12.2 Built-in Functions

JAWS comes with over 800 built-in functions available for your use. These functions are called "built-in" because they are actually a part of JAWS. Since these functions are a part of JAWS, you cannot actually see the statements that comprise them. The tasks built-in functions perform range from speaking messages to retrieving window information. Consider these functions as the building blocks of your scripts and user-defined functions.

You will find that a number of built-in functions require parameters to complete their designated task. Some built-in functions may only require a single parameter while other functions may require multiple parameters. The type of parameters the function requires can be any one of the four data types: handle, integer, object or string. When a function requires multiple parameters, they can consist of any combination of the four data types.

For example, the TypeString built-in function requires a single string parameter, the text to be typed, to accomplish its task. You also use the SayFormattedMessage function to cause JAWS to speak a message in the earlier exercises within this manual. The function required three parameters to accomplish its task. The first parameter is of the type of an integer. The function uses this parameter to determine the type of message that is to be spoken by JAWS. The second and optional third parameters are both springs and contain the actual message JAWS speaks when the function is performed.

Since built-in functions are a part of JAWS, you must review the Builtin.jsd script documentation file to determine the type and number of parameters a specific built-in function uses.

Many built-in functions also return values to the calling script or user-defined function. You can then use these return values within your scripts to perform other tasks. These values can range from the block of text found at the location of the active cursor to the window handle found at the location of the PC cursor.

To learn more about the built-in functions that are a part of JAWS, do one of the following:

The Builtin.jsd File

Like each script file, the built-in functions have a corresponding JAWS script documentation (jsd) file. This file is called Builtin.jsd and you can find it in your JAWS shared settings folder. You can view the contents of this file using the script Manager or your favorite text editor.

This file contains information on all the built-in functions available for your use in creating scripts and user-defined functions. The information contained in the file includes the function name, synopsis and description, category, return type and description and any parameters used by the function.

You can navigate this file just as you would any other text file. You can perform searches within the file using the find feature in either the Script Manager or your favorite text editor. But you should exercise care when you view this file. If you alter its contents, you may interfere with the normal operation of JAWS.

The Insert Function Dialog

You can also use the information displayed in the Insert Function dialog to learn more about any of the built-in functions. JAWS retrieves the information displayed in this dialog from the Builtin.jsd file. After you have selected the desired function, press TAB to move to the Description edit box. You can use any of the normal navigation keys such as the ARROW Keys, HOME and END to read the text contained in this edit box. Pressing TAB from the Description edit box takes you to the Returns edit box. If the function returns anything to the calling script or user-defined function, then this edit box will contain the return type and its description.

Note: When you move to either the Description or Returns edit boxes, the PC cursor is placed at the bottom of the text. Press CTRL+HOME to move to the beginning of the text.

There are a couple of drawbacks to using the Insert Function dialog to view information about built-in functions. First, any user-defined functions contained within the current application-specific or default script files are also listed with the built-in functions. This makes it difficult to differentiate between built-in functions and any user-defined functions contained in the current application-specific or default script file.

Second, the parameters for the built-in functions are not displayed in this dialog. This means that if you want to view information about any parameters the function uses, you must actually insert the function into your script and wait for the Script Manager to prompt you for each parameter.


The Freedom Scientific Developers Network (FSDN) is a collection of all of the built-in functions and their corresponding documentation. The document is in the Windows Help format (CHM) and can be downloaded from the Freedom Scientific website. Functions are grouped by category and include all documentation including parameter information and return information. Use the FSDN as an easy way to browse through functions by category.