What's New in JAWS 18 Public Beta

Thank you for participating in the JAWS 18 public beta test. 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 18 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 JAWS 18 public beta is available in English, Spanish, German, French, French Canadian, and Dutch.
  • Please note that while the final release of JAWS 18 will be a Software Maintenance Agreement (SMA) upgrade, this public beta version will run for anyone with a JAWS license that provides access to JAWS 17.
  • If you do not have JAWS 17 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 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 JAWS to install the JAWS 18 public beta. Your previous versions will continue to function when you have JAWS 18 installed, just as each new major version release of JAWS has in the past.

Technical Support During the Public Beta

While in public beta, general technical support of JAWS 18 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 JAWS 18 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.

New Features Added in JAWS 18

The following features are new to JAWS 18. For more information and complete demonstrations, go to the FSCast web page and listen to episode 131.

Migrate Settings from Prior Versions of JAWS

We have reintroduced the ability for users to merge all user customized settings from the prior version of JAWS into the latest version. This includes any application and default settings, scripts, dictionary entries, graphics labels, PlaceMarkers, flexible web rules, personalized web settings including custom labels, speech and sounds schemes, and voice profiles. When JAWS 18 first starts after an install and it detects that there are custom user settings for JAWS 17 available, you will be asked if you want to migrate these settings to the current version of JAWS. Choose Yes to migrate your settings from JAWS 17, or choose No to start with the default settings in JAWS 18 and launch the Startup Wizard.

Once the settings have been migrated, a dialog box opens where you can configure the JAWS startup options. This dialog box contains the same options found in the Start JAWS Options dialog box, which is accessed from the JAWS window by opening the Options menu, Selecting Options, and then choosing the Automatically Start JAWS button. Once you have confirmed how you want JAWS to start, choose OK to save and close the dialog box.

Note: Due to significant changes to the settings file structure prior to JAWS 17, custom user settings can not be migrated from versions of JAWS older than version 17.

Completely New Import and Export for JAWS Customized User Settings

JAWS 18 now enables you to quickly and conveniently export all of your JAWS user settings including application and default settings, custom scripts, dictionary entries, graphics labels, PlaceMarkers, flexible web rules, personalized web settings including custom labels, speech and sounds schemes, and voice profiles to a single backup file which can be stored or shared with other JAWS users. The JAWS settings backup files are saved with an SBAK extension. This backup file can then be easily imported on any computer running JAWS 18 or later and these settings will be used by that copy of JAWS.

To export settings to an SBAK file, open the Utilities menu located in the JAWS application window, open the Import/Export menu, and select Export Settings. The Export Settings wizard opens and guides you through exporting your settings. During this process, you can choose to export all user settings, or select specific settings to export. By default, the SBAK file is saved to the Desktop using the name JAWS<Version Number>SettingsBackup (where Version Number is the JAWS version currently running when using the export feature). You can specify a different location and file name if necessary, as well as add optional comments to provide more information about why you are creating the backup. Once the export is complete, the SBAK file containing your settings can be shared with other JAWS users through email or a file sharing service such as Dropbox, or stored on a USB flash drive.

To import JAWS settings from an SBAK file, open the Utilities menu located in the JAWS application window, open the Import/Export menu, and select Import Settings. The Import User Settings wizard opens and guides you through importing the settings. By default, the import will merge the settings from the backup file with existing user settings and if a setting in the user folder conflicts with a setting from the backup file, it will be replaced by the setting from the backup. However, you can also choose to simply replace all current settings in the user folder with the contents of the backup or, when merging and there is a settings conflict, you can choose to keep the current setting.

During the settings import, the current settings in your user folder are automatically backed up. If you find that the settings that were imported from the SBAK file are not working as expected, you can restore the previous settings. To restore, open the Utilities menu located in the JAWS application window, open the Import/Export menu, and select Restore Settings. The Restore Settings dialog box opens where you can select the backup file to restore. Choose the Restore button to replace the current settings in your JAWS user folder with the settings from the backup.

Some instances of when you might use this feature include:

  • You want to use the same JAWS settings on multiple computers, such as in a training center or school computer lab.
  • You create a lot of customizations and you want to be able to back them up so you can easily import them when you install a new version of JAWS, elliminating the task of having to manually reconfigure everything.
  • A friend would like to use some of your flexible web rules and voice profiles. You could use the Export Settings wizard to only export these particular settings, send the resulting SBAK file to your friend, and if they are running JAWS 18 or later, they can import the file containing your flexible web rules and voice profiles into their copy of JAWS.
  • A script developer could send you a SBAK file containing custom scripts and settings for an application that is used at your job and the Import Settings wizard will quickly import all settings and script files to the correct locations in your JAWS user folder.

Restrict Virtual Cursor in Web-Based dialog boxes

If a dialog box appears on a web page as a result of an action such as activating a specific control, which can occur especially on pages that are part of a web-based application, JAWS now restricts Virtual Cursor navigation to the dialog box. Sometimes, depending on how the web application is implemented, when focus moves into these dialog boxes, the content of the surrounding page is hidden until focus moves out of the dialog box. However, in many instances, the dialog content merges with the surrounding page which can be confusing especially when you only want to focus on the content in the web dialog box.

JAWS automatically restricts Virtual Cursor navigation to the dialog box when some action occurs that moves the focus into that dialog box. This includes navigating to an edit field in the dialog box with the ARROW keys and Auto Forms mode is enabled, navigating using the TAB or SHIFT+TAB keys, or activating a control on the page that automatically sets focus to the dialog box. When the Virtual Cursor is restricted, both speech and braille will only navigate content in the dialog box until restriction is disabled. The Virtual Cursor will be automatically unrestricted if you use the TAB or SHIFT+TAB keys to move focus away from the dialog box, or you perform an action in the dialog box that causes focus to be moved to another part of the page, or a completely new page loads.

You can also use the INSERT+R keystroke when focused in a web dialog box to manually toggle the Virtual Cursor between restricted and unrestricted. For instance, you may wish to unrestrict the Virtual Cursor to review page content outside of the dialog box without moving focus.

Note: In some web applications, surrounding page content is hidden when a dialog box is in focus, so unrestricting the Virtual Cursor to view content outside the dialog box will not always work in these situations.

New Speech Option as You Move the Physical Mouse Around the Screen

The new mouse echo feature enables JAWS to speak text under the mouse pointer as you move around the screen using a physical mouse or as you move your finger on a trackpad. If you use a refreshable braille display, text under the mouse is also shown in braille as a flash message.

While totally blind users may not benefit very much from this feature, there are some cases where it can be useful. For example, there may be times where someone is trying to understand the positioning of text or the layout of controls on the screen, and this could be helpful. You also may encounter applications that have controls that can not be accessed with any of the JAWS cursors and you must use the physical mouse to locate and activate them.

For users that have some vision, the ability to also receive speech feedback as they move the physical mouse is very useful. There are also more improvements coming for those who use both MAGic and JAWS together.

If you find that you struggle to keep the mouse in a straight line when moving vertically or horrizontally, press and hold the INSERT key (or CAPSLOCK key in Laptop layout) as you move the mouse in a specific direction to lock the mouse pointer to that position. For example, if you locate a menu bar or group of buttons you would like to explore, you could press and hold INSERT as you move the mouse to the right. If you accidentally move slightly up or down, the mouse pointer remains locked to the current position.

Mouse echo is off by default. To turn it on, open Settings Center, press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the default settings file, expand the mouse echo group, and then press the SPACEBAR on Enable Mouse Echo. You can also configure the following:

  • Choose whether or not JAWS interrupts speech as you move the mouse pointer over text. By default, JAWS speaks the new text moved to with the mouse regardless of what is currently being spoken.
  • Specify the length of time JAWS waits before speaking the text at the location of the mouse pointer. If you move the mouse pointer away before the delay has elapsed, JAWS does not read the text. By default there is no delay which means text is read while the mouse is in motion so you do not have to pause to hear the text under the mouse.
  • Select the unit of text (character, word, line, or paragraph) you want to hear when the mouse pointer pauses over text in a control. By default, JAWS reads the current line of text under the mouse. This means that if you move the mouse pointer into the document area of an application such as Microsoft Word, JAWS will read the line of text under the mouse. As you continue moving the mouse around the edit control, JAWS will read other lines from the document. If the control cannot provide the requested unit of text, then JAWS will read all of the text provided by the control. For example, if you move the mouse into the edit control of the Windows 10 Sticky Notes app, JAWS will read the entire contents of the edit field instead of the specified unit of text.
  • Choose whether or not JAWS speaks descriptive information provided by the control that contains the text at the mouse pointer. This information will be spoken after the text at the mouse pointer is spoken. Note that descriptive text is not always available. The default is to not speak this information.
  • Choose whether or not JAWS speaks the control type and state of the control containing the text at the mouse pointer. This information will be spoken after the text at the mouse pointer is spoken. The default is to speak control information.

Alternatively, the following layered keystrokes are available to control mouse echo:

  • INSERT+SPACEBAR, E, O. Toggles mouse echo on or off.
  • INSERT+SPACEBAR, E, C. Sets mouse echo to speak the character under the mouse pointer in controls that support navigating by units of text.
  • INSERT+SPACEBAR, E, W. Sets mouse echo to speak the word under the mouse pointer in controls that support navigating by units of text.
  • INSERT+SPACEBAR, E, L. Sets mouse echo to speak the line under the mouse pointer in controls that support navigating by units of text.
  • INSERT+SPACEBAR, E, P. Sets mouse echo to speak the paragraph under the mouse pointer in controls that support navigating by units of text.
  • INSERT+SPACEBAR, E, QUESTION MARK. Speaks a brief help message describing the commands in the mouse echo layer.

Note: When JAWS 18 and MAGic 13.1 are run together, the current mouse echo settings for MAGic will be ignored in favor of JAWS Mouse Echo speech settings. When exiting JAWS so only MAGic is running, the original mouse echo settings configured in MAGic will be used. In addition, if MAGic's Mouse Line Lock feature is enabled, the mouse line lock functionality in JAWS is disabled.

Improvements with JAWS Touch Support

JAWS 18 offers improved performance when using a touch screen device, such as the Surface Pro tablet from Microsoft, as well as tablets with smaller screens. You will experience greater accuracy and responsiveness as you perform various touch gestures including continuously moving a finger around the screen to explore. You can also now perform Windows gestures without the need to first exit JAWS. The new four-finger rotate gesture causes the next gesture to be passed directly to Windows; similar to the Pass Key Through command (INSERT+3). Performing a five-finger rotate gesture will now disable all JAWS gestures, except the four and five-finger rotate gestures, so you can use Windows gestures until you perform another five-finger rotate to reenable the JAWS gestures.

While this JAWS 18 public beta offers significant improvements to touch, there are still some instances where using touch is still difficult, such as typing your password on the Windows Login screen and using the ALT+TAB list to move between apps. These items, along with other issues we have identified, will be addressed in the next public beta.

Refer to the Overview of JAWS Touch Support document for more information and to review all the available JAWS gestures.

Launch JAWS on Tablets Using Hardware Buttons

You can configure the Windows and Volume Up buttons on a tablet to start JAWS instead of Narrator when these buttons are pressed simultaneously. This is done through the Ease of Access Center in Windows by doing the following:

  1. Open the Start menu, type "ease of access", and then press ENTER to open the Ease of Access Center.
  2. Navigate to the "Make Touch and Tablets Easier to Use" link and press ENTER.
  3. In the Accessibility Tools combo box, select JAWS 18.
  4. Choose OK, and then close the Ease of Access Center.

The next time you are in a situation where JAWS is not running, you can press the Windows and Volume Up buttons together to quickly launch it from anywhere in Windows. If you are on the Secure Destktop or Windows Login screen, these hardware buttons will always launch Narrator. However, once you are logged in, these buttons will now start JAWS 18.

Changes to Sentence Navigation Keystrokes in the Desktop Keyboard Layout

In the JAWS Desktop Keyboard Layout, pressing ALT+DOWN ARROW or ALT+UP ARROW moves to the next or prior sentence, or opens and closes combo boxes. In addition, some applications also use these keystrokes to perform their own specific functions which means JAWS users need to first press INSERT+3 to pass these keystrokes through to the application so they work correctly. For instance, ALT+DOWN ARROW and ALT+UP ARROW are used in the attachments area in Microsoft Outlook 2016 to open and close the list of actions you can perform with the selected attachment.

To avoid potential conflicts, ALT+DOWN ARROW and ALT+UP ARROW in the desktop keyboard layout will now only move by sentence in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, the message area in Microsoft Outlook, and when using the Virtual Cursor unless focused on a combo box. If you want sentence navigation to work in other applications, you can use the Keyboard Manager to reassign the Say Next Sentence and Say Prior Sentence commands, or switch to the laptop keyboard layout and use CAPS LOCK+N and CAPS LOCK+Y to move by sentence.

To assign new keystrokes for sentence navigation, do the following:

  1. Press INSERT+F2 and select Keyboard Manager.
  2. Press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the default key map file.
  3. Press TAB to move to the list view and locate the "SayNextSentence" script.
  4. Press CTRL+A to open the Add Keystroke dialog box, press the key combination you want to use, and press ENTER. Press ENTER once more to confirm the change and return to the list view.
  5. Locate the "SayPriorSentence" script.
  6. Press CTRL+A to open the Add Keystroke dialog box, press the key combination you want to use, and press ENTER. Press ENTER once more to confirm the change and return to the list view, and then press ALT+F4 to close the Keyboard Manager.

Download JAWS 18

The following briefly describes how to download, save, and install the JAWS public beta release.

  1. Select the preferred language which will list the available download links (By default English is selected).
  2. Select the appropriate download link.
  3. When the dialog box opens, choose Save and select a location where you can easily find the downloaded executable file. Make sure to download the correct version (64-bit or 32-bit) for your computer, which we have detected is a -bit computer. Instructions to verify whether you have a 64-bit or 32-bit computer can be found at the bottom of this page.
  4. Run the executable and follow the talking installer.

Do I need to download the 64-bit or 32-bit version of software

  1. Press WINDOWS Key+E to open Windows Explorer.
  2. If you are using Windows 7, you should be focused on the OS (C:) drive and can press SPACEBAR to select it, and then ENTER to display the contents on the root of the C drive.
    If you are in Windows 8, you will have to first press RIGHT ARROW to navigate to the OS (C:) drive, and then proceed to press SPACEBAR and ENTER to open the root of C.
  3. Press the letter P until you reach the "Program Files" folder, and then press P once more.
    If you have 64-bit Windows, you have two folders: one named "Program Files" and another named "Program Files (x86)."
    If you have 32-bit Windows, you only have one folder named "Program Files."
  4. Please select the appropriate 64-bit or 32-bit version to run on your system.