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What's New in JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021 Public Beta

Thank you for participating in the JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021 public beta testing. This page provides all the necessary details that you need to know and at the end of the page, you will find links to download JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion 2021 Beta now. Please take a few moments to review this information and take advantage of the beta report form link to provide Freedom Scientific your feedback during the public beta.

Quick Notes About the Public Beta

Thank you for your help during the public beta period. Please note that this is beta software, and its accuracy and reliability are not guaranteed. You should not rely exclusively on the beta software for any reason.

  • This 2021 public beta is available in English, Spanish, German, French, French Canadian, Dutch, Hebrew, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Danish, Hungarian, Swedish, Italian, Norwegian, and Finnish.
  • Please note that while the final release of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021 will be a Software Maintenance Agreement (SMA) upgrade, this public beta version will run for anyone with a license that provides access to JAWS or Fusion 2020.
  • If you do not have JAWS or Fusion 2020 authorization, you can still install the public beta version and run it using 40-Minute Demo mode.
  • This public beta version will expire later this year. To use JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion without interruption, you must continue to update to later versions of the public beta and then to the final release.
  • You do not have to remove earlier versions of the software to install the 2021 public beta. Your previous versions will continue to function when you have 2021 installed, just as each new major version release of the software has in the past.

Technical Support During the Public Beta

While in public beta, general technical support of JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion 2021 is not available using our direct support phone lines or email. However, you may use normal support lines in order to resolve any problems you experience related to installation or authorization using the Public Beta. For all other issues you may discover, we ask that you send feedback directly to Freedom Scientific using the Beta Report Form web page. Please bookmark the report page in your web browser so that you can easily locate it if you need technical assistance. Also, please submit one problem per report.

If reporting issues with Microsoft Office, please include the full version number. For example, 16.0.10730.20102. To locate this information, press ALT+F, D, A from within Office.

New Features Added in JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021

PictureSmart 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 top 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, ZoomText, and Fusion Commands and Features

The new Voice Assistant provides a way to interact with JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion in Windows 10 using speech input. Supported languages include English, Dutch, German, Spanish, and French. Ask it to help you out with various JAWS or ZoomText 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 or ZoomText software. Using voice input to control JAWS or ZoomText 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 (CAPS LOCK+ALT+SPACEBAR for ZoomText and Fusion).
  • 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" for JAWS and "Zoomy" for ZoomText and Fusion. Speak this word followed by a specific JAWS or ZoomText command, such as, "Sharky, list links," or "Zoomy, increase zoom level."

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. From the ZoomText or Fusion main window, select Talk to ZoomText.

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 or ZoomText 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 or ZoomText listens for the wake word or to turn off the sounds, do one of the following:

  • For JAWS, open the JAWS Utilities menu, expand the Voice Assistant submenu, and then select Settings.
  • For ZoomText or Fusion, select the Tools tab, press DOWN ARROW on the Voice Assistant drop down button, and select Settings.

To learn more and to view a full list of voice commands for specific actions, say "Sharky, help," or "Zoomy, 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.

For JAWS (Remember to say "Sharky" or press INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR before speaking each command):

  • Help
  • Talk faster
  • Talk slower
  • Change settings
  • Command search
  • What time is it
  • OCR PDF
  • List links
  • List headings
  • List spelling errors

For ZoomText or Fusion (Remember to say "Zoomy" or press CAPS LOCK+ALT+SPACEBAR before speaking each command):

  • Increase zoom level
  • Zoom out
  • Set zoom level to 5
  • Where is my focus
  • What time is it
  • Activate speech
  • Talk faster
  • Open Reader app view
  • Launch finder
  • Change the color enhancement scheme

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 Changing the Punctuation Level

You can now press INSERT+SHIFT+2 on the number row 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.

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.

Enhancements in JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021 Public Beta 2

The following is a list of improvements made between Public Beta 1 and Public Beta 2. Note that while many customer-reported enhancements are included in this release, the following is a list of more notable changes.

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.

Enhancements in JAWS 2021 Public Beta 2

  • 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.
  • When using the Voice Assistant in JAWS, you can now quickly specify whether or not JAWS listens for the wake word by pressing INSERT+ALT+SPACEBAR twice quickly. Whether the wake word is on or off, you can always press this keystroke one time to have JAWS start listening for a voice command.
  • In the Sound Control Panel applet, resolved a reported issue where JAWS was not reading as expected in the list views on the Playback and Recording pages.
  • Addressed a reported issue where the JAWS settings Import/Export feature was not working as expected when using Windows folder redirection.
  • 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.
  • JAWS no longer automatically disables the "Show animations in windows" setting while running.
  • Added five new Japanese voices to the Add/Remove Voices utility, which allows you to sample and download Vocalizer Expressive 2 voices for use with JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion.
  • When using CTRL+DELETE or CTRL+BACKSPACE to delete by word in Office 365, resolved an issue where JAWS was too verbose.
  • Resolved a reported issue with Windows 10 Insider Builds where Outlook becomes unusable with JAWS after leaving your system idle for a long period of time.
  • Resolved an issue where a user had over 200 entries in a JKM (Keyboard Manager) file, causing some commands to not work as expected. We now have extended the number allowed.
  • Fusion and JAWS 2021 will now interrupt reading when you press the WINDOWS Key to open the Start Menu.
  • Resolved an issue with navigating to the configuration editor in Thunderbird Email when running JAWS or Fusion.

Enhancements in ZoomText 2021 and Fusion 2021 Public Beta 2

  • When installing ZoomText 2021 or Fusion 2021, you can now migrate your settings from an older ZoomText or Fusion release (for example, releases 2020 or 2019) to the latest ZoomText 2021 release. This includes features such as magnification level, color, pointer, cursor, and mouse enhancements, and any custom settings you created for applications.
  • Resolved a ZoomText tracking issue in InfoConnect. This is an application used by IRS employees.
  • Resolved several issues in Outlook 2016 and Outlook 365:
    • Focus enhancements and tracking now work correctly in the Select Names: Contacts dialog.
    • The cursor enhancement is no longer visible while selecting text in a message.
    • The cursor enhancement is now visible when you navigate to a link in a message.
    • Addressed other focus enhancements issues when navigating various panes in Outlook 2016.
  • Voice Assistant can now be enabled or disabled using the Voice Assistant check box in the Startup Wizard.

Download JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion 2021

Note: You will need an Internet connection during the install.

  1. At the end of this procedure, select the link for the software you want to download and save the setup file to a location on your computer where you can easily find it, for example, your Downloads folder.
  2. Run the executable and follow the instructions to install the software. The setup automatically detects whether you are using 64 or 32-bit and also installs the correct language that matches your operating system language. If this is a new installation, you can install a different language by selecting the Options button on the first setup screen and then choosing the language you want from the list.

Download JAWS

Download ZoomText

Download Fusion

For system administrators, use the Offline Installer for Secure Environments page to download a version of JAWS for installing on computers with restricted Internet access.