What's New in JAWS 2021 Screen Reading Software

What's New in JAWS 2021 Screen Reading Software

This page describes the new features and improvements available in JAWS 2021.

JAWS 2021 Features

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:

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:

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 and later 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.

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:

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.

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.

Improved Microsoft Teams Support

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 INSERT+W or 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:

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:

General Changes

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Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2111.13 (November 22, 2021)

The following is a list of improvements made between the November 9, 2021 release and the November 22, 2021 update.

To download the latest release, visit the Downloads web page. You must be logged on as an administrator to install this software.

Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2111.2 (November 9, 2021)

The following is a list of improvements made between the July 2021 release and the November 2021 update.

Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2107.12 (July 2021)

The following is a list of improvements made between the May 2021 release and the July 2021 update.

Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2105.53 (May 2021)

The following is a list of improvements made between the April 2021 release and the May 2021 update.

Easier Navigation Through Email Threads in Outlook

It is quite common, particularly in a work or school environment, for email messages to include several people, resulting in lengthy message threads as participants reply and add to the conversation. When opening an email that contains a thread of messages, including replies or forwards, it can be time consuming to read through the thread with JAWS or Fusion using the ARROW keys to locate particular responses as you need to move through all of the header information for each message.

To make this easier, you can now use the N or SHIFT+N Navigation Quick Keys to quickly move to and place focus at the beginning of the next or previous message in an open email thread, skipping over all of the header information. As you navigate with these commands, JAWS and Fusion reads who the message is from, the date it was sent, and the first line. If you determine this is not the message in the thread you were looking for, continue using N or SHIFT+N until you reach the message you want. While reading a particular message in the thread, pressing ALT+1 or ALT+2 now announces the sender or date of the message at your current location. To review sender and date info for the entire email, press CTRL+HOME to move back to the top before pressing ALT+1 or ALT+2.

Note: Currently, this feature is only available while reading an email and not when editing a message. Additionally, while currently limited to messages containing replies and forwards from Outlook, we will continue to improve this feature over time to support emails from other sources like Gmail and iOS.

Voice Assistant Improvements

In the initial 2021 release, we introduced Voice Assistant, a new way to interact with JAWS in Windows 10. Voice Assistant offers a convenient option for quickly performing various JAWS commands using natural speech instead of memorizing specific keystrokes. Since its introduction, we have received numerous requests from customers wanting to be able to access more JAWS features by voice in order to increase productivity.

Some JAWS features you can now access by using voice commands include:

Braille Math Editor

JAWS and Fusion currently supports reading Math equations on web pages that are displayed using MathML, or math equations in Microsoft Word documents inserted using the native Word math format. You can navigate the individual elements of an equation using the Math Viewer, accessed by pressing ENTER from a web page or INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by EQUALS from a Word document when focused on the equation. If JAWS braille translation is set to Unified English Braille or United States English Grade 1 or Grade 2 output, math expressions are also shown on a braille display using Nemeth Braille format.

The new Braille Math Editor in JAWS now enables braille users in Windows 10 to input their own equations, and in Office 365, edit existing equations in Word documents. To open the Math Editor, press the layered command INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by SHIFT+EQUALS (plus sign). Focus braille display users can also press DOTS 3-4-6-7 CHORD. Similar to reading math content, JAWS braille output must be set for one of the English Grade 1 or Grade 2 translation settings in order to launch the editor.

When the Math Editor opens, focus is placed into an edit field where you can immediately begin typing the equation in Nemeth braille from your braille display's keyboard. As you type, a preview pane below the edit field visually displays the equation so a sighted teacher or parent can review it. Once you are finished inputting the math equation, press ENTER or choose the Accept button to close the Math Editor. If you are in Word, the equation you entered is automatically inserted into the document at your current location. The equation is also copied to the Clipboard so you can paste it in other applications.

Opening the Math Editor while focused on a math equation in a Word document displays the existing equation in Nemeth Braille, allowing you to edit or replace it. After making any changes and pressing ENTER to close the editor, the current equation in the document is replaced by the new or modified equation.

Note: After inserting or modifying an equation in Word from the Math Editor, the blinking cursor (dots 7 and 8) on the braille display always remains at the beginning of the math content, even as you move by character with the LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys. If you need to insert another line of math content, first press the END key to move to the end of the current math content and then press ENTER.

While the Math Editor is opened, you have the following additional options:

To learn more about Nemeth Braille, check out this Nemeth Tutorial which teaches this braille code beginning with the very basics up through advanced mathematics.

Other Changes

Enhancements in JAWS 2021.2103.174 (April 2021)

The following is a list of improvements made between the February 2021 release and the April 2021 update.

Voice Assistant

PlaceMarkers Now Available in Excel Workbooks

You can now use Placemarkers to mark cells in an Excel workbook similar to how they are used in Word documents. The following commands are now supported:

Microsoft Teams

Support for Reading Comments and Other Revision Types in Goodle Docs

In Google Docs, JAWS and Fusion now indicate the following as you navigate documents:

If you prefer to not receive announcements for one or more of these items, open Settings Center and turn off Comment announcement, Inserted text announcement, Deleted text announcement, or Marked text announcement. All of these options are located in the Proofing group under Text Processing.

New Installation Command Line Option for Disabling External Services

Starting with the April 2021 releases of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion, when performing a full install, IT professionals and network administrators can add the /DisableExternalServices command line option to turn off all product features that reach out to the internet. For example:
c:\\InstallerPackage.exe /DisableExternalServices

Once JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion is installed after using this command line option, features that are no longer available for use include Research It, FS Support Tool, Voice Assistant, Error Reporting, JAWS Tandem, Picture Smart, and Anonymous Usage Data Collection. Note that using the software in a remote access environment will still be available. Turning off features that connect to the internet is especially important for installs in secure locations such as banks, hospitals, and government agencies.

For more information, run the setup package with the /Help command line option.

Other Changes

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.

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:

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.

Other Changes

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.

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.

Other Changes

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