As many of you probably know by now, Freedom Scientific has released the JAWS 14 public beta version. Beta software is released to give the public and developers the chance to test software features. If it is a private beta release, then only people who are selected can test the software. If it is a public beta, then anyone who has the ability to download software can test it.
As with most updates, there are a few new features found in JAWS version 14. First off, you can now download and use Vocalizer voices in this release. To do this, you’ll need to download them from the Freedom Scientific website (the link will be given at the bottom of this article). These new voices are the most responsive ones I’ve used and they have a human-like quality to them. I liked the Real Speak voices, but I was always frustrated with the amount of time it took for them to respond as I navigated around my computer. This caused me to switch back to the default voice used with JAWS.
For those of us who use either Microsoft Outlook 2007 or Microsoft Outlook 2010, you can now read email messages, even if they contain tables or if they are web pages. This feature is called Virtual Buffer Message Support. What this means is that if you receive an email message, you can simply read it exactly the same way you read messages that contain plain text. There is no longer a complicated series of steps needed to view the message in your web browser. The reason that these messages were almost impossible to read in the past was that Microsoft Outlook uses Microsoft Word as its message editor. Because of this, any messages that contained tables, or were read-only, required us to view them in our browsers in order to read them. I am quite pleased that this feature was added.
I have been teaching people to use many adaptive software programs for about 15 years. In that time, one of the most difficult lessons for students to understand deals with selecting text and then copying or cutting it to the Windows clipboard. To sighted users, the clipboard is an invisible temporary storage area that is used to hold text until you paste it into its new location.
In JAWS 14, when you select text, you can now view it in the Results Viewer before you paste it into its new location. Even though we have had the ability to read our selected text before we copied it to the clipboard, there wasn’t a way to check out the clipboard and see what we had placed in it. Now, with this new feature we can read the text and add to the text. This is a very powerful feature and one that I hope people will use.
Here is the link to all of the new features found in JAWS: http://freedomscientific.com/downloads/jaws/jaws-public-beta.asp#Features
Here is the link to download the new Vocalizer Direct voices: http://www.freedomscientific.com/downloads/Vocalizer/VocalizerDirect.asp
Have any of you had hands-on experience with JAWS 14 yet? What were your impressions?