Screen readers and text to speech programs have numerous benefits for those with impaired vision. Such tools allow users to read the screen without difficulty. Thanks to this, users can study, perform a job, or perform everyday tasks with ease.
One of the most popular screen readers for Microsoft Windows is JAWS. In this article, we’ll explain what JAWS is and cover its features. We’ll also suggest alternatives to this program.
What is JAWS?
Job Access With Speech (JAWS) is a screen reading program for Microsoft Windows computers. Thanks to this program, visually impaired or blind individuals can comprehend text on their computer screens.
Users can choose between two options: the text to speech option or a refreshable braille display.
One of the key features of JAWS is its compatibility. The program works with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and numerous apps.
This incredible piece of assistive technology features two multi-lingual text to speech synthesizers: Vocalizer Expressive and Eloquence. Both offer exceptional results and allow users to read the screen with ease.
Thanks to OCR technology, JAWS can process inaccessible PDF documents and image files. The program features a voice assistant that lets users issue commands they can’t normally perform. Users can also configure keystroke patterns for different functions.
JAWS features a screen magnifier with multiple zoom levels, a cursor, and other options that make it even more convenient to use.
While JAWS is undoubtedly one of the best Windows screen readers, it has a few potential disadvantages. First, the program has a steep learning curve. It may take some time for users to adjust to the program and learn to use all its features. Moreover, the program is pricey.
There are other screen readers and text to speech programs users can try. Many of these programs offer valuable features that make reading the screen even more convenient.
The JAWS alternatives
If you don’t like JAWS or don’t want to use it for whatever reason, here are a few alternatives you should consider. We’ve gathered a list of programs that work on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Plus, some programs also have mobile app versions.
NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free, open-source screen reader designed for the Windows operating system. The manufacturer believes blind and vision-impaired individuals deserve the right to access and use computers, which is why they created NVDA.
With NVDA, users can choose between the audio and the braille format. The program comes with eSpeak, a multi-lingual speech synthesizer, but it can also use SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 engines.
One of the biggest advantages of NVDA is its portability. Users can install the program on their computers, a USB stick, or other portable media and use it wherever they go.
VoiceOver is a screen-reading program built into the Mac OS X operating system. This program lets users with low vision control their computer through keyboard commands and gestures.
VoiceOver reads aloud everything that appears on a computer screen. If you connect a refreshable braille display to your computer, VoiceOver will send it information about what’s on the screen. The program can be used with Safari, word-processing programs, and numerous apps.
It also allows users to control their screen with the keyboard, trackpad, or braille display instead of the mouse.
Many users love VoiceOver because of its simple interface. The first time you launch the program, you can choose between a quick tutorial or an interactive tour. These options allow you to learn about the program’s functions without difficulty.
Narrator is a built-in screen-reading program in Windows 10 and Windows 11. One of the biggest advantages of this program is that it’s completely free.
Like other screen readers, Narrator reads the text on your computer screen. It can read web pages, documents, browser tabs, programs, and anything else you run on your Windows computer.
Thanks to the Scan Mode, you can navigate documents and web pages more quickly by jumping to specific headings.
Users like Microsoft Narrator because of its adaptability. You can adjust the amount of feedback you hear when typing, configure commands, and much more.
ChromeVox is a built-in screen-reading software program available on Chromebooks. It allows individuals with low vision to use the Chrome operating system with ease.
Since Chromebooks have become popular in education environments, ChromeVox can be a valuable tool for students with visual impairments. It helps them with studying, doing homework, and keeping up with the rest of the class without difficulty.
The simple keyboard commands, compatibility with most braille displays, and the ability to navigate complex apps and websites are only some features available on ChromeVox.
Unfortunately, compared to other assistive technology, ChromeVox doesn’t offer as many customization features.
Speechify is a tool that can be incredibly useful to individuals with vision impairments. However, this tool is also great for those with learning difficulties or individuals who simply prefer listening to reading.
What is Speechify? It’s a text to speech platform that uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to turn any text into spoken language. The program offers more than 20 languages and 30 voices users can choose from. Moreover, users can even select the desired accent.
Speechify can read anything that appears on your screen. Users can configure the playback speed to improve their user experience. Plus, Speechify offers a wide range of useful features like highlighting, note-taking, magnification, and bookmarking.
The platform is available on computers and mobile devices.
Try Speechify for free – The JAWS alternative
With Speechify, any written text can be converted to spoken language. Reading what’s on the screen is only one of the many purposes of this exceptional platform.
For example, you can use Speechify to scan a hard copy of any book and turn it into speech. Or, you can skip certain sections to make the reading process more efficient.
Speechify works with Microsoft Word and other word-processing programs, web browsers, and numerous apps and programs.
The best part is that Speechify is widely available. You can use the Speechify mobile app on iOS (iPads and iPhones) and Android devices. Computer users can use the desktop app or the browser extension, depending on their operating system.
Try Speechify for free and take advantage of its incredible features.