Sunday, March 19

Thoughts on JAWS 7.1 Public Beta

Greetings. On Friday, Freedom Scientific released the public beta of JAWS 7.1. For those interested, you can read all about What's New in JAWS 7.1. It needs to be said whenever these betas come out, that betas are tests versions of software that are released to the public. Thus, they are not supported by the company, in this case, Freedom Scientific. In other words, try at your own risk. However, whenever the beta comes out, you can be sure that the final or actual version of the software will be out soon. Below are my thoughts on this new version, which will be a free update to current JAWS 7 users.

I'm basing these thoughts only on what I've read from this What's New document. I haven't actually used the software myself, mainly because its beta, and all the bugs haven't been worked out. I'll wait till the final version is out. Anyway, it looks like, for the most part, this is a release filled with fixes and improvements. There arne't many "new" features, and those that do exist (like the automatic update item) are things that have been needed for a long time that FS for whatever reason, seems to have just gotten around to doing. The competitive screen readers already have this facility in them I believe. Among the many fixes and improvements, work has been done to support Windows Media Player version 10, to which I say, "Its about time."

I'm pleased that they worked on a free update that does exactly what it says it does: updates the previous version and fixes a lot of bugs and possible applications that didn't make it into the previous version in time. However, I feel a little let down. Perhaps its the pattern of FS of having, even if its only 2 or 3 new features, in an update in recent years. Now they do exactly what they're supposed to do and come out with an update that does nothing but fix existing bugs in the software and offers very little as far as new features. As an end user though, I still feel that there's nothing new for me. To be fair though, perhaps there's a lot of time and resources that are going into the release of JAWS 8.0, which is set for the third quarter of this year. That will be the version that is supposed to work with the new Windows Vista operating system from Microsoft. If this is the reason why there's doesn't seem to be many "wow" features in the 7.1 release, then I'm glad FS is working on 8.0.

Anyway, for better or worse, those are my thoughts. We'll see how it all works out whenever 7.1 is finally released.

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