWS no longer says “no selection” while navigating through slides while editing a PowerPoint presentation.
- In Excel, you can now select a range of cells on the current worksheet similar to how you select a block of text using a PlaceMarker in Word. To do this in Excel, press INSERT+WINDOWS+K to set a cell marker on the cell where you want to begin the selection, move to another location on the same worksheet, and then press INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by M to select the cells between the mark and the current location.
- Resolved an issue where the Windows 10 Mail app would close unexpectedly when replying to a forwarded message and you navigate the message contents using JAWS.
- Addressed a reported issue where JAWS was not always correctly reading content inside of an HTML span tag in some situations.
- JAWS now continuously announces autocomplete information in the web browser address bar as you type.
- Addressed a reported issue where JAWS was not reading properly in the edit window of the TextPad application on certain systems with higher DPI display settings.
- Addressed an issue with Libre Office Writer where JAWS focus was not in the document when the application was first opened.
- Added an updated 64-bit braille display driver from Handy Tech and also added a new driver from Eurobraille for their Esys and Iris braille displays.
- Resolved an intermittent issue where JAWS would unexpectedly close when attempting to connect to a braille display over Bluetooth.
- Improved the user experience when using JAWS with the Visual Studio Code application. This includes turning off the Virtual PC Cursor by default, eliminating the announcement of ARIA regions, and removing the announcement of a long URL when the program is launched.