JAWS 101

audio version (opens in a new tab)

I have years of experience using screen readers, software which makes screen-based information accessible to people who are visually impaired. A few months ago, I published a blog article about screen readers for various operating systems.

“Screen Readers 101”

This week on my blog, I focus on the Windows screen reader which I use on a daily basis. It is Job Access with Speech (JAWS). For those who would like to try the screen reader, you can

download JAWS here.

In this article, I will discuss three features of JAWS which I find particularly beneficial.

With today’s assistive technology, it is possible to access some digital image content. Convenient OCR is a useful feature within JAWS. OCR means optical character recognition, digitally acquiring text from an image. The basics of Convenient OCR are evident in this 2015

video: “Jaws OCR built in to make anything accessible”.

As this 2017

blog entry about Convenient OCR from the JAWS manufacturer

points out, JAWS can perform OCR on image PDF files. I find that function useful, as some Portable Document Format files are scanned images instead of actual text. With JAWS 2018, the subject of the Convenient OCR blog post linked to above, the screen reader also became able to recognize downloaded images in a variety of formats. This includes image formats such as GIF, JPEG, etc. Although I don’t use this function very often, at least image-reading capability is available in JAWS if I need it. In JAWS 2021, which is in beta as of this writing, Convenient OCR can export recognized text directly into a Word document. Export to Word sounds like a useful feature because I no longer need to exclusively read text directly in the OCR results viewer of JAWS. Another JAWS feature which I find useful pertains to webinars.

During the coronavirus pandemic, a popular web conferencing option is Zoom. Earlier this year I wrote an article entitled

“Zoom: An Introduction”.

With JAWS version 2020 released in October 2019, Zoom is now easier to use with JAWS. This is because JAWS now has useful keystrokes for interacting with Zoom. These JAWS keystrokes include accessing recent chat messages and turning alerts off. The ability to disable meeting alerts is particularly useful for me. While each person has their own preference, alerts distract me from material being presented verbally. You can read more about improved functionality with Zoom, including commands to hear JAWS-specific keystrokes and those made available by Zoom on

“What’s New in JAWS”.

Navigate to the heading: ” Zoom Meeting Scripts Added for an Improved Experience”. If my blog article is being read after JAWS 2021 is released later in 2020, the JAWS 2020 release notes can be accessed by searching for “previous JAWS release notes” and locating “JAWS 2020” in the version selection box. I will now discuss a final feature of JAWS which I value.

Sometimes, it is necessary to switch to another web browser to access Internet content. Starting with JAWS version 2018, JAWS has supported the Microsoft Edge browser. This includes the more recent Chromium-based version of Microsoft Edge. If I experience difficulties in Google Chrome, JAWS can sometimes function better on a web page using the new Microsoft Edge. On September 15, 2020, a new webinar was presented by the JAWS manufacturer’s training department. It is now archived and available at any time for listening along with additional resources:

“Exploring the Edge Chromium Browser with JAWS”.

In summary, JAWS is a wonderful screen reader which has become more useful as time progressed and I believe it shall continue to do so.

Question for readers: If you use JAWS, what features do you find most useful? I shall return next week with another article.

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