How to use JAWS (Job Access With Speech)

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JAWS is among the most popular Windows screen reading programs. Read on to learn more about its features and how to use them.

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Job Access With Speech (JAWS) is one of the best accessibility programs for Microsoft Windows on the market. Freedom Scientific designed this piece of assistive technology to help individuals with disabilities use computers without difficulty.

JAWS offers exceptional OCR technology, two multi-lingual text to speech synthesizers, the ability to use a refreshable braille display, a screen magnifier, and other convenient options.

In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about using JAWS.

Using JAWS – Everything you need to know

Using JAWS can be intimidating at first. This guide will help you activate the popular screen reader and learn how to use several basic functions.

How to activate JAWS

Once you download JAWS, you need to activate it. The process will start automatically when you launch the program. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Press “Start Activation” in the activation dialogue box.
  2. A message will appear on your screen. Use the arrow keys to choose “Internet” (this is the recommended option) and press Enter.
  3. Enter your 20-digit authorization number if the field is not filled out automatically.
  4. Press “Enter” and wait a few minutes for the Internet License Manager to activate the program.
  5. Select “Finish” once the process is completed.

Reading with JAWS

Different keystroke combinations allow users to read through Microsoft Word and PDF documents, web pages, headings, etc. It also works with popular web browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

Although the combinations may seem overwhelming at first glance, individuals with low vision will become familiar with them after some time.

Mastering the program doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s possible if you’re persistent.

Here are a few useful combinations for this Windows screen reader:

  • Insert + Down arrow – Start reading the computer screen
  • Page Up/Page Down – Increase/decrease the speech rate
  • Left arrow/right arrow – Rewind or fast forward

Navigating with JAWS

People with no vision impairments usually skim through text for tables, headings, lists, etc. JAWS for Windows lets users navigate a document, webpage, or other content based on these elements.

These navigation shortcuts can be useful for those using JAWS for the first time:

  • Tab – Links and form controls
  • H – Headings
  • T – Tables
  • G – Graphics
  • F – Forms
  • L – Lists
  • Ctrl + Home – Go to the top of a page
  • Ctrl + End – Go to the bottom of a page
  • Alt + D (or F6) – Go to the browser address bar

As with reading, JAWS offers dozens of navigation commands. Take your time to practice these shortcuts.

Using forms

JAWS enables its users to access all kinds of forms using specific keyboard combinations. Thanks to these combinations, users can fill in responses to check boxes, radio buttons, edit boxes, combo boxes, etc.

Here are a few useful combinations:

  • F – Next form control
  • B – Next button
  • C – Next combo box
  • E – Next edit box
  • R – Next radio button
  • X – Next check box
  • Insert + Ctrl + Home – Go to the first form control on a page
  • Insert + Ctrl + End – Go to the last form control on a page

Reading image alt text

Alt text (also called alt description or alt tag) is the text applied to images on web pages that serve as an alternative for search engines. This text will appear if an image fails to load due to a slow internet connection or another reason.

Alt text contains a short description of an image. This text can be read by JAWS automatically. If an image doesn’t have alt text, JAWS will usually ignore it.

Other useful keyboard shortcuts

As mentioned, the JAWS screen reader features dozens of keyboard shortcuts that allow you to use the program with ease and perform the desired actions in one or two clicks. We’ve compiled a list of useful shortcuts to help you master the program more easily:

  • Enter – Activate a link
  • Enter or Space Bar – Activate a button
  • Insert + F6 – Display a list of all headings
  • Insert + F3 – Show a list of all frames, buttons, links, graphics, etc.
  • U – Go to the next unvisited link
  • V – Go to the next visited link
  • Insert + Z – Toggle Virtual PC cursor
  • Shift + H, R, or T – Go to the previous heading, landmark, or table
  • Numpad 5 – Say a character
  • Numpad 5 twice – Say a character phonetically

Speechify – The JAWS alternative

JAWS is among the best screen readers for Windows computers. However, this doesn’t mean the program is perfect. One of the program’s most significant drawbacks is the steep learning curve.

It can take a while before JAWS users get used to the program’s interface and master all its functions. Plus, the program is quite costly, and many people complain about accessibility issues.

While JAWS has its benefits, some people may not find it suitable for personal reasons. Fortunately, similar high-quality programs can be an excellent alternative to JAWS.

Programs like NVDA and ZoomText are great, but they’re designed for a particular operating system. That’s where Speechify comes in.

Speechify is a text to speech platform that can turn any written text into spoken language. The program uses the latest AI technology to transform the text into natural-sounding language.

There are several things that make Speechify stand out from its competition.

First, the program offers a wide range of options that improve the user experience. Users can adjust the reading speed and choose the desired language, voice, and accent.

Secondly, Speechify is known for its compatibility. The program isn’t limited to a particular operating system. You can use the software on Windows and Mac computers and mobile devices (iOS and Android).

Speechify is compatible with Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Safari, and many other apps and programs.

Best of all, Speechify is incredibly easy to use. Users don’t have to watch hours of tutorials to understand how the program works.

Try Speechify for free and enjoy high-quality speech output, web accessibility, and numerous valuable tools.

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